Monthly Archives: December 2014

Advent Day 17: 1996 Glentauchers 18 y.o. (A.D. Rattray) Review

Secret Spirits Advent Calendar Day 17 – December 17th053

1996 Glentauchers 18 y.o. (A.D. Rattray)

Cask #1177 Sherry cask

56.1% abv

Score:  89.5/100


A whisky from the Secret Spirits Advent Calendar First Edition.

Told ya we weren’t done with Glentauchers, didn’t I?

We had a malt from this distillery on day 13 of our advent journey.  That one was a knockout, so let’s dig in and see what we can suss out about why this one was chosen to represent Day 17.

Much more than just a variation on a theme here, this one is an entirely different beast.  Here we have a different independent bottler; sherry maturation instead of bourbon; cask strength as opposed to 46%; and a couple years younger than the first we tried.  That previous Wemyss Malts Glentauchers blew me away with a certain something (a quirky flavour nuance) I personally hunt for in whisky and rarely find.  This one, while it doesn’t have quite the same personal lure for me, is still another great dram.  Only a point or two behind the other, in my estimation.

What Secret Spirits have ultimately achieved here (by design, I’d argue) is a solid point of comparison between two whiskies produced in the same manner at the same distillery, but handled entirely differently from one another.  There’s a good moral in there somewhere about assumptions and not making blanket judgements (if you’re of the preachy sort).

I should also note that A.D. Rattray was the ideal bottler for this cask.  They tend to leave ’em big and bold, and allow the true character of the whisky to shine through.  What we end up with is a massive malt; oily and lingering, even though the spirit itself is quite soft and lovely.  Think of it this way:  Even Simon and Garfunkel can blow your speakers if you crank it up to ’11’.

Great after dinner dram.

Nose:  Soft and charming.  Great nose.  Orange and cinnamon.  Milk chocolate.  Millionaire’s shortbread.  Slight wine-y note, but very understated and entirely wonderful.  Fruit fudge.  Soft vanilla cream.

Palate:  Chocolate.  A little ginger and all spice.  Orange.  Lovely long evolution.  Maybe even a touch of melon.  Orange Dino-sour candies.  Unbelievably mouthwatering.  Like a lovely sweet baked bread.

Thoughts:  The nose just gets better and better the longer it opens.  Great fruity notes on both nose and palate.  Love this whisky.

Bonus:  My mate, Jonathan, and I are gonna blog on these drams side by side through the season.  Here’s a link to his notes on the same whisky at


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

Advent Day 16: 1998 “Pastille Bouquet” Mortlach 15 y.o. (Wemyss Malts)

Secret Spirits Advent Calendar Day 16 – December 16th086

1998 “Pastille Bouquet” Mortlach 15 y.o. (Wemyss Malts)

Cask #5402 Bourbon Hogshead

46% abv

Score:  87/100


A whisky from the Secret Spirits Advent Calendar First Edition.

Ok.  Let’s keep this one short and sweet.  We all know Mortlach.  No need for a lengthy introduction or distillery background.  Just a few personal thoughts.  Let’s go…

Mortlach has long been a favorite distillery of mine.  Just a bit of a personal affinity.  It’s a Speysider, but in my eyes, it’s one which bucks the overly formulaic apple/pear/berry/vanilla/oak trend most Speyside malts (excepting the big sherry bombs) are usually known for.  It certainly does bear some or all of those hallmarks, but often injects a little bit of a meaty backbone and an occasional whiff of smoke to mix things up a bit.  Mortlach is a malt with character.  A malt that I find almost always deserves a good long bit of my attention.

For these reasons, I was tickled pink to open door number 16 and find a 15 year old Wemyss Malts Mortlach.  And while this one didn’t light me up like some of the others, it is still a rather sexy dram.  I’m probably only disappointed because I have such elevated expectations for this distillery.  More accurately, I have expectations regarding what sort of profile I’ll be getting when I pop the cork.  This malt is simply not the Mortlach I know.  Good?  Absolutely.  Familiar?  Well…not so much.  Perhaps that has to do with a lack of sherry influence in the casking here.  Most likely, I’d say.

