Monthly Archives: December 2010

Season’s Greetings

Season’s Greetings from ATW!

Sorry this is a few days late, but I know many of you are still enjoying time off.  Hopefully the holidays are spectacular and full of tasty beverages, friends and family. 

Sincere thanks for your support over the past 4 months or so.  Much more to come.  I am sitting on tons of samples and many new purchases.  A nasty cold is preventing me from sharing any more reviews (hey…why waste some sexy vintage drams in their 30s and 40s when you can hardly taste ’em?), but trust me…they’re coming.

All the best to you and yours…

…and be safe!

          – ATW

Port Ellen

Port Ellen.

The Holy Grail of Islay Malt for many.  The Port Ellen distillery was mothballed in 1983, and subsequently demolished.  The site is still home to the maltings (which supply malt to all of the Islay disilleries), but sadly the whisky that was produced prior to 1983 is all there will ever be.  These whiskies, especially the cask-strength Diageo bottlings, are highly sought after, collectable and obviously quite drinkable.

Our own incomparable Maltmonster, generous of time and spirit (both the drinkable kind and the inner sort), offered to supply some insider details from a little tasting he and a couple others put together.  I know envy is one of the seven deadly sins, but hey…may as well tack it on the list I’m already chaulking up.

Here is how it all came together.  I know of no other comprehensive review of all PEs like this, so my sincerest thanks to MM and the poor souls who got dragged along on this ride.  Withour further ado…




May contain scenes that rum drinkers find offensive. Intended for a malt audience only

May also contain content or scenes of debauchery, alcohol consumption and bad humor

Diageo’s Port Ellen 1 through 9.

Playing the Lennon / McCartney song Revolution 9 backwards it became suddenly clear that Charles Manson had it all wrong .The message that the Beatles were sending was to drink Trop Nelle and the number nine used repeatedly through the song meant consume nine different bottles

After convincing my friends of the true meaning of the message we undertook a grail like quest to acquire the needed malt. We a small but determine group of Diageo bashing Port Ellen loving maltsters managed to buy the 5th, 6th , 8th  and 9th release locally. The 7th release was acquired from New York .The 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th releases were acquired out of the wilds of Scotland.

So on a cold and snowy night in December we gathered together again, the infamous gang of four. Named after our failed attempt to take over control of Diageo in 2008. We now know which seemed to be obvious to others that owning whisky is not considered the type of stock that entitles you to vote at share holders meetings

The bottles are listed from one to nine, but tasted from nine to one as we felt that the older ones would have less of a peat influence on our nose and palates. We rated the PE as we drank them, comparing to the previous drams and so on. So at the bottom of each of the tasting notes is the combined average rating of the gang of four (1 being the best and 9 being the least favorite of the night) any ties were broken by the Maltmonsters vote

Heaven is indeed a place on earth.

Port Ellen # 1 Annual Release 1979 – 2001 22 Years Old 56.2 % ABV. Limited 6,000 Bottles

NOSE: Soft apple, musty and mild smoke

TASTE: Bubble gum, sweet, liquorice

FINISH: Long and lingering a little oaky at the end

ASSESSMENT: Good all around expression of PE. Good depth


Port Ellen # 2 Annual Release 1978 – 2002 24 Years Old 59.35 % ABV. Limited 12,000 Bottles

NOSE: Candied apples, iodine and tar

TASTE: Sweet and at bit winey with some milk chocolate

FINISH: Very long, a bit salty at the end

ASSESSMENT: The most intense creosote like of the group. Very robust


Port Ellen # 3 Annual Release 1979 – 2003 24 Years Old 57.3 % ABV. Limited 9,000 Bottles

NOSE: Fresh fruit, cut grass and little iodine

TASTE: Sweet, chewy and salty almost briney

FINISH: Medium to long

ASSESSMENT: Not an unpleasant expression just lacks some refinement


Port Ellen # 4 Annual Release 1978 – 2004 25 Years Old 56.2 % ABV. Limited 5,100 Bottles

NOSE: Sweet succulent oranges. Citrus delight. Fresh lawn clippings. Beautiful smoke

TASTE: Ripe fruit. Liquorice root and velvet smooth

FINISH: Long, lingering and warm

ASSESSMENT: I like this one a lot. Well balanced and complex


Port Ellen # 5 Annual Release 1979 – 2005 25 Years Old 57.4 % ABV. Limited 5,280 Bottles

NOSE: Floral, lavender, apples and pears. Subtle smoke

TASTE: Sweet, infused lemon .Vibrant on the tongue

FINISH: Long finish. Starts dry and ends up sweet. Little oaky

ASSESSMENT: The most balanced of the PE tasted. Refreshing to drink .Stunning


Port Ellen # 6 Annual Release 1978 – 2006 27 Years Old 54.2 % ABV. Limited 4,560 Bottles

NOSE: Floor polish, fishy and citrus notes

TASTE: Black liquorice, earthy

FINISH: Medium to long

ASSESSMENT: A little dull and plain . To astringent.


Port Ellen # 7 Annual Release 1979 – 2007 28 Years Old 53.8 % ABV. Limited 5,274 Bottles

NOSE: Cloves, lemon and sea-weed

TASTE: Honey to salty all in one waive

FINISH: Short to medium

ASSESSMENT: The taste really died on the vine. The least complex of the bunch


Port Ellen # 8 Annual Release 1978 – 2008 29 Years Old 55.3 % ABV. Limited 6,618 Bottles

NOSE: Lemon, nutty, bit of sulphur and a little oily

TASTE: Cinnamon, milk chocolate and pepper

FINISH: Very long and ending bone dry

ASSESSMENT: Have tasted this one numerous times and enjoyed each time .Seems not a favorite of the writers but this crews loves it. Well rounded and multilayered


Port Ellen # 9 Annual Release 1979 – 2009 30 Years Old 57.7 % ABV. Limited 5,916 Bottles

NOSE: Eucalyptus, floral, spruce needles

TASTE: sweet, light smoke early

FINISH: Medium to long

ASSESSMENT: The most elegant of the nine tried. Very pleasant malt to drink


Special thanks to the members of the gang of four for making this tasting happen (Extra special thanks to the unnamed person that supplied most of the malt). We will be having a do over once we located and secured a bottle of the 10th release.

Port Ellen 1 through 9.

“Just remember age doesn’t always bring wisdom, sometimes age comes alone.”

Thanks, MM.

Malt Messenger Bulletin – Gordon & MacPhail Benromach Free Drop In Tasting & Mini Sale

Dear Malt Messenger Subscribers,

As I write this I am contemplating a glass of Peat Monster Reserve (see below) from Compass Box.  I hadn’t intended to write anything further on the Malt Messenger before the New Year, but I’ve some big news, two exclusives we’ve long awaited are finally here, and the word must be spread.  Further, Saturday’s free drop in Kilchoman Duhies Tasting was so successful I’ve decided to put another event together for this coming Thursday. So while the buttery vanilla and soft oily peat roll around my palate like lovers under the covers I’ve found the time to flesh out one final Malt Messenger Bulletin for 2010. 

John Glasser of Compass Box is without doubt one of the world’s finest blenders of Scotch whisky. His whiskies are soft, elegant and complex. Kensington Wine Market has exclusively acquired two of his 10th Anniversary releases as exclusives. The first is a reserve bottling of Peat Monster($154.99) his most famous bottling, in a 1.5L bottle. The whisky is great and the magnum(1.5L) format very cool! The second is called Hedonism Maximus($259.99), an older finer version of the now discontinued Hedonism bottling, and is a Blended Grain Scotch Whisky. Both whiskies are very limited, with only 24 of each coming to Canada exclusive to Kensington Wine Market. These whiskies will be available for sale and sampling as of 5PM on Wednesday, December 22nd. More on both whiskies below!

