Monthly Archives: August 2010

Compass Box Tasting – Jan 27 2010

I’ve said it before…John Glaser is an alchemist.  In 2000 he founded Compass Box, a boutique whisky making company dedicated to craft presentation of beautifully blended whiskies.  Note the distinction…Compass Box does not distill whiskies.  Under Glaser’s direction, they purchase and marry whiskies from other distilleries.  I hesitate to say blend, lest you get the idea that we are speaking to the standard blended fair.  This couldn’t be further from the way Glaser approaches his craft.  Compass Box differs from the big blenders (though Glaser’s lineage does include a tenure with Johnnie Walker) in that Glaser approaches the art from a ‘less is more’ standpoint.  Much more, in fact.  His marriage of casks often revolves around only a couple (or a small handful) of truly exceptional whiskies, as opposed to the dozens in many of the big blends.

Glaser is profoundly passionate about his whisky.  I love that.  He is intense and deliberate.  His knowledge and tastes are unquestionable after having sampled the whiskies he has created.  Though not all were exactly to my taste, they were undoubtedly well-crafted, excellent expressions.  

This tasting event was another Willow Park coup, but this should come as less and less of a surprise, as I have yet to attend an event there I did not enjoy.  As usual, Willow Park’s whisky buyer, David Michiels, was on hand to entertain, warm the crowd and…of course…lead you to your next purchase.  Normally Dave would take you to some of his favorites, but tonight was all about Compass Box.

An enlightening eve it was too.  My ignorance to Compass Box’s lineup was rewarded with wide-eyed wonder at such a unique approach to blending. 

The whiskies laid out for education and enjoyment?

Asyla – Blended whisky.  A smooth, light easy sipper composed of grains and malts.  Pleasant, if a little delicate.  40% abv.

Oak Cross – Blended malt.  Components are all Highland malts and you can tell.  Still fairly light.  Fruity and soft.  43% abv.

The Peat Monster – Blended malt.  Not nearly so monstrous as the name would imply.  Nice flavors but could use a boost.  46% **

Hedonism – Blended Grain Whisky.  Grains between 12 and 25 year old.  Full of character and unique.  Big vanilla and coconut.  Quite exceptional.  43% abv.

Eleuthera – Blended malt.  Sadly retired, due to malt availability issues.  Exceptional.  Malty, smoky, fruity.  Gorgeous long finish.  46%

The Spice Tree – Blended malt.  Best of the night and wonderfully deep.  As the name suggests, full of spice.  46% 

I should also note…all whiskies above are non-chill-filtered and natural color.

If the opportunity presents itself for you to sample the Compass Box line I highly recommend it.  Of course…you could always drop by my place for a wee nip at the Spice Tree…

Great night…great host…great whisky.

One final note…you’ll find reviews for several of these here on ATW.

**Latest bottlings are infinitely peatier with the addition of Laphroaig to round out the Caol Ila and Ardmore.

Balvenie Peated & Balvenie Carribean Cask

So…we have been nattering away over on Liquorature about the lastest from Balvenie.  I thought I would share some details with you from Malt Advocate’s John Hansell:

August 26th, 2010

Two new Balvenie releases

John Hansell

We are being blessed with two new Balvenie releases, a Peated Cask and a Caribbean Cask. Both press releases explaining the details of the whiskies, along with images, are below. I’ll be receiving review samples shortly and will let you know my thoughts after I taste them.


Most Handcrafted Single Malt Introduces Limited Edition, Collectible Whisky

The Balvenie, the world’s most handcrafted Single Malt Scotch Whisky, today announced the launch of a new and much-anticipated limited edition expression: The Balvenie Peated Cask aged 17 years.  Available starting in September 2010, this latest addition to the lauded Balvenie 17 Year Old range is an exciting marriage of Single Malt Scotch whiskies aged in special peated casks and finished in new American oak.

Like past 17 Year Old Balvenie expressions – which include the highly sought-after Islay Cask, Sherry Oak, New Oak, New Wood, Rum Cask and last year’s Madeira Cask – this latest offering is the brainchild of the Balvenie master distiller David Stewart.  More than 45 years of experience have given David an unparalleled expertise in single malt maturation. With a strong desire to experiment, David continues to look at the effects of age and wood upon The Balvenie spirit. The Balvenie Peated Cask is the result of David’s latest work and retains The Balvenie’s traditional honeyed complexity, but introduces layers of rich spice and smoke on the nose and palate.