Oh well.  Still a cool one to try.  While I can’t say I’m behind the new over-marketed and unjustifiably premiumized Diageo abominations, I’m still a sucker for the older indie Mortlachs when available.  This was just such a case.

Nose:  Lovely candy notes.  Dusty potpouri or dried flowers of some sort.  Nicely spiced.  Grain dust (like being near a mill).  Big Turk candy bars.  Fuzzy Peach candies (just a hint).  If those savoury Mortlach notes are here at all, they’re very faint.

Palate:  Maybe just the softest mince, or at least a similar spicy tart note.  Apples.  There’s a little more fresh fruit, but having trouble putting a pulse to it.   Just a vague smokiness.  Oak.  Pear and apple cider.

Thoughts:  Always love trying Mortlach, but increasingly finding variants lacking the meaty notes I associate with the distillery.

Bonus:  My mate, Jonathan, and I are gonna blog on these drams side by side through the season.  Here’s a link to his notes on the same whisky at


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

Advent Day 15: 2009 MacDuff 5 y.o. (Samaroli)

Secret Spirits Advent Calendar Day 15 – December 15th065

2009 MacDuff 5 y.o. (Samaroli)

Cask #900258 American Oak

45% abv

Score:  70/100


A whisky from the Secret Spirits Advent Calendar First Edition.

Chances are good this will be the lowest scoring malt of the whole calendar.  But that’s ok.  There’s a reason for it and I’m still behind it.  The thing is…you need to understand why it’s scoring low, and why it’s not actually bad whisky.  More importantly…you need to understand why it’s important that it’s in the calendar in the first place.

Jonathan and Cindy – the team behind Secret Spirits – set out to take us on a journey with this advent calendar.  They carefully selected whiskies representative of both single malts and blends…of grain whiskies and blended malts…of sherry influence and redolent of peat and smoke…of good old age and youthful feist.  The latter quality is what this 2009 Speysider is all about.  And it’s imperative for any aspiring maltster to understand what young whisky is all about, and what maturation actually contributes to the endgame.

I continue (much to the irritation of the industry, I might add) to campaign and advocate that all producers are held accountable to the consumer by putting all pertinent information on the label.  In particular, age statements.  I’ve gone on record as saying I will happily support whisky of any age, so long as it’s good and so long as I feel as though I’ve made my own informed decision to purchase and not been mislead by the industry’s marketing angle or sleight of hand misdirection.  It’s for this very reason I absolutely laud Samaroli for proudly releasing a 5 year old malt from an obscure distillery.  That takes balls.

This is a 5 year old MacDuff from Samaroli, and is another case where we have a distillery that can be found under two different names, depending on points of time and history.  Whisky from this distillery has been bottled as both MacDuff and Glen Deveron.  MacDuff being the more contemporary of the two.

Let me say clearly here – before we go any further – that this is under ripe whisky.  I probably would have left it in situ for at least another decade or so.  But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a great spirit cut and a malt with a ton of potential.  It is.  It’s actually very good whisky.  It’s just not ready yet.  Think of it like a kid who picks up the guitar and obviously has a flair for the instrument.  Stage ready, by no means, but you know he’ll be rockin’ a crowd one day.

In this guy’s humble opinion this whisky is one of the most important inclusions of the calendar.

Nose:  Just a hop, skip and a jump from New Make spirit.  Razor sharp and immaculately clean.  Wax and furniture polish.  A lot of fruits here, but they’re very congested.  With time they’ll expand outwards and show their colors.  Barley sugars and white flour.

Palate:  Just outta diapers, this one.  Very synthetic.  Very much like lip balm meets ethanol, but still enjoyable for all that.  Odd, huh?  Salty uncooked pie crust dough.  A little bit of tangy dried cherry and fig.  The grains are huge.

Thoughts:  Definitely too young, but a neat showing of what the raw spirit is like in what I assume is a very tame barrel.  Extra points for bottling a 5 y.o. and declaring it as such.  Not quite drinkable yet though.  Marks are technical, and an acknowledgment of great spirit cut and the balls to bottle at this age.

Bonus:  My mate, Jonathan, and I are gonna blog on these drams side by side through the season.  Here’s a link to his notes on the same whisky at


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

Advent Day 14: 1988 Girvan 25 y.o. (A.D. Rattray)

127Secret Spirits Advent Calendar Day 14 – December 14th

1988 Girvan 25 y.o. (A.D. Rattray)

Cask #79184 Lowland Grain Whisky

55.4% abv

Score:  89/100


A whisky from the Secret Spirits Advent Calendar First Edition.

The first Girvan I ever tried was a knee-buckling 45 year old from Clan Denny.  Part of the magic of that dram was the circumstances under which it was drunk, but there’s no discounting the fact that what was in the bottle was just really, really good.  I’ve never found another grain that quite measured up, in fact.

Just to be forthright…I don’t generally get excited about grain whiskies.  It’s a style that takes a back seat for me, much like Canadian whiskies or bourbons.  To me these aren’t much more than blend components that are being used for novelty one-off bottlings.  I know that’s not necessarily the case, but I also know that the care and due diligence that goes into malt production is not the same approach that is embraced in the volume, volume, volume production of grain whisky.  Malts cater to the connoisseur.  Grains cater to the blend industry.  C’est la vie.

Having said that, that special 1965 Girvan resonated so strongly with me that I do actively seek out whiskies with this name on the bottle.  I’ve not yet found a comparable version, but I’ve also not been disappointed by any I’ve tried.

Let’s consider that enough preamble and investigate the wee bottle behind door number 14 of the Secret Spirits advent calendar.

This 1988 is a single cask from A.D. Rattray.  And it’s pretty much exactly what I’d expect.  Spicy and bracing.  The wood influence is enormous.  This isn’t a bad thing, but it should be noted, especially if this is a new style for you.  Tasted blind, I’d be liable to say this was either mature grain or mature rye.

Nose:  Like a nice old rye.  Very creamy vanilla and a touch of coconut.  Cinnamon and freshly ground nutmeg.  Cedar, eucalyptus and lumberyard.  Good bread dough.  Oatmeal raisin cookies.

Palate:  Big arrival.  Fresh woods.  Eucalyptus and lumberyard again.  Like orange and maraschino cherry sprinkled with cinnamon and sawdust.  Lemon polish.  A very sinus-clearing dram.  Juicier than expected from this style.

Thoughts:  If only more grains tasted like this, I’d maybe occasionally reach for one.  Not my favorite style of whisky, but there’s no arguing with quality.  This is a fine dram.  Big appeal for fans of bourbons and ryes too.

Bonus:  My mate, Jonathan, and I are gonna blog on these drams side by side through the season.  Here’s a link to his notes on the same whisky at


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

Advent Day 13: 1992 “Licorice Spiral” Glentauchers 20 y.o. (Wemyss Malts)

Secret Spirits Advent Calendar Day 13 – December 13th080

1992 “Licorice Spiral” Glentauchers 20 y.o. (Wemyss Malts)

Cask #6036 Bourbon Hogshead

46% abv

Score:  91.5/100


A whisky from the Secret Spirits Advent Calendar First Edition.

Earlier this year I got to try my first Glentauchers.  I scribbled up a few notes on how impressed I was with this rarely seen Speyside malt, while simultaneously lamenting the fact that nearly the entire output of the distillery was destined for the relative obscurity of Ballantines and Teachers blends.  It seems my fortunes related to this malt have changed a little, and…not to give too much away…will continue to do so in the very near future.  😉  I’ll share the word on a couple more ‘Tauchers soon.  Stay tuned.

In the meantime…

This 20 year old independently bottled version from Wemyss Malts is just as much of a treat as the ’94 Gordon & MacPhail I refer to above.  Its profile stands in stark contrast to that one, but the inherent quality is unequivocally on par.  There’s a brilliant note herein that I so rarely find, but search for endlessly in my whiskies.  Something along the lines of kerosene or some similar nuance.  Even that is not quite right, but its where I find my thoughts pulling toward.  And the licorice hinted at in the name of this one?  Meh.  Maybe.  Certainly not overpowering.  Ghostly, if there at all.

I may have to start hunting down some Glentauchers for the collection if I keep finding them to be of this calibre.

Nose:  A slight kerosene and wax edge to it (a profile I ADORE and rarely find…must have something to do with the cask treatment).  A whiff of smoke, it would seem.  Candied ginger.  Mint.  Not sure about the licorice thing.  If anything, maybe red licorice.

Palate:  Awww, yeah.  That same kerosene note carries.  Love it!  Grassy and grainy notes follow.  Some creamy orange notes with ginger.  Burnt marshmallow.  Orange peel as well.  Maybe licorice now…a little.

Thoughts:  This is a very, very singular whisky.  I love this style.  Just wish it was something a little easier to find.

Bonus:  My mate, Jonathan, and I are gonna blog on these drams side by side through the season.  Here’s a link to his notes on the same whisky at


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

Aberlour a’bunadh (Batch 49) Review

Aberlour a’bunadh (Batch 49)090

60.1% abv

Score:  89.5/100


These a’bunadh write-ups are some of the most popular reviews on the site, so while to some it may seem almost like overkill to keep knocking out batch after batch of ’em, we’ll keep doing it as long as people want to read.

It also doesn’t hurt that they’re tasty beverages, and that sitting down for review sessions with these Aberlours is far from ‘homework’.

Each time I settle in to score up a new a’bunadh I generally try to taste at least two or three different batches side by side.  It helps the subtleties take on a more pronounced difference, and ensures that the scores are kept in line with one another to a degree.  Let’s face it: these are very much just tiny variations on a theme.  A point of comparison helps keep the reviews on the up-and-up.

Batch 49 is a little bit of a black sheep from recent versions I’ve tried.  Seems to me to be much softer of a dram.  Perhaps we’re looking at more refill butts vatted into this one.  Not sure.  What I can say, however, is that the rather biting acerbic profile that has characterized the past handful of batches I’ve tried seems to have been softened here.  To great effect.

Hard to believe we’re already at Batch 49, but so seems to be the case.

Nose:  We’re back into the more fruity side of a’bunadh here.  The last batch I tried was 47.  That had some more savoury notes.  Here we have deeper red jams and dusty, dunnage warehouse.  More floral notes than normally found in a’bunadh.  Maraschino-rich fruitcake (a bit a tasting note cheat, I know, but true nonetheless).  Cinnamon and a touch of mint.  Well worn leather.  A little almond.  Baked apple.  Dark wine gums.

Palate:  Nice delivery here.  Sweeter than that B47 I mentioned, and lacking all of the bittering notes.  Ooey, gooey fruits sauce or spoonfuls of mixed berry jam.  Ever use your teeth to pull off leather gloves?  Y’know that leathery flavour that lingers?  Yep…that’s what I’m getting at.  Baked apple with rich spices.  Quite plummy and tangy.  Juicy and mouthwatering throughout.

Thoughts:  Gotta be honest.  This is a’bunadh…but it’s not.  The florals are a surprise.  As is the relative softness.  Especially in contrast with the asskicking abv.  More restrained and simple than I’m accustomed to with this malt, but absolutely no less wonderful for it.  And no matter what impression you get here, make no mistake.  This is big fucking whisky.


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

Advent Day 12: 1997 Isle Of Jura 17 y.o. (Samaroli)

Secret Spirits Advent Calendar Day 12 – December 12th026

1997 Isle Of Jura 17 y.o. (Samaroli)

Cask #9118

43% abv

Score:  86.5/100
A whisky from the Secret Spirits Advent Calendar First Edition. 


Now here’s a bit of a fun one.

It’s a rare occasion I come across independently bottled single cask releases of Jura.  There was a rather spectacular Douglas Laing 25 y.o. I tried on Islay a couple years back.  And I think maybe an SMWS release or two, but not many other Indie Juras make it our way.  Surprising, really, when one considers the volume the distillery produces (a couple million litres per annum), and how much ends up blended away.  You’d think more casks would wind up in the hands of private enterprise.

Leaving that aside, what we find in this particular Hebridean malt is a character quite apart from what I normally find in Jura.  I suppose if you really concentrate, you’ll pick up on some of the familial lineage, but the hallmarks that normally announce this whisky loud and clear are instead here a mere whisper.  And that is saying something, as I find Jura, as a rule, to have a very pronounced and singular profile.  The salinity throughout and a touch of nuttiness on the palate are the only hints at which distillery this really is.  If tasted blind, I may have guessed.  But then again…I may not have.

Further…it’s nice to see Jura mature and pure.  Older than most of their releases and dressed in none of the wine cask adornment they seem so fond of.  Lest you think I’m slagging Jura here, think again.  I have a real soft spot for this distillery, and am probably somewhat over-forgiving, if anything.  I like their malts and…if I’m being honest…their entire raison d’être.

I’ve said it before, and likely will again…these unpredictable l’il beauts are what make whisky fun.  They keep us (or me, at least) on our toes and allow every bottle purchased to hold a little bit of anticipation.

Nose:  NEVER would I peg this as a Jura.  Roman nougat.  Cookie dough.  Soft white cake.  Marzipan.  A slight saline edge too, almost like Play Dough.  Some ginger and pepper.  A wee splash of OJ.  Just the vaguest hint of smoke.  Kinda putty-ish.  A very ‘dull’ nose…and I don’t mean that in a bad way, believe it or not.  Just no sharp edges.  Simple, soft and pleasant home-y notes.  Very pleasant.

Palate:  More of that almond note and still getting the white gooey Roman Nougat flavours.  Salt water taffee.  Dried orange fruit.  Hint of peach.  Finally some of those Jura walnutty/chestnut notes I expected.

Thoughts:  Very atypical of Jura.  Very cool.  If the nose had been a little more aligned with the palate we’d have scored higher.

Bonus:  My mate, Jonathan, and I are gonna blog on these drams side by side through the season.  Here’s a link to his notes on the same whisky at


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt

Dram Initiative #017 – Drinking Our Way ‘Round Scot(ch)land

Dram Initiative #017 – Drinking Our Way ‘Round Scot(ch)land

Movember 26th 2014


(Editor’s Note:  The Irish have a gift for bending the truth to suit their whims.  Case in point.  Mr. O’Maltmonster was gracious enough to save me some work by drafting up this l’il episode recap, but he crammed it full of untrue nice things about me.  I deny it all.  I did swear I wouldn’t change anything he wrote, but he never said I couldn’t put my own disclaimer atop.  Now…back to my misanthropic, curmudgeonly ways…)

The planning committee, of and for the unwashed members of the Dram club, always attempts to keep the club tastings stimulating, current and nutritious. To that end, and with all concerned on balanced diets these days, we thought why not balance a diet of Scottish whiskies with the different whisky regions of Scotchland.

There are only five official whisky regions in Scotland, but given the contrarian wisdom of the planning committee, we thought it best to go with one additional region called “Islands in the Stream”. This region is everything from any Scottish island, excluding Islay.

The location for the night’s festivities were held in the lower whisky hall of the Marda Loop Community Centre. Between the upper & lower hall, we have grown to call this the home of the “Drammed and Land of the Designated Drinkers”.


Our spirit guide for the night was none other than our ne’er-do-well, anti-Irish club president, Curt Robinson’ AKA: Captain Curt Robinson or CCR. For those not in the know, Curt’s passion for whisky is immeasurable and he is the godfather and architect behind the Dram club’s existence. Thank you Curt … you complete us! In his spare time, when he’s not euthanizing whisky bottles, he runs a website called “All Things Whisky”, where he writes and solicits opinions on ‘all things whisky’. Curt also hosts a book & booze club called “Liquorature”, where a small group of fanatical Bohemians believe the true path to paperback enlightenment is lubrication through the water of life.

CCR rocked us through one hit whisky after another, stopping between whiskies to explain the difference between regions along with the subtleties of each whisky, all while interposing club business. The presentation was informative and with the help of the slide show, very entertaining.


The whiskies were tasted & enjoyed in the following order:


1)      Auchentoshan Valinch 57.2% ABV


2)      Glenrothes 1991 Vintage 43% ABV

3)      Aberlour A’bunadh Batch 49, 60.1% ABV


4)      Old Pulteney 17 Year Old 46% ABV

5)      Balblair Vintage 1989 46% ABV


6)      Springbank Society Bottling, Local Barley 14 Year Old 57.8% ABV


7)      Arran 17 Year Old 46% ABV

8)      Talisker 25 Year Old 2012 45.8% ABV


9)      Laphroaig Cairdeas 2014 51.4% ABV


Interjected into the night’s tasting was different club business. The club, at this time, is just over 70 members strong. Membership will be allowed to grow until we can quickly sell out at all events. The club, moving forward, will be doing both one and, when available, two bottle events. Starting in January 2015, the ‘per event fee’ will be raised from $35 to $40, along with the policy of no refunds on reserved, prepaid spots.

Sadly, members were made aware of the sudden passing of one of our own … may you rest in peace Lane, you will be missed.

We welcomed our newest and sixth Dram committee member, Steve Simcoe AKA: pending (suggestions welcome), whose duties will be best described as harsh and ugly.


Year-end shout out to the Dram committee! First, our hard working treasurer and professional greeter, Scott Wolfe, AKA: Ginger Buddha; Second, Antonio Dourado, AKA: Tone or Big Tony, who’s duties include looking after the food, only because he’s our cleanest committee member; Third, Jason Roberts, AKA: J-ROC, our techno wizard; and last but not least Barry Flynn, AKA: The Irish or Dirty Irish, whose duties include, but are not limited to, pre-tasting and procurement.

Thanks to Stuart, AKA: Stuart-Two-Fist (among other things nick-named for his ability to always have a glass in each hand) for being our non-alcohol gift auctioneer for the night. Your friendly, hypnotic, Scottish accent lulls our members into over paying.

Many thanks to those of you that help with the set up and take down at each event. You know who you are and in your next life, may you be born Irish!

To all the members of the club, have a great holiday break and we will see you in January of 2015 with another stellar line up.


Mostly Sincere,



– Words:  Maltmonster

– Images:  Steve

Advent Day 11: Stronachie 18 y.o. (A.D. Rattray)

Secret Spirits Advent Calendar Day 11 – December 11th003

Stronachie 18 y.o. (A.D. Rattray)

46% abv

Score:  87.5/100


A whisky from the Secret Spirits Advent Calendar First Edition. 

You may recall, if you’ve been following along with this somewhat furious post-a-day pace throughout December, that just about a week ago we tried the new Stronachie 10 year old.  I shared a few words on how Stronachie was actually Benrinnes malt bottled and sold under the A.D. Rattray brand.  If you cannae recall that post, and want a little more info, it’s right here for your reading pleasure.

Having already covered the ins and outs behind the Stronachie name, perhaps we’ll keep this one short and sweet and simply dive right in.

The malt behind door number 11 of the advent calendar is the 18 year variant.  And while I did like the 10, this is in a different league altogether.  Much more emphasis on the jammy fruits and softly spiced subtleties.  Any of the youthful spirit notes from the younger version have fallen by the wayside and left a malt that is a showcase for vibrancy at a much more mature station along the road.

Is it great whisky?  No.  Not quite.  Is it good?  Absolutely.  And if I recall correctly, this one seems to fall into a nice price bracket as well.  Good stuff.  Solid malt and a great opportunity to test drive a distillery that we don’t often see bottled as single malt ’round here.