Thursday December 23rd, between 2 and 7PM Andy Dunn of Gold Medal Marketing and I will be conducting another free drop in tasting and mini sale. Thursday’s focus will be Gordon & MacPhail, Benromach and our exclusive single cask bottlings: Glen Grant 1966, Springbank 1996 Oloroso, Kilchoman KWM Fresh Bourbon Cask, Glendronach 1995 KMW PX Sherry and Jack Daniels KWM Single Barrel. The whiskies will be on sale in store, on the wesb and by e-mail during this 5 hour window. So please feel free to drop by for a wee taste or two and some great deals on whisky whether it be for your bar or gift.  More details below!

Thank you for reading the Malt Messenger and once again let me wish you and yours a very merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!


Andrew Ferguson


Kensington Wine Market brought in 4 new Gordon & MacPhail whiskies this fall, all of them exceptional, and all of them from closed distilleries. We have brought in whiskies from Rosebank, Glen Keith, Convalmore and Imperial, and still have a few bottles of our private cask of Glen Grant 1966. Andy Dunn of Gold Medal Marketing and I will be pouring samples of these and other Gordon & MacPhail bottlings, as well as whiskies from the Benromach distillery and our exclusive Kensington Wine Market bottlings from 2 until 7 PM on Thursday December 23rd. For the duration of this free drop in tasting all of the whiskies on offer will be on sale in store, on the web and by e-mail

The list:

1.       G&M KWM Glen Grant 1966 – Bottled Exclusively for KWM – $449.99 – Save 20%

2.       G&M Cask Strength Rosebank 1993 – Exclusive to KWM – $175.49 – Save 10%

3.       G&M Cask Strength Imperial 1997 – Exclusive to KWM – $114.99 – Save 10%

4.       G&M Conn Choice Glen Keith 1993 – Exclusive to KWM – $87.99 – Save 10%

5.       G&M Conn Choice Convalmore 1984 – Exclusive to KWM – $184.99 – Save 10%

6.       G&M Cask Strength Old Pulteney 1993 – $119.99 – Save 7%

7.       G&M Cask Strength Highland Park 1995 – $111.99 – Save 7%

8.       G&M Cask Strength 1996 – $119.99 – Save 7%

9.       G&M Smith’s Glenlivet 21 Year – $119.49 – Save 7%

10.   Benromach Traditional – $49.49 – Save 7%

11.   Benromach 10 Year -$68.99 – Save 7%

12.   Benromach 21 Year – $129.99 – Save 7%

13.   Benromach Organice Special Edition – $71.49 – Save 7%

14.   Benromach Peat Smoke – $69.49 – Save 7%

15.   Benromach Origins #2 – $83.49

16.   Benromach Origins #3 – $83.49

17.   Springbank 1996 KWM Oloroso Cask – Bottled Exclusively for KWM – $109.99 – Save 20%

18.   Glendronach 1995 KWM PX Sherry Puncheon – Bottled Exclusively for KWM – $114.99 – Save 10%

19.   Kilchoman KWM Fresh Bourbon Cask – Bottled Exclusively for KWM – $114.99 – Save 10%

20.   Jack Daniels KWM SingleBarrel – Bottled Exclusively for KWM – $49.99 – Save 10%


Only 5,300 magnums (1.5L) bottles of this whisky have been bottled, and for the time being but 24 have come to Canada, all of them to the Kensington Wine Market. When Compass Box launched the original Peat Monster more than 5 years ago it was as the name implied, intended to be a peaty beast. In the years since we’ve seen the likes of Port Charlotte, Octomore, the Big Peat, Supernova and more, all of which make the Peat Monster seem tame. This special bottling has combined whiskies from Caol Ila, Ardmore and Clynelish. In the words of its creator it is “even peatier, smokier, richer and higher strength than the classic version”. Jim Murray scored it 92pts in the Whisky Bible:

The Peat Monster Reserve Towering Over Its Lesser Namesake!

“Nose: comfortable, thickish smoke and a dusting of peppers: complex and well balanced; Taste:silky soft malt oils cleverly disguise the big punchy peat which is to follow; lovely touch of golden syrup here and there, but mainly towards the delivery; Finish: smoky sweetened mocha; Balance: at times a bit of a Sweet Monster… beautiful stuff!” 48.9% – 92pts

I’ll write my own tasting note for the next Malt Messenger.


Hedonism Maximus is a Blended Grain Scotch whisky created by blending select casks of 42 year old invergordon with a smaller quantities of 29 year old Cameronbridge. Cameronbridge is interestingly Scotland oldest continuously operating distillery! The constituent parts, distilled in 1965 and 1979 respectively were matured in first fill American Oak bourbon barrels. It is deeper, sweeter and richer than the original Hedonism bottling hence the designation of “Maximus”. 46%

The whisky’s label is an homage to one of the Scotch industry’s long lost brands, Andrew Usher & Co.s “Old Vatted Glenlivet Whisky”. The label was inspired by an advertisement from OVGW from 1905 found in the National Archive of Scotland. Only 1500 bottles were produced, with but 24 coming to Canada, all of them to the Kensington Wine Market.

An elegant whisky packaged with sophistication!

“Nose: the kind of aroma your nose was invented for: lots of rich bourbon swirls, with butterscotch, liquorice and chocolate-covered honeycomb arriving—big time!—on cue…; oh, and a few gooseberries and greengages tossed in for an extra dimension: it just doesn’t get any better… Taste: the oak is a bit top heavy on arrival, but lush malt cushions its impact to a degree; still juicy tongue-teasing; Finish: retains its overtly bourbon character to the end with massively chewy oak extract, but always enough sweetness in reserve to cope; Balance: Bourbon Maximus…”

As with the Peat Monster Reserve I will include my own tasting note in the next full Malt Messenger.


If you have any whisky questions or comments concerning The Malt Messenger please contact me by e-mail, phone, or drop by the store. Feel free to forward me any whisky news you feel should be included in a future issue of The Malt Messenger; it might just get included.

All of the products mentioned in THE MALT MESSENGER can be purchased in store, over the phone or from our website at All prices quoted in the Malt Messenger are subject to change!

 You can follow me online on Twitter at

Thanks for reading the Malt Messenger!


Andrew Ferguson
KWM Scotchguy

1257 Kensington Rd. NW
Calgary, AB, Canada
T2N 3P8

Canadian Whisky Awards 2010

Flying the flag high and proud for Canadian whisky is one Davin de Kergommeaux.  Not only is Davin a helluva writer, but he has a palate and knowledge far in excess of those granted most of us.  Davin has recently published his 2010 Canadian Whisky Awards.  Check out the details below, and be sure to drop ’round Davin’s home at


Canadian Whisky Awards 2010

December 6, 2010

Canadian Whisky Awards 2010 – The Winners

Canada’s top whiskies of 2010 are honoured in these, the first annual Canadian Whisky Awards. There are six awards in all. The winners of three awards were decided following extensive tastings, while the others were selected based on special contributions that individual whiskies make to expanding consumer interest in Canadian whisky.

Canadian whisky is one of Canada’s greatest ambassadors. Every year, millions and millions of whisky lovers around the world buy more than half a billion dollars worth of Canadian whisky. But the awards celebrate more than successful sales figures. Canadians appreciate the contribution Canadian whisky makes to our economy, but we never stop to recognize the excellent quality of these whiskies. All of that now changes with these awards.

The Canadian Whisky Awards recognize the very finest flavoured new Canadian whiskies released in 2010, along with special contributions of highly successful individual whiskies that have garnered favourable attention to Canadian whisky in 2010.

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 are also conferred for accomplishments in innovation, brand extension, and notable success in raising the profile of Canadian whisky in general.