In 2001, a heavily peated batch of barley was bought from a local supplier and distilled at The Balvenie Distillery. The distilled liquid was allowed to mature until David decided it was time to rejuvenate the maturation process and so the whisky was transferred to newly prepared traditional casks.

The casks that had originally held the peated liquid had taken on much of its character but were without purpose, until David decided to experiment by filling them with 17 year old Balvenie for a short period. The result was an intensely peaty whisky. Marrying this liquid with 17 year old Balvenie finished in new American oak casks produced a hugely complex single malt, rich and spicy with layers of smokiness.

David Stewart comments: “In the crafting of The Balvenie Peated Cask, we wanted to explore the impact of peat and new American oak upon The Balvenie single malt. What we have created is a wonderfully complex and unique whisky which is layered with spice and smoke whilst retaining the characteristic honeyed sweetness inherent to The Balvenie.”

The Balvenie Peated Cask will be available throughout the US from September 2010 for $129.99.


Most Awarded Single Malt Adds Touch of Spice to its Core Range with The Balvenie 14 Year Old Caribbean Cask

The Balvenie, the world’s most handcrafted Single Malt Scotch Whisky, today announced the newest addition to its collection of award- winning Single Malts – the Balvenie 14 Year Old Caribbean Cask.  Available nationwide starting in September, this rich and intense new expression will line up alongside the already established range of Balvenie single malts – 12 Year Old Doublewood, 15 Year Old Single Barrel and recent IWSC Trophy Winner 21 Year Old Portwood – as a permanent fixture in the Balvenie range.

This exciting new expression follows the acclaim of 2008’s limited edition Balvenie 17 Year Old Rum Cask, and the subsequent popularity of rum cask-finished whiskies, with a whisky that bears all the hallmarks of the Balvenie, but with an added level of complexity that comes from finishing the whisky in casks that once held Caribbean rum.  After a 14 year maturation period in traditional oak whisky casks, the Balvenie is then transferred to the rum casks, leading to an exceptional Single Malt that exemplifies the signature smooth, honeyed character of the Balvenie, while adding unique notes of toffee and fruit that come from its innovative cask finish.

The outstanding quality of The Balvenie is a result of the unique craftsmanship retained by The Balvenie Distillery. Nowhere else is there a distillery that still grows its own barley, malts in its own traditional floor malting, employs a team of coopers to tend its casks, a coppersmith to maintain its stills and has in its service David Stewart, the most experienced Malt Master in Scotland, whose innovative approach to cask finishing has set a new standard in Single Malts.

Said Stewart of this new release, “We’ve found that many years maturation in traditional oak whisky casks followed by a few months of rum cask maturation complements The Balvenie single malt very well, and this expression is a beautifully rounded 14-year-old whisky that combines traditional Balvenie vanilla notes with rich toffee, a hint of fruit and a warm, lingering finish.”

 The Balvenie 14 Year Old Caribbean Cask is available nationwide starting in September with a recommended retail price of $59.99. 

Willow Park Upcoming Events – Calgary

The vast majority of what we at ATW purchase comes from Willow Park Wines And Spirits.  Great selection…helpful staff…and close to home.  Not only do they bring in the best whiskies (and all else), they also put on the best damn events as well.  If you’re local, and care to come out, you won’t regret it.

See ya at some of these:

15 September 2010 “Last Chance Whiskies” (with Andy Dunn)

          Tickets:  $20          Doors:  7:00pm

Come and join Andy Dunn of Gold Medal Marketing for a whisky event like no other!  Taste some limited edition last chance whiskies from – Springbank, Gordon & MacPhail, Cooley Distillery, Bruichladdich and other top whisky producers.  These are rarified whiskies that you don’t want to miss.

