Category Archives: Maltmonster’s Lair

BRORA ……….. A Story Of Change

The story of the Brora distillery is a confusing one, so for the benefit of the great unwashed I will try and explain.  The Clynelish distillery was born in 1819 in Brora, Sutherland and operated under the name Clynelish distillery until 1968, after which the owner changed the name to the Brora distillery.  It then operated under the name Brora distillery until it was permanently closed in 1983.

Congruently in 1968, a new larger distillery called the Clynelish distillery had been built across the road by the same owner as the old Clynelish distillery, now the Brora Distillery.  The new Clynelish distillery was using the same production personnel, accessing the same water source and copied the same still design as the old Clynelish distillery.

The old Clynelish distillery, now called the Brora distillery, was not needed and was to be mothballed.  Because of drought conditions on Islay, the Port Ellen distillery could no longer meet the evil owners’ demands for peated whisky used in their blends so the Brora distillery was then used to produce a peated style of whisky to satisfy that requirement.  In 1983 such a surplus of whisky existed in Scotland that the Brora distillery was deemed surplus to demand and was finally put down, along with the Port Ellen distillery and a few others by the evil minions of Diageo.

Name changing is not new; history is full name changes.  In the case of the Brora distillery the owners changed the name for a reason, which I believe was to keep the well-respected name of Clynelish alive.  The past is full of other notable name changes to serve a purpose, some good, some twisted, while others are not so easily understood.  Some examples of other prominent name changes are:

– Gordon Matthew Sumner, after a run with the law, changed his name to Sting

– Anakin Skywalker was forced to change his name to Darth Vader

– Franc/Deutschmark/Peseta/Drachma/Kroner/Punt/Lire became the “Euro” and then became paper worth a little less.

– Prince Rogers Nelson was born a Prince, then abdicated to become a former Prince, then symbolized himself and finally we hope, kissed a frog and turned himself back into a Prince

– Marion Michael Morrison road into the sunset with the name John Wayne

– Brad’s Drink fizzed into Pepsi-Cola

– After the death of (Phil Krundle ) Landfill, his brother Gil Krundle took his place and then he changed his name to Landfill

– Ralph Lifshitz metamorphosed into Ralph Lauren

– Ernesto Guevara de la Serna had cause to become Che Guevara

– Cigarette brand giant Philip Morris Co. Inc., changed its name to the soothing and friendly Altria Group


So to honor this once great and now lost distillery, we gathered the Gang of Four (named after a failed attempt to gain control of Diageo through the voting stock at an annual meeting of the shareholders) together and sat down on a rainy June evening in Calgary to enjoy a range tasting of Brora malts.  We assembled together six wonderful Brora malts but the more things change the more they stay the same, which is why we included a Clynelish malt in with our Brora malt range tasting.  With each malt, we openly discussed tasting notes, mostly enjoyed each other’s company and noted our top four malts of the night.



Clynelish 14 year old

46% ABV

NOSE:  Candy sweet, citrus fruits, fresh cut grass, waxy.  Pepper and a hint of varnish.

TASTE:  Tart, ginger, again some citrus notes, salty and nutmeg.

FINISH:  Medium and drying at the end.

ASSESSMENT:  A change to a more peated version would do you good; yes a change would do you good.


Brora 21 Year Old 1977 / 1998

56.9% ABV

Rare Malts Series Bottle #2758

NOSE:  Creamy caramel, bit winey. Lemons, oranges and some spice.

TASTE:  Lemon drops, soft wood smoke, black liquorice and very honey sweet at the end.

FINISH:  Medium-long.  Lovely delicate dram.

ASSESSMENT:  Ch-Ch-Changes pretty soon you’re gonna get a little older, time may change me but I can’t make Diageo reopen the distillery and produce a great younger malt as this.  Tied for the second place malt of the night with the 32 year old.


Brora 30 Year Old 1975 / 2005 

56.3% ABV

Special Release Series Bottle #2155 of 3000

NOSE:  Caramel, musty, elegant smoke and lemons.

TASTE:  Pepper, citrus, peaty, black liquorice and a hint of eucalyptus.

FINISH:  Long and lingering.  The English refugee in the gang said “you like this because it reminds you of Port Ellen”, mocking me for my love of Port Ellen (Note to self…must check with Canadian immigration to see if he’s in the country legally).

ASSESSMENT:  Don’t go changing to try and please me you never let me down before, release 2005 I said I love you and that’s forever and it’s a promise from the heart, I couldn’t love you any better, I love you just the way you are.  Have tried numerous bottles of Brora over the years, and the 2005 has always been my favorite and was again rated hands up the number one favorite of the night.


Brora 25 Year Old 1983 / 2008

56.3% ABV

Special Release Series Bottle #352 of 3000

NOSE:  Farmy and floral, burned butter, oranges.

TASTE:  Very herbal, smoky, citrus and bit briny.

FINISH:  Medium and little salty at the end.

ASSESSMENT:  Diageo now and then I think of all the times you screwed me over and had me believing it was always something that Calgary had done and I don’t wanna live that way now, Brora you’re just a distillery that I used to know.


Brora 30 Year Old 1979 / 2009

53.2% ABV

Special Release Series Bottle #893 of 2652

NOSE:  Cherries and oranges, vanilla, candied fruit, sensuous smoke and a little farmy.

TASTE:  Liquorice, green apple tart, lemons.  Where did that complex nose go.

FINISH:  Medium to long and a little oaky at the end.

ASSESSMENT:  We love the peated malt so we keep waiting, waiting on the distillers to change it’s hard to be persistent, when we’re standing at a distance so we keep waiting, waiting on the distillers to change.


Brora 32 Year Old 1979 / 2011

54.7% ABV

Special Release Series  Bottle #1353 of 1500

NOSE:  Sweet cherries, lots-o-fruit, lemon and eucalyptus.  Farmy and grassy with infused smoky notes.

TASTE:  Very herbal, pepper and briny.  Citrus notes.  Oily and lots of tannins.  Lots of focused layers to be found on the palate.

FINISH:  Medium to long and a touch briny at the end.

ASSESSMENT:  There were times when I thought the Brora stocks would last for long but now I think they can’t carry on it’s been a long, a long time coming but I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will and Brora will live on only in our memories.  Tied with the 21 year old as the second favorite of the night, although the 32 year old had more number 1&2 votes combined.


Brora 30 Year Old 1976 / 2007

57.5% ABV

Douglas Laing Old & Rare Platinum Bottle #63 of 109

NOSE:  Succulent ripe cherries, lemon & lime. Farmy and a little musty.

TASTE:  Black liquorice, delicate peat smoke and a bit briny.  Citrus notes and some raisin.  Waves of taste.

FINISH:  Medium to long. Little oaky at the end, although still very pleasant.

ASSESSMENT:  If the stocks of Brora were to leave here tomorrow, would you still remember the taste and if Brora were to reopen things just wouldn’t be the same cause this new Brora would be a different malt and this malt you shouldn’t change, lord knows it shouldn’t change.  Great showing for this malt and was rated a strong number four of the night.


– As always, your humble drudge, Maltmonster


A Calgarian went to see a judge in order to change his name.  The judge asked what his name was.  The man said, “My name is John Edmontonsucks.”

The judge says, “I can see why you want to change your name, but what do you want to change it to?”

……………………….“Michael Edmontonsucks”

Kilchoman – A Chance Encounter With Winter In Canada



The Calgary winter has been pushing hard since early November 2011, so on February 8, 2012 we, a motley collection of seven like-minded whisky drudges, took off our snow shoes and mad trapper hats and sat down together to push back. Clint, Curt, Jay R, Jay W, Maltmonster, Pat and Calgary’s Napoleon, a self-acclaimed whisky expert, turned our interest and thirst toward eight different bottlings of Kilchoman. In doing so managed to ignore winter (at least until the next morning). With the help of the collective, Curt and I decided to post our tasting notes together in a joint effort and Pat did the honors of the photos.

For the benefit of the great unwashed, the Kilchoman Rockside Farm distillery was born in 2005 on the rocky, peaty Island of Islay and is the first new distillery built on Islay in 124 years. Kilchoman currently malts about 30% of their own barley which is grown on their own farm. The total yearly production is around 100,000 liters of the good stuff. The main source of Bourbon barrels is from Buffalo Trace Distillery, Kentucky and Oloroso Sherry butts from Miguel Martin of Jerez, Spain. “Kil” in Gaelic means church and Kil-choman takes its name from a small Kil-t wearing settlement less than a kil-ometre away.

