Monthly Archives: March 2013

Macallan Part 1… From The Sherry Oak Expressions


Many days back (yes…I am occasionally that slow getting these pieces posted) a good mate of mine arranged a very…errr…sprawling Macallan tasting for me.  So sprawling in fact, that by dram number eleventy-three my nostrils were closing, I was seeing two of everything and all my s‘s had turned into sh‘s.  Of course, you gotta wonder what good your tasting notes are by the time you reach this point of hyper-sobriety, so in the spirit of maintaining some sort of integrity here, I insisted on revisiting a few of these that we tasted later in the evening.

As I began typing up my tasting notes I realized that the feature had grown to such obviously unwieldy proportions that I would have to split it into pieces, and showcase the malts in a more logical fashion.  This also allowed me to visit a couple extra for the sake of inclusion.

Part one will focus on the Sherry Oak range.  Part two, the Fine Oak series.  Part three, a few of the Macallan one-offs and oddballs.  (And to honest…I am debating a Part four…we’ll see).  I’ll preface each with my tasting notes for The Macallan New Make spirit simply as a point of reference to highlight the journey from birth to bottle.

In this first segment…some of the malts that helped define The Macallan reputation.  (Or more accurately, I’ll tackle the contemporary descendants of the whiskies that made The Macallan a legend.)  Sherry has long been the distillery’s hallmark, so let’s start there…


Macallan New Make

Notes:  63% abv.  Crystal clear.

Nose:  Slight nuttiness.  Malty.  Fresh bitter fruit.  Rubbery acetone.  Metallic note somewhere in there.  Oh yeah…and some cereals.

Palate:  Fire water.  With a bit o’ citrus.  Estery.  Please put this waxy young thing into the rock tumbler (ahem…a fine sherry bucket) and knock those edges off.

Thoughts:  Unrecognizable as a Macallan really.  Shows you what the distillery’s wood policy really means.  Cool as hell to see this as a new make.

Bottle Shots 2 021

Macallan 12 Sherry Oak (Recent Edition)

Notes:  40% abv.

Nose:  Mild mik chocolate.  Nutmeg and almond.  Orange.  Pinecone (NOT pine).  Touch of maltiness (hard to catch until moving the glass away).  Lightly floral.  Fudge.  A little ‘toastier’ than earlier editions.  Dark caramel.  Obviously the sherry is large and in charge at this age.

Palate:  Oaky delivery.  Rich in dark red fruits and the faintest tendril of smoke.  Some deep strong chocolate too.

Thoughts:  Charming enough, but not the giant that Macallan delivers in more aged incarnations.


Macallan 12 Sherry Oak (Older Edition)

Notes:  40% abv.

Nose:  Creamier than more recent editions.  Toffee.  Seems to be some malts older than 12 years in this one.  Fruits are more vibrant than in newer bottlings.  Warm cinnamon buns.

Palate:  Not quite up to the soft nose.  Bread dough.

Thoughts:  Substantially different from the latest incarnations, though I know not from whence this has come.  Packaging is different though.  I think there may be a few older casks vatted in here.  Smooth and drinkable.


Macallan 18 Sherry Oak

Notes:  43% abv.

Nose:  Rich and chewy sherry.  Soft and refined.  Mild nutmeg and cream.  Muted cherry.  Toffee.  Heather.  Warm leather.  European bread.  Mint.  Nearly faultless.

Palate:  Mildest of dried fruit and rumballs.  Caramel.  Warm melted chocolate and orange.  Oak.  Lasts none too long, but a beautiful top note and denouement.  Man…what exceptional balance.

Thoughts:  Wow…what harmony!  A very young 18…in a good way.  Nose here is bloody brilliant.


Macallan 18 Sherry Oak (1981)

Notes: 43% abv.

Nose:  Cinnamon and nutmeg.  Cherry, orange and citrus.  Tobacco.  Old cask notes that suggets there is whisky in here older than 18 years.  A touch of licorice and wax.  Borders on a touch of the trpoical.  Polish.

Palate:  Beautiful cherry and orange rind delivery.  Splashy and juicy arrival.  Wow.  Fruits and maturity.  Moves into lovely wood tones.

Thoughts:  Full sunrise to sunset development.  Lovely all the way through.  If only current exressions were this good.


Macallan 25 Sherry Oak

Notes:  43% abv.