The Connoisseur Whiskies:

Connoisseur Whisky of the Year – Domestic Market: Wiser’s Legacy
Wiser’s Legacy is a new, ultra-premium rye whisky from Corby Distillers. This rich, complex, and flavourful whisky has been compared favourably to high-end single malts. Although demand has become strong to release it in other markets, Wiser’s Legacy was initially available in the Canadian market only.

Connoisseur Whisky of the Year – Export Market: Caribou Crossing
Caribou Crossing Single Barrel whisky was released early in 2010 to high acclaim from whisky writers and connoisseurs. They were all impressed with this complex and richly flavoured new whisky. As a single barrel whisky, Caribou Crossing introduces a new Canadian whisky in a style much admired by connoisseurs.

Connoisseur Whisky of the Year – Multiple Markets: Forty Creek Confederation Oak Reserve
This is an iconic Canadian whisky matured in Canadian oak barrels made from trees that sprouted at the time of Canadian Confederation. Made in a winemaker’s fashion, by John Hall, Forty Creek Confederation Oak Reserve earns this award for its creamy, rich and robust flavours. Confederation Oak is available in Canada and selected U.S. markets.

The Awards of Excellence:

Innovation of the Year: Highwood Distillery, White Owl Whisky
White Owl Whisky has no peer in Canada or anywhere else in the world for that matter. The first ever fully oak-matured white whisky, White Owl retains the flavours of Canadian rye whisky, while adding the cocktail-mixability of white spirits. In so doing, it successfully introduces the flavours of Canadian whisky to a whole new demographic.

Award of Excellence – Brand Extension: Crown Royal Black
When a distiller can’t keep up with demand everyone takes note. This new, more robust version of Canada’s best selling whisky, Crown Royal Black was welcomed so enthusiastically by American whisky drinkers that Diageo was faced with the challenge of having a truly runaway success on their hands. To the average American whisky drinker, Crown Royal Black was THE big whisky news of 2010.

Award of Excellence – Canadian Whisky Profile: Canadian Club
Viewers of AMC’s Emmy and Golden Globe-winning television series, Mad Men will not be surprised by the winner in this category. As Don Draper’s whisky of choice, Canadian Club was featured prominently throughout the series, attracting the attention of a new generation of Canadian whisky consumers. Canadian Club reached yet another new audience in 2010 with its featured role in the HBO series Boardwalk Empire.

Hearty and well-deserved congratulations to all the winners. More information about each of the 2010 Canadian Whisky Awards winners will be posted here over the next two weeks.

About the Canadian Whisky Awards
The Canadian Whisky Awards are presented annually to recognize the very best Canadian whiskies. The Awards are fully independent of the Canadian whisky industry and operate on a not-for-profit basis. gratefully acknowledges the support and encouragement of Lawrence Graham, Serge Valentin, Mark Gillespie, Ralf Mitchell, Chip Dykstra, Keith Wood, Jason Debly, Mark Connelly, Johannes van den Heuvel, Oliver Klimek, and Sam Simmons.

Feature Interview – Jim McEwan of Bruichladdich

This past September I spent a week touring the eight working distilleries on Islay.  Amid all of the phenomenal experiences, one shone above all others…My time at Bruichladdich.  The team at Bruichladdich have always prided themselves on doing things their own way, and apparently a hearty welcome was just another example of the Bruichladdich mandate.  I’ll spare you the details here, but if you care to hear a little more about the gang at Bruichladdich check out the following:

Unfortunately as I was touring Islay Jim McEwan, Bruichladdich’s Master Distiller, was in Toronto.  In lieu of the conversation were unable to have at the distillery, Jim happily agreed to answer a few questions for the faithful here at ATW.

Without further ado…

Bruichladdich's Master Distiller, Jim McEwan

Jim, can you tell us a little about your history in the whisky industry?

I Started at the age of 15 as an apprentice Cooper at Bowmore and stayed with Bowmore for 38 years, during which time I learned about Malting, Mashing, Distilling, Warehouse keeping, Blending, Marketing, Educating all sorts of people around the globe about Bowmore and other whiskies of course.

I lived in Glasgow during my Blending days and also during my time as the Bowmore Global Ambassador.

I left Bowmore in Dec 2000 and started in Bruichladdich on the 6th Jan 2001.


What does a typical day at Bruichladdich entail for you?

A typical day starts at 7.00 am with a cup of coffee and sort out my E-mails in order of importance and make a start on them.

7-30 am  Duncan and Allan arrive, and it’s a half hour of ‘whats happening throughout the day’ type discussion, what visitors are expected etc etc.

8.00 am – 10.00 am  Try and finish E-mails, which as you know is not without its delays, due to travel commitments or just way to busy preparing whisky for the bottling hall.

10-00 am – 12-30 pm  Warehouses to carry out Quality checks on casks or select casks for bottling

1.00 pm- 5-30 pm  A mix of meeting with visitors from our distributors or single malt fans who simply want to say ‘Hi’.

Check on the Mashing and Distillation with the guys.

Look after VIP groups and carry out tastings with them, plus find some more time to respond to the hundreds of mails I receive with questions on whisky…and I do try to reply.  Check with the bottling hall on what their requirements are for the next few days and check on the spirit that has been bottled that day.

5-30 pm  Chat with the operators on duty before going home for a well earned dram.


What role do you play, both artistically and technically (though at Bruichladdich these may be indistinguishable), in the creation of the Bruichladdich expressions?

My role is ensuring that the whisky we make is as good as it can be, that the whisky we sell is constantly as good as it can be.

I design new styles of Single Malts that I hope  will enhance the Brand and bring exciting flavours to new and old customers.  I also assist a little in the marketing of said products with ideas and concepts.


The Bruichladdich Distillery.


Are the more unique Bruichladdich expressions (such as Octomore, X4, PC5-8, etc) generally driven by an inspiration to smash boundaries or simply because you believe that they will be exceptional?

There will always be new and exciting products from us that’s the way we like it and so does the more educated consumer who wants quality and choice, that’s what we deliver.  Why?  Because we can, we  will continue to break down barriers plus we will always produce a high quality product and when the consumer talks we listen and take on board their comments.


In your opinion which characteristic of Bruichladdich most distinguishes it, not only from the other Islay malts, but Scotch whisky in general?

Being an unpeated Islay kind of sets Bruichladdich apart anyway, and the beautiful fruity sweet malt flavours which meld superbly with the oak make it an very easy and enjoyable spirit for the consumer to appreciate.  All the goodness and skill taken in making it is very evident due to  the quality of the Barley, the Casks and slow distillation plus the 100% maturation in the cellars by the sea make it truly unique, as most other distillers mature their stocks in central  Scotland.

Plus the fact that is produced with Victorian equipment in the time honoured way.  Bruichladdich is elegant, sophisticated, free from all additives and made by artisinal skills passed down the line since 1881. 


What factor of production would you suggest most directly influences and determines this character?

The speed of distillation and the cask quality.


Can you share a unique piece of Bruichladdich history that most of us wouldn’t know?

History WILL be made on 29th May at 8.26am 2011, that is when we will be 10 years old, it’s been a long haul but we are almost there.  Praise the lord.


Having been an integral part of the Bruichladdich renaissance, can you share some of the obstacles you’ve had to overcome in bringing it to where it is today?

The biggest problem was getting the distillery back into shape.  We have done well on a tight budget and carried most of the refurb work ourselves plus we still made whisky throughout the renovations.  There are many things still to be done and they will be done in time as we have shown with the building of a bottling hall, the changes made in the Stillhouse, the construction of a new warehouse and another about to be started in Jan 2011.  The team have been totally amazing, never a quibble or a complaint, and now we employ 50 people, which makes us the biggest employer on the Island outwith the Government who employ 62% of Scotland.