In an age where bigger is supposed to better (Roseisle) and contracting out specialized tasks like malting, cooperage, bottling and farming seems to make better business sense, it’s nice to see distilleries like Kilchoman with a real desire to reverse this trend and take on a grass roots approach to full control whisky making.

We couldn’t help to think with all the governmental red tape, the huge financial burden, the startup headaches and the never ending learning curve why then would any sane person want to build a whisky distillery from the ground up? Not that we don’t love you for it. Well whilst we were drinking and enjoying our whisky we came up with a list with 16 possible reasons:


1) A David and Goliath Condition – The desire to bring the corporate giant, Diageo, to its knees.

2) Final item on the fanatical Scotch hobbyist list:  own a distillery.

3) Suffer from Jim Murray Syndrome – The need to receive praise from somebody you don’t respect (similar to Stockholm syndrome).

4) The voices compelled me…but we’re fine now.

5) Communication problem – Not fully understanding what your wife is saying.  “I don’t care, you can do whatever the f#@k you want” really wasn’t permission to start a new distillery.

6) Malt-O-Maniac – Overcome with irresistible need to work with barley.

7) Malt-O-Freak – Obsessed with stopping barley from germinating.

8) Some extra strand in the English DNA that reads “Must rule over something Scottish”.

9) If God is watching us, the least we can do is be entertaining.

10) An ideal founded after a night of heavy scotch drinking and bragging to friends “If I owned a distillery I would do it sooooo much better”.

11) Nesting instinct – Just wanting to secure a large supply of whisky at a reasonable price for you and your unreasonable friends.

12) Trying to get over your Coulrophobia – By surrounding yourself with government clowns.

13) A long family business history with the need to be first, best or really, really different.

14) Tired of Listening to Andrew Symington of Edradour claims of being the only neat little distillery in Scotchland.

15) Failed badly with the vows of Chastity, Obedience and Silence …which only left Poverty.

16) Woke up in a field on the Rockside Farm the morning after a night of heavy drinking at the Islay Festival with a sheep in one arm and real bad case of Whisnesia (only remembering you really liked whisky & sheep but couldn’t remember where home was).




#1 Inaugural 2005 – 2009 1st Release 46 % ABV 3 years 1st fill bourbon and finished 5 months in oloroso butts

#2 Autumn 2009 2nd Release 46 % ABV 3 years 1st fill bourbon and one cask of 3 years refill bourbon finished 3 months in oloroso butts

#3 Spring 2010 3rd Release 46 % ABV 3 years 1st fill bourbon and finished 3.5 months in oloroso butts

#4 100 % Islay 2011 Inaugural Limited Release 50 % ABV1st fill bourbon and refill bourbon with 100% Islay barley

#5 Kensington Wine Market – Calgary , Alberta Single Cask 1st fill Bourbon # 119 May 30 , 2007 – July 21 , 2010 61.9 % ABV

#6 Binny’s Beverage Depot – Chicago, Illinois Single Cask 1st fill Bourbon # 182 July 4, 2007 – August 26, 2010 61.1 % ABV

#7 The Whisky Shop – San Francisco, California Single Cask 1st fill Bourbon # 204 July 18, 2007 – August 26, 2010 60.9 % ABV

#8 Kensington Wine Market – Calgary, Alberta Single Cask 1st fill Sherry # 322 November 15, 2006 – September 13, 2011 60.0 % ABV



#1 Inaugural 2005 – 2009 1st Release

46 % ABV 3 years 1st fill bourbon and finished 5 months in oloroso butts



Nose: Licorice. Iodine. Citrus zest. Salt. Raw smoke and earthy peat. Capers. Bonfire and maple bacon.

Palate: Smoky and salty. Sharp and young, but balanced with some sweetness. Cracked pepper.

Finish: Granny Smith apple. Warm and long lasting.

Thoughts: Enjoyable as hell. Better than almost all of the young whiskies (under 5 y.o., that is) I’ve tried.



NOSE: Smoky medicinal hit. Lemons & pears. Clamato juice and gin botanicals.

TASTE: Earthy.  Liquid smoky.  Licorice, tart lemon and green apples.

FINISH: Medium to long.

ASSESSMENT: What a fantastic whisky to start with. Really has me in awe of just how good a three year old whisky can be.



#2 Autumn 2009 2nd Release

46 % ABV 3 years 1st fill bourbon and one cask of 3 years refill bourbon finished 3 months in oloroso butts



Nose: Creme caramel. Soft pear. Vanilla. Smoke. Spearmint.

Palate: Smoke and mature beyond its years. Soft white fruit. Woody and fishy.

Finish: Firey, but somewhat short-lived, like a fireworks explosion.

Thoughts: Slightly softer and more rounded corners (creamier) than the Inaugural.



NOSE: Little more depth and softer smoke than the Inaugural. Vanilla and oranges. Aged cheddar cheese.

TASTE: Whip cream.  Mild smoke.  Sweet & sour candy lemon drops.

FINISH: Medium to long.  Little bitter and warm.

ASSESSMENT: You would think this would be very similar to the Inaugural given the age, but yet they are very different. Maybe the stock varies because of the learning curve in starting up a distillery?



#3 Spring 2010 3rd Release

46 % ABV 3 years 1st fill bourbon and finished 3.5 months in oloroso butts



Nose: Smoked salmon. Lemon juice. Herbal and grassy. Mussels in white wine. Kerosene.

Palate: Fishy. Hoisin. Syrupy pear. Hot.

Finish: Still quite fishy and feisty. Wriggling on the hook.

Thoughts: Good drink and quirky as hell. Just different enough to be charming.



NOSE: Low tide (yes I used to live on the coast) and things that come with that.  Winey.  Lemons.

TASTE: Smoked Salmon.  Sweet peat.  Pears and toffee.

FINISH: Medium to long.  Warm and slightly oily.

ASSESSMENT: This is almost between the Inaugural and the Autumn 2009 release.  This is my 2nd favorite of the first three releases and Inaugural is my favorite of the three.



#4 100 % Islay 2011 Inaugural Limited Release

50 % ABV 1st fill bourbon and refill bourbon with 100% Islay barley



Nose: Spirity and grainy. Seems VERY young. Oaky. Notes of new make. Waxy and somewhat plastic. Smoky, but not overpoweringly so.

Palate: Hot and virgin (and not in the good way). NOT sweet. Over-salted. Peat is aggressive.

Finish: Yep.

Thoughts: The least enjoyable Kilchoman I’ve experienced to date. Though I like the others, this…I wouldn’t buy.



NOSE: Iodine and malty. New make feinty. Green apples and floral.

TASTE: New make.  Vanilla.  Lightly peated.  Jammy.

FINISH: Medium.  Briny and very hot.

ASSESSMENT: Had huge expectations for this, really enjoyed the first three malts but this was a bit of a letdown. It either needs some sherry finishing or a little more time in the cask.



#5 Kensington Wine Market – Calgary, Alberta Single Cask 1st fill Bourbon #119

May 30 , 2007 – July 21 , 2010 61.9 % ABV



Nose: Creamy and rich. Spicy. Herbal. Sultana. Eucalyptus (some suggested Vicks Vapo-rub?). Bubble-gummy.

Palate: Firey and smoke-heavy. Anise. Zest and brine.

Finish: Pleasant slow fade. Hefty smoke left behind with fruit skin tartness.

Thoughts: Good cask selection. One of the faves of the eve.



NOSE: Lemons and ripe cherries. Mild to strong peat smoke. Eucalyptus. West coast oysters.

TASTE: Mild peat smoke.  Vanilla and red apples. Pepper.

FINISH: Medium to long. Like the smooth fading finish.

ASSESSMENT: Battle of the Bourbon 2005 3 year old single casks starts here and me likes!



#6 Binny’s Beverage Depot – Chicago, Illinois Single Cask 1st fill Bourbon #182

July 4, 2007 – August 26, 2010 61.1 % ABV



Nose: Dill. Mellower than the KWM cask and in contrast seems almost flat. Hints of grainy new-make. Smoke and youthful peat nip.

Palate: Wax and cherry. Underdeveloped. Old chocolate. Meaty and malty.

Finish: Nothing to dislike, but nothing to mourn when it fades either.

Thoughts: Would probably be a LOT better with another half dozen years in wood, but I question the cask here. Seems kinda dud-ish.



NOSE: Assertive smoke.  Aged cheese.  Apples and pears.