30 September 2010 “Bourbon Night”

          Tickets:  $20          Doors:  7:00pm

Willow Park’s first bourbon tasting was a great success.  Join us again as we explore more of the interesting history and depth of flavor that made this Kentucky spirit famous!  A carefully chosen line up of only small batch and single barrel editions will be tasted to experience the diverse flavors that bourbon has to offer.  Hosted by Willow Park Wines & Spirits whisky expert Brice Coates, our guests will enjoy paired appetizers and sample a fantastic selection of rarified bourbons.

6 October 2010 “Murray McDavid & Bruichladdich”

          Tickets:  $20          Doors:  7:00pm

Selected by Jim McEwan, Murray McDavid bottlings come from some of the oldest distilleries around and are considered to be a new take on the world’s best spirits!  They are chosen for their individuality and diversity and we welcome you to come and join us for a memorable and informative evening.

20 October 2010 “Wild Turkey”

          Tickets:  $20          Doors:  7:00pm

With 28 years of experience, Edward Freeman Russell knows a thing or two about bourbon.  As the son of renowned Master Distiller, Jimmy Russell, and the fourth generation Russell to work at the Austin Nichols Distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, Eddie is of unmatched pedigree in the bourbon industry.  This class is one of a kind and you don’t want to miss it!

27 October 2010 “GlenDronach” (with Alistair Walker)

          Tickets:  $20          Doors:  7:00pm

In 1826, the GlenDronach Distillery became one of the first licensed distilleries in Scotland.  Since then, GlenDronach has been producing some of the most revered scotch whiskies in the world.  They earned a reputation for producing richly sherried single malt scotch whiskies.  Please join us as Alistair Walker from the GlenDronach and BenRiach Distillery launches a rare 25YO single cask, exclusive to Willow Park Wines & Spirits, and walks us through a number of extraordinary scotch whiskies from the two distilleries.

2 November 2010“Glenrothes at the Rimrock” (with Ronnie Cox)

          Tickets:  $125          Doors:  5:30pm

Join Ronnie Cox of Glenrothes fame in the Rimrock Room of the Palliser Hotel for an evening of sublime whisky and gourmet food.  The four course meal will begin with cocktails at 6:00 and feature Select Glenrothes expressions to accompany the chef’s creations.  Tickets are extremely limited and include valet service.  A night not to be missed or soon forgotten.

3 November 2010 “Whisky Festival”

          Tickets:  $85

Join us for Alberta’s premier scotch event!  A spectacular evening featuring a dazzling array of 100 plus single malts and premium spirits, live Bagpipers, and gourmet catering.  There will be many distillery masters present from all regions of Scotland, including:

Andrew Calder – Sales Director Burns Stewart Distillers

Katherine Crisp – Brand Manager Burns Stewart Distillers

Andrew Gray – Sales Director & Proprietor Bruichladdich

Alistair Walker – Regional Sales Director GlenDronach

John Glaser – Compass Box Founder & Whiskymaker

Mike Harrison – Glenrothes Commercial Manager

Ronnie Cox – Director Glenrothes

Ross EJ Hendry – Brand Manager NA Berry Bros

Alex Bruce – Owner of Adelphi Single Malts

Enjoy the Calgary Highlander Band and Scottish Dancers.  Fabulous hors d’oeuvres from Buzzards, Nicole Gourmet, Wildwood and Willow Park Golf & Country Club are guaranteed to enhance these flavourful whiskies!

10 November 2010 “Winter Warmth – Cask Strength” (with Andy Dunn)

          Tickets:  $20          Doors:  7:00pm

Come taste some whiskies from top producers with Andy Dunn from Gold Medal Marketing.  These are sure to warm your toes on those cold – cold – cold winter nights on the prairies…. Wear your woolies!!!!

19 November 2010 “Exclusive Scotch Seminar”

          Tickets:  $50          Doors:  7:00pm

Willow Park Wines & Spirits invites you to join us for a very special evening of unique, truly superior Scotch Whiskies.  This single malt lovers event will feature single casks exclusive to Willow Park Wines & Spirits, as well as other sought after rarities.  Our guests will enjoy specially paired appetizers while discovering the interesting history and character of these malts.  Our star of the evening will be the Tullibardine 1966, a superior forty-two year old single barrel that Willow Park Wines & Spirits is proud to call our exclusive.  Come join us…

1 December 2010 “Macallan Scotch”

          Tickets:  $20          Doors:  7:00pm

The Macallan is the most respected and revered whisky in the world.  This legendary single malt has more awards and accolades than any other.  Join Brand Ambassador J. Wheelock to unlock the secrets of what makes this iconic luxury brand “the single malt against which all other must be judged”.  Guests will explore a selection of the two principal line-ups from The Macallan and learn more about what being a Master really means.