Are there any updates you can give us regarding the status of the Port Charlotte Distillery?

Port Charlotte is on the back burner due to the fact that we have to build new warehouses as I mentioned.


Can you share any insight as to the inter-relationships between the Islay distilleries?  Is there a high level of support and cooperation on the island?

The relationship between all the distilleries is and always has been first class, this will continue forever its an Islay thing and at the moment all distilleries are managed by local lads who have know each other all their lives.  It’s never been any other way.


What is your favorite expression in the current Bruichladdich range?

 At the moment I am in love with Black Art 2.  It’s absolute magic.


When not drinking Bruichladdich, what would your drink of choice be?

I love MORTLACH.  It’s my no. 1 Speyside, TALISKER  is another, as is BOWMORE, given that I helped to make a fair drop.


Is there one gem of a cask sitting in the warehouse you are itching to either bottle or drink yourself?

I have two casks of 1990 which I transferred into Chateau Y-Quem four years ago from Bourbon Barrels and it’s totally wicked.  No whisky should be this easy but it is and I love it.  No, its not for sale.


Can you give a hint as to what may be on the horizon for future Bruichladdich expressions?

Future Bruichladdich expressions?  Well today we started selling our own Gin made here in an old Lomond Still which I call UGLY BETTY.  It’s beautiful, very fresh and with the flavours of 22 Islay botanicals it’s dangerously drinkable.  It’s on our Web shop list so give it a try…you will not be disappointed.

Of course there will be unique bottlings like a 25 year old Oloroso bottling or Port Charlotte from a PX Sherry, lots of options it could be X4 in Château La Tour, watch this space.


'Ugly Betty'...The Lomond Still from which Bruichladdich has produced their (truly excellent) gin.


What can one expect if visiting Bruichladdich?

A warm welcome and a good dram .


…and finally…

What would you pour someone about to taste their first Bruichladdich?

Bruichladdich Classic would be my introduction malt to anyone trying Brookie for the first time.  It’s a mix of pre-Jim and post-Jim and it reflects all that is good about this distillery and all who work in it.

Warm thanks and sincere appreciation for your time, Jim.  Hopefully next time we’ll be able to share a dram.

In the meantime, readers…keep checking back in the coming days.  Part 2 of the Bruichladdich interview will be with Mark Reynier.


Whisky Festival 2010 – Willow Park Wines & Spirits


Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

November is a busy month in the whisky spheres.  In fact, one of my colleagues referred to the beating his liver takes at this point in the season, and how the important stuff would have to wait until November was finished.  Priorities, folks…priorities.

Arguably the biggest local event is the Willow Park Whisky Festival.  Ten years in and going stronger than ever is a fine indication that the folks at Willow Park really know how to put together an event.  Better yet…they know how to throw a party.  The 2010 festival was all of that and more.  Eight hundred of Calgary’s finest (and a few honorary Albertans from across the pond) were gathered for an evening of laughter, enlightenment and stunning drams.  The

Before we get to the whiskies I should mention that the Calgary Police Pipers Band and the Highland Dancers were in fine form.  These folks drew a crowd in their own right.  Highly talented, engaging and entertaining.  The lasses looked lovely and the band played their hearts out.  A nifty little addition.

The Calgary Police Pipers Band

The festivities were spread liberally across three floors.  You’d think that would be plenty of space, but it was still shoulder to shoulder through much of it.  This is no complaint, simply an attestation as to the prestige this event is developing.  The layout was clean and logical.  Food stations were sprinkled liberally through the venue, earning rave reviews in their own right.  Though my attentions (for whatever reason) were focused elsewhere, the mumblings of how exceptional the food was were unavaoidable.

The crowds were jovial and curious.  It’s exciting to see that people are no longer content to sit back with the most well-marketed dram in hand.  The new generation of malters are keen to learn and dollar conscious.  This is only going to benefit all of us, as the industry will be forced to rethink its strategies when consumer dollars begin to trickle to the smaller craft distillers instead of the global giants.  Ahem…debate for another day.

The festival was a veritable ‘who’s who?’ in the whisky world.  It was actually difficult to think of distilleries (active distilleries, you anorak nitpickers) that weren’t represented to some degree.  Though, as to be expected, there were a few lost souls attending simply to sink beneath the waves of inebriation (drinking drams like shots for instance), for the most part attendees were eager to sample drams from off the beaten path.  Let’s face it…that is exactly the aim of all involved.  What better way to try something that may be just on the cusp of your price range?  Knowing it is exceptional may be just the nudge you need.

Early in the eve, before things hit full swing...

The Bruichladdich / Murray McDavid table was hopping early, and remained busy through the course of the night.  One of the draws here, aside from the fine malts on offer, was the chance to say ‘hi’ to Andrew Gray, of Bruichladdich.  I waited by the table a couple times to meet one of the few folk from Bruichladdich I haven’t yet met, but minutes are at a premium in events like this.  I had to move on.  I think perhaps Bruichladdich was as busy as it was due in no small patr to the incredible support they receive from Willow Park.  The groaning shelves of Bruichladdich expressions upstairs, and constant turnover of new product, have ensured that shoppers at WP have been exposed to quite a range of Bruichladdich’s oft limited and always intriguing fare.

One of my favorite spirit shops supporting one of my favorite distilleries.  I love it.

I should note here, keep an eye on Willow Park in the coming months for a brilliant Bruichladdich surprise.  When you’re in the shop, tap Dave on the shoulder and tell him you want in on the Bruichladdich treat coming.

John Glaser was in attendance for the Calgary debut of Compass Box’s Flaming Heart.  Heafty dram, this.  Though I heard a couple of dissenting views, the reception to this seemed to be overwhelmingly positive.  The heavy peat notes in this one are courtesy of Ardmore, and there is simply no mistaking the Ardmore profile once you get a nose in the glass.  In this reviewer’s humble opinion Mr. Glaser has knocked another one out of the park. 

I believe the coming months have John returning to host another tasting event for the Compass Box faithful here in the big city.  If you haven’t attended one of John’s presentations…I highly recommend keeping a flexible schedule.

John Glaser of Compass Box fame.

The dram of the night for yours truly was unquestionably from the 1985 Glendronach cask that David Michiels selected and had bottled exclusively for Willow Park.  The sweetest, boldest and most beautifully balanced sherry you are likely to run into this year.  Exceptional and well worth the price of admission.  As is par for the course in whiskies of this nature…buy two.  These are extremely limited.

Willow Park's Exclusive 1985 Glendronach on display.

Ronnie Cox, manning the Glenrothes table, was friendly and warm.  A little sweet talking could have perhaps netted you a wee nip from the ’79  he had secreted beneath the table, but I don’t imagine you’d be disappointed with a dram of the 1991 either.

Through the course of the evening, I had countless brilliant conversations with reps and ambassadors from near and far.  Their enthusiasm was contagious and the excitement they showed for certain products was indicative that this is much more than a career for most.  It is a passion.

Arguably the best chat I had this eve was with Purple Valley Import’s Jonathan Bray.  As I mentioned in a review of one of Jonathan’s earlier Willow Park events (, Jonathan is an easy-going and engaging guy.  We compared thoughts on a few of his Rattray line and discussed…well…all things whisky.

Jonathan Bray presenting from the A.D. Rattray line-up of independent bottlings.

There are some tentaive arrangements made to do a little more with Jonathan in the near future.  Expect to see more on the Rattray expressions in coming months. 

I should briefly mention as well…

Another Willow Park exclusive available in the store is A.D. Rattray’s bottling of a 22 year old Caol Ila (  An absolutely stunning Caol Ila that is in ever-shrinking quantity.  If you have the opportunity…do grab one.