TASTE: Mint and lemons. Little pepper and licorice.

FINISH: Medium to long with a sharp tang to it.

ASSESSMENT: Poor showing to the KWM single cask.



#7 The Whisky Shop – San Francisco, California Single Cask 1st fill Bourbon #204

July 18, 2007 – August 26, 2010 60.9 % ABV



Nose: Dusty. Wood shavings. Rich wet smoke. Fishy. Vanilla. Lemon.

Palate: Hot and spicy Asian sauce of some sort.

Finish: A hickory like smoke and apple. Long and warming.

Thoughts: Really liked this one. Certainly one of the best of the night.



NOSE: Charcoal and fire starter. Major citrus and bubble gum.

TASTE: Mild peat smoke.  Honey.  Cheddar cheese. Tobacco.

FINISH: Medium to long.  Earthy dry finish.

ASSESSMENT: My 2nd favorite single cask and very close to the KWM for number one. It’s amazing to me that all three of these single casks could be so different.



#8 Kensington Wine Market – Calgary, Alberta Single Cask 1st fill Sherry #322

November 15, 2006 – September 13, 2011 60.0 % ABV



Nose: Dry fruit. Burnt caramel. BBQ sauce. New carpet. Barley still cuts with its youth. Butter tarts.

Palate: Buttery and sweet, but smoky as hell.

Finish: Lovely. Sweet and smoky toasted oak.

Thoughts: Another young gem. Calgary’s KWM had two of the better Kilchomans on offer this eve.



NOSE: Mellow briny smoke. Cherries and oranges. Leather and earthy.

TASTE: Creamy chewy jam. Black licorice and raisins.

FINISH: Long and gets warmer at the end.

ASSESSMENT: The only ‘all sherry’ cask we had in the lineup, and it is brilliant.  My second overall favorite of the night next to the Inaugural 2005, release which was #1 pick as overall favorite of the night .



I remember being part of the B-team to help chose this cask for KWM back on August 16, 2011. We were given only two 2006 Sherry samples to chose from cask #322 & cask #323. Sample #322 was stunning and sample #323 was very less than stunning (varnish) and ended up at being bottled for Whisky Live Paris and receiving a rating of 78 from Serge on Whisky Fun. Again it’s odd that two young casks could be so different.


Much thanks to Anthony Wills for coming to Calgary in October 2011 and leading us in a wonderful tasting including the new 5 year old first fill bourbon, which was fantastic. Sorry we didn’t get to talk much in Victoria but look forward to seeing you here again next year .


– Maltmonster

– Photos:  Pat



“Maltmonster, I’m sorry for showing up late as a result of locking my keys in the vehicle at the Olympic Park Shell gas station. Life is tough; It’s even tougher if you’re stupid.

As I was late I didn’t get a chance to rate & taste all the whiskies and as I trust your opinion more than my own, please rate these whiskies for me.

Out of anybody in the whisky industry, I hold the you in the highest esteem. Maltmonster, you are a true guiding light, a credit to the noble Irish and without question have the best taste in whisky in the world.


Calgary’s Napoleon

Self-acclaimed whisky expert, Quaker, sheep shagger, whisky monger, whisky writer and proud bearer of the MHLV yellow tie”




Potato / Potahto,  Kidding / Kidnapping,  Tomato / Tomahto…let’s not split hairs.  I believe these words basically mean the same thing.  Which is why on the night of January 26, 2012 we, the gang of four, planned and executed a warm welcoming abduction of Mr. George Grant in order to further our preoccupation of Single Malt Scotch whisky.  Normally we would never consider such a high profile person, but based on a careless double dare by one of the gang of four the decision to move forward was an easy one.  Mr. Grant came to Calgary, Alberta on January 25, 2012 to host the 7th annual Robbie Burns supper for the Kensington Wine Market.  His mistake, or should I say our opportunity, came the following night.  Believing that, since he was not in Edmonton, Alberta, he was safe…obviously he thought wrong.  We seized the opportunity, along with Mr. Grant, and headed out of town for a tasting.

Now not to worry…we are not obsessive fanatical Star Trek fans that go around quoting characters from different episodes or lounge around and debate the merits of each of the series.  We are in fact keen professional fans of the single malt, that can quote different whisky writers while we lounge around and debate the merits of each distillery.  Needless to say, being under the control of professional whisky fans, Mr. Grant was indeed very safe…so long as he cooperated with us.

For the benefit of the great unwashed, the Glenfarclas distillery was founded in 1836 and is located in Banffshire, which sits in the heart of Speyside.  The Gaelic translation of Glenfarclas means “Valley of the green grass”.  The Glenfarclas distillery has been owned by the Grant family since 1865 (excluding 1896-1899, Pattison & Co owned 50 %).

Like any really good tasting, we require good whisky, so we arranged an exchange of sorts to achieve these goals.  The cost of liberation this night would be very high indeed.  The following was a list of whiskies that we liberated and tasted.




#1                       21 Year Old  43% ABV

#2                       25 Year Old  43% ABV

#3                       30 Year Old 43% ABV

#4                       40 Year Old 46% ABV     (Voted #4 whisky tasted)

#5                       40 Year Old 43% ABV  Millennium Edition (aka Treasure Island)     (Voted #2 whisky tasted)

#6                       175 Anniversary Edition 43% ABV

#7                       175 Anniversary Chairman’s Reserve 46% ABV     (Voted #1 whisky tasted)

#8                       1974 / 2005 31 Year Old 57.4% ABV (sourced from the US)     (Voted #3 whisky tasted)

#9                       1967 / 2006 39 Year Old 58.7% ABV Family Cask # 5118 First Series



#1           21 Year Old  43 % ABV

NOSE:  Minty, stewed fruits.  Delicate vanilla-infused with gentle smoke.

TASTE:  Mellow sherried fruits and spice.  Toffee, chocolate and almonds.

FINISH:  No sharp edges, very drinkable.  Medium to long smooth finish.

ASSESSMENT:  George stated that this was his favorite of the age range and that the vatting on this malt is 60 %  1st & 2nd fill Sherry casks along with 40% old refill Bourbon casks.


#2           25 Year Old  43 % ABV

NOSE:  More intense sherry tannins and spice than the 21.  Oranges and light tropical fruit.  A little more smoke than the 21 but still subtle.

TASTE:  Sweet and winey.  Ripe dark cherries and chocolate.

FINISH:  Spicy.  Medium to long.

ASSESSMENT:  George informed us that no peat was used to dry the barley and the light smoky notes are imparted from just the natural toasting or drying of the barley.


#3           30 Year Old 43 % ABV

NOSE:  More complex than the 21 & 25 with deeper sherry spice notes, melons and apples.

TASTE:  Coffee and dark chocolate.  Sherry spice.  Burnt brown sugar.

FINISH:  Slight harshness.  Medium finish.

ASSESSMENT:  This was my favorite of the stated age range.  Seemed so much more complex than the rest.


#4           40 Year Old 46 % ABV

NOSE:  Oranges and cherries. Roasted coffee and cigar tobacco.

TASTE:  Raspberry jam.  Over-ripe raisins and prunes.  Toffee.  Chewy liqueur.

FINISH:  Lots of layers of favor to enjoy.  Robust and long finish.

ASSESSMENT:  George told us that the 1st batch of the 40 year old consisted of 23 casks, of which 22 were 1st fill sherry and 1 refill sherry.  The age of the casks were 21 casks 40 years old and two casks from 1968.



#5           40 Year Old 43 % ABV  Millennium Edition (locally known as Treasure Island)

NOSE:  Wow, what a nose.  Tropical fruit, coconut, vanilla.  So good.

TASTE:  Milk chocolate.  Mild spices.  Sweet & creamy.  Lots-o-fruit.  Sublime hint of smoke.

FINISH:  This is a brilliant whisky and is in my top ten of (top ten just means ‘very high’ on the list, as I have said top ten over 43 times now)  whiskies enjoyed.  What a finish…long, flawless and lingering.

ASSESSMENT:  George admitted the perverse enjoyment he received from watching people trying to open this most difficult and unique case.  We were also informed this was a cask that had been sold by Glenfarclas to Signatory and was purchased back.  The number of bottles released was 600, but George informed us that it was only 590 (sounds a little like a cover up from somebody that likes this whisky a lot).



#6           175 Anniversary Edition 43 % ABV 2011 Limited Edition

NOSE:  Oranges and cherries.  Dark roasted coffee.  Little floral.