Nose:  Rich, oiled leather.  Heavy…so heavy. Christmas cake.  Cinnamon (almost like buttery cinnamon spread). Orange.  Maraschino cherry.  Caramel fudge.  Dark chili chocolate.

Palate:  Oily and rubbery.  Dusty dried fruits.  Great maturity meets fun vibrancy.

Thoughts:  I expected a tannic drying finish, and couldn’t have been more wrong.  Great drink.  Exceptional, really.

064 (2)

Macallan 30 Sherry Oak

Notes:  43% abv.

Nose:  Waxy.  Sherry ebbs into tarry mature notes.  Leather.  Deep-running spices.  Dried apple.  Crushed walnut.

Palate:  Apple skins and winter spice.  Wax and tar.  Long and bitters out slightly…in a pleasant way.

Thoughts:  Sexy.  Brooding and deep.  This…this is what I imagine when I think of the storied reputation Macallan has built itself.  I could linger over this for hours before even sipping.  This is a dram to adore and worship.


Macallan Cask Strength

Notes:  59.3% abv.  Bottled for Canada.

Nose:  Heavy sherry and all that usually accompanies.  Demerara sweetness. Christmas pudding.  Fruit cake with heavy marzipan frosting.  Kirsch and dark chocolate.  Well-oiled baseball mitt.

Palate:  Enormous arrival.  Thick toffee.  Sherry wollop.  Fruit skins and mouthwatering juiciness.

Thoughts:  I love this.  The only thing comparable is an Aberlour a’bunadh, which is one of my favorites.  At this point it’s a toss up which I prefer more.


– Notes:  Curt

– Photos:  Curt

A.D. Rattray Bowmore 15 y.o. (Cask #2057) Review

A.D. Rattray Bowmore 15 y.o. (Cask #2057)009

56.5% abv

Score:  90/100


Wow.  What a nifty little Bowmore.  No distillery on Islay can boast even close to as many faces as Bowmore.  A true shapeshifter if ever there was.  Nailing down the profile of this distillery is an exercise in understanding the history of its development through time.  The ‘fruit age’…the ‘floral age’…the more contemporary ‘smoky caramel bacon age’.  But every now and again we find a little anomaly like this.  A malt that defies its lineage.

Herein lies the beautiful dilemma of buying single cask independent bottlings.  Much like any game of chance, the purchase of these releases is a surprise each go-round.  But…with great risk comes great reward.  Here is a bottle where any outlay of cash is more than rewarded in sheer shimmering quality.

This 15 year old Bowmore is a sensory delight.  Not perfect, but absolutely surprising and beguiling.  It hits high note after high note and when the glass is dry…I can’t help but reach for another.

Sadly…this is a malt from days past.  If you happen to chance upon it in your travels…do scoop one.

Nose:  Smoke.  Iodine.  Farmyard.  Burnt tires.  Cola and toffee.  Raspberry puree.  Fruity fudge.  Lovely really.  The sort of whisky nose I crave.  Seems a little more mature than 15 years.

Palate:  Green apple.  Ash.  Touch of creamy chocolate.  Asphalt.  Cinnamon.  Apple Pie.  Smoke.  Cola.  Rather lush jammy notes.  Big juicy sherry.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

Kensington Wine Market Goes Green For St. Patrick’s Day

Happy St. Paddy’s Day!

Celebrate your inner Irish.  On a day when even our most Scottish of locals, like KWM‘s Andrew Ferguson, have taken to the green…why the hell not?

KWM Green 1

All indications point to our friends in Ireland as the true originators of the distillate we all so love, so in honor of All Things Irish…raise a glass of Bushmills…Jamesons…Redbreast…Connemara…whatever.  Throw on a little Pogues…Dubliners…Primordial…Flogging Molly…again…whatever.  Either way…we’re all Irish today.

KWM Green 2

Now…if you’re short of anything to sip from the Emerald Isle, take a swing by the aforementioned Kensington Wine Market and have a chat with IiT (Irish in Training), Andrew Ferguson, or one of his team.  They’ll steer ye right.

…and yes…that happy little leprechaun is none other than Mr. Ferguson.

KWM Green 3

Love the decor, Andrew.  Switching allegiances?

Before anyone asks…no, I am not switching allegiances.  I stand behind the old maxim: ‘the Irish may have invented it, but the Scottish perfected it’.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, friends!