Nose:  Florals and pepper right off the bat.  Like opening a wax-sealed jar of homemade jam.  A touch of white and milk chocolate.  Cranberry.  A touch of pepper.  Very typically Speyside, if I were to be a believer in the concept of regionality.

Palate:  A lot of wood.  A touch of tobacco.  Crunchy apple and pear.  Sweet and syrupy berry coulis or jam.  Even some banana and almond slivers.

Thoughts:  This is a whisky that is miles better than I remember from a few years back.  Technically flawless, just not a lot to get excited about, other than good simple malt whisky.

Bonus:  My mate, Jonathan, and I are gonna blog on these drams side by side through the season.  Here’s a link to his notes on the same whisky at


– Reviewed by:  Curt

Advent Day 10: Lord Elcho 15 y.o. (Wemyss Malts)

Secret Spirits Advent Calendar Day 10 – December 10th

089Lord Elcho 15 y.o. (Wemyss Malts)

Blended Whisky

40% abv

Score:  87.5/100


A whisky from the Secret Spirits Advent Calendar First Edition. 

Contrary to the way I’ve approached most of the whiskies in the advent calendar, when it came to this one I simply had to do a bit of checking into who the heck Lord Elcho was and why he merited a whisky named after him.  The Lord Elcho site was easy enough to find, and contained this little blurb:

“David, Lord Elcho, eldest son of the 5th Earl of Wemyss, was one of the most celebrated supporters of Bonnie Prince Charlie during the ill-fated Jacobite Rebellion of 1745. Born in Scotland and heir to the vast Wemyss Estate on the rocky shore of the Firth of Forth, Lord Elcho was educated at Winchester College, England and then military school at Angers, France before travelling to Italy where he met the young Charles Edward Stewart in 1740.

For the significant role that he played in the uprising, and in recognition of his loyalty and uncompromising bravery at the Battle of Prestonpans in 1745, Elcho was appointed colonel of the Prince’s lifeguards. He remained with the Young Pretender until his defeat at the Battle of Culloden in 1746 when, as punishment for his part in the uprising, Elcho was stripped of his lands and title and forced into exile in France. He pursued a military career on the continent, but sadly was never able to return to his native Scotland.”

It never ceases to astound, the depths of Scottish history, lore and fancy that are plumbed in christening new whiskies.  The romance behind it all is a good part of the reason that Scotch whisky holds as much appeal for me as it does.  But at the end of the day what really matters is whether or not the whisky is good enough to live up to – or surpass – the hyperbole and hyper-marketing.

Happy to report that Lord Elcho 15 y.o. blended whisky is a rock solid offering.  Owing largely, I’d suspect, to a ratio of malt to grain that is well in excess of industry standards.  Lord Elcho boasts a respectable 40% malt content.  As we all know by now, grains are relatively neutral, while the malts bring the character.  What this immediately suggests is a blended whisky with a bit more personality than the mixing-fare you find on the bottom shelves at most spirit sellers.

I like this one.  Much better than 90% of the blend canon out there.

Nose:  Beautifully soft, underspiced cinnamon buns.  Celery salt.  Creamy caramel.  Glossette raisins.  Jam-filled thumbprint cookies.  A great balance struck here between sherry sweet and bourbon spice.  I can only assume that is the casking, but if I’m wrong…well…that’s what it SEEMS like.

Palate:  Great spices; mild and restrained.  Molasses cookies.  Chocolate and creamy vanilla.  Caramel Apple.  Again…a very well-built dram.  Leaves some grassy dry notes at the end.

Thoughts:  Another rather surprising constructed whisky from Wemyss.  These guys obviously know what they’re doing.  Not sure whether I prefer the slightly advanced maturity here or the younger and smokier ‘The Hive’.  Good thing I don’t have to choose.

Bonus:  My mate, Jonathan, and I are gonna blog on these drams side by side through the season.  Here’s a link to his notes on the same whisky at


– Reviewed by:  Curt

– Photo:  Curt