8 December 2010 “Christmas Whiskies Mini Festival”

          Tickets:  $25          Doors:  7:00pm

Please join Andy Dunn from Gold Medal Marketing, Rob White from Saverio Schiralli Agencies and Jonathan Bray from Purple Valley Imports – three of the most notorious whisky importers!  Check out their whisky recommendations for Christmas gift giving.

Calgary Whisky Club – Update #2

September 5th is fast approaching.  Almost as quickly as summer seems to be slipping away.  No worries though, it simply means I’ll be able to break out a few more of those massive Islay whiskies we all adore.

Put your thinking caps on, ladies and gents.  This inaugural session will be where we define what the Calgary Whisky Club is to become.  Your ideas, thoughts and input are important.

This first session will be a meet n’ greet.  We’ll have a dram, make some friends and bang out some structure.  It won’t cost you anything more than your time to show up for this first meeting.


Be forewarned…there will be a cost associated with this club.  Every effort will be made to ensure the dent to our pocketbooks is as minimal as possible.  In speaking with David, the initial thought is that this contribution will be small indeed.  We’ll discuss further on the 5th, but rest easy…it will be next to nil.

Guest speakers are being debated and lined up already.  Interest is strong among those in the industry with whom I’ve spoken.

For those attending…hey…this club will hopefully become part of your new circle of friends.  That doesn’t have to mean that your old circle is excluded.  If you know of anyone who is passionate about whisky and comeraderie…bring ’em along.  This whole enterprise is about having fun and bringing something to Calgary that is sadly amiss right now.

Many of you know me.  My name is Curt.  Those that I have not yet met face to face…I look forward to it.

My counterpart, and the other kindhearted soul responsible for making this a reality, is David Michiels.  David is the whisky buyer for Willow Park.  If you’ve ever wandered around navigating the whisky wall at WP, chances are you were warmly greeted by David and led to something exceptional to take home.  If you don’t know him already…you will soon enough.

…and yes…those discount cards mentioned before are also in the works.  Let’s not forget…Willow Park is supporting us, so let’s support Willow Park in return.

Please send any questions to


7:00pm Sunday, September 5th 2010


Willow Park Wines and Spirits

Until next Sunday…


Glenfarclas Tasting – November 25 2009

George Grant (from the long line of Georges and a John) flew in from Scotland for this one.  An absolutely brilliant speaker, George held an audience like a good comedian.  His real adeptness was noticeable in how much information he managed to sprinkle throughout a presentation that made you feel you were simply sharing drinks with an old friend.  While presenting several bottles from the Glenfarclas line, he regaled the ~100 strong crowd with humorous anecdotes and historical tidbits.  We were never less than fully engaged.

One tale in particular, about a double-booking which resulted in a ‘Three’s Company”-esque menage a trois snafu between George and two simultaneous tastings had us in stitches.  Another regarding a peat fire was nearly as entertaining. 

Oh yeah…and it helps too when the product you represent is exceptional. 

The whiskies themselves?  While I didn’t take detailed tasting notes, here’s what I can share (and vaguely remember):

Glenfarclas 10 y.o. – Smart and pleasant.  A little lacking in character when stacked up against all that followed but not bad.  No real finish to speak of. 

Glenfarclas 15 y.o. – A little sweeter.  A lot bigger.  Great whisky.  Lacking the youthful nip of the 10 y.o.  Very nice and highly recommended.

Glenfarclas 21 y.o. – Much bigger.  Smooth, syrupy.  Full of fruity notes and honey.  Nice long development. 

Glenfarclas 25 y.o. – Similar to the 21 y.o. but with a loooooooonger finish.  Nice mouthfeel.  Mature and deep without being pulled down by the oak that can often creep at this age.  Fantastic.

Glenfarclas 105 – Cask strength.  Ahhhhhh…this is how whisky should be bottled.  Warming.  Complex.  Rich.  Delicious.  (See review here:

Glenfarclas Family Cask – Richest and best of the bunch.  Not sure which year this was in their Family Cask Series, but dear gawd, was this good.  Great development into a nice long finish.

It was truly unfortunate that the fellow who was to sit next to us never showed.  So…in not wanting to insult our host, Mr. Grant…we took it upon ourselves to ensure his whisky did not go to waste.

We are no strangers to Willow Park’s adroitness when it comes to bringing in the best to present their best.  This night was no exception.

Final note…Instead of bogging this post down with details on the distillery’s history and practices, I am going try my best to nail down George Grant for an interview on ATW.  I’m sure he could put into words much better than I all matters of the Glenfarclas way.


A Few Drams Short

After months of discussion (and quite frankly, procrastination) I’m pleased to begin posting here on

The origin of this website can be traced back some 18 months ago to, a social group that was formed to share good reading & good drink amongst friends. What we soon came to realize is that we were learning a tremendous amount about whisky and were eager to get out and contribute to the whisky community. Rather than burying our Liquorature content in whisky-specific posts, Curt suggested the creation of a new, whisky focused website.

When discussing this new spinoff site with Curt, I had voiced some concerns. As much as I’d like to, I can’t possibly keep up with his prolific pace. Take a browse around the site…it’s loaded with thorough, thoughtful reviews. It’s an impressive online resource and I’m happy to do my part in leading readers this way.

That said, here’s the deal: I am not going to try to be the Siskel to Curt’s Ebert. What I’ll be aiming for are those things which come more naturally to me – bringing some levity to the conversation, musings on where whisky fits into our lives, and perhaps a bit about food along the way. It’s definitely going to be a work in progress. As a reader, you’re welcome to provide feedback at any point along the way.

So that said, here’s my opening contribution to Hope you enjoy. Let’s have some fun!


Feature Interview – Ralfy Mitchell

Greetings, ATW Readers.

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last year and a half, we’ll assume you have at least an idea as to who Ralfy Mitchell is.  Instantly likeable and refreshingly down-to-earth, Ralfy is the whisky world’s video review phenom.  After trading email many times with Ralfy over the course of the past year, I can attest he is every bit the kind soul you see on his 10 minute videos.

A native of Glasgow, Ralfy’s proximity to both sources and resources is invaluable and an absolute goldmine for his global viewers, many of whom may never step foot on the shores of Scotland.

ATW has thrown a few questions at Ralfy in hopes of gaining a little insight into what makes the man tick and what has driven his whisky blog into the upper echelon of online malt resources.

With no further ado,  ATW is happy to share an (e-) dram with Ralfy…


ATW: and you as an individual have become somewhat of an internet phenomenon.  For those who have not visited your site, who is Ralfy, and what is 

RM: … ralfy is a Scottish boy who loves his Whisky and most other quality Spirits.  He is an eccentric malt-head and dram-punk who has connected some basic, (and I do mean basic), lap-top knowledge, a Flip camera and a back room ‘studio’  (table, chair and cupboard) into a home-spun video blog called a Vlog.

With 146 of these Vlogs lasting up to ten minutes each,  ralfy shares unedited anecdotes, information, infotainment and personal opinions on smell and taste of many whiskies, all interrupted by Distillery visits and on-location presentations relating to malted-stuff.

This is cobbled along with other more normal Blogs including ‘whiskystuff’ and ‘whiskymarks’ into  basic-format Google Blogs held together by a Face-page called

It shouldn’t work but it seems to work.

ATW: Can you provide a little bit of background into the inception of

RM: … I tripped over a kids scooter in St Andrews on the sand dunes just past the first hole of the Old Course (Golf!)

As a coffin-carrying Undertaker, the resulting shoulder damage meant me being off work for a massive three months, and with never had a Doctor’s sick line for twenty years of working, after the first four week I was climbing the walls !!!

My brother suggested a Flip cam as a distraction, and after playing with it a while, recorded my first whisky review Vlog of Glen Breton Canadian Single Malt.

I chose this Malt as it was getting a hard time off the Scotch Whisky Association over the use of the word “GLEN’ which was considered in whisky terms as Scotch-related and would confuse consumers.

I was pissed-off that the Glenora Distillery south of Inverness, Nova Scotia shouldn’t get to use the word Glen when one in six Canadians can relate to Scottish ancestry,   … that I gave it a video review !

After four dress rehearsals, the video was ready in the fifth ‘take’

The Vlog-based ‘WhiskyReviews’ was added to the recently existing word-based “WhiskyStuff” and with some other blog-bases I was rollin’.

A truly global audience of malt-fans seemed to like the style and visitors have grown steadily ever since.

ATW: What criteria do you use to determine whether or not to review a product?

RM: whatever it is     …. would I buy it ?    … would I recommend it to others ?    … would I give it over 80 points out of 100 ? 

ATW: From the beginning you took your blog in a new direction with your three minute reviews, which have thankfully stretched into nearly ten minute reviews.  Having jumped into the video medium early on, where does go from here?

RM: ... if it works, keep using it.   I do intend to get more adventurous with the video recordings and will soon be Flash-Vlogging where short two to three minute recordings go live for a limited period before being removed, thereby empowering a temporary moment in malty-time like a Distillery promotional or a Whisky Festival.

… tomorrow I will take somewhere else if the ‘moment’ feels right.  Importantly, I will try to keep it personal as much as I can as Whisky Industry decision-makers would like to grab the style/medium in order to regain control of the Official Marketing Message which costs them so much money to generate.

ATW: Why do you think people so easily relate to you, both personally and as a mentor on their whisky journeys?

RM: … I have made it clear from the start,    … I am not an expert.  What I produce at is a personality-driven informal experience where I share my ten to twelve years of constant whisky voluntary-immersion with just an average nose, average taste, an average wallet and flannel-free opinions, and I don’t work for the Industry, and I don’t get paid, and I don’t look for freebies from Distilleries as a reward for nice comments !   Sometimes I make a mistake and a blooper, but I don’t edit it out, I just carry on and keep things as non-television and as chatty and humorous as possible.    

You just don’t get this sort of thing on the T.V.

… People relate to that,  people like the reality of it.

ATW: All modesty aside, you have become somewhat of an authority in the whisky world.  At the very least, a well-respected resource.  Did you imagine it would happen as quickly as it seems to have?

RM: … well that’s the internet for you, and it is changing the World for sure.  The more you play with the format, the more you see the possibilities.   I don’t see myself as an authority in the traditional sense, more an experienced tour guide who has travelled more of the malt-trip than most but will readily admit   …. there’s so much more to learn for ALL of us.

And yes,  … the Internet can make things happen very quick !

ATW: What sort of prep work goes into one of your whisky review vlogs?  Do you spend a lot of time with each whisky before you sit down in front of the camera?  Is there a ‘dry run’?

RM: … there’s a sort of half-a-dry-run thing of cobbled notes with basic facts, but really, my flow of delivery is best where I just grab the cam, a glass, a bottle and go for it    … flying by the seat of my malt-pants.   If I really stumble, I can go again but that doesn’t seem to happen very often.   That’s practice I suppose,  and years of acquiring general knowledge on Spirits, especially Whisky.

ATW: In one of your vlogs you took us on quick tour of a portion of your whisky cabinet/collection.  Can you tell us what the crown jewel in your collection is right now?

RM: … oooooh !  let me see now   ….. er !  …. um !  …. Rare Malt Selection St Magdalene 19yo as I know it will be a supreme Malt experience when I open it, smell it, savour it, and drink it.   

Malts give you a conversation for a moment,  good Malts give you a longer conversation over time,    … the great Malts leave you enlightened and wanting more of the conversation but your time runs out and they leave you behind.  An open-minded malt-fan learns this.

ATW: What is the one whisky out there you are itching to taste above all others?

RM: … In the back of a Clynelish Warehouse many years ago lay an unassuming barrel of aged Brora that just got used along with thousands of other barrels in a big volume Blended Scotch.