– Photos:  Maltmonster

The Dram Initiative #000 – Longrow & Founders Meeting

The Dram Initiative Meeting #000

Founders Meeting & Longrow Range Tasting


The first (un)official meeting.  A decision was made early on to consider this meeting #000, in order to allow the Founding Fathers to lay the cornerstone and make some informed decisions before the masses claimed their numbers.

The main reason to not consider this a proper whisky club gathering was that only seven were allowed to attend.  A few other paid and committed members were unable to make it this night, and a couple others were told to hang tight till an official roll-out with all details.

So…meeting #001, the first true ‘open’ club meeting will fall next month.  Tentative date…April 18th.

This night however, March 8th, 2013, was a necessary step in the evolution of this new collective.  On top of some laughs, good malts and great companionship, a five member sitting committee was established…a few future agendas (errrr…selection of malt ranges to be tasted) were set…costs were established…a few ground rules laid…a few suggestions made.  Voila.  The Dram Initiative is suddenly real.

There is now a category along the left hand side of this website marked ‘The Dram Initiative’.  This is where all club-related news, tips, notes, tidbits, gossip, etc will be found in coming days.  I’ll be sharing details of successes and obstacles here as well.  A future piece will concentrate on what we did to launch this club.  Hopefully this will help some others who have questioned me on this subject in the past.  Perhaps our blueprint will help a few others start up their own circle of malters.

I also plan, in future e-pistles, to provide a few proper tasting notes on the drams.  In this case though…we were simply too preoccupied with the business at hand.  So…no tasting notes to speak of yet, but…I’ll share a few thoughts here, anyway…

First Dram Initiative Flight:

Longrow CV – A brilliant entry level malt in the range.  One of the better young whiskies out there.  Divided the peaters from the non-bogheads.

Longrow 10 y.o. 1996 – Creamier and mellowing nicely.  Peat is still smoking, but there is balance here.

Longrow Red – Longrow meets Cabernet Sauvignon…WTF?!  It works though.  Not completely, but…it does work.  There was some debate as to just how ‘wine-y’ this one seemed.

Longrow Gaja Barolo – Still a favorite, and holds up well in the line-up.  Love it.  If you can find one…do so.

Longrow Rundlets & Kilderkins (advance sample) – Thanks to Andy Dunn for hooking us up with this one.  Look forward to the official release.  This malt and I…we need to spend some time together.  Quite dug it.

Longrow 18 y.o. – Awesome.  Pretty sure all loved this, even the non-peaters in our midst.  Brilliant balance.  Simply put…great whisky.

Longrow 12 y.o. Single Cask 1996 – Off the rails.  An absolute sulphur mess.  Though I will revisit, can’t say this was enjoyable off the cork.

Springbank 18 – An incidental extra thrown in.  Loved by all.  Hey…what do you expect?  It is a mature Springbank, after all.


Good line-up, no?  And where else will you find a Longrow range tasting?  But…enjoyable as it was…it was nothing compared to next month’s range.  Good things to those who wait.

To those who came out on first night to kick this thing in the ass…here’s to ya!  To all involved and all to be involved…here’s to many years of enlightenment!


Wanna be a part of The Initiative?  You know where to find us.  Drop a line for details.


– ATW 

Longrow 18 y.o. (2011) Review

Longrow 18 (2011)013

46% abv

Score:  92/100


A beautiful Longrow that falls right in my wheelhouse.  18 years (give or take) is pretty much the perfect time for seeing the true coming-of-age of mature peated whisky.  It is that place in time where the peat is fading from the forefront to become just another nuance.

When you can finally take the palate and nose blistering effects of fiery young peat (and generally Longrow is peated to a whopping 50-55 ppm) out of the equation, you can actually see the true character of the spirit and cask quality.  A magic time in a whisky’s life cycle.

This expression follows a couple years after the brilliant 2008 release of Longrow 18, and though I’ve had both, I have yet to try them tete-a-tete.  Having said that…there was absolutely no question as to quality in either case.  Love this distillery…love this expression.

Nose:  Fruits are peeking out again through the peat at this age…but tart and tight.  A bit of creamy meringue.  Distant pepper (likely a lot more prevalent in its youth, but mellowed by now).  Slight floral note.  Grassy meadow.  Some brilliant ‘old cask’ notes.  peat and smoke are only hinted at.  Not a heavy hitter by any means.