TASTE:  Pepper and winey notes.  Raisins and dark chocolate.

FINISH:  Medium finish.  Bit bitter.  Might have been better at a higher ABV.  Grant said “yes, but that would have meant less bottles and a higher price.”

ASSESSMENT:  George said this vatting was made up from 3 casks per decade from 6 different decades (1950 – 2000), for a total of 18 casks.  Only one cask was bourbon, which was a 2nd fill from 1952, and all the other casks were sherry.


#7           175 Anniversary Chairman’s Reserve 46 % ABV  2011 limited Edition of 1296 Bottles

NOSE:  Oh my, this is good.  Sweet sherry.  Dead ripe blackberries, oranges and almonds.

TASTE:  Ever so elegant for a vatting of old sixties sherry casks.  Rum cake.  Milk chocolate.  Prunes.  Creamy caramel.

FINISH:  Long and sensuous.

ASSESSMENT:  Oh my my, oh hell yes…this is really good.  Different good from the Millennium…more intense sherry.  This is another for the top ten (44) whiskies I’ve tasted.  This is a vatting of four casks from the sixties.  George couldn’t remember if the oldest was 1963 or 1964 (Being a distillery owner doesn’t automatically mean you can hold your liquor like the Irish), as this was his 7th drink and his memory was now being tested.


#8           1974 / 2005 31 Year Old 57.4 % ABV (sourced from the US)

NOSE:  Oranges.  The most peated unpeated Glenfarclas I’ve nosed.  Leather and tobacco.

TASTE:  Thick chewy sherry.  Raisins and prunes.  Dark chocolate.

FINISH:  Long and intense.

ASSESSMENT:  This was a vatting of three casks:  one 1st fill and one 2nd fill sherry along with an older fill bourbon.


#9           1967 / 2006 39 Year Old 58.7 % ABV Family Cask # 5118 First Series

NOSE:  Raspberry jam meets marmalade.  Coffee and cinnamon.

TASTE:  Oranges.  Rich chewy port.  Dark chocolate.  Little whiff of smoke.

FINISH:  Rich.  A bit tart and long.

ASSESSMENT:  Why 1967?  Because it’s the 100 year anniversary of the greatest country in the world, Canada (also the birth year of Pamela Anderson, Canada’s largest export to the world).



Much thanks to Mr. Grant for allowing us to take him away from his busy schedule (funny nobody seemed to miss him) to share a few private stories along with some great whiskies with us.  Really sorry about how sticky the duct tape was, but I’m sure the hair will grow back.


– Maltmonster 

BenRiach Range Tasting – BFB

BenRiach Range Tasting



What is a BFB?

Well…it’s an overnight whisky event for couples only.  Usually half the couples drink whisky and the other half drink some other less satisfying alcoholic beverage.  We tolerate the non-whisky drinkers only because we can hijack the evening for our purposes and have a completely guilt free whisky tasting with GOOD friends (a friend is someone who will help you move…a GOOD friend is someone who will help you move a dead body).  The only problem is, sometimes the conversation gets side tracked away from whisky, but a slight pause in the discussion and a really loud voice can usually rail a derailed conversation back to whisky, after all,  if it’s not about whisky & cigars, is it really worth talking about?  BFB stands for ‘Bed for Breakfast’, which means whoever hosts the event supplies the beds and whoever doesn’t supply the beds, has to prepare breakfast.  We have hosted many of these events in the past and are always surprised at what great cooks whisky drinkers are, especially when whisky is one of the ingredients!

BenRiach, for the benefit of the great unwashed, means “The Hill of the Red Deer”.  The distillery is located in the beautiful Spey Valley and was created in 1898.  Unfortunately, it only produced whisky for two years before succumbing to a whisky crash and was mothballed (sounds a little like Diageo corporate planning).  However, the malting floors continued to be operated and supplied the neighboring distillery, Longmorn, with malted barley from which they produced a product called Longben or long-been which has long been making Longmorn better.  In 1965, after a sale, the distillery was almost completely rebuilt and whisky production started up again.  In 1972 peat was added to the drying of the barley to satisfy the smoky blends at the time and screw over the peat workers union on Islay.   1999 was the end of the floor malting operations at BenRiach which have helped to shape the shoulders of many a hunchback for last 101 years.  In 2002, the distillery was again mothballed until 2004, when it was resold to the current ownership and production started again.

In 2010, Alistair Walker came to Calgary and after a grand tasting (and before passing out) he made a bold offer to us all to come to BenRiach for a visit and try a sample from one of the two remaining 1966 casks.  In 2011, a small group of VIP’s from Calgary showed up to be drammed with 1966 only to be denied by a kind, but stern, gatekeeper and Distillery Manager, Mad Max Stewart Buchannan.  The day was saved when a compromise was made and it was agreed that we could try everything else.  We started by trying over 30 samples (I kid you not) in an effort to choose another cask for the KWM.  We were then treated to the ‘soon to be released’ Batch 8, 2011 Limited Releases …..  I don’t remember much after that.


This Benriach Range tasting was designed to highlight the different influences from Bourbon, Sherry, Port and Madeira and to also try some lightly peated to heavily peated non-Islay whiskies, but more importantly, it was about good friends and great whisky!




#1          1971 – April , 2011       Cask #1947  Hogshead  49.8 % ABV  Bottle #47 of 229

#2          1972 – July , 2011       Cask #802  Hogshead  40.1 % ABV Bottle #147 of 169

#3          1978 – June , 2006       Cask #1596  Hogshead  54.0 % ABV Bottle #83 of 201

#4          1994 – Sept , 2009       Cask #4810  Madeira Finish  57.1 % ABV Bottle #153 of 250 for KWM

#5          1977 – July , 2010       Cask #1033  Pedro Ximinez Sherry Finish  52.2 % ABV Bottle #185 of 331

#6          1975 – August , 2007       Cask #4451  Port Pipe  53.7 Bottle #479 of 707

#7          1984 – July , 2010       Cask #4052  Tawny Port Finish – Peated  51.7 % ABV Bottle #116 of 265

#8          15 Year old – Solstice       Heavily Peated & Finished in Tawny Port Pipes  50 % ABV



#1      1971 – April , 2011       Cask # 1947 Hogshead  49.8 % ABV  Bottle # 47 of 229

NOSE:  Tons-O-Fruit.  Watermelon, oranges, pineapple, it just keeps going.  Eucalyptus.  Refreshing.

TASTE:  More fruit, but more tropical.  Milk chocolate.  Fresh bourbon vanilla.  Bit of tannins.

FINISH:  Medium.  Very dry.

ASSESSMENT:  Benriach 1971 you are my fire , the one desire  believe when I say I want it that way and by the gallon ( 4 liter ) size .

Group rated #1 whisky for the night with the most number one votes .



#2      1972 – July , 2011       Cask # 802    Hogshead  40.1 % ABV Bottle # 147 of 169

NOSE:  Oranges, pears and melons.  Marshmallow sweet.  Almonds.  Stunning.

TASTE:  Very floral.  Creamy vanilla bean.  Caramel milk chocolate and  fruits again.

FINISH:  Medium and a little more.  Bit drying

ASSESSMENT:  This whisky has it, yeah baby, it’s got it, BenRiach I’m your fan, I’m your devotee, at your desire.

Group rated #2 whisky tasted .





#3      1978 – June , 2006       Cask # 1596  Hogshead  54.0 % ABV Bottle # 83 of 201

NOSE:  The sugar train stops here, uber sweet.  Pears and apricots.

TASTE:  Coffee.  Dark chocolate.  Trace of peat smoke.

FINISH:  Medium to long.  Nice and warming.  Almost bitter.

ASSESSMENT:  It’s such a good vibration, it’s such a sweet sensation.

Group rated #4 whisky tasted



#4      1994 – Sept , 2009       Cask # 4810   Madeira Finish  57.1 % ABV Bottle # 153 of 250  Bottled for KWM

NOSE:  Sweet fruit syrupy, almost like a liqueur.  Burnt sugar with vanilla bean.

TASTE:  Sugar & spice and all things nice.  Black licorice that coats the tongue and deep stewed fruits.

FINISH:  Long and spicy.

ASSESSMENT:  Just tasting this step by step, ooh baby,  gonna get to you whisky, step by step.  Many layers and much depth to this one.

Group rated #3 whisky tasted (I rated this #4 , only because the potentate at KWM didn’t go with my choice of sample when choosing the cask and I happen to be very petty).



#5      1977 – July , 2010       Cask # 1033   Pedro Ximinez Sherry Finish  52.2 % ABV Bottle # 185 of 331

NOSE:  Oranges and cherries.  Rich coffee and cigar notes.

TASTE:  Major dill.  Toffee, raisins, dark fruits and nutty.

FINISH:  Medium.  Lingering and sweet.

ASSESSMENT:  You’re all I ever wanted, you’re all I ever needed, yeah!  Excellent sherry cask.  Wow, this one really shows just how good a sherry finish BenRiach can be.



#6      1975 – August , 2007       Cask # 4451   Port Pipe  53.7  % ABV Bottle # 479 of 707

NOSE:  Big citrus.  Grapefruit, cherries and little smoke.

TASTE:  At odds with the nose, very unbalanced.  Pepper, thick overpowering clove sweet.

FINISH:  Medium and fades fast (not fast enough).

ASSESSMENT:  Ok, I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want, I want balance in a whisky.



#7       1984 – July , 2010       Cask # 4052   Tawny Port Finish – Peated  51.7 % ABV Bottle # 116 of 265

NOSE:  Stewed fruits.  Assertive peat but pleasant.  Some mint.  Little musty.

TASTE:  Peat & Pepper.  Floral, honey and coffee.

FINISH:  Long and a bit drying.

ASSESSMENT:  Don’t go chasing finishes.  Please stick to the basics and the barrels that you’re used to.



#8       15 Year old – Solstice       Heavily Peated & Finished in Tawny Port Pipes  50 % ABV

NOSE:  Bam…..cherry jam.  Intense non-medicinal peat.  Spicy aroma found only in a Bolivar cigar.  Little farmy.

TASTE:  Prevailing peat.  Cloves, raisin and figs.  Vanilla in the back.

FINISH:  Long and chewy.  Not your mother’s BenRiach.  Balanced.  Depends if like a Port Peat drink, then yes, if not don’t walk away, run away!

ASSESSMENT:  With the world in love with peat, I know that it’s time for a change, but when that change comes will you still feel the same about Benriach.


– Maltmonster




You can slag the world economy, you can slag the Irish for being such great lovers, hell…you can even slag Edmontonians just for being Edmontonians but what you can’t do, if you’re a serious malt fan, is slag the Lag!

For the benefit of the great unwashed, Lagavulin is pronounced “Lagga-no-foolin” and means “hollow by the mill” in Gaelic.  The legal Lagavulin distillery was born in 1816 on the rugged sea sprayed Scottish Island of Islay, which is famous for its peated whiskies and local drivers who wave at anything that moves on or near the road.  Oh yeah, the distillery is owned by Diageo, you may remember them as the corporation that killed the Port Ellen distillery.

A secret, which is not well known, is that Lagavulin lies on what is called ‘the Peatline’, along with its neighbors of Laphroaig and Ardbeg.  This Peatline is a naturally occurring powerful source of phenol denature protein similar to the Rosa line (or Ley line) under the Rosslyn Chapel with its pulsating telluric energy.  It is said that standing on top of the Peatline and tasting whisky can put most people into a state of enlightenment.  I myself have trembled under this phenolic power while tasting whiskies at all these distilleries.  I have also wept and trembled while visiting a whisky shop called Loch Fyne Whiskies in Inverary, which happens to lie on a direct line starting in Laphroaig through Lagavulin, Ardbeg and then ending up under the whisky store of Loch Fyne.

You can laugh at the theory of a flat earth, you can scoff at the existence of the Loch Ness monster and you can jeer at Jim Murray for his outlandish picks for Whisky of the Year, but………………you can’t deny the Power of the Peat.  It’s real, it dominates and once consumed, you fall under its sway like a fanatical irrational teen at Justin Bieber concert.  Phenolic levels may be measured in PPM parts per millions, but when it comes to Lagavulin, PPM really stands for Peat Power Magnified!


Once again the gang of four sat down on a mild winter’s night, consumed and fell under the influence of the Lagavulin PPM, cheerfully giving up some tasting notes.




NOSE:  Light peat on the nose.  Oranges and eucalyptus.

TASTE:  This is where the rubber hits the road.  The peat shows up in all its glory.  Black liquorice and dark chocolate.  Iodine.

FINISH:  Long.  Lots of rich tannins at the end.

ASSESSMENT:  This is a classy drink.  A standard in the world of single malt.



NOSE:  Farmy.  Coal-tar.  Vanilla and lemon-pepper.

TASTE:  Very balanced peat.  Apples.  Briny.

FINISH:  Long and warm, very warm.  Somewhat drying.

ASSESSMENT:  Good morning sunshine, this is your wakeup call!



NOSE:  Wow, did not expect this.  Oranges & cherries.  Honey.  Minty.  Green apples.

TASTE:  Complex fruits.  Gentle smoke.  Vanilla.

FINISH:  Medium to long.  Fades ever so gracefully.

ASSESSMENT:  Given the ABV % this delicious drink must be 20-25 years plus.  This is a must get for a FLF.


25 YEAR OLD BOTTLED 2002 57.2 % ABV BOTTLE # 7387 OF 9,000 BOTTLES

NOSE:  Sweet fruits really jumps at you.  Vanilla.  Leather and lite smoke.

TASTE:  Very thick mouth feel, coats your tongue with cherry syrup sweetness.  Jammy.  Marshmallows and cooked ham.

FINISH:  Very, very long.

ASSESSMENT:  Not sure what to make of this dram, I don’t love it or hate it, maybe I will go with clearly ambiguous and vaguely indeterminate.


30 YEAR OLD 1976 BOTTLED 2006 52.6 % ABV BOTTLE # 586 OF 2,340 BOTTLES

NOSE:  Bam, sensational.  Sweet candy.  Peaches.  Tropical fruit and aged smoke.

TASTE:  Great mouth feel.  Lemons, grapefruit and lite spices.  Creamy caramel.

FINISH:  Lovely.  Lingering.

ASSESSMENT:  Tastes like more, in fact, after the tasting I had more, much more!




# 1 – 30 Year Old

# 2 – 2010 Distillery Bottling, surprise of the night, in the good way

# 3 & # 4 tied 16 Year Old & 25 Year Old, although the Maltmonster found the 16 Year Old better

# 5 – 12 Year Old, last but still loved






NOSE:  Sweet cherries.  Wet charcoal and malty.

TASTE:  Bottled smoke.   Creamy vanilla.  Odd sweetness.

FINISH:  Medium to long.  Bit briny at the end.

ASSESSMENT:  Bordering on some sulphur notes.



NOSE:  Oranges and cherries.  Almonds and caramel.

TASTE:  Big sherry tannins.  Light peat.  Dark chocolate and coffee.  Bourbon sweetness.

FINISH:  Long with tannins and drying towards the end.

ASSESSMENT:  This is a 20 year old DE, and I think it may have received some additional love in the sherry cask, as most of the other DE are only 16 year old versions.


21 YEAR OLD 1985 BOTTLED 2007 56.5 % ABV BOTTLE # 6012 OF 6,642 BOTTLES

NOSE:  Peat smoke.  Sulphur…….YES SULPHUR!  All of us got it!  Melons and light fruit.

TASTE:  Creamy.  Black liquorice. Ccoffee and some lemon.

FINISH:  Long, smooth and complex.

ASSESSMENT:  You know what burns me?  Matches.  The sulphur is not ruinous, but come on, some of the extremely high ratings by others on this malt may be unwarranted.




# 1 – 1980 Distillers Edition

# 2 – 21 Year Old, surprise of the night, but in the bad way

# 3 – 1986 Distillers Edition



– I’m Maltmonster, and I approved the drinking of these great whiskies.

The Essence Of Islay – Big Peat



According to legend, 1,500 years ago the Irish once created the perfect whiskey, but when drank, the intoxicating qualities caused thousands to see paradise.  But alas, paradise on earth was not meant to be for the chosen Irish and the perfect whiskey was lost to the sands of time.  But It’s more likely the damn Vikings or angry Swedes stole the perfect whiskey, like they stole Canada’s Olympic 1994 Gold medal in hockey.

I believe that the Laing’s, owners of Douglas Laing, were born with a superior olfactory sense and a dark sense of humor.  Armed with this superior sense of smell, they have been on a quest to recreate the world’s finest whisky.  At some point the Laing’s realized that they must vat the Port Ellen scent with those other Islay malts to make the ultimate whisky; one which will make them be worshipped as gods forever.  Much like Victor Frankenstein’s desire to create life and in a way cheat death, Big Peat is alive with the pure essence, or the embodiment, of Islay.

Big Peat is a vatting of Islay single malt scotch, but it’s more than that.  It’s also a convoluted story of murder in the death of the Port Ellen distillery; high french fashion with Louis Ardbeg Vuitton; corporate greed with drink giant, Diageo – Caol Ila; and the lost in translation Eastern Asia intrigue with Sumo Suntory Bowmore.

Douglas Laing advertises Big Peat is a shovel full of Islay malts.  How big is a shovel full of Islay malt you ask?  Well, it’s just big enough to fill the hole in the heart of many peat freaks .


Big Peat and all it is made of.


BIG PEAT Batch #1   46% ABV

NOSE:  Very nice balanced peat.  Pepper.  Lemons.  Black liquorice.  Low tide.

TASTE:  Creamy caramel and green apples.

FINISH:  Long and lightly warming.

ASSESSMENT:  Well done, well done.  The definition of a good Islay whisky.



BIG PEAT – SANTA EDITION Natural Cask Strength 57.8 % ABV

NOSE:  Medicinal peat.  Farmy.  Pepper and orange marmalade.

TASTE:  Mint and liquorice.  Wee bitter and briny.

FINISH:  Elegant and long.

ASSESSMENT:  Normally I really love the cask strength, but I believe this tastes better at 46%.  Maybe a Viking (Norwegian, not Swedish Viking) bottling with a windblown helmet at 50% next, just a suggestion.


– As always , your humble drudge , Maltmonster


(On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a 4.5 Liter bottle of Big Peat whisky…On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love said to me, “Where the f#@k have you been for the last 3 days?”)


Bowmore, which is pronounced…………..Bowmore.  It doesn’t get much easier to pronounce than this one, which, even to this day, I’m still being corrected on pronouncing the rest of the Islay distilleries.  The distillery was built in 1779, which makes it the oldest working distillery on Islay, and given the 24/7 malting floors operating most of the year, I believe the hardest working distillery on Islay.  Also given the charming people that work there, it has to be in the running for the friendliest distillery on Islay.  The two Spirit and two Wash Stills are bright copper kettles which convert waste heat into heating for the public swimming pools (built in a former Bowmore warehouse) rumor has it that this was done to stop the distillery workers from swimming (or bathing) in the Washbacks.

Bow-more in English means ‘kinky-extra’ or contrarily translated means ‘extra-kinky’.  If your kinky leanings are towards extra or more than average flavor, then this whisky should be your perverse tipple of choice.  After all, Bowmore can offer it all, from sweet creamy vanilla bourbon, ripe tropical fruit cocktail, wild Islay sea sprayed peat and exquisite floral fragrances like raindrops on roses.  These are a few of my favorite things, and when I’m feeling sad I simply pour a dram of Bowmore and then I don’t feel so bad.

Both of these vatted ex-bourbon oak cask limited release whiskies have served a better than 28 year sentence in the dark cold sea salt mines of vault number one and only let out for good flavor.  Not the big fruit bombs of the sixties and seventies, but the hills are alive with the aroma of flowers, with fragrances that have drifted for a thousand years.  Don’t attempt to drink these malts if you suffer from hay fever or *rum disease (*similar to Lyme disease, but only affects rum drinkers).


Bowmore 1981 and 1982

Bowmore Limited Release Distilled 1981 – Bottled 2010 49.6 % ABV 402 Bottles

NOSE:  Ginger ale.  Vanilla.  Potpouri of different floral scents.  Farmy smoky notes.
TASTE:  Oranges and cherries.  Caramel and milk chocolate.
FINISH:  Medium to long.
ASSESSMENT:  Extreme to the max.  Sweet, floral, and no…not the FWP found in some nineties versions, but an enjoyable unmatched floral experience.  My personal favorite of the two releases.
Bowmore Limited Release Distilled 1982 – Bottled 2011 47.3 % ABV 501 Bottles

(Advance sample provided by Andrew Ferguson, KWM)

NOSE:  Spicy floral.  Light and citrus fruits.  Crisp apple strudel.  Vanilla with a small smoky bacon note.
TASTE:  Extreme floral.  Caramel.  Raspberries.  Almond chocolate.
FINISH:  Medium.  Beautiful creamy finish.
ASSESSMENT:  Not as floral, but in the same league of extraordinary bourbon casks as the 1981.


Because of the special floral nature of these two whiskies I was given to create a Haiku poem:





As always, Maltmonster

Port Ellen – A Dirty Little Secret



Various incarnations of Port Ellen


In the snowy month of May, 2011 (remember, this is Canada), I was lucky enough to go back to Scotch Land with a small tour group.  I posed as a hard drinking tourist from Canada with a simple mission: drink as many free drams as offered (over 200), ascertain the total remaining casks of Port Ellen held in trust for me and return to Canada without breaking any bottles in my two suitcases.

Success comes in many forms, but always with consequence.  I was both baptized and enlightened in the lake of single malt that is Speyside, but succumbed to a bad case of liver quiver.  My suitcases proved to be liquid tight, but my Visa seemed to be somehow diminished from the constant friction of use.  The main purpose of uncovering the remaining stocks of Port Ellen was met with only modest success but came at a high cost of fallen friends.  Nothing quite prepares you for the sight of facing your comrades (No last names, Richard, Peter, Andrew and his son) in the morning following the prior day’s itinerary, starting with a morning of whisky sampling, followed by a whisky and lunch pairing, afternoon of whisky sampling, aperitif pre-dinner sharpener whisky, whisky and dinner pairing, after dinner dessert whisky and capped off by a long night of whisky bar scrambling.

Port Ellen Distillery, for the benefit of the great unwashed, was built in 1825, temporarily closed between 1929 and 1966, and then operated up to its demise in 1983.  Diageo, or UDV at the time, decided that Caol Ila was better than Port Ellen and Port Ellen was surplus to demand, so went about converting the distillery into a permanent malting facility, which it remains today.

With Gordon & MacPhail, Diageo and Douglas Laing unwilling to disclose their remaining stock of Port Ellen casks, one will just have to take a shot in the dark at their remaining cask inventory.  The following is a profession BBBG* of the remaining casks of Port Ellen held in Scotland:

1 – Cadenhead.  Asked on the Royal Mile and was told they have none left.

2 – Single Malt Whisky Association.  Edinburgh (yes both locations).  Was told that they have no casks .

3 – Signatory.  During the tour they were more than happy to tell us and even allowed us to take a pictures in their warehouse of their last 2 casks.

4 – All the others (which include Dewar Rattray , Adelphi , Coopers Choice , Duncan Taylor and so on) …………………… BBBG* 4 casks.

5– Gordon & MacPhail (Michael Urquhart).  Asked twice, once on a tour of Benromach, again at a tasting in Gordon & MacPhail offices.  Both times, politely denied.  There was a posting on the internet back in 1995 which suggested that after visiting Gordon & MacPhail’s warehouses, they were told the stocks held by Gordon & MacPhail were diminishing rapidly and Gordon & MacPhail were going to start rationing their remaining Port Ellen inventory.  Given Gordon & MacPhail’s ongoing hoarding ability in being able to put 70 year old casks of single malts on the markets, earns them the number three spot in available casks in the whisky world with an BBBG* 20 casks.

6 – Diageo (The largest drink company on the planet.  At least they can’t advertise the universe (Johnnie Rocket Whisky?)) Diageo has been very secretive and heavy handed about their stocks of Port Ellen.  Just remember, Diageo once had a street named after them, but they had to change the name because nobody crosses Diageo and lives.  There was a posting on the internet claiming to have seen the hidden treasure of remaining casks in a first person vision of 80 casks in May of 2005.  Even though the stated amounts of 80 casks in 2005 (80 casks x 250 bottles per cask is 20,000) have long been used up.  Between 2006 and 2010, 25,368 bottles have been released from their annual releases, another 220 bottles from their 2008 Feis Ile single cask along with an undisclosed amount included in their Johnnie Walker Blue Label special releases.

But here’s the rub…we all know the greatest trick that Diageo (Diablo) ever played was convincing the world that Port Ellen was in short supply.  Given that Diageo is usually short sited in most of what they do, Diageo having more casks than Douglas Laing would mean they would be smarter than Douglas Laing, which I would never concede.  So I would BBBG* their remaining inventory at 40 casks which would be approximately 9,000 to 10,000 bottles, of which I believe they will release in a declining amount over the next five years (2011 to 2015).  I would think their remaining casks to be from 1978 & 1979, which would be consistence with their other releases.

I believe they held onto 1978 & 1979 stocks as they were the oldest stock they had left that didn’t already go to blending, plus they had much invested in time and money in quality bourbon casks.  Diageo most likely sold the 1982 and 1983 stock cheaply to the independents, given the overabundance of whisky on the market at the time.  The 1980 & 1981, the missing stock years, which were just or arriving at the three year minimum legal limit for scotch whisky, were probably put into the Diageo peated blends, like JW Black & JW Blue, never to be seen again, and only appreciated if you happen to come across an older bottle from the mid to late eighties.

7 – Douglas Laing (The upstarts of independents, according to Gordon & MacPhail).  Seems to have more remaining stock of Port Ellen than Diageo and all the independents combined, and if managed carefully will last for generations (with deep pockets) to come.  This foresight of buying so many casks of Port Ellen, I believe, can be attributed to Fred Douglas Laing Senior and his love for Port Ellen, although at the time of purchase it was most likely to be a smoky component to one of their blends and not a single malt.

Port Ellen is a jewel in the crown of the Douglas Laing inventory, and Old Malt Cask at 50 % ABV in a Sherry cask is a personal favorite of mine.  On the third floor of Douglas House on Lynedoch Crescent we had the good fortune of trying numerous samples of Port Ellen (along with other single malts), in hopes of bringing yet another cask to Calgary.  Our host for the visit was Lorraine and when I popped the question (how many casks are in the Douglas Laing inventory?), the response was “ee…er…ee…er…ee…”, which I interpreted from Scottish to Canadian as, “if I told you, I’ve have to kill you, eh, you hoser”.

Douglas Laing and sister companies et al., have been releasing Port Ellen in most of their ranges, from Old & Rare Platinum (dump the burnt pine wood boxes with the bad glue jobs), Old Malt Cask (please no more low neck bottles), Provenance, Douglas of Drumlanrig, Premier Barrel ceramic decanter (please put better cork / caps in these bottles and pack them better), Old Malt Cask Advance samples and let’s not forget Big Peat, with a small shovelful of Port Ellen per bottle in a blend of scotch malts.  I would BBBG* their remaining stock to 81 casks, which is double Diageo plus one.  I would think most of their remaining stock to be from 1982 & 1983, but they would also have some older stock in reserve for their Platinum line.


In summary I BBBG* the total remaining inventory of casks (not current bottles on the shelf) and PLEASE CORRECT ME IF I’M WRONG, to be 147 casks, or approximately 40,000 bottles, given some of the remaining casks from Douglas Laing are probably larger Sherry Butts.

To honor this forever lost distillery (more of an excuse to drink), I sat down with Curt, Jay and Pat of All Things Whisky and we enjoyed five different bottlings of Port Ellen.  Curt and I decided to post our tasting notes together on this venture.


Port Ellen Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice 1982


PORT ELLEN Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice 1982 – 2003

40% ABV 21 Years Old



NOSE:  Citrus bites first.  Peat and smoke, wood smoke (not quite as bold as a mesquite or hickory, but very pronounced nevertheless).  Herbal.  Grassy.  Soft vanilla.

PALATE:  Waxy.  Thin burnt notes.  Smoked fruit skins.  Smoke hangs on and dries out nicely.

THOUGHTS:  Palate doesn’t quite deliver what the nose hints at.  Thin in terms of flavor and mouth feel.  Still a great drink, but heartbreaking it saw so much water added.  Fourth favorite of the night.



NOSE:  Bud-lite smoke.  Farmy.  Lemons and a hint of orange.

TASTE:  Sweet and salty are battling it out on the taste buds.  Grapefruit rules.

FINISH:  Medium…maybe a bit more.

ASSESSMENT:  No need to add water to a drowning drink.  Port Ellen needs to be at a higher ABV to work well.  Fourth favorite of the night.


Port Ellen Diageo 6th Annual Release


PORT ELLEN Diageo 6th Annual Release 1978 – 2006

54.2% ABV 27 Years Old, Bottle # 3251 of 4560 Bottles



NOSE:  Creamy toffee/caramel.  Lemon Polish/Lemon Pledge.  Brine.  Salted Greens.  Fruit Cocktail (mélange of maraschino cherry, pear, orange, peach…all mild and dilute).  Smoke and peat.

PALATE:  Peppery Licorice.  Tar and iodine.  Peat.  Fades into Granny Smith Apple.  Long and smoky finish.

THOUGHTS:  Best nose of the night.  This is exactly what I think of when I think PE.  Love it.  Best PE of the night, hands down.



NOSE:  Floor polish.  Smoked kippers.  Lemon pepper.  Low tide and vanilla.

TASTE:  Musty.  Black liquorice.  Iodine.

FINISH:  Medium to long.  Fades quickly.

ASSESSMENT:  Not just any Port in a storm of independents, what I would describe as typical and predictable Port Ellen style.  Second favorite of the night (sucker for balanced sherry).


Port Ellen OMC 26 Years Old Rum Finished


PORT ELLEN Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask December 1979 – November 2006

50% ABV 26 Years Old Rum Finished, Cask # 3081 of 342 Bottles



NOSE:  Rubber Bands.  Glue.  Oily and fishy (think canned sardines).  Aged rum.  Mild smoke and citric tanginess.

PALATE:  Rum almost disappears on the tongue.  Tarry and rubbery.  Cooked greens.  Lemon pepper.  Long finish that shows almost no sign of the rum influence.  Odd.

THOUGHTS:  WTF?!  Palate is much better than the nose.  Nose is almost off-putting.  Does get a little more relaxed with time to open.  Unrecognizable to me as a PE.  Hard to dissect with the rubbery notes from the rum running interference.  Least favorite of the night.



NOSE:  Wet cardboard and fishy chum delight.  This is where the rubber hits the road.  Floral.  Aarrrrrr!  This is sickly sweet.  Might improve mixing (drowning) with coke.

TASTE:  Much better than the nose.  Citrus, kiwi and burnt butter.

FINISH:  Medium to long.

ASSESSMENT:  Pirate Jack & Parrot Pete can’t save the nose on this malt.  Will send the remnants of this bottle to Edmonton for recycling.  It’s said that they are a dirty people and will drink anything.


Port Ellen OMC 1983


PORT ELLEN Douglas Laing Old Malt Cask March 1983 – February 2006

50% ABV 22 Years Old Refill Sherry Butt, Cask # 2116 of 660 Bottles



NOSE:  Very subdued peat at first.  Malty.  Rye bread.  Smoke.  Dusty dried fruit.  Chocolate.  Citrus.  Seaside.

PALATE:  Dried fruits seem more vibrant here…almost like fresh fruit.  Smoky and long.  Pleasantly drying

THOUGHTS:  Third favorite of the night.  Great dram and quite PE-ish with a slight malty twist.



NOSE:  Farmy.  Smoked oysters.  Oranges & cherries.  Toffee.

TASTE:  Sweet at first getting bitter at the end.  Milk chocolate.  Bit minty and blackberry jam.

FINISH:  Strangely warm at the start, fading quickly.  Medium to long.

ASSESSMENT:  Good example of a sherry butt PE from DL.  Third favorite of the night.


Port Ellen Signatory 1982


PORT ELLEN Signatory Vintage November 11 , 1982 – December 20 , 2007

57 % ABV 25 Years Old, Cask 2847 Bottle # 111 of 417 Bottles



NOSE:  Chewy and rich.  Burnt notes.  Zest (Citrus…not soap).  Tobacco leaf.  Wet rocks.  Dark fudge.  Smoke and peat.

PALATE:  Chocolate.  Cereal notes.  Muted anise.  Warm spicy arrival.  Mouth coating, thick and oily.

THOUGHTS:  Great balance.  Points for best arrival of the night.  Nice mix of peat and sherry.  Second favorite of the night.



NOSE:  Nice aged peat smoke.  Cherries.  Oranges.  Leather.  Caramel.

TASTE:  Lemon.  Pepper.  Liquorice.  Fruity.  Marzipan.

FINISH:  Long and lingering.

ASSESSMENT:  Smoke on the water, fire in the sky, this is my favorite of the night.  Perfect balance of Sherry and Islay malt.


Although I don’t generally cry when I drink single malts unless I’ve accidently spilled some, I always seem to tear up when I’m drinking Port Ellen, and pause to remember this poem from Lord Byron:

So we’ll go no more a-roving

So late into the night,

Though the heart still be as loving,

And the moon still be as bright.

For the sword outwears its sheath,

And the soul outwears the breast,

And the heart must pause to breathe,

And love itself have rest.

Though the night was made for loving,

And the day returns too soon,

Yet we’ll go no more a-roving

By the light of the moon.


– As always, tender, Maltmonster

– Photos:  Pat (

(BBBG* – Best Bloody Brilliant Guesstimation)

Bruichladdich – Legacy




What does LEGACY mean as its applies to this series of whiskies tasted?  We, the gang of four (almost the gang of three, after a heated debate over scoring) set out to answer this question.  Tempers were stemmed after one of the gang of four reminded us that burying a body in the ground might prove to be difficult after one’s been drinking.

The Legacy here is in the stock of whisky laid down prior to the distillery being mothballed in 1994.  And in the stillmen who worked there before the production went silent.  Stillmen like Neil MacTaggart, who started at Bruichladdich in 1970; Duncan McGillivray in 1974 (sorry for breaking your sod cutter/lifter back in 2008); and Duncan MacFadyen in 1989, who came back in 2001 to continue production.  The Legacy is also in the rich history, starting with the brothers William, John and Robert Harvey who built the distillery in 1881, up on the bank near the shores of Loch Indaal and named it as such.

I believe that the distillery workers and the owners of Bruichladdich, past and present, collectively set out to make the FINEST SPIRIT that could be made, as they draw great pride (also daily drams) from their jobs.  This legacy quote from Woodrow Wilson summarizes how I feel about whisky making:  “You are not here merely to make a living.  You are here to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, and with a FINER SPIRIT of hope and achievement.  You are here to enrich the world.  You impoverish yourself if you forget this errand”.

What is the future of Bruichladdich and the continued  legacy of this great establishment?  It is no secret that Andrew Grey is no longer working for the distillery, rumors of a sale persist, an unwelcome recession has hurt cash flow, along with delaying plans to start up a second distillery at Port Charlotte and criticism still abounds over the amount of expressions on the market.  But people come and go, every distillery sells sooner or later, the economy will rebound and having a greater choice in your whisky section is always a good thing.  If the current ownership were to sell (PLEASE, JUST NOT TO DIAGEO!!!) the legacy left behind by Andrew Grey, Jim McEwan (please never stick your finger in my whisky glass again), Mark Reynier, Simon Coughlin and the other thirty plus owners and employees, would be tasted for years to come and all the innovation and hard work would be realized by both the future owners and by us, the whisky drudges and judges.



LEGACY #1   –   36 YEAR OLD  40.6% ABV BOTTLED 2002 BOTTLE #896

NOSE:  Honey, butter, floral, fruity.

TASTE:  Cinnamon, raspberry/strawberry.  Very sweet.

FINISH:  Medium to long.  Tad briny.

ASSESSMENT:  Nice and pleasant to drink.

RATED:  #5 of the six Legacy series and #8 overall


LEGACY #2   –  37 YEAR OLD 41.8% ABV BOTTLED 2003 BOTTLE #972 OF 1500

NOSE:  Punchy peach.  Grassy.

TASTE:  Sweet, nutty.

FINISH:  Medium, little dry.

ASSESSMENT:  Worn down by age.  I think I can taste Jim McEwan’s finger in this one.

RATED:  #6 of the Legacy series and #9 overall.


LEGACY #3  –   35 YEAR OLD 40.7% ABV BOTTLED 2004 BOTTLE #206 OF 1572

NOSE:  Butterscotch, very creamy.  Fruity.

TASTE:  Almost tropical.  Chewy.

FINISH:  Great long smooth finish.

ASSESSMENT:  Reminds me of eating fresh strawberries with clotted cream at Wimbledon.

RATED:  #1 of the Legacy series and #3 overall.


LEGACY #4  –    32 YEAR OLD 47.5% ABV BOTTLED 2005 BOTTLE #129 OF 820

NOSE:  Apples & raisins.  Spices.

TASTE:  Honey. Botanicals.  The sweet honey coats your tongue.

FINISH:  Long and warming.

ASSESSMENT:  Like drinking liquid gold.  Similar to the 1970.

RATED:  #4 of the legacy series and #6 overall.


LEGACY #5   –   33 YEAR OLD 40.9% ABV BOTTLED 2006 BOTTLE # 993 OF 1690

NOSE:  Oaky.  Caramel and almonds .  Apricots.

TASTE:  Very demure.  Sweet.  Licorice.

FINISH:  Creamy.  Medium.

ASSESSMENT:  Not a bad expression of an older Bruichladdich.

RATED:  #3 of the legacy series and  #5 overall.


LEGACY #6   –   34 YEAR OLD 41.0% ABV BOTTLED 2007 BOTTLE #170 OF 1704

NOSE:  Light and dark fruits.  Honey and mint.

TASTE:  Cream.  Cherries and cinnamon.

FINISH:  Medium and very light.

ASSESSMENT:  Completely lip-smacking.

RATED:  #2 of the legacy series and #4 overall.




NOSE:  Candied cherries.  Floral and some honey.

TASTE:  Vanilla, milk chocolate.  Raisins.

FINISH:  Long.  Little dry.  Fades gently at the end.

ASSESSMENT:  What a great drink.  Could drink this all day long.

RATED:  #1 of the DNA series and #2 overall.


DNA #2  –   32 YEAR OLD 47.4% ABV DISTILLED 1977 BOTTLED 2009 BOTTLE # 385 OF 844

NOSE:  Musty.  Spearmint.  Butterscotch.

TASTE:  Licorice.  Chocolate.  Nutty.

FINISH:  Crisp and long.

ASSESSMENT:  Nice drink to savor.

RATED:  #2 of the DNA series and #7 overall.


40 YEAR OLD  43.1% ABV  DISTILLED OCTOBER 24 , 1964 BOTTLED 2004  BOTTLE #230 OF 550

NOSE:  Minty fresh bourbon.  Farmy.  Ripe melons.

TASTE:  Tropical and much more.  Creamy.

FINISH:  Long and enjoyable.  Bit briny at the end.

ASSESSMENT:  Number one favorite of the night.  Best expression of Bruichladdich I have ever tasted.

RATED:  #1 overall.



*Please, Bruichladdich, buy back as many privately owned casks as you can find, to bottle more of the 40 year!

It seems that whenever  it comes to Bruichladdich, for every action there is an equal and opposite criticism, more so than any other Distillery.


– Maltmonster

1972 Glendronach



In order to try a repair the rift that exists between Canada and Sweden over the 1994 Olympic games, after  Sweden took the gold medal in hockey from us in an overtime shootout and then went on to make a postage stamp with the winning goal on it, I thought it would be appropriate, as sign of good faith, to do tasting notes in both official languages.  Please excuse my heartfelt
attempt to translate these notes properly, as some of the meaning might be lost in the translation.



1972 CASK # 718   38 YEAR OLD 51.5% ABV  BOTTLE # 313 OF 396

NOSE: Oranges.  Varnish.  Coffee bean and lavender.  Raspberry.  Burnt butter.

“Potatis, köttbullar, sill.”

TASTE: Dark chocolate.  Bitter tannins.  Black pepper and mint.

“Färgade smaksatt vodka.”

FINISH: Long and warming

“Längre än Tiger Woods marrigae löfte.”

ASSESSMENT: Good expression of Glendronach, but it’s hard to get past that one off note of varnish on the nose.

“Detta är bättre än Dolph Lundgren är en skådespelare och mindre störande än att sätta ihop Ikea-möbler.”




NOSE: Fruit explosion.  Pineapple, bananas, mango, melons, cherries and oranges.  Cocoa and mint.

“Kål renar, inlagd sill.”

TASTE: Melons and prunes.  Tannins from the sherry.  Raisins, coffee and cinnamon.

“Färgade smaksatt vodka.”

FINISH: Long and fantastic.  Begins creamy & spicy, then warms up and fades gently.  Little briny at the back end.

“Ungefär lika länge som en Abba-musikalen.”

ASSESSMENT: Complex and balanced older sherry fruit bomb.  What a nose!  Would put this whisky right between the Black Bowmore and the Glenfarclas 40 year old.

“Detta är whisky att Sedin tvillingarna skulle ha firat med om de hade visat upp och spelade i sista matchen i Stanley Cup-finalen.”


– Sincerely, Maltmonster