I want to go back in a time machine and in the silence of the casks, fill a glass of this Whisky and silently glide upon the storms and whispers of the smells and flavours which unfold like a treasure map of all desire.  I would like to fill a bottle and go to share it with those I know would understand, and appreciate, and cherish the moment.

It’s not out there, and that’s why I’m itching to taste it.  

ATW: How about three brilliant malts we should be looking out for?

RM: … how did I know you would ask that ?   OK then,    … Glendronach single cask,  Longrow 10yo,  Old Pulteney 17yo  

ATW: Three brilliant blends to look out for?

RM: … Compass Box Asyla,  Ballantines 17yo,  Te Bheag

ATW: Your thoughts on the best of the world whiskies right now?  Any recommendations?

RM: ... my first thought is how fast it’s all happening !   and how varied, exciting and original many new-generation World whiskies are.

Look out for Amrut Peated, recent Sullivan’s Cove, Penderyn Single Casks, Forty Creek, Cooley’s Tyrconnel, and something fantastic from some unlikely place we just would not believe could make good Whisky,   …. and anyone, anywhere could be the first to discover it.

ATW: What trends are you seeing in the whisky world that you are pleased with?  What directions seem to be a little foreboding to the future of whisky production?

RM: … I’m pleased every time I see a label that says NO Chill-filtration, NO E150a Caramel, 46%vol:  and “made by people”

and I have forebodings about GM grains, yeast and oak, Nanotechnology in foods and drinks and powerful men (always men!) who want to be God and relegate us all from whisky customers living with good stuff to whisky consumers existing on bland stuff all for the sake of ‘margins’ of profit.     

ATW: What can we look forward to in the next couple of Ralfy whisky reviews?

RM: Penderyn Welsh Whisky and St Georges English Whisky.   …. yummy !

ATW: In closing we’ll toss one of your own questions back at you…three tips for enjoying whisky?


1 – never drop a good bottle of Whisky   … till it’s empty.

 2 – never spill a glass of good Whisky   … till it’s finished.

3 – even when your not sober    … act sober.

ATW: Any final thoughts you’d like to share?

RM: … when you pick a glass of Whisky up for smelling, sipping & savouring     … slow it all down  ….. slower gets you further !

Keep tuning in to for regular additions to his ever-expansive video library.  I promise you’ll learn something.

Thanks, Ralfy.  Slainte!

Distillery Tour – Alberta Distillers Limited (ADL)

ADL Cask

On Friday, September 10th, the gang from All Things Whisky (as well as a few mates from Liquorature and random tag-alongs) will be off to visit the fine folks at Alberta Distillers Limited (ADL) for a tour of the distillery and facility.  ADL, and a fantastic lady by the name of Kathy in particular, has been spectacularly accommodating in arranging our visit and tour.  Needless to say, the gang is ecstatic about this opportunity.

ADL is responsible for producing the brilliant Alberta Premium Canadian Rye Whisky right here in our own backyard, Calgary.  This is the self-same rye that whisky guru Jim Murray awarded a 94.5 rating, and yours truly at ATW awarded a 93.  This review is featured here on ATW for those who may be interested.

With ADL’s blessing we will be following up our tour with a featured article on ATW. 

Stay tuned…

A.D. Rattray Tasting – February 17, 2010

This was another fantastic night at Willow Park. 

Jonathan Bray hosted a night dedicated to the tasting of some wonderful single cask bottlings from the A.D. Rattray line.  For those unfamiliar with the concept of single cask bottlings, the long and short of it is as such…truly magnificent, but truly heartbreaking.  Each cask is bottled as it stands…no marrying with other casks…no blending.  In simplest terms, this means that however many bottles are in a cask are all there will ever be of each particular whisky.  The exclusivity and perfection in these bottles are notable in that extra special attention is given to buying exemplary whisky and to maturing to the ideal age.  These whiskies will break your heart though.  When they’re gone…they’re gone.  As was suggested tonight…buy two.   😉

This was a night to leave the car keys at home (well…they all should be).  Seven whiskies were on offer this evening, all but one being truly brilliant cask strength bruisers. 

A quick rundown of what we sampled:

  • Stronachie 12 y.o. – 43%
  • Linkwood 10 y.o. – 57.7%
  • Clynelish 10 y.o. – 59.7%
  • Tobermory 11 y.o. – 59.9%
  • Springbank 12 y.o. – 59.3%
  • Caol Ila 13 y.o. – 60.5%
  • Caol Ila 22 y.o. – 57.7%

Each had a unique character, and though one or two did not entirely suit my palate, I absolutely understand why A.D. Rattray saw something special in these whiskies.  In particular, the Clynelish, with its rich toffee and caramel overtones, and all three of the last whiskies really stuck with me.  Reviews of these gems will follow in the coming days. 

Though the products, by nature, have a slightly higher price point, I highly recommend suspending your judgment on paying such tidy sums on a few relatively young whiskies until having tried them.  These whiskies are all complex and developed beyond their years.

The event itself was highly entertaining.  Jonathan Bray is an engaging individual with a gift for presentation.  There is something infinitely likeable about a Calgarian from Australia in a kilt.  A relaxed evening (something to do with the six drams of >57%?!?) was made even more enjoyable by an informal lingering discussion with all attendees after the presentation.  Jonathan and Willow Park whisky guru, David Michiels, hung around up front chatting with the crowd and bantering a bit. 

I will most certainly be investigating the Rattray line further. 

A last note to mention:  The Caol Ila 22 y.o. is an exclusive Willow Park bottling.  I know there are a limited number remaining.  If you are a fan of the Islay whiskies…think about this one.  Mellow…rich…mature…beautiful.

Shackleton’s Whisky Pulled From The Ice

I’m sure we’ve all seen headlines regarding the discovery and recovery of a crate of whisky from Ernest Shackleton’s 1908 Antarctic voyage.


Further details are starting to emerge…

by Richard Paterson on Friday, 13 August 2010

Finally! Shackleton’s whisky has been thawed enough that the straw and wrappings can come off to get a good idea of the bottle. This is a fantastic moment and well done to the team for their patience in getting to this stage.

I’m told that the shoulder label says
British Antarctic Expedition
Ship Endurance
while the bottle reads:
Rare Old
Malt Whisky
Blended and Bottled by
Chas. Mackinlay & Co
Blenders and Distillers
Leith and Inverness
I’m saying nothing about my previous prediction but for those interested in more here’s the press release that’s being issued today about the whisky… 

Shackleton’s whisky revealed

After much anticipation, the contents of a whisky crate from Ernest Shackleton’s 1908 British Antarctic (Nimrod) Expedition have been revealed today.
A team of Antarctic Heritage Trust and Canterbury Museum conservators have been examining and working on the crate for the last two weeks in a purpose built cool room. As the ice inside gradually thawed the team was able to examine the contents, and today they extracted several intact bottles labelled “Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt Whisky”.
“It’s been a delicate and slow process but we are delighted to be able to confirm that the crate contains intact bottles of whisky,” said Lizzie Meek, Antarctic Heritage Trust Artefacts Manager.
Eleven bottles of the 114-year old whisky have been recovered of which remarkably ten appear perfectly intact despite their labels having deteriorated. The wording “British Antarctic Expedition 1907 Ship Endurance” is still visible on some of the bottles. As it transpired Shackleton never changed the name of the ship Nimrod to Endurance for this expedition.
Intriguingly, one bottle is missing from the packing inside the crate. This is consistent with where the crate itself appears to have been jimmied open and the timber broken. “Perhaps one of Shackleton’s crew just couldn’t resist a tipple,” said Ms Meek.
Each of the bottles will be carefully assessed and conserved in the coming weeks.
The Antarctic Heritage Trust plans to work with the owners of the Mackinlay’s brand, Whyte and Mackay, to extract and analyse the whisky. “The ultimate aim is to replicate the original blend so that whisky drinkers the world over can enjoy this gift from the whisky gods. There is much to do before we know if this is possible” said Richard Paterson, Whyte & Mackay’s master blender.
Images of the whisky bottles and video of the conservators at work can be seen in the project blog set up at
It is expected the crate and its contents will remain on display at Canterbury Museum for the next month. Following conservation and analysis the intention is to eventually return them to Antarctica.