Ardbeg's Core range was on offer.

As blasphemous as this may sound to those who know me, I didn’t even touch the Ardbeg wares tonight.  A classy little set-up in the corner drew crowds by the bucketload, but though I was there to report back, I was also there to try some new goodies.  Why burn out the tastebuds on expressions I already own.  There can’t possibly have been more than a tiny handful of whiskies on offer tonight that could have outshone the Uigeadail or Corryvreckan though.  Sorry…fanboy for life apparently.

Even though the pours were getting mighty short by the end of the night (I saw a few that were no more than 1/5 of an ounce), I imagine there were many a hurting head come Thursday morning.  Ahhh well…I think that’s okay once a year.  Don’t you?

And how ’bout shadows cast over the event?  Well…I’ll reiterate what Maltmonster said elsewhere earlier…  It’s time for Willow Park to move away from the large, squat rocks glasses and towards something tulip shaped.  Glencairn, preferably.  Worst case…how ’bout a wine glass?  And possibly a way to rinse glasses between whiskies?  It’s quite difficult to nose whisky from a tumbler.  And even more so, when that tumbler had Port Charlotte in it at one point.

Hey…these are honestly the only criticisms I could possibly level here.  This was a first class event put on by a first class team at Willow Park.  David and the gang at WP did a bang up job, and have only whetted my appetite for February’s festival.  Check back regularly for updates as we get ’em.

A few of the highlights / lowlights:

Favorite of the night:  Glendronach 1985 (exclusive to Willow Park)

Best ambassador/rep run-in:  Great chat with Jonathan Bray

Biggest Surprise:  Big Peat. 

Diassapointment:  Bowmore 18

A few other gems:  Amrut Cask Strength Peated, Old Pulteney 17, Port Charlotte PC7, Compass Box Flaming Heart

Whisky Club member, Bruce, among the hoards.

A Run At The Irish

Maltmonster sat down to a trio of young beauties a few nights back and graciously offered up his take on a few of Ireland’s underappreciated gems.  Buckle up…



It’s been said that whiskey was invented so the Irish wouldn’t rule the world, but who would want to live in a world without whiskey.  After all good health is merely the slowest rate at which one can die!

Knowing that I will never rule the world, I picked out three of my current favorite Irish whiskies for review.


EARTHBushmills 16 Year old, 40% ABV.  This is a single malt with a three wood influence; Bourbon, Oloroso and Port (A conscience does not prevent sin, it only prevents from enjoying it.).

Nose – Coco / coffee, raisins and almonds

Taste – Delicate sweetness, burnt toffee                        

Finish – Medium to long. Elegant

Assessment – First Irish malt whiskey I fell in love with. Always recommend this to others.


WATERRed Breast 12 Year old, 40 % ABV. Blended whiskey (A narrow neck keeps the bottle from being emptied in one swig.).

Nose – Apples, pears and succulent strawberries. Floral

Taste – Creamy vanilla. Complex and little spicy

Finish – Medium. Very balanced

Assessment – This is my 2nd favorite Irish blend. Good value considering the price is around $40-$50.


FIREJameson 2007 Rarest Vintage Reserve, 46 % ABV. Blended whiskey with older grain (23-24 years old) and malted and unmalted barley matured in bourbon and port casks (Lead me not into temptation as I can usually find it by myself.).

Nose – Sublime citrus notes, marshmallows. Fragrant

Taste – Layered cake. Elegant wine .Silky smooth.

Finish – Medium to long. . Brilliant stuff. Hats off to the blender on this one.

Assessment – Best Jameson I’ve ever had. Bit pricey, but worth it if you can afford it.



Malt Messenger No. 43‏


Dear Malt Messenger Subscribers,

Happy St. Andrew’s Day Nation! St. Andrew is not just my namesake but also the patron Saint of Scotland, as well as Greece, Romania and Russia… but most importantly Scotland! It is a national holiday—or bank day as they call it—and its an occasion of national pride second only to Robbie Burns Day!

Speaking of Burns, can you believe it, Burns Day is less than 2 months away and Christmas is nearly upon us? Where has the year gone? I am well behind in my whisky proselytizing this fall, I had hoped to put out a full Malt Messenger in November and December but time has been a cruel mistress…  I have much to tell you about on this the last day of November 2010 and even more to tell you in December itself. This Malt Messenger will update you on some whiskies which have come in and tasting notes I’ve promissed. Thursday I will publish our Winter Tasting Schedule including our 2011 Robbie Burns Supper in a Malt Messenger Bulletin, and next Tuesday I will send out my annual Christmas Gift Guide which will also be available in store on paper. On top of all this I hope to have out a season ending full Malt Messenger newsletter out in the weeks before Christmas to catch up on all the great new whiskies we’ve received. There’s a lot to accomplish, so let’s get to it shall we!

First and foremost there are a couple of tastings to tell you about. On Thursday December 9th Michael Urquhart of Gordon & MacPhail/Benromach will be in store for a tasting with proceeds going to the Children’s Hospital Aid Society.  We will be sampling 4 whiskies from Benromach and 4 exclusive whiskies from Gordon & MacPhail. There will be some amazing deals, and Michael will be available to sign bottles! On the 18th of December Andy Dunn of Gold Medal Marketing will be holding an open house tasting with me from 2-5 PM in the whisky section for the Kilchoman KWM Fresh Bourbon Cask and the Duthies Range. We were so busy with tastings this fall that we never formally launched our exceptional single cask bottling of Kilchoman. More details on this free drop in tasting and the Gordon & MacPhail/Benromach Tasting can be found below.

On the whisky front there is much to tell you as well. We have lots of new whiskies in, including some exclusives from Gordon & MacPhail and Edradour.  I’ve written up tasting notes on the new Arrans, Bruichladdichs, Supernova 2010 and Octomore 3 I mentioned in the last Malt Messenger Bulletin. Unfortunately there was no time for a list of new and returned products. I’ll include them in the next Malt Messenger.

Keep your eye out for the Winter Tasting Schedule this Thursday and the 2010 Christmas Gift Guide on Tuesday!  I’ll do my best to keep you informed on the Malt Messenger, and don’t forget you can also follow the Scotch Guy on twitter at

I hope you enjoy this edition!


Andrew Ferguson


1.       Gordon & MacPhail/Benromach Tasting w/ Michael Urquhart

2.       Kilchoman/Duthies Drop In Tasting

3. – Check out My New Website!!!

4.       Four New Expressions from Gordon & MacPhail

5.       Strathisla 25Year Back In Stock

6.       Distillery in Focus Edradour

7.       Finlaggan Is Back!

8.       Ardbeg Supernova

9.       Bruichladdich Octomore 3

10.   Colllector’s Pick for November – Auchentoshan 1977

11.   Collector’s Pick for December – Tullibardine 1968

12.   Arran Tasting Notes: 14 Year and the New Finishes

13.   Bruichladdich Tasting Notes: The 18’s and Cabernet Franc Single Cask




Michael Urquhart is in town for the week, and with some new G&M exclusives and Christmas on the way it seemed like a great opportunity for a tasting. Further, it’s a great opportunity for us give back to the community, in this case the proceeds from the night’s event will be going to the Children’s Hospital Aid Society. For just $50 (at least $30 of which will go to CHAS) you will enjoy a tasting of 8 single malt whiskies led by Gordon & MacPhail’s co-Director. We will be tasting the following whiskies:

1.       G&M KMW Glen Grant 1966 – Exclusive – $449.99

2.       G&M Cask Strength Imperial 1997 – Exclusive – $114.99

3.       G&M Connoisseurs Choice Glen Keith 1993 – Exclusive – $87.99

4.       G&M Connoisseurs Choice Convalmore 1984 – Exclusive – $182.99

5.       Benromach 10 Year – $68.99

6.       Benromach Origins #2 Port Pipes – $83.49

7.       Benromach Origins #3 Optic Barley/Oloroso – 83.49

8.       Benromach 21 Year – $129.99

Gordon & MacPhail is Scotland’s second oldest independent bottle—est. 1895—and unlike most independent bottlers they purchase their whiskies as new make spirit, filling it into their own barrels.  In 1993 Gordon & MacPhail bought Benromach Distillery. It took them 5 years to get it in ship shape, but it has been back in action since 1998 and is the smallest distillery in the Speyside. Michael will be available to sign any bottles purchased that evening, and there will be some excellent deals on both G&M and Benromach whiskies.

The Children’s Hospital Aid Society or CHAS is volunteer group of 70 Calgary women who raise money for the Children’s Hospital and other Calgary agencies which advocate on behalf of children. The organization has been in existence since 1908 and in the last 20 years has raised over 4 million.

This will be an excellent event, with proceeds going to a worthy cause.  Hope to see you there.

For more information or to register call 403-283-8000 or visit our website




KWM was very fortunate to receive its own cask of Kilchoman this year. Kilchoman is the first new distillery on Islay in over 100 years, and its whisky, though young, is getting rave reviews and has swiftly developed a cult following. The distillery has only released 4 official bottlings, all of which have sold out. This makes our cask, which is the only one of its kind in Canada, and one of only two in North America a rarity indeed.  With our full bill of tastings at the store this fall it has been difficult to find a time to formally introduce it to our customers. So Andy Dunn (Kilchoman’s agent), and I have decided to hold a free drop in tasting of our Kilchoman and the Duthies range (which he also represents and are exclusive to Kensington Wine Market) between 2 and 5 PM on Saturday December 18th. Some of the whiskies you will be able to sample:

1.       Kilchoman KWM Fresh Bourbon Cask

2.       Kilchoman Summer 2010 Release

3.       Duthies Auchroisk 20 Year

4.       Duthies Bowmore 17 Year

5.       Duthies Caol Ila 13 Year

6.       Duthies Clynelish 14 Year

7.       Duthies Cragganmore 15 Year

8.       Duthies Glen Scotia 17 Year

9.       Duthies Hazelburn 8 Year

10.   Duthies Laphroaig 11 Year

11.   Duthies Ledaig 13 Year

12.   Duthies Longmorn 19 YEar

This free drop in tasting will give you the opportunity to sample our Kilchoman cask, the current release Summer 2010 and the Duthies range which consists of 10 different single malts representing most of Scotland’s whisky regions and styles. Between these hours we will also be offering special pricing on all these whiskies! No registration required. See you then and there!



As many of you know I guide small group whisky tours on the side. Since 2008 I’ve taken 5 groups on premium week long distillery tours in Scotland. I’ve wanted to build a website to showcase my business for some time now, and while on break in October I finally made some headway. I am pleased to say that over the last couple of weeks I’ve found the times to polish things a little further and can now say that I am proud to introduce you all to It is still a work in progress, and is my first effort at building a website, but you’ll find information on the tours I’m planning for May and photos and testimonials from some of my past trips. I am currently booking for Islay & the Southwest Coast (May 8th – 14th) and Speyside & the Southern Highlands (May 14th – 21st). For more information drop me a line, or better yet visit



We have just brought in four new exclusive whiskies from Gordon & MacPhail for the Christmas season.  One of them, the Rosebank, will not last long as we’ve but 6 bottles. We’re in much better shape on the other three. Gordon & MacPhails, established in 1895, is Scotland’s second oldest independent bottler. It is unique among independent bottlers in that it buys its whisky as new spirit filling it into its own casks for maturation, rather than buying up surplus casks from whisky brokers.

KWM’s four new exclusive Gordon & MacPhail whiskies:

1.       G&M Cask Strength Imperial 1997 – Single First Fill Sherry Butt / 61.6% / 12 Year – My Tasting Note:”Nose: notes of Demerara and brown sugar start things off along with dried maple syrup crust, jujubes and fruit candies as well as some spicy oak; Palate: really spicy, treacle, melted brown sugar and maple syrup, rich Christmas spices and lots of dark fruits that build into round chocolate notes; Finish: long, spicy, drying and sweet with more brown sugar and dried maple syrup.

2.       G&M Cask Strength Rosebank 1991 – Refill Bourbon Barrels / 55.3% / 18 Year – My Tasting Note: very floral, with spice, freshly mowed grass and citrus notes aplenty; the palate is light but very lively with the citrus notes (fresh, dried and burnt) and vanilla notes sluggishly struggling for domination, lots of sweet toasted oak and fine gentle oils make for a warming palate; Finish: drying and sweet with more faint citrus!

3.       G&M Connoisseurs Choice Convalmore 1984 – Refill Sherry Hogsheads / 46% / 25 Year – My Tasting Note: burnt toast, gritty, a metallic tinge, candied orange and cardamom, something like sweet and sour pork on the periphery; Palate: very soft and smooth with exceptionally soft creamy oak, fresh cream, loads of vanilla and soft gentle oak; the palate is very warming and pleasant, perfect on a cold night for those who aren’t fond of the peat…; Finish: drying with spice and malted milk!

4.       G&M Connoisseurs Choice Glen Keith 1993 – Refill Sherry & Bourbon / 46% / 16 Year – My Tasting Note: light and fruity, some creamy vanilla notes with flowers,  orchard fruits and a trace of spice, overall very gentle; Palate: soft texture, warming with lovely soft oils caressing the palate, white chocolate and Demerara sugar come first, followed by soft white fruits and some toasted oak; sweet and soft with white chocolate and more toasted oak.



We originally brought this whisky in as part of a series of 25, 30 and 40 year olds. Sadly neither the 30 or 40 year old are available at this time, but we’ve managed to get the 25 back. Of the three whiskies the  25 Year was by far the liveliest, though it lacked the smooth leather and tobacco notes of the 40 Year, it was much more lush and fruity. Just in time for Christmas we’ve managed to get about 30 bottles of it.

Strathisla, established in 1786, is one of Scotland’s oldest distilleries, and a solid candidate for its oldest, though this is hard to determine. The distillery is one of Chivas’s flagships, and the core component of the Chivas Regal blend. Its short dumpy stills produce a heavy spirit with hints of leather and tobacco.

Tasting Note: Nose: Sherry wood, hints of treacle and liquorice, some earthy charred oak notes. Palate: Rich sherry wood character. Mulled fruits and Christmas pudding. Hints of rum and raisin toffees. Finish: Charred oak with floral elements.



Edradour is Scotland’s smallest distillery, but it is also its second most visited. Its production may be but 90,000L a year, but when you factor in evaporation, if every one of its 100,000 annual visitors purchased a bottle, there would be almost nothing left to export! Edradour is located just up the hill from the town of Pitlochry, the gateway to Scotland’s mountains. The distillery is the last of many small farm distilleries which used to dot these hills. Its stills are the smallest legally allowed in Scotland and much of its equipment repurposed from other agricultural practices like the dairy industry like the Morton refrigerator which cools the worts. It’s equipment offers a glimpse back in time, like its open top cast iron mashtun which must be emptied by hand and its worm tub condenser which is among the last in Scotland.

The distillery was originally called Glenforres when established licensed around 1825. It’s likely that its origins go back much further but there is no evidence of this. Many of the distilleries licensed in the 1820’s were distilling illicitly for many years or decades before being caught and forced to take out a license. The first single malt bottled by the distillery was only released in 1986, but the distillery was long home of the House of Lords blended whisky, but this came to an end with the decision of Pernod Ricard to sell the distillery in 2002. It was bought by Andrew Symington who had been independently bottling single malts through his company Signatory Vintage Scotch Whisky. Since Signatory’s takeover the distillery has branched out into many different expressions, ages and finishes. In 2007 the distillery launched its first peated expression called The Ballechin after another closed farm distillery.

Edradour was available in Alberta in the late ‘90s, but after the Signatory takeover it disappeared from the market. It took a trip to Scotland and a sales job by yours truly to convince the powers that be that this whisky should be in Alberta. For the first six months the 10 year old was exclusive to our store, and since then we have become Edradour’s unofficial home in Canada having stocked no fewer than 21 different expressions over the last three years! Here’s what we have now:

  1. Edradour 10 Year – 40% – Nose: Dried apricots, oloroso sherry, faintly spicy and smoky. Palate: creamy, minty & nutty w/ drying almond. Finish: spices, vanilla, caramel and oak. Michael Jackson and Jim Murray scored it 8 and 8 ½ out of 10 in Whisky Magazine. – $76.99
  2. Edradour 12 Year Caledonia – I need to re-taste this one, but it is a sweet and spicy bottling of Edradour which retains the soft feel of the 10, but with more complexity.  It is a balance of both Sherry and Bourbon notes. – $93.99
  3. Edradour SFTC Chateauneuf du Pape Finish – My Tasting Note: Nose: plumy with rose petals, potpourri, and some leathery-earthy tannins, vanilla and crystallized sugar are hiding behind the wine cask notes; Palate: sweet and earthy, jammy fruits, vanilla pods, mushrooms and jujubes, big tannins, leather and tobacco notes develop later; Finish: drying, earthy and leathery with some sweet soft fruit. – $99.49
  4. Edradour 24 Year Pedro Ximenez Finish – My Tasting Note: Nose: rich cocoa notes, cinnamon, ginger, clove and maple with doughy vanilla; Palate: sweet, sour and musty to start, the whisky shows lots of fruity milk chocolate notes as it develops as well as a nutty backbone, it is viscous and coating with late honey and marmalade notes; Finish: dry and leathery with a touch of spice and hints of the chocolate and sweet fruity notes that ruled the palate. Only 1 bottle left! – $166.49
  5. Edradour Cask Strength Decanter 1997  – Tasting Note To Follow Soon – This is a big monster of a single cask Sherried Edradour. – $129.99
  6. The Ballechin 3rd Edition  Port Cask Matured – 46% – My Tasting Note: Gristy, peaty barley opens things up with something vaguely fruity and chocolaty struggling to emerge, there is a medicinal tinge to the clean smoke but nothing unpleasant even if I detect a touch of burning rubber; Palate: lovely full body with rich gentle oils, the peat is thick cut but soft with only a faint bitter edge of smoke, earthy chocolate and big grassy malt form the backbone; Finish: sweet and smoky with gentle peat oils that dry out with the palate. This is a lovely big peated whisky, fans of Port Charlotte may have found another Champion! – $85.99

Coming Soon:

  1. Edradour SFTC Madeira Finish – $TBA
  2. Edradour SFTC Port Finish – $TBA
  3. Edradour SFTC Burgundy Finish – $TBA




We have been out of Finlaggan Old Islay Reserve and Finlaggan Cask Strength for some months now. Finlaggan was for a long time our best selling whisky, and why not, its an amazing little peated whisky at an incredible price, $50.99. In 2006 it scored 94pts in the Malt Whisky Yearbook, with Jim Murray stating: “If you don’t buy a bottle of this you’ll regret it the rest of your life!”

The name Finlaggan comes from an obscure little loch on Scotland’s west coast Isle of Islay; for many the holy grail of whisky! Finlaggan has had a far greater role in the history of Scotland and the British Isles than its tiny size would hint at. The loch has three small islands in it, of which the two most north-easterly are central to this tale. There is the large island, Eilean Mor (Large Isle) and Eilean na Comhairle (Council Isle).

The site had already been occupied for thousands of years prior to the arrival of Macdonalds Lords of the Isles. The Lords of the Isles were descended from Somerled, a 12th C. prince, and were the leaders of the Clan Donald. They chose Islay, and more importantly Finlaggan, as the home of their lordship and the cradle of Clan Donald. From their base on Islay, the Lords of the Isles on their Viking long ships ruled the west coast of Scotland and parts of Northern Ireland from the isle of Lewis in the north to as far south as the isle of Man. Their territory was a chiefdom independent of the Kingdoms of Scotland, England and Denmark.

After more than two centuries of independence the Macdonald Lords of the Isles began to lose their grip on their realm when they ran afoul of the Scottish Crown by paying homage to the English King. In 1411 they were defeated by the Crown at the Battle of Harlow, the beginning of their decline. In 1542 the title “Lord of the Isles” was annexed by the Scottish crown, and following the merger of the Scottish and English crowns the title passed to the English Royal family. The title survives to this day, as one of those given to the first in line to the English throne. In addition to being the Prince of Wales, Charles is also the Lord of the Isles. Finlaggan can still be visited today, with the ruins of many buildings and grave markers still visible.

And what of the whisky that bears this significant, historic name? Don’t bother looking for a distillery called Finlaggan; there isn’t one. Finlaggan is a “mystery malt”, meaning that the distillery of origin is a closely guarded secret. It’s easy enough to figure out which one if you know your Islay whiskies, and the island’s geography. Finlaggan is fine dram, and easily the best buy we offer. Jim Murray gave it 94pts and said, “this is simply awesome. Someone has had access to one or two of the best casks the east coast of Islay has to offer. If you don’t get a bottle of this, you’ll regret it for the rest of your life.“ Jim Murray, 2006 Whisky Bible

  1. Finlaggan Old Reserve Islay Single Malt – 40% – Nose: fruity, nuts and chocolate; loads of peat. Palate: layer after layer of peat can be found on the palate, interwoven with dark chocolate and some fatty notes. Finish: more fruit, and chocolate mousse all held together by further lashings of peat. – $49.99
  2. Finlaggan Old Islay Reserve Cask Strength – 58% – Nose: bigger and sweeter than the regular bottling; plenty of peat and smoke but with honey and sweet chocolate notes. Palate: big is the opperative descriptor, with more grip than the standard bottling. The shift from nose to palate doesn’t disappoint, with deft peat, huge clean smoke, sweet chocolate, briny/medicinal notes, tobacco and touch of tar. An Islay drinker’s malt! Finish: cigar smoke, dark bakers chocolate and glorious buttery peat. – $85.99



ARDBEG SUPERNOVA 2010 – 60.1% – $114.99

Supernova is Ardbeg’s answer to Bruichladdichs Octomore, or is it vice versa! The last batch of Supernova disappeared quickly, without a word to the Malt Messenger Diaspora.  I have 18 bottles coming in tomorrow, of which most are already spoken, speak up now or forever hold your peace!

93.5 pts Jim Murray: Nose: youthful, punchy and spicy; vanillas and bananas add a sweetness to the molten peat; Taste: an explosion of sharp citrus and grassy malt…..the smoke and spices cause mayhem as they crash around the palate; eye-watering, safety-harness wearing stuff; Finish: the oak has a bitter-ish surprise but soft sugars compensate. Elsewhere the smoke and spice continues its rampage… “

My Tasting Note: Nose: fresh and green to start them morphing into a grass fire newly smothered with salt water, sweet creamy vanilla notes emerge with fresh mint only to be humbled by creosote, rough leather and sweet tobacco; Palate: far more gentler than I expected initially, green smoke slowly grows in the background as the soft peaty oils fade, the second sip is much bigger with massive vanilla and stronger more brackish smoke, sea salt tones it all down and it eventually settles down into clean smoke with fresh cream, barley sugar and crisp spices; Finish: long and at full throttle with the sweet smoke and salty peat never really fading away!


BRUICHLADDICH OCTOMORE 3 152ppm – 59% – $149.99

The most recent Octomore hasn’t been reviewed, but the previous 3 batches have all scored really well: Octomore 5 Year 96pts, Octomore 2 140ppm 94pts and Octomore 2.2 Orpheus 140ppm 96.5pts. Royal Mile Whiskies calls it “a fantastic, intense and remarkable whisky” and Loch Fyne “a peaty ace”.

My Tasting Note: Nose: grassy, grappa, aloe and lots of other green vegetal notes, a hint of soft vanilla lies beneath but it run over by the sweet barley and dry biscuity peat; Palate: immediately very sweet and grassy with soft clean smoke fading into the most delicate white chocolate oils, the smoke grows in strength but is restrained by the combination of sweet barley and vanillas, more elegant than assertive this whisky teases the palate with brute force but never touches it with more than a feather; Finish: long and sweet with barley sugar and clean smoke riding long out into the distance.


COLLECTORS PICK FOR NOVEMBER: AUCHENTOSHAN 1977 – 32 Year – 49% – Oloroso Sherry Matured – $506.99

There are only 240 bottles of this whisky available in the world, and but 18 of them have come to Alberta. We’ve sold two and opened one tonight for a tasting, so it is safe to say there are no more than 15 left for grabs.

My Tasting Note: Nose: very spicy with strong hints of pepper and clove, burnt citrus notes with orange peel, candied lemon and lime sugars, some firm but not bitter toasted oak rounds things out; Palate: the palate is rich, soft and smooth with fresh brown sugar, candied orange and sweet and dark spices, cinnamon and ginger are rounded out with a touch of clove; there is a touch of toffee cake and fresh cream and fair dollop of caramelized honey; finish: long drying and very pleasant some of the complexity is lost but there are no bitter notes to fault it with.

This is a very nice older expression of Auchentoshan which retains some of its citrus character but adds bold not bitter mature sherry notes.


COLLECTORS PICK FOR DECEMBER: TULLIBARDINE 1968 – 40 Year – 40.3% – Single Hogshead Cask – $471.99

Say what you will about Tullibardine, no other distillery in Scotland(save perhaps Glenfarclas) sells their older whisky at such reasonable prices. This single cask 1968 bottling is from a single hogshead cask, no. 130, bottled in July of 2008. Only 252 bottles are available worldwide, with less than a tenth of that destined for Alberta. The distillery doesn’t specify whether it is a bourbon or sherry, American or European oak hogshead. If I had to guess I would suspect it’s an ex-Bourbon American oak hoggy.

My Tasting Note: Nose: doughy and creamy, vanilla milkshake, dunnage warehouse, marzipan, orchard fruits and rose petals; Palate: silky, soft, treacle sauce, Highland toffee, peaches with fresh whipped cream, milk chocolate covered short bread, vanilla custard and toasted oak; Finish: soft and clean, more fresh whipped cream, berry fruits, white chocolate and toasted oak. This whisky is a stunner for its age and price! It’s amazing how close the angels to stealing this one from us completely… 40.3%!


ARRAN TASTING NOTE: 14 Year and the New Finishes

Arran has just launched an excellent 14 year old and three finished which along with the 10 year old will round out the core expressions in its portfolio. I think two of the whiskies are brilliant but have to level with you all, I’m not pleased with the look of the finishes. Packaging is not normally a concern of mine, it certainly doesn’t hurt if a whisky comes in a nice bottle and box or tin, but the whisky is always of paramount importance. While the Arran 14 Year looks fine, the branding of the three finishes leaves much to be desired. But of the whiskies, two are ok, and two are brilliant. Which is which? Better scroll through my tasting notes below:

1.       Isle of Arran 14 Year – 46% – Apparently a much higher Bourbon cask ratio that in the 12 year old it replaces, and in my opinion all the better for it. My Tasting Note: Nose: loads of soft vanilla, crème brule, grassy with honey and orange peel; Palate: soft and honeyed with Demerara sugar, grassy notes and rich toasted oak; Finish: warming with gentle sweet spice. This is an excellent addition to the line-up, and a fine whisky! – $76.49

2.       Isle of Arran Port Cask Finish – 50% – My Tasting Note: Nose: chocolate with earthy notes and fruit leather, old musty oak, doughy with damp vegetal earth; Palate: sweet and chocolaty with crisp spice and chewy candied fruits; some new make spirits rears its head with grassy tones, molasses, hints of cognac and more must oak; Finish: bland with apples and drying oak. Not my favourite bottling of Arran. – $76.99

3.       Isle of Arran Sauternes Cask Finish – 50% – My Tasting Note: Nose: damp yet dusty, like walking into a dunnage warehouse, leather and dried fruits; Palate: deep, sweet and honeyed, fig notes, marzipan, graham wafers and drying bitter spices like clove; the more you get into it the sweeter and more complex the whisky gets; Finish: long and caramelized with sweet spices and drying oak! Overall my favourite of the new Arrans!

4.       Isle of Arran Amerone Finish – 50% – I failed to taste the previous versions, but given the glowing reviews of the previous one I don’t think the two are very similar. My Tasting Note: Nose: strawberry and plum, earthy, raspberry chocolate and red velvet cake but lacking in layers; very jammy and sweet with strawberry/raspberry notes that balance out any leathery/earthy tannins, there is a touch of new make spirit and some grassy tones with wet leaves and a hint of something smoky; Finish: clean and drying with gentle spice and traces of jammy fruit. Not as good as the Sauternes or 14 Year but a step well above the Port. The ladies here cared for it more than I did and called it a ladies Scotch… they may be right, but I think the ladies will like the Sauternes and 14 Year too! – $96.99

BRUICHLADDICH TASTING NOTES: The 18’s and Single Cask Cabernet Franc

  1. Bruichladdich 18 Year Rum Cask Matured – 1990 – 46 % – My Tasting Note:  Nose: creamy and doughy with soft fruits, sugar cane, fruit flan, crème brule and soft cream; Palate: sweet and heavily toasted, very grassy with slightly bitter vanilla and an oily layer with some buttery notes; Finish: clean and creamy with some green grass. – $96.99
  2. Bruichladdich 18 Year Cognac Cask Matured – My Tasting Note:  Sweet with gentle spice, gravelly, sugary French oak, black liquorice and lush layers; Palate: sweet and spicy with oat meal raising cookies, thick and viscous, some leather and tobacco notes with late spice; Finish: drying, very spicy and smooth with a lively flourish. Easily my favourite of the 18’s. – $96.99
  3. Bruichladdich 18 Year Bourbon Cask Matured – My Tasting Note:  Nose: clean smoke and charred oak, vanilla milkshake and raspberries right off the bush; Palate: buttery and oily, fresh cream, sweet vanilla which flirts with a bitter edge, soft and easy to drink; Finish: long and drying with more creamy vanilla. Good but not as complex as the Cognac. – $96.99
  4. Bruichladdich 1986 Single Cask Cabernet Franc – 21 Year – 2 Years in Cab Franc – 387 Bottles – 46.6% – My Tasting Note:  Nose: very fruity, deep red fruits, chocolate covered strawberries, fruit syrup and dark chocolate; Palate: gentle, no rough leathery notes (often associated with wine finishes) ripe strawberries, pan seared red fruits, moist candied fruits with late fine wine tannins and a thick and chewy body; Finish: warming and gently spiced, strawberry liquorice and red fruits with soft earthy tannins. Far, far better than I expected and the best of the four whiskies by far! – $132.99



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Andrew Ferguson
KWM Scotchguy

1257 Kensington Rd. NW
Calgary, AB, Canada
T2N 3P8