Palate:  Apple and orange marmalade.  A bit of sweet lemon (not tart at all).  Sweet barley and oak.  A really nicely integrated and rather complex spice palette (actually quite tough to dissect).  Now some smoke and deep oiliness.  Almost ethereally earthy.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

Longrow CV Review

Longrow CV030

46% abv

Score:  88/100


At one time Campbeltown was considered the ‘whisky capital of the world’.  This little slice of Scottish heaven was home to more than 30 operational distilleries.  Throughout the twentieth century factors internal (slipping quality and overproduction, cask policy) and external (the depression, closing of the mines, prohibition) led to closure after closure, until finally only Glen Scotia and Springbank remained in production.

In 2004 the Mitchell family of Springbank purchased, and put into production, neighboring Glengyle distillery.  This step was instrumental in protecting Campbeltown’s status as a whisky distilling region, bringing the region’s sum total distilleries from 2 to 3.

So…while there is now a relative dearth of options when it comes to Campbeltown malts, Sprinbank are doing their damnedest to give we hungry consumers some options at the tills.  This family-run distillery is responsible for producing Hazelburn, Longrow and Springbank.

Here we have Longrow CV.  There are alternate schools of thought as to what the ‘CV’ actually stands for, but most reputable and authoritative voices suggest ‘curriculum vitae’ over ‘chairman’s vatting’.  Either way…stellar young malt from a distillery bent on adhering to the time-honored tradition of ‘DIY’ and ‘quality-first’.

Nose:  Wow.  Very old school style dram.  Meaty and malty.  Smoke and peat, of course.  Ashy.  Figs.  Caramel.  Leather.  Dark and lovely old dunnage warehouse notes.  Smells that bring to mind the aromes at the distillery itself.  Some far off echoes of the new spirit.

Palate:  Perfect correlation of nose and palate.  Smoky.  A bit of an iodine note.  Oily and heavy.  Hefty peat.  Spiced apple.  7-up (lemonade, for our overseas friends).  Some almost industrial notes.

A very classic, traditional style malt.  Brilliant entry level whisky.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

The Dram Initiative – Calgary Whisky Club

Dispatch #1

It’s here.  Calgary’s new whisky club.  This Friday, March 8th, is the inaugural meeting of this collective of individuals.  All details will be finalized in a couple of days amongst the early members.  Look for the club to go mainstream in the next month or two.

Interested?  Drop a line.



Dailuaine 1973 (Berry’s Own) Review

Dailuaine 1973 (Berry’s Own)048

41.8% abv

Score:  93/100


One night night long ago (Burns Night, 2013, to be exact) a mate and I sat down to a rather extravagant line-up of ’60s, ’70s and early ’80s malts.  Though there were a few brilliant drams in this midst, none quite measured up to this ’73 Dailuaine.  It was pretty much love at first sniff ‘twixt this whisky and I.

Dailuaine is a Speyside distillery, the output of which rarely finds its way into single malt release.  Most of the spirit from this Diageo brand ends up in Johnnie Walker blends.

In a ridiculously odd nod to the fates…

The night I sat down to sample this one (and subsequently had it charm the pants off me) I immediately texted Andrew Ferguson at the Kensington Wine Market, who had shared this sample with me so many months prior, to see if there was any of this malt still available on the shelves and to ask him to put aside a bottle for me.  Sadly…just sold out.  That very night.  Coincidental, yes, but here’s where it gets really weird…

A few minutes later I got a text from another friend of mine, who just so happened to be in at KWM that very eve and grabbed the second-to-last bottle of this stuff off the shelf.  A gent there reached in behind him to scoop the very last bottle.  Sonuva…!

Lesson learned.  Be a little quicker on the take.  Should have tried this sample when it first came my way.  In the meantime…every few days I text this mate of mine and ask him if he’s ready to relinquish his hold on this bottle.  It will be mine.  Oh yes…it will be mine

Nose:  Sweet soft-skinned white fruit.  White chocolate.  Peach and cherry.  Vanilla ice cream.  Very mild cinnamon.  Toasted bread.  Some tropical fruit juice.  Comfortable, like gramma’s homemade baking.

Palate:  Grains, oak and soft rising cinnamon bun dough.  Peach and more fruit.  Bold vanilla bean.  Coffee note comes through on development.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt