Category Archives: Whisky Events

MS Calgary Whisky Festival

(Shameless ATW plug for a local event and good cause…)


The 2015 MS Calgary Whisky Festival




Please allow me a moment to share the word about an upcoming event for our local folk here in Alberta:

Next Thursday, January 15th, 2015, The MS Society of Calgary is hosting one of the city’s most lauded annual events.  The MS Calgary Whisky Festival has become one of the biggest and most recognized whisky fests in the country, and this year’s fest promises to live up to all that came before.

Not simply a gathering of whisky world elite (though certainly that), the MS fest is a chance to come out and do some good for a charitable cause.

“The 2015 Calgary Whisky Festival in support of the MS Society of Calgary is set to be another barnburner of an event. Last year’s festival drew 400 attendees and featured nearly 150 whiskies from distilleries in Scotland, Ireland, Canada, the US, Japan and India. This year’s event is set to be even bigger and better with over 100 different whiskies, over 30 presenters and a capacity of 500 participants. New this year we are offering a VIP package, which will include a Macallan Master Class featuring a very rare and special bottling. This is a unique chance to taste whiskies from around the world, and meet talk directly to distillery representatives. Funds raised at the event help us provide much needed services in the community for those affected by MS, as well as help fund ground-breaking research dedicated to finding a cure. Get your tickets now, they won’t last long.”


When: Thursday, January 15, 2015
Doors Open: 6:00 pm
Where: Epcor Centre- Jack Singer Concert Hall Lobby
Tickets: $99

Click here to purchase tickets.


This is a chance to sample whiskies from the following distilleries and bottlers:

Aberlour, Adelphi, Alberta Distillers, Antiquarry, Arran, Auchentoshan, Balvenie, BenRiach, Benromach, Big peat, Black Burn, Bruichladdich, Bushmills, Bowmore, Cadenhead, Canadian Club, Caol Ila, Cardhu, Chichibu, Clan Denny, Compass Box, Edradour, First Editions, Glendronach, Glenfarclas, Glenglassaugh, Glengoyne, Glen Kinchie, Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, Green Spot, Glen Scotia, Gordon & MacPhail, Jameson, Johnnie Walker, Hepburn’s Choice, Highland Park, Inchmurrin, Jim Beam Brands, Kavalan, Kilchoman, Knob Creek, Laphroaig, Loch Lomond, Macallan, Michter’s, Miyagikyo, Mortlach, Nikka, Old Particular, Red Breast, Samaroli, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, Smokehead, Spey, Springbank, Springbank Society, Stronachie, Talisker, Timorous, Tomatin, Tullibardine, Yukon Spirits, WemyssScallywag, Yoichi


Come find me if you do make it out.  Let’s turn this into a night to remember while doing something positive for the MS society.


– ATW 


An Evening With Jim McEwan

An Evening With Jim McEwan at Willow Park Wines & Spirits

26 September 2013


Most times I try to maintain a bit of a ‘professional’ distance from the people or products I’m writing about, but at other times I have to switch tacks and let honesty, personal bias and heart be my guide.  Such is the case here in sharing a bit about Willow Park’s recent evening event with Bruichladdich’s Jim McEwan.

While there are scores of incredibly interesting public figures in the whisky world, few are as instantly engaging as Jim.  In fact, I’d go so far as to say he is in a league of his own as arguably the best whisky speaker out there.  His talks are as entertaining and boisterous as the best of live shows and as warm and comfortable as your favorite slippers.  A dichotomy that somehow balances beautifully.

I’ve seen Jim speak a couple of times now.  I’ve also been privileged enough to spend some time with him on his turf (the distillery itself), and to have interviewed him here on the site.  In all of the encounters we’ve shared, he’s never been anything but the quintessential gentleman. 

It was for this reason, over any other, that I ended up at Willow Park last Thursday. 


In one of my less-than-Mensa moments I managed to seriously mix up my days on when this event was to take place.  When a pal of mine emailed asking if I was ‘going to be there tonight’, my response was ‘where?’  After an initial hour or two of resigned melancholy (supposed to be home with the kids, making dinner, etc), I called the wife and told her I wanted to go.  Angel that she is, she immediately said ‘go’.  One rather sheepish call to Willow Park’s whisky specialist, Dave Michiels, and I’d managed to wriggle my way into a seat for this sold out event.  (Thanks again, Dave!)

I somehow managed to bolt out of the office and down to Willow Park early enough to help with some of the last minute set up and to have a bit of a chat with Dave and Jim before things got too crazy.

Now…I’ve attended many, many events at WP, but this one was a doozy.  I think attendance was in the neighbourhood of 120-130.  For a formal sit-down whisky tasting…this was unbelievable.  Pull together 130 folks with their minds set on some good drinks and an evening of entertainment and it’s bound to be a good time.   


Early on in the presentation, Jim’s mention of his recent milestone 50 years in the industry brought a rousing cheer from the masses.  Let that sink in for a sec.  50 years.  50 f*cking years!  First of all…what a great job to have if you’ve gotta do something for half a century.  Second…how can you not appreciate that level of dedication and inherent knowledge?  Simply unbelievable.

And perhaps a better question might be ‘how can you not love a man who takes the occasional potshot at the Irish’?  I think his exact words regarding Ireland were “the land of drunkards and liars.  Twenty three miles away…and not far enough.”  All in jest, of course, lest anyone get their knickers in a twist.  It’s all in delivery, and I gotta say…the man had the room in stitches time and again.  (*Note…I only repeat this here in order to mock the afflicted ATW contributor, and resident Irish (dim)wit, Maltmonster)

Mockery aside, Jim was on point tonight.  Great presentation.  He has a way of combining a wicked and acerbic wit with the utmost in poignancy and melancholic nationalism.  There doesn’t seem to be an ounce of insincerity in his professed adoration for all things Islay.  Having been there twice now, I can unequivocally say he does well at capturing the essence of what makes Islay magical.


The line-up of malts for this eve was a pure and simple one: Laddie 10, Islay Barley (Dunlossit), Laddie 16, Laddie 22, Cuvee 640 and Port Charlotte 10.  It was a simple, yet elegant, flight of drams.  In fact, in speaking with a good mate the following morning, I told him how cohesive and well-structured the range was.  Each dram segued nicely into the one following, with enough variation to allow each its moment to shine.

It would have made an interesting variation on a theme to include a taste of Bruichladdich’s titanic peat monster, Octomore, as well, but alas…beggars can’t be choosers.  It’s arguable as well that such a big gunner – even as the last malt of the evening – may have thrown off the balance of the range.  And as I said…it worked a treat as it was.


As we worked our way through the whiskies, Jim filled us in on some of the inspirations and influences responsible for their births.  Tales related to terroir…to island sustainability and provenance…to history and inheritance of the past…to the people who helped make it…and of course….to the people who buy it. 

It’s neat to see a roomful of Canadians – most of whom have never stepped foot on the peaty bogs of Islay – come out in defense of Scottish pride and island ‘nationalism’ when Jim asks a question such as ‘how do call it a Scotch whisky if it’s not made from Scottish barley?’…or ‘how do call it an Islay malt if it’s matured over on the mainland?’

Hmmmm…discussions for another day.


Much like the last time Jim came to Willow Park, he pulled the crowd to its feet to close out the evening.  Perhaps not in the way you’d expect however.  Picture a crowd 130 strong…standing on tables…glasses in hand…shouting a battle cry in Gaelic…and downing the last of their whisky in a Highland toast flourish.  This is Jim’s exit.  And it’s a bloody good one.

I wish I had a picture of all these fine folk holding their glasses high to the man who made the spirit they were drinking, but alas…I was too busy standing on a table, drinking whisky and roaring along with the rest of the unwashed masses.  Life is too short to just observe.  Sometimes you gotta get your hands dirty.


Incidentally…I ran into a gent I hadn’t seen in a long while at this show.  His name is Dan, and he’s a helluva decent guy.  We sat next to each other and caught up a little throughout the evening.  Great tasting partner too, I might add.  This social aspect is why we love whisky so much, no?  Well…that’s part of it anyway.  I guess the other would be the juice itself.  I gotta say…it was a crying shame that the seat next to Dan and I was never claimed.  I did my good deed for the eve in liberating a couple of the extra drams, so as not to insult Jim by letting his fine spirit go to waste.  See?  Irrespective of what my wife says…I’m a pretty decent chap, huh?

Finally…I can’t say enough good things about the fine folk at Select Wine & Spirits and Willow Park Wine & Spirits for putting on an absolutely top notch event.  No surprise there.  They always come through.


– Words:  Curt

– Photos:  Curt

The Great Whisky Debate

The Great Whisky Debate

Greetings, faithful readers.

Just wanted to pass on the word about an upcoming event here in Calgary.  I’ll be checking this one out, and most certainly sharing a few words here on ATW afterwards, but for those of you interested in an evening out, tasting a few drams and hearing some of the industry’s key insiders share some insight…grab a ticket and come say hi. 

This debate format has been done in both Ontario and Las Vegas already, to what I’m given to understand was rousing success, so it seems only logical to bring it into one of North America’s most prevalent and thriving whisky markets:  Alberta. 

Our friends at Beam Global have picked a great venue for this one too.  For those of you who’ve yet to attend a Willow Park event, rest assured, they do ’em up right. For those that HAVE attended a tasting at WP…well…nothing more need be said, I imagine.

To save me the wordsmithing, I’ll simply rely on the event press to fill you in:

“While all bourbon is whisk(e)y, not all whisk(e)y is bourbon! (…..or Scotch, or Rye, or…) The debate rages on as Matt Jones (Canadian Bourbon Ambassador for Beam), Dan Volway (The Macallan/Highland Park Brand Ambassador) and Dan Tullio (the Godfather of Canadian Whisky) go head to head in a debate, detailing the differences and benefits of American, Scotch, and Canadian Whisk(e)y. This is always entertaining, and never will there be a dull moment while these 3 topics are literally on the table! There is no offside in this discussion, so let the debate begin!! Enjoy tastings of all three types of whisky and maybe more!”

No offside discussion, huh?  Hmmm…we’ll see about that.  😉

While I’ve yet to meet the other two gents (though looking forward to it), I can absolutely say that a night with Dan Tullio is a blast.  Looking forward to this one.


“The Great Whisky Debate” at Willow Park Wines & Spirits

Oct 21st, 2013  7:00 pm

Tickets available HERE for $25. 

Get in quick, as there are only 100 seats for this event.

See ya there.

Ferguson Whisky Tours – “Bowmore On The Rockies”

An absolutely once-in-a-lifetime tasting opportunity through our friend, Andrew Ferguson.  If you’ve ever been to one of Andrew’s events, you’ll know he pulls out all the stops.  I expect this will be no less than his magnum opus.  Limited to 26 lucky individuals.  If you’re interested…contact Andrew ASAP.

Details (from Andrew’s site, Ferguson Whisky Tours):


Bowmore on the Rockies

November 1st – 3rd 2013 – Banff Alberta

Bowmore Distillery

This event won’t come as a complete surprise to everyone. I’ve been bouncing ideas off the wall for years and just a few weeks ago one finally stuck. When Bowmore launched the Black Bowmore 1964 42 Year about 4 years ago, they indicated they would be following it with White and Gold expressions. The Black was stunning; we poured it at two separate tastings, and sold close to 30 bottles of the stuff. The White was sampled in the No. 1 vaults at Bowmore and the Gold opened for a KWM event didn’t disappoint either. All the while I had a vision to put on an Epic once in a lifetime tasting of the trilogy that would draw people to it from across Canada and around the world. A sit down in store tasting or whisky dinner wouldn’t do, this range of whiskies is worth nearly $40,000.00 at auction, this would have to be a weekend extravaganza.


For about the last 2 ½ years ideas have been batted around with the good people at Bowmore and their local representatives at Lifford. Whiskies were horded and what was initially just a Trilogy tasting turned into a Trilogy +2. In the wake of the 1964 Trilogy, Bowmore released the 1964 Fino, so we set one of those aside. Around that time I managed to put my hands on one of the original Black Bowmores, the 1995 bottling. Well the time has come; these whiskies aren’t going to sit idle any longer, we’re going to open them all at a never to be repeated event November 1st and 2nd 2013.


Bowmore on the Rockies will be held in Alberta’s scenic resort town of Banff Friday November 1st and Saturday the 2nd 2013, hosted by myself along with Jamie MacKenzie (Director of Sales the Americas) and Iain Macallum (Master of Malt) of Morrison Bowmore. The price for the weekend includes 2 nights of accommodation at the Rimrock Hotel, 4 tastings, 2 dinners, a breakfast, lunch and tickets to the Banff Film Festival. A Bowmore Dinner will be held on the Friday night at a prestigious restaurant in Banff, followed by VIP seating at a dueling pianos bar. Saturday will feature Auchentoshan and Glen Garioch tastings, tickets to some Banff Film Festival screenings and the climactic Bowmore Trilogy +2 Dinner at the Rimrock. This once in a lifetime tasting is limited to just 26 participants.



Bowmore on the Rockies Nov 1-3 2013 – $1350 +GST

(for a single occupant for a standard room)


  • 2 nights accommodation at the Rimrock Hotel in Banff
  • 2 breakfasts
  • 2 dinners
  • 1 lunch
  • 4 tastings including the climactic sampling of the Bowmore 1964 Trilogy + 2

      – Bowmore Black 1964 21 Year (1995 bottling)
      – Bowmore Gold 1964 44 Year
      – Bowmore White 1964 43 Year
      – Bowmore Black 1964 42 Year
      – Bowmore Fino Cask 1964 46 Year


    • Space is limited to 26 whisky drinking participants.
    • Room upgrades are available on request.
    • Couples or guests sharing a room with another participant can save up to $400 on the second ticket.
    • A limited number of companion spots for spouses/partners who will not be drinking whisky, but will be attending the dinners are available at an add on price of $500 +GST. This includes wine.
    • Payment can be made by cheque made out to Ferguson Whisky Tours, or through PayPal on request.
    • Registration is non-refundable.

    Book Online 

    Twitter: #BowmoreOnTheRockies

The Ultimate Ardbeg Experience – Double Barrel

Ardbeg Double Barrel

The sky has been bruised and tortured for days now.  The clouds are still leaking and the wind is tussling with pretty much everything it can catch…and winning.  This deluge has been on and off for days now, but it seems the fiercest of it all may now be in the rear view mirror.  We in Calgary hope so anyway.   

I started putting this piece together over a week ago, but the floods and other concerns have, quite rightly, taken precedence.  While I, and most of the local people I know and love, are safe and didn’t suffer much in the way of loss, I do know others who did.  I, and all associated with ATW, wish you well and offer any help that can be provided.  You know where to find us.

Let me share a few words now about a rather spectacular event that took place not long before the floods swept through.  I’m simply going to pick up where I left off…

I’m sitting at a computer with the lower half of my body damp and, in all likelihood, dripping on the carpet under my desk.  Hey…there’s only so much an upside-down inside-out umbrella can do to keep your head dry, let alone your lower regions.  It’s very early.  And dark.

In short…a near spot-on model of Scottish weather.  What better ambiance to share a few words on an event that went down only days ago, also on a rather bleak and rainswept eve?  Though I’d initially hoped to get this written in the day or two immediately following, life got in the way, as it often does.  Either way…step in and dry off.  Let’s have a dram of Ardbeg and chat.


While I may have missed this year’s June 1st Ardbeg Day festivities (again…life), there’s simply no way they could have come close to measuring up to what has been dubbed ‘The Ultimate Ardbeg Experience’.  On June 14th, at the Southern Alberta Pioneer’s Building, Calgary’s Kensington Wine Market put on a once in a lifetime tasting.  For the legions of local acolytes, and several from afar, this was an evening not to be missed.

The line-up was centered around opening the legendary Ardbeg Double; An over-the-top ornately extravagant guncase housing two different bottles of vintage 1974 Ardbeg.  And, of course, a few extras we’ll get to in a bit.


As each of the attendees arrived, we were pulled aside for a quick photo op with Kensington Wine Market‘s Andrew Ferguson and Ardbeg Brand Ambassador, Ruaraidh MacIntyre.  Preserving this one for the ages, I suppose.  And perhaps rightfully so.  I know of no other tasting in the world that has popped the top on the Double Barrel.

The room was laid out beautifully.  Ardbeg goodies everywhere against the rustic backdrop of a sort of ‘hunting lodge’-esque hall.  Very suited to the occasion, and when one considers the ambience of the darkened skies and onset of the rain, the overall experience was sublime.  A few of us hung topside for a while snapping pictures of the room and the bottles themselves before joining the rest of the guests who had made their way to the lower hall for a bit of an informal pre-event cocktail hour.

There were tangy Ardbeg Ten caesars and drams of Galileo on offer for those who wanted a bit of a warm up, and of course we all did.  For those gasping at the idea of burying their beloved Ardbeg in Clamato juice and spices, rest assured that this really does work.  I’m a purist with whisky, if ever there was one, and still I’ll happily sip on one of these salty, smoky cocktails when offered.  One was enough though, before the Galileo seemed a better fit for the evening.


Downstairs, in the less kitschy lower hall, the party was in full swing.  Familiar faces all around and a lot of reunions of sorts.  Nice to see so many good people gathered and sharing a laugh.  Some of the usual suspects I hadn’t seen in months, or longer, and these sorts of events make me wonder why we wait for formality before gathering.

Aside from a quick pass by the serving station, I didn’t get too close to the food.  It looked great…it smelled great…but I can’t attest any further, unfortunately.  This eve was all about the drink, so it was a conscious effort at palate preservation.


Social hour is always great, but it’s also a bit of a waiting game.  The flight upstairs was a stunning one and anticipation high, so when the call came we made our way back upstairs to claim a seat with no second reminder needed.

The evening started off with Scott Westgard from Charton Hobbs providing a brief introduction and thank you to all for coming out.  He then took a moment to speak of Andrew’s accomplishments on behalf of Ardbeg (and more) and to present him with a plaque commemorating the one year anniversary of the Calgary Ardbeg Embassy, something that is quite a point of pride for both Andrew and KWM, I believe, and rightly so.

Andrew took a few moments to share a few words on the generosity of both Kensington and Charton Hobbs in helping to subsidize this event before gracefully ducking the spotlight and handing over the reins to the evening’s host extraordinaire, Ruaraidh MacIntyre.


I’m not sure Ardbeg (or LVMH, perhaps I should say) could have a better ambassador than Ruaraidh.  He’s mere months removed from Scotland; grew up on Islay; and has generations of familial ties to the Ardbeg distillery.  On top of these blood qualifications, Ruaraidh is passionate about both the island and the whisky.  His humour and comfortable delivery are the perfect medium for bringing to life what Islay is really all about.  Ruaraidh entertained with touching anecdotes, hilarious tales and heartfelt pride.  Great speaker with great subject matter.  For an audience…it doesn’t get better.


I mentioned earlier that the line-up for this tasting was tip-top.  That may have been understating matters.  The flight was seven malts deep, from peat monsters to delicate old stunners.  How best to structure a flight like this is something I deal with frequently between personal tastings and Dram Initiative events.  You always want to save the best and most aged gems as the closing treat, but when it comes to peat…the younger ones that come before can easily beat the hell out your senses before getting to the true showcase.  Tough call.

Anyway…here’s how it all went down…

Uigeadail – Starting with a beefcake such as the Uigeadail before moving into the subtleties inherent in older whiskies was a bit of a concern for me, but it all worked out.  I was initially afraid of blowing out the tastebuds before the big show so I only took wee sips from this and the following dram.

Corryvreckan – Again…another big boy.  Small sips.  Came back to this one at the end of the night.  Had to save the receptors for what was to follow.

17 – Having just killed off my own 17, it was a treat to revisit, and wow, was this a stunner.  Big batch variance from the 17 I had just finished.  This one was rich in sweet subtle tropicals and incredible depths of complexity.  Some malts in here much older than 17, I think, and if I had to venture a guess I’d say this was one of the earlier 17s released.  Spectacular, and one that created quite a buzz this night.

1977 – An all-time favorite of mine, and one I couldn’t see being dethroned as the best of the Ardbeg releases.  Until tonight, that is.  This 1977 was brought along from Victoria by Lawrence Graham.  You’d likely know Lawrence as the gent behind The Victoria Whisky Festival and Whisky Intelligence, among many other whisky endeavours.  Thanks, Lawrence.  This really was a treat.

Ardbog – This was the evening’s closer, and followed on the heels of the Double Barrel bottles.  Unfortunately, the glasses for this dram were slightly compromised, and by the time we came round to this one, the whisky had fallen apart and was a murky mess with a funky flavor.  Perhaps a little soap residue or something.  Oh well.


Conversation at the tables was fun and relaxed, with everyone happy to share in the making of memories and spend a little time getting to know their neighbour.  Guests had come from afar for what was truly a world-class event.  Andrew managed to pull in folks from Montreal, San Francisco, Victoria and more.

Anyway…I think we’ve laid enough of the bedrock.  Let’s talk about the reason we were all here.  Ardbeg Double Barrel.


The Double Barrel is sort of an iconic thing of lore in the Ardbeg spheres.  For those that may have visited the distillery, this would be the elaborately packaged ‘gun case’ you would have seen locked away with the diver’s helmet behind the glass enclosure.  The case features two different bottles of vintage 1974 Ardbeg, eight engraved silver cups, an oak pen, and a couple of leather-stitched books.  All presented in the aforementioned hand-crafted leather gun case.

The sticker you’d have seen in the shop at Ardbeg…£10,000.  For anyone who may have nabbed one of the four that made its way to Canada…just over $15,000.

So…with no further ado, I’m going to share my tasting notes here, but no scores.  An event like this is not the environment to properly assess a whisky.  Even tasting notes should probably be taken with a grain of salt, but here goes…


Ardbeg Double Barrel Cask #1745151

49% abv

Nose:  Tropical-like fruit notes, with vibrant peach and tangerine at the forefront.  Jelly candy…somewhat like a red cherry ju-jube.  Creamy milk chocolate.  Licorice.  Touch of iodine.  The smoke is only an afterthought here.  Crisp cookie notes.  Creamy caramel and smooth subtle vanilla.  Smooth and complex spice profile.

Palate:  Smoke and peat are a little more pronounced now.  Finally.  Some salt licorice.  Slightly fishy note.  Salty dough.  Smoke and licorice grow, then ebb into echoes of fried tropical fruits and very pleasant vanilla oak.

Thoughts:  This one followed on the heels of several good drams, including a great bottling of the 17 and directly after my favorite Ardbeg, the 1977.  I hate to admit it, but that ’77 has now been dethroned as my favorite Ardbeg to date.  This cask is stunning.  An absolute diamond.


…and now…the second bottle…


Ardbeg Double Barrel Cask #3151157

47.7% abv

Nose:  More chocolate here than on #1745.  Still tropical, but slightly less…technicolor, if you will.  This is made up for by a darker, more mysterious air to this one.  Dark European bread dough.  Smoked oyster and maybe a little smoked fish as well.  Doughy and carrying some beautifully balanced spices.  Butter tarts, Andrew mentioned, and was dead-on accurate.  Slightly more pokey and peppery.

Palate:  A little more peat here than on the previous cask.  Smoke and dark chocolate.  Some coffee notes (strong…espresso-like) and high content dark chocolate.  Licorice.  Salty and briny.  Much more in the style of contemporary Ardbeg.

Thoughts:  Deeper and darker than cask #1745, but not necessarily better for it.  Very complimentary though.



Definitely a slight preference for the first of the two, cask #1745.

Though I can’t share scores here, these are both certainly in the 93-95ish range (give or take).  Especially the former.  What I wouldn’t give to sit down again with these two and do a proper session.

Whisky is meant to be shared among friends.  It’s meant to make memories with.    This night 30 or 40 friends got together over a dram (or maybe it was eight) and made a helluva pile of memories.

An extra special thanks to Andrew and Kensington Wine Market.  Andrew has wanted to turn this into a reality for the better part of four years now, and I truly don’t believe anyone but he could have actually followed through and made this happen.

Also, to Moet Hennessy and Charton Hobbs…a bow.  Merci.


– Words & Tasting Notes:  Curt

– Photos:  Curt

Malt Messenger No. 50‏

Malt Messenger No. 50

Dear Malt Messenger Subscribers,

I am not a poet, a novelist, or in any way a professional writer, but I do make use of the written word (perfectly or not) to share my enthusiasm for single malt whisky and occasionally parallel adventures. Over the years readers of this humble newsletter have often kindly remarked on how much time and effort they feel must have been put into creating Malt Messengers. It does take both time and effort, but the amount of time and the degree of effort involved are directly related to inspiration. When moved, the words flow and almost seem to write themselves, when they don’t…

For the last couple of weeks the words of this the 50th full Malt Messenger could not find their way to the keys, and curiously, inspiration was not in short supply. I had just spent a week touring Islay, Arran and Campbeltown with a cadre of whisky enthusiast and had previously spent three lovely days in Edinburgh being properly introduced to the traditions and culture of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (much more on that below). I have new brands here and others coming, tales of whisky tourism to tell and excellent new whiskies to write about and yet somehow I still couldn’t find my words.

Which brings me to where I find myself right now, sitting through another long haul flight trying to bend time and effort into the desired end result.

A little background is required before I proceed. As I write I am hurtling out over the Pacific Ocean at 528mp and 37,954 feet. I am flying with the airline most of us, at least in Western Canada, do when faced with choosing between it and that other larger airline which as a nation we love to hate. I’m sitting in a sweaty leather seat, in a row which is lacking the extra legroom I paid for, but not the larger individuals who require it. Further, I am bored to tears because I can’t seem to write, I don’t feel like reading and the Satellite TV looses its signal when not directly over the North America’s landmass. I’m not a NASA Scientist, so I hope you’ll forgive my innocent ignorance in assuming that the advantage of satellite technology is that it can be accessed from anywhere in the world! 

It’s also important to know that I keep little sample bottles at the store for whiskies I want to write up. This is in part to keep them fresh until I taste them (which can be a while as I am want to procrastinate) but also so that I can take them with me wherever I go. I like to write my tasting notes on my own terms when I am in the mood to sample and have the time required. So, when I go away on trips, especially on vacation, I will generally take a few vials and a good whisky glass because, and let’s be honest, a good whisky in a tumbler or coffee mug just isn’t the same. About half way through the flight one of the attendants, a particularly officious one, (you can tell she was the tattler in elementary school) came by and offered all the people in my row—who were all under the same misapprehension as I—a free beer to compensate us for our lack of space and extra fees. I graciously accepted, though it was one of the pricier beers I’ve ever had, when it suddenly occurred to me that I had something much tastier in my briefcase, two in fact, and a proper glass!

If this is starting to sound like a Vinyl Cafe story or the plot from a Mr. Bean skit, you’re not that far off. Proudly I pulled out my glass, my notebook, a pen and a sample of Tullibardine distilled in 1976 which was dropped off at the store earlier in the day along with another by James Robertson of the distillery and Andy Dunn. I poured the amber gold liquid into my Glencairn and was immediately transfixed by how thick it looked as it curled into the glass. I hadn’t intended to taste the whisky on the plane, but I had five hours to kill and a good idea is a good idea. As I nosed it I jotted down my initial impressions: soft, rich and sugary working my way into more specific descriptors like poached pear, cooked apples and Turtles with sticky toffee pudding in cream. I’m hooked and I must admit, a little self satisfied. I feel sophisticated and relaxed. I start into the palate, lovely, rich and fruity with great body. I’m really enjoying myself and about to take a second sip when an arm touches my shoulder. “May I ask where you got that?” Earnestly, and a little naively, I respond: “oh, it’s a sample from work, I need to write it up.” The reply, “You can’t have that on here. I’m going to have to take it.” And without a further word my glass and whisky are gone and I’m gutted, I’ve only had one sip but what an impression it’s already made and such a nice finish.

As it turns out W— J—ers do care… in this case about following the rules. This isn’t my first time flying.  I’ve enjoyed a few malts smuggled on board in miniature form before, and I’ve even been offered a glass. That said, I’ve never before been so bold as to empty the contents into a proper whisky glass and take out a note pad. It never occurred to me that I was doing something wrong, though in retrospect it does make perfect sense. How can you possibly moderate your passengers’ consumption if they are allowed to BYOB. I can’t fault the flight attendant for doing her job, even if the manner in which she carried it out seems more in tune with writing up parking infractions than making people feel welcome. I erred, was rightly scolded, and was feeling a little sheepish for my naiveté until it dawned on me! I have a story to tell and the inspiration to put words on paper (or screen in this case). There is some unfinished business between the Tullibardine 1976 and me, and though I’ll spend the next week wondering just how many more layers it has, thank God she didn’t ask if I had any others samples. I still have the 1962 sample in my bag, and I have a feeling we’ll be getting acquainted real soon!

In the last Malt Messenger I gave you a taste of this fall’s new whisky releases. One of the most exciting of these is the Scotch Malt Whisky Society, the World’s foremost whisky club and the 2011 Whisky Magazine Independent Bottler of the Year. We successfully launched the brand on the 17th of October at a by invitation only event, and have since sold close to 70 memberships and much of the initial release of whiskies. You’ll find plenty on the Scotch Malt Whisky Society below. Kensington Wine Market is also hosting a special Glenfarclas tasting at the Petroleum Club on Monday night (October 31) with special guest George Grant. We will sample 5 vintages, including: 1960,1967, 1970, 1980 and 1991 as well as the 175th Anniversary Chairman’s Reserve. The latter, which is exclusive to the Kensington Wine Market in Canada, is a marriage of 4 casks from the 1960’s, all over 42 years of age which collectively add up to 175 years of maturation in oak! There is more on these whiskies, the tasting, the Scotch Malt Whisky Society and much more below in this the 50th Malt Messenger!

I hope you enjoy it!


Andrew Ferguson

PS – Congratulations to my counterpart Dave Michiels at Willow Park who was made a Keeper of the Quaich a few weeks back. It is a much deserved honour, welcome to the club!






1.       The Scotch Malt Whisky Society Comes to Canada


2.       SMWS Canada Events


3.       SMWS Canada’s Inaugural Single Cask Offering


4.       Distillery in Focus Glenfarclas – 175 Years


5.       Glenfarclas Family Casks Tasting with George Grant at the Petroleum Club


6.       The Glenfarclas 175th Anniversary Chairman’s Reserve


7.       The Arran Sleeping Warrior


8.       Kilchoman 100% Islay Inaugural Release


9.       Two New Springbanks: Longrow 18 Year and Hazelburn Sauternes Finish


10.   Two New Older Tullibardines Coming Soon


11.   Malt Whisky Yearbook 2012


12.   Kensington Wine Market Whisky Week 2011


13.   MacKinlay’s (Shackelton Replica) Rare Old Highland Malt Update



Rob and Kelly Carpenter, who have been friends of the Kensington Wine Market for years, were unofficial ambassadors for The Scotch Malt Whisky Society long before they were awarded the opportunity to launch the Canadian branch. They were introduced to the brand while living in Edinburgh. Over the years they have kept up their UK membership, brought Society bottles back to Canada to share with friends and even convinced the likes of me to join. I now finish all my whisky tours in Scotland with a dinner at one of The Society’s two Edinburgh venues.

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, or The Society for short, is the world’s foremost whisky club and a whisky authority. The Society has 26,000 members worldwide with branches in 15 countries including now Canada. It all began with a man by the name of Pip Hills in the 1970’s. While working for a farmer in the Highlands he was offered a dram unlike any other he had previously tasted. It was straight from a cask the farmer had bought from Glenfarclas distillery. The whisky was served to Pip from a random bottle with chunks of charred oak in it: “where did you get this?” he is reputed to have asked.

On his return to Edinburgh Pip convinced a group of friends at his home on Scotland Street to part with some coin for the purchase of a cask. He drove up to Glenfarclas distillery, selected a barrel, rolled it into the boot of his car and drove home. The investors in the cask were invited over to pick up their share which they all filled into their own assortment of random bottles. It was a huge hit, so they bought another cask, then another and eventually the organization grew into a club requiring a dedicated venue. The Society has grown significantly from these early days, but has stayed true to the early principles which made it so unique.

The Society has had many notable members over the years, including Sean Connery and Scotland’s current First Minister, Alex Salmond. More than just an Independent Bottler, The Society has venues for members, staff, its own award winning magazine (Unfiltered) and tries to create a sense of belonging with its members. The Society bottles 300 different casks a year, always at cask strength from a single cask without colouring or chill filtering. To date it has bottled whiskies from more than 127 distilleries, with the 128th coming early next year! Casks are selected by committee in Tasting Panels. I have had the pleasure to sit in on one of these, as have Rob and Kelly, and it is a really cool experience. To be accepted for bottling samples must receive on average a passing grade from the entire panel. On an individual level a passing grade is achieved by asking oneself the question: would I buy this? Each Tasting Panel has a Chairman whose job it is to moderate the tasting, record each panellist’s tasting notes and summarize them for accepted casks. The unique name and tasting note given to each Society whisky are created at this time.

The Society takes a different approach to whisky than most distilleries or independent bottlers. Age is not a concern, only quality. Region is not expected to correlate with style. And every whisky is unique, a one off, which will never come again. The Society assigns each distillery a number, in the case of Glenfarclas, the first distillery they bottled this is number 1. In the case of Bowmore it is 3, as they were the third distillery bottled by the Society and 33 in the case of Ardbeg. A second number is assigned to each whisky, corresponding to the number of casks the distillery has bottled from that particular distillery. Canada currently has access to the 159th barrel of Glenfarclas bottled, and as such this whisky is numbered 1.159. Similarly Canada has the 111th cask of Ardbeg (33.111) and 175th cask of Bowmore (3.175). The distillery of origin, though often hinted at in the tasting note, is never explicitly mentioned. Because The Society does not advertise the distillery of origin, or rely on the distillery name to help move product, it gets access to casks from distilleries which don’t sell to any other company. Consequently, as independent bottlers go The Society has a more comprehensive range of distillery offerings than any other company. It is for this reason and more that Whisky Magazine awarded it 2011 Independent Bottler of the Year.

Of course you have to be a member to buy the whiskies, so what does that entail, and what are the benefits? Some of you are already members through either the US or UK branches of The Society. You will be contacted over the next few months with the opportunity to transfer your membership to the Canadian branch should you choose to do so. New membership in the Canadian branch costs $230 + GST and includes the Membership Pack. The Membership Packs include a welcome letter, 2 books (Society Members Handbook and a wee Tasting Notebook) as well as 4 x 100ml sample bottles reflecting the range of whiskies offered by The Society. Membership, which can be renewed annually for $120 + GST, also includes the quarterly award winning magazine “Unfiltered”, a list of the monthly new bottlings and tasting notes called “Outturn” as well as access to the members’ venues in the UK (2 in Edinburgh, 1 in London and the Hotel du Vin chain), Tokyo, Switzerland and Paris. Members also receive a discounted price for the monthly tastings (First Fridays).

You have to be a member to buy The Society’s whiskies, but membership does have its privileges! 

For more information on Society membership, or to purchase, go to




1.       Scotch Malt Whisky Society First Friday (November 2011) – The first of our monthly SMWS tastings… $25 for members and $35 for neophytes. These tastings will highlight 5-7 new releases every month from the most prolific bottler of single cask, single malt whisky. You have to be a member to buy the bottles, but we’ll let you have a taste, and membership is open to all… For more information on the Society visit or call our Scotch Guy at 403-283-8000 Friday November 4th 7pm – $35.00 – SOLD OUT

2.       Scotch Malt Whisky Society at the Kensington Wine Market Fall Single Malt Festival – SOLD OUT!

3.       Scotch Malt Whisky Society First Friday (December 2011) – This is the second of our monthly SMWS tastings. $25 for members and $35 for neophytes. These tastings will highlight at least 5 new releases every month from the most prolific bottler of single cask, single malt whisky. You have to be a member to buy the bottles, but we’ll let you have a taste, and membership is open to all… For more information on the Society visit or call our Scotch Guy at 403-283-8000 Friday December 2nd 7pm – $35.00 – SOLD OUT

4.       Scotch Malt Whisky Society at the Calgary MS Whisky Festival – The First Annual Calgary MS Whisky Festival – 6-9PM at the Art Gallery of Calgary – Thursday January 19th 2012.

5.       Scotch Malt Whisky Society at the Victoria Whisky Festival – For the first time the Canadian branch will be making an appearance at Canada’s Best Whisky Festival with an appearance in the festival tasting as well as two Master Classes. –

6.       Scotch Malt Whisky Society First Friday (January 2012) – The third of our monthly SMWS tastings… $25 for members and $35 for neophytes. These tastings will highlight 5-7 new releases every month from the most prolific bottler of single cask, single malt whisky. You have to be a member to buy the bottles, but we’ll let you have a taste, and membership is open to all… For more information on the Society visit or call our Scotch Guy at 403-283-8000 Friday January 6th 7pm – $35.00 – NOT YET OPEN FOR REGISTRATION

7.       Much More to Come in the New Year!




1.       1.159: Lively and Explosive – 1st Fill Barrel – 56.2% – Colour: Sparkling Mica Gold – 11 Years – Outturn 211 Bottles – Panel’s Tasting Note: “An unusual and intriguing wee dram on the nose – hard peaches, wood sap, nutty notes, quince, juniper, flint, Evo-Stik and green ginger – quite clean but was it floral or soapy? The palate was fizzy, lively and tooth-stripping, with explosive ginger heat, granny smith apples, vanilla and mint humbugs. The nose seemed smoother and sweeter with water – cocoa butter, sherbet fountains (with liquorice), ginger beer and lime – quite summery in character. The reduced palate became well-rounded and easy-drinking with some of the deeper botanical ingredients of gin coming through – liquorice, aniseed, angelica and cassia. The distillery sits north of Ben Rinnes.” Drinking Tip: Could be a summery drink, maybe even with ginger ale. – $111.99 – Only 4 Left!

2.       3.175: On the Dunes Watching a Puffer – Refill Butt – 56% – Colour: Beady Ginger Gold – 16 Years – Outturn: 572 Bottles – Panel’s Tasting Note: “We found spicy Bombay mix on the nose – also Trail mix (dried pineapple, coconut and papaya) – sharp exotic fruits wrestling with smoke – like limes squeezed over barbeque meats. The palate’s lip-smacking fruitiness (melon, lemon) and mint suggested jugs of Pimm’s; but always with heat and smoke – ‘lime water on a sauna heater’, someone said. The reduced nose, with pineapple and menthol, seemed like sea breezes over the machair on warm spring days (with maybe a puffer on the horizon). The reduced palate balanced sherbet and ice tea against smoke, while retaining its intensity. Loch Indaal laps against the distillery wall.” Drinking Tip: A feel good dram – when heading off on holiday or celebrating an achievement. – $128.99 – 6 Left!

3.       4.155: Blackpool Rock with Threads of Chilli – 1st Fill Barrel – 58.6% – Colour: Pale Shiny Gold – 11 Years – Outturn: 239 Bottles – Panel’s Tasting Note: “The nose was fresh (freesias, grass, wood-sap, hay fields, laundry, grapes, apples, refreshers) also biscuits, hard candies, café au lait, light tobacco and sea breezes. The unreduced palate was a ‘wow’ hit of bitter and sweet with dryness and heat – dark chocolate and Blackpool rock with threads of chilli and wasabi. Water improved it – the nose had lemon and lime-flavoured boiled sweets and flower shop freshness but also now some smoke. The reduced palate became more rounded and toothsome – floral, perfumed, lemon zest and ‘men’s shower gel’; liquorice and Dutch tobacco tethered it to the ground. From Orkney’s oldest distillery.” Drinking Tip: An aperitif or with a good lunch. – $112.49 – ONLY 4 LEFT!

4.       7.70: Naughty Nectar – Refill Hogshead – 51.1% – Colour: Golden Syrup in the Tin – 19 Years – Outturn:  161 Bottles – Panel’s Tasting Notes: “The nose conveyed elegance and maturity – perfumed honey, dried coconut and exotic fruits (lychees, star-fruit, water melon, Keith Floyd’s flambéed barbequed bananas). These impressions carried through to the palate, with vanilla giving overall impressions of tutti frutti or Neapolitan ice cream – ‘Nectar!’, ‘Absolutely fabulous!’ and ‘Decadent and naughty!’ were some of our responses. The reduced nose, still sweetly enticing, also had intimations of worn leather, canvas, cigarette packets and celery salt. The reduced palate seemed like a heavenly garden – beehives, flowers, washing on the line and canvas chairs in the sun, with sherbet fountains! From the distillery next-door to Benriach.” Drinking Tip: A dram for celebrating, or as a special reward. – $155.49 – ONLY 4 LEFT!

5.       24.117: Mostarda di Frutta di Cremona – 1st Fill Sherry Hogshead – 55.4% – Colour: Profound Polished Mahogany – 20 Years – Outturn:  196 Bottles – Panel’s Tasting Note: “This malt used to pride itself on sherrywood maturation; now there is a parallel range of ‘Fine Oak’ bottlings. Fans of the traditional style will not be disappointed by this superb example! Aged PX and ripe figs; toffee sauce and maple cured gammon; pecan nuts and creamy Thai curry…Big and sweet in the mouth with creamy coffee, then dark chocolate truffles and stem ginger. It drinks very well straight, and with water the sweet, fruity flavours merge into ‘mostarda di frutta’, that wonderful glacé fruit condiment, with traces of Fentiman’s Cola. Syrupy sweet to taste, with treacle toffee and chocolate in the aftertaste.” Drinking Tip: Reminiscing at a reunion of old friends. $153.49 – SOLD OUT!

6.       26.82: Soft Light at Sunset – Refill Fill Sherry Butt – 57.9% – Colour: Winter Sunlight – 15 Years – Outturn: 571 Bottles – Panel’s Tasting Note: “Light and fresh with a hint of parma violets, recently pressed nutty oils, and the scent of hedgerows on a warm day in a breeze. Neat on the palate there was heat, a hint of vanilla and freshly milled very dry sea salt. On the nose water reveals open pine cones, flint and light chalky soil reminiscent of a fine Chablis. The reduced palate was creamy, soft and light with a hint of slightly chewy meringue. A whisky evocative of a camp-fire in the watery sunlight of a late summer evening shared with friends.” Drinking Tip: After a long day… – $130.49 – 8 Left!

7.       29.105: Massive and Volcanic – Refill Sherry Butt – 59.6% – Colour: Deep Ginger Gold – 12 Years – Outturn: 619 Bottles – Panel’s Tasting Note: “The nose leapt out with smoke, tar and smouldering embers (waking up the ‘danger’ zone of the cortex); it was also briny, with minty humbugs, some kind of green leaf and vanilla. The palate was described as “Massive!” and “Volcanic” – ash, liquorice, tar and salt, with wild boar sausages and something lovely and sweet hiding away, like a ballerina in a group of miners. Water hardly dented the nose – sweet-cured bacon, diesel exhaust and molasses. The palate seemed sweeter – chocolate in among the smoke and a lavender after-taste. One of the founders, Donald Johnston drowned after falling into ‘burnt ale’.” Drinking Tip: A late night dram. – $116.99 – ONLY 3 LEFT!

8.       33.111: Gentle Giant – 1st Fill Barrel – 57.6% – Colour: 9 Carat Gold – 9 Years – Outturn: 229 Bottles – Panel’s Tasting Note: “Although this was an initial blast of peat smoke, smoked bacon, vegetable oil, brine (from hot dogs) it was sweet and delicate. There was toffee dust (the stuff you find at the bottom of a big jar from the sweet shop), white bonbons, all interlaced with a mineral character. Big, salty, smoky, and earthy to taste but a delicate perfumed herbal note gave the impression of lightness. Water stabilised this gentle impression; now it was nutty, grassy, herbal and more perfumed although the smoky bacon was still there. Liquorice, walnuts, pine resin and salty ash were added to the palate.” Drinking Tip: On your way to Islay or for an education in the art of smoky whiskies. – $102.99 – 6 Left!

9.       35.58: A Caravanserai on the Silk Road – Refill Butt – 41% – Colour: Saraha Sand Reverie – 26 Years – Outturn: 294 Bottles – Panel’s Tasting Note: “The nose was exotic and intriguing; ‘like a Marrakesh spice market!’ someone said; we also got sherbet, vanilla, golden syrup, banoffee pie, crème brûlée and traces of leather. The unreduced taste had Turkish Delight, baclava, coffee, perfumed sweets and sherbet lemons – a theme was emerging – we imagined a caravanserai on the Silk Road. The reduced nose seemed lighter, more floral, with elusive perfumes – as the belly dancers departed the stage?! Adding a drop of water (though it surely needed none) we found spicy Oddfellows sweets, dry perfume and a nutty, woody, lip-sucking after-taste. The distillery is named after the county.” Drinking Tip: When dusk deepens and the promise of the night tingles the senses. – $178.99 – 6 LEFT!

10.   38.21: Manuka Honey on a Razor Strop – 2nd Fill Hogshead – 58% – Colour: Auspicious Gold – 17 Years – Outturn: 234 Bottles – Panel’s Tasting Note: “This rare offering, from the distillery originally built as Glen Grant Number Two, had a subtle, unusual nose – initially yeasty (sourdough bread, Hefeweizen beer), then developing leather, plasticine and peeled twigs, fruit skins (especially orange) and eventually, chocolate. The taste combined the dark sweetness of Demerara, toffee and Bourneville, with orange, black pepper and leather (someone suggested ‘manuka honey on a razor strop’). The reduced nose had herbal notes (coriander, nettles) wood polish and sweet perfumes (jelly beans, dolly mixtures, gummy bears, rose hip tea). The palate balanced that jelly bean sweetness with slightly bitter lemons and mild pepper heat.” Drinking Tip: Whenever you have a craving for jelly beans! – $139.99 – 7

11.   53.154: A Surfer’s Sundown Dram – Refill Sherry Butt – 59.8% – Colour: Dried Pasta in Glass Jar – 17 Years – Outturn: 462 Bottles – Panel’s Tasting Note: “Unreduced the nose was like the soft smoke of burning driftwood on a distant dune. Damp coarse sand, seaweed and brine fill the nostrils as if one were laying prostrate on a wet beach after an energetic swim across the bay. On the palate it sets the tongue ablaze with hot smoke and black peppercorns cracked between the teeth. With water the nose softens as if a mist has fallen; pleasant, cooler with a hint of eucalyptus. Citrus, tar and swirling smoke cover and console the palate. The narrows of the Sound of Islay remain visible through the mist.” Drinking Tip: Outside on a cool autumn evening. – $139.99 – 7 Left!

12.   73.44: Old Friends Remembered – Refill Sherry Butt – 53.7% – Colour: Golden Syrup – 29 Years – Outturn: 207 Bottles – Panel’s Tasting Note: “Without water this warm and comfortable malt delivered rich dark chocolate and raisins on the nose. There was a hint of freshly planed wood shavings; echoes of the boat builders’ art in times past. The unreduced palate was hot and urgent, smoky and mouth watering, while the after taste revealed dried fruits and just a whiff of tobacco. The addition of water freed more sweetness on the palate; sticky toffee pudding with a rich homemade vanilla custard and heather honey straight from the jar. On the nose a new confection; sweet tobacco and oil of orange wrapped in velvet coat of dark chocolate.” Drinking Tip: After the party in the big comfy chair. – $194.99 – ONLY 2 LEFT!

13.   76.85: The Antagonist – 1st Fill Sherry Butt – 55.2% – Colour: Honey Gold – 15 Years – Outturn:  548 Bottles – Panel’s Tasting Note: “The intriguing nose had candied fruit pieces, lemon, brown sugar and crushed mint leaves; also figs and dates, sultana cake. Lime and pickles, curry leaves and oxo cubes brought savoury contrasts. The neat palate was hot and sweet – treacle toffee and heather honey; Granny Smith apples brought freshness. With water, the nose became more floral; poppies, elderflower and plum, blackberry jam and maple syrup, banana and walnut oil. Also truffle oil and squash.  The reduced palate brought thoughts of the vineyard – grape skins and must, Poire William eau de vie and black tea tannins drying out on the tongue. The distilling water comes from the Conval hills and cooling water from the river Dullan.” – Drinking Tip: Enjoying with good friends – preferably at a Society venue. – $130.49 – ONLY 5 LEFT!

14.   125.50: Heavenly Beauty – De-Char Toasted Hogshead – 50.5% – Colour: Rich Gold – 12 Years – 251 Bottles – Panel’s Tasting Notes: “The nose started out quite lively – paint turning to William’s pear schnapps, then sherbet, vanilla ice-cream, toasted peaches, plum jam, chocolate and chestnut purée. The unreduced palate seemed quaintly curious – quite floral, but with caramel, Ice Magic toffee sauce, cocoa butters, marzipan and spicy heat in the finish. The reduced nose delighted us with fruity toffee, white chocolate, guava and almond; someone described it as ‘Heavenly’. The reduced palate had luscious pecan pie, and almond cake with pear liqueur – an unusual dram from the sixteen men of Tain. ‘No twinkle-toed, shy maiden, but a mature, busty beauty!’ one panellist opined.” Drinking Tip: With dessert or at least something sweet. – $115.99 – ONLY 2 LEFT!

15.   127.14: Right Up My Street – Refill Barrel – 65.7% – Colour: Mellow Yellow Buttercup Gold – 9 Years – 243 Bottles – Panel’s Tasting Notes: “The nose delivered suggestions of Germolene, coal, trainers, Dutch liquorice, mint humbugs, roasted chestnuts, bananas and ham ribs – but mainly freshly tarred roads and new telegraph poles (‘right up MY street’ someone said). The palate was huge, tongue-roasting and crying out for water – but we identified roasted parsnips, liquorice, sweet cinnamon, cherries and coal-dust. Water freshened the nose – maple cured bacon, Thai coconut satay, banana, peanut, cranberries and cherries. The palate was still challenging and took plenty of water, but the panel remained positive – finding ever-lasting heat, sweet smoked pecans and other lip-smacking flavours. The medium-peated version of distillery 23.” Drinking Tip: Could stiffen you up before setting out to do battle – or just a nice winter fireside dram. – $108.99 – ONLY 5 LEFT!



Robert Hay, the leaseholder at Reichlerich Farm, took out a license for Glenfarclas distillery in 1836, though there is evidence that a distillery existed on the site in 1797 and possibly before. On Robert’s death in 1865 John Grant and his son George bought the distillery for £511 and change leasing it to John Smith of Glenlivet fame. John Smith’s tenure at Glenfarclas was just 5 years after which he left to start the nearby Cragganmore. This is when the Grant family’s interest in the distillery begins in earnest, with J & G Grant taking control.

The first two Grants, John and his son George saw the distillery through its next twenty years until John passes away in 1889 and his son George the next year in 1890. George’s son, appropriately John and George were too young to take on the license which is taken over by their mother Barbara with the sons managing operations. The late 1800’s saw a significant whisky boom with blenders driving demand for stocks of young and mature whiskies. In 1895 the brother’s go into business with the infamous Pattison Bros. forming Glenfarclas-Glenlivet Distillery Co. It was not unusual for distilleries in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s to add “Glenlivet” to their name as an indication of quality. The Pattison brothers had through the 1890’s built a business on credit which they used to finance their extravagant lifestyles. This house of cards came tumbling down, the Enron scandal of its day in Scotland, and it brought the industry to its knees. Many distilleries closed, some never to reopen, and others like Glenfarclas had to make difficult decisions. They survived by selling and mortgaging maturing stocks to a whisky broker in Elgin, and the family vowed it would never do business outside the family again, and it hasn’t!

John left the business in 1914 due to ill health, but his brother George stayed at the reigns until his death in 1949. It then passed to George’s sons George Scott and John Peter Grant. The brother’s increased the distilleries volume by  adding two stills in 1960 and then launched the world’s first cask strength single malt whisky, the Glenfarclas 105 in 1968. Glenfarclas malted its own barley until the early 1970’s around the same time it opened a distillery visitor center, which would have been one of the first. In 1976 the number of stills was increased again by 2 to 6. George S Grant chaired the distillery until 2002, when after his death the distillery passed to his son John. John L S Grant continues in his role as distillery chairman to the present, with his son George the distillery’s brand ambassador.

Glenfarclas is unique among the more than 100 single malt distilleries in Scotland, first in that it is the second oldest family owned distillery, but more crucially, that it is sitting on a more comprehensive stock of older whiskies than any other distillery in Scotland. In 2005 the distillery launched a 50 year old whisky the mark the bicentenary of the first John Grant’s birth. In 2007 the distillery launched the Family Casks, a series of 43 single cask, cask strength vintage whiskies representing every year from 1952-1994. Many of the initial offering of casks has sold out with these being replaced with additional casks. The distillery has since gone on to release 1995 and 1996 vintages. This is a range of whiskies not rivalled by any other distillery for its completeness or depth. In 2010 Glenfarclas stunned the world by releasing a regularly available 40 year old whisky for less than $500.00CDN.

The Kensington Wine Market stocks the following Glenfarclas distillery bottled whiskies, tasting notes courtesy of the distillery:

1.       Glenfarclas 10 Year – 40% – Delicately light, with a mouth-watering combination of maltiness, smokiness and sherry sweetness. Hints of dried fruit, vanilla, cinnamon and cloves tempt the taste buds further. – $65.49

2.       Glenfarclas 12 Year – 43%Full bodied, delightful sherried fruit, with oak, a hint of peat and delicious sweet sensations. – $67.99

3.       Glenfarclas 15 Year – 46% – Full bodied with super balance of sherried sweetness, malty tones and peaty flavours. – $88.99

4.       Glenfarclas 105 Cask Strength – 60% – Dry and assertive, develops quickly to reveal a rich spiciness, combined with a hint of oak and sherried fruit. – $88.99

5.       Glenfarclas 17 Year – 43% – Big, full-flavoured, with excellent balance, develops slowly, full of sherry sweet malty tones, and a touch peat smoke. – $96.99

6.       Glenfarclas 21 Year – 43% – Full bodied rich and rounded develops slowly into fruity, smoky and spicy flavours. – $116.49

7.       Glenfarclas 25 Year – 43% – Full-bodied and robust, the sherry and the oak fight for your attention yet neither is overpowering. A powerful nutty smokiness. – $152.99

8.       Glenfarclas 30 Year – 43% – With Sherry, cognac, brandy, fruit, nuts, marzipan (and even icing), this is a wonderfully indulgent Christmas cake, in a glass! – $337.49

9.       Glenfarclas 40 Year – 46% – A sweet initial taste, orange segments, chocolate. Then a lovely flavour of burnt brown sugar. – $499.99

10.   Glenfarclas 175th Anniversary Chairman’s Reserve – 46% – A dry whisky initially letting way for bitter dark chocolate, the taste of chocolate goes on for some time then a lovely cream brulée finish. Some light vanilla and burnt Demerara sugar. Then just when you think it’s all gone a lovely burst of caramel toffee. – $703.99 *Exclusive to KWM!

11.   Glenfarclas Family Cask 1960 – $1702.99

12.   Glenfarclas Family Cask 1967 – $918.99

13.   Glenfarclas Family Cask 1970 – $876.99

14.   Glenfarclas Family Cask 1978 – $788.99

15.   Glenfarclas Family Cask 1979 – $564.99

16.   Glenfarclas Family Cask 1980 – $576.99

17.   Glenfarclas Family Cask 1988 – $477.99

18.   Glenfarclas Family Cask 1991 – $401.99

Kensington Wine Market also stocks the following independently bottled Glenfarclas whiskies:

1.       Scotch Malt Whisky Society 1.159 Lively and Explosive: “The palate is lively, with explosive ginger heat, green apples, vanilla, mint humbugs and various gin botanicals.” Bottled after 11 years in a First Fill Barrel at 56.2%. – $111.99 *You must be a Society member to buy this whisky.

2.       O&R Probably Speyside’s Finest 45 Year – “Probably Speyside’s Finest Distillery” is Douglas Laing’s euphemism for Glenfarclas Distillery. Unable to refer to the distillery by name they’ve come up with a clever and appropriate tip of the hat! – $499.99



The Glenfarclas Family Casks are the most comprehensive offering of single cask vintage whiskies from a single distillery ever released. Initially launched in 2007 with 43 vintages spanning every year from 1952-1994 the distillery has expanded the range to 1995 and 1996 bottlings, as well as releasing new casks for vintages which have sold out.  

This is Kensington Wine Market’s 4th Annual Glenfarclas Family Casks tasting, and it will feature 5 vintages (1960, 1967, 1970, 1980 and 1991) and a new very limited bottling released to celebrate the distillery’s 175th Anniversary. The Glenfarclas Chairman’s Reserve 175th Anniversary bottling was created by marrying 4 casks; all matured no less than 42 years, whose collective age adds up to 175. Only 60 bottles are coming to Canada, all of them to the Kensington Wine Market, and this will be your first opportunity to sample this amazing whisky in Canada!

Monday October 31st at 7PM at the Petroleum Club!



GLENFARCLAS 175th ANNIVERSARY CHAIRMAN’S RESERVE – 46% – A combination of 4 of their best Sherry Casks with a combined age of 175 years, the youngest of which was 42 years of age. – 1296 bottles have been released worldwide complete with glass, water jug and certificate. – Only 60 bottles to Canada, exclusively for Kensington Wine Market – My Tasting Note: Nose: brown sugar and beer nuts; espresso roast, rich buttery sherry notes; roasted marshmallow with musty/earthy dunnage floor notes and dark aged rum; spices aplenty with ginger, cinnamon, cardamom and other sweet spices; there is a tropical fruit backdrop to the whole thing but they are hidden behind the burnt sugar and other caramelized notes; burnt butter and coffee cream; Palate: rich, bold and yet very soft with silky buttery sherry notes; sweet spices with mocha and espresso; burnt fruits, melons, and then the tropical fruits start to emerge, and fruits aplenty though they remain tempered by the burnt sugar and sherry notes; there is a chocolaty element to the whisky too, including cocoa nibs, Terry’s Chocolate Orange and Cadbury milk chocolate with fruit and nuts; Finish: more sweet spices with dried tropical fruits, burnt brown sugar and fading tones of chocolate; long and oily the oak spices and fruit linger; Comments: needs a little time to open up, but once it does its full of layers, depth and complexity. As rich as the 40 year old, but perhaps a little darker! – $703.99 *Exclusive to KWM!




Arran is one of the most beautiful islands in Scotland with a very diverse landscape from south to north and west to east. It contains a taste of most of Scotland’s distinct geographic zones and is even crossed by the famous Highland-Lowland boundary fault which bisects the rest of the country north of Glasgow and Edinburgh. The island is often referred to as Scotland in miniature with rolling hills in the south and rugged mountains in the north. It is at the north end of the island where Arran distillery can be found at Lochranza bay. One of these mountains at the north end of the island as viewed from the Ayrshite coast has the profile of a person lying on their side and is known as the Sleeping Warrior.

The Arran Sleeping Warrior is a vatting of 6000 bottles from the 2000 vintage which have been produced from American and European oak casks selected by Master Distillery James MacTaggart. The whisky has been released with some of the proceeds going toward the National Trust for Scotland to help maintain the footpaths on the Goatfel. The Goatfel is Arran’s tallest peak at just under 2900ft. The whisky has been bottled at a cask strength of 54.9%. I wrote the following tasting note while at the distillery in October.

Arran Sleeping Warrior – 54.9% – Only 180 bottles coming to Alberta. – KWM is getting 90 bottles. – My Tasting Note: Nose: very unusual, blue cheese with honey and truffle oil, browning green apples and poached pear; old books and worn leather with prosciutto wrapped dates and Sunrype fruit bars; Palate: very fruity, caramelized fruits, cornsyrup and drying leathery spices; very earthy with dark chocolate damp tobacco leaf; more prosciutto wrapped dates with blue cheese filling; Finish: warming and leathery (soft ladies glove leather) with loads of soft fruits and jujubes. – $97.99



A couple of weeks back I had the privilege of touring Kilchoman distillery again with distillery manager John MacLellan on the very same day that the distillery’s founder and managing director Anthony Wills was in our store to lead a Kilchoman tasting. Anthony lead those present through a tasting of several whiskies from his distillery, including a new cask bottled for our store (more on that next month) and the Kilchoman 100% Islay Inaugural Release. Even before founding the distillery Anthony had a vision to make a whisky which was 100% local. All of Kilchoman’s production is matured and bottled on Islay making Kilchoman one of only two distilleries which can make that claim (the other is Bruichladdich). Kilchoman’s new 100% Islay line is made from barley grown on Islay at Kilchoman’s own farm, malted on the distillery’s own malting floor, then distilled, matured and bottled by hand all on site. No other whisky in Scotland can claim such a micro-provenance. The new line from Kilchoman will be bottled a sold separately from its regular line at 50%. It is matured in ex-Buffalo Trace casks and was distilled from malt peated to between 10-20ppm, much lower than the regular Kilchoman.

Kilchoman 100% Islay Inaugural Release – 50% – Matured in American Ex-Bourbon – 3 Years – My Tasting Note: Nose: cheese-wiz and beach fires, Japadog (Vancouverites will know), creamy with soft vanilla and very grassy-floral notes; Palate: much softer and sweeter than expected; barley sugar, creamy rich vanilla and grassy fragrant smoke with floral minty notes; Finish: creamy and soft with vanilla and clean-salty-citric smoke. – $105.99




Springbank is Scotland’s oldest family owned distillery as well as one of Scotland’s most traditional. They are the only distillery to continue to malt 100% of their own barley and as my tour participants saw a couple of weeks back visiting the distillery is like stepping back in time. There is no automation and most of the equipment is from the early 20th century if not older. One of the other things which makes Springbank distillery unique is that they produce three distinct styles of whisky: the regular Springbank which is 2 ½ distilled and lightly peated, Longrow (named for a now closed distillery) a double distilled heavily peated whisky and Hazelburn (also named for another closed Campbeltown distillery) which is unpeated and triple distilled. Alberta has just received two new expressions, one each of Longrow and Hazelburn.

1.       Hazelburn 8 Year Sauternes Finish – 55.9% – 5 Years in American Oak – Finished 3 Years in Sauternes Casks – 9180 Bottles – My Tasting Note: Nose: honey, spices, candied and blood oranges with black liquorice, graham wafers and sweet toasted oak; fruit flan and stir fried vegetables in soy sauce; Palate: very light and soft with sweet toasted oak and spice; delicate; black liquorice, clove, all spice and even some peppery notes; new leather jacket with more fruit flan and some honey-citrus but the spices dominate; Finish: drying and spicy with toasted creamy oak; Comments: the highlight of my visit to Springbank, that is with the exception of getting to sample the new 21 year old with Frank and Ranald which is still in cask! We were the first non-employees to have such a privilege and boy was it good! – $83.49

2.       Longrown 18 Year – 46% – Only 60 Bottles have come to Canada, 30 to KWM! – Official Tasting Note: “Nose: This whisky has an incredibly sweet nose with some savory notes peeking through. Marshmallows in abundance – the vanilla variety, with icing sugar and foam bananas adding to the sweetness. Upon further nosing the fruit makes an appearance, brambles, mandarines and over ripe damson fruits. Some savory notes pushing through such as linseed oil – do we smell cricket bats? Palate: This dram coats your palate in a waxy fashion with its continuing sweet flavours as described on the nose. But there is also the familiar, well balanced trace of smoke which makes this a brilliantly complex wee dram that will make you feel right at home no matter where you are. Finish: The creaminess of this whisky means it doesn’t go away – you feel the warmth of this Longrow all the way down to your boots, creamy, sweet with a gentle smoke finish.” Comments: I haven’t tasted this one yet, but I can’t wait, the last release of Longrow 18 was in 2008 and it was terrific!



Tullibardine is one of the most accessible distilleries in the whole of Scotland, located just off the A9 between Perth and Stirling. Any trip north along this road should warrant a pit-stop tour and tasting at was is one of less than a dozen independent distilleries in Scotland. Many bloggers and critics wrote Tullibardine off years ago but the little distillery keeps putting out great whiskies, of which I have four to tell you about. The first two are in stock and the latter two will be here in short order.

1.       Tullibardine Port Finish – Tasting note to come in the next Malt Messenger. – $61.99

2.       Tullibardine Sherry Finish – Tasting note to come in the next Malt Messenger. – $61.99

3.       Tullibardine 1976 – 50.2% – Cask 3161 – 2nd Fill Hogshead – 226 Total Bottles – 94.5pts Jim Murray 2012 Bible – Tasting note to come in the next Malt Messenger – $TBA

4.       Tullibardine 1962 – 41.8% – 48 Years – Cask 3185 – Refill Hogshead – 223 Bottles – 95.5pts Jim Murray 2012: ”Exquisite’, ‘faultless’ and ‘Simply timeless” – My Tasting Note: Nose: soft fruits enticing me to come in, a Parisian bakery at about 8 AM, canned peaches and apricots; melons: cantaloupe and honey dew with mango and papaya chutney; the nose feels silky and soft, though while the aromas a light they have great depth; Palate: silky soft with smooth oaky threads and a thick mouth coating body which leave my mouth feeling moisturized with tingling light spice; more melons with ripe peaches and canned fruits; the whisky shows a firm backbone of earthy oak with cloves and black pepper; honeyed and very fruity throughout; vanilla and honey notes from the oak back up against the peppery notes; I also find notes of brown sugar, Demerara and dried cranberries; Finish: at once coating and drying with some spice and soft vanilla/honey oils; a creaminess develops with the finish showing firm toasted oak. – $TBA




As another year draws near to a close and the latest editions of the Malt Whisky Yearbook and Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible start to trickle out. We are still waiting on the Bible, but the new Malt Whisky Yearbook, 2012 edition, is in. This is my favourite whisky resource with a background and history on all Scottish, Irish, Japanese and most world malt distilleries. The book features articles from some of the most respected writers on the whisky industry and is a great guide for those looking to increase their knowledge about the industry and keep on top of new bottlings. The 2012 edition is the most comprehensive yet and finally, after some persistent pressure, contains a listing of some non-European whisky specialists including the first Canadian specialist. Any guesses which Canadian whisky specialist is the only one listed therein?




1.       Jura Distillery with Willie Tait – Jura’s brand ambassador and employee of nearly 37 years, Willie Tait, will be in town to shed some light on the distillery, its whiskies and the mysterious island they come from. This tasting will feature some incredible whiskies including: 10 Year, Superstition, Prophecy, 16 Year and 1974. Tuesday November 8th at 7pm $40.00

2.       Glendronach 1972 Launch Dinner – Our exceptional new cask will be launched this night during a special whisky dinner with Alistair Walker at Buchanan’s Chop House, 738 3 Avenue, SW. Wednesday November 9th at 7pm at Buchanan’s Chophouse$135.00

3.       Fall Single Malt Festival – Our iconic whisky festival is back for another year with a lineup of up to 100 premium whiskies from some of Scotland’s finest distilleries. Don’t hesitate, it sells out every year, and there are only 100 tickets! – Thursday November 10th at 7pm !!SOLD OUT!!

4.       Rare Malts – Rare Malts is one of our more special tastings. In order to qualify for this tasting whiskies must meet one of three criteria: they must be especially rare; from a closed distillery; or more than 20 years of age. This rare malts tasting is going to set a new bar, admittedly one which will be hard to equal. We have two whiskies of more than 37 years of age, two whiskies from closed distilleries (one of which is a new bottling of Port Ellen) and another whisky which is part way between 40 and 50 years of age! This will truly be a tasting not to be missed! Tuesday November 15th at 7PM $75.00

5.       Laphroaig with Simon Brooking – Details to be announced – Wednesday November 16th




If you’ve been paying attention to the Malt Messenger over the last few months you’ll know that one of the biggest pieces of news this fall was the Canadian launch of the MacKinlay’s Shackleton replica, which is exclusive to the Kensington Wine Market in Alberta. It has been a massive success, with the first 150 bottles of this curious malt having sold out even before the official launch.

On Friday September 30th an assortment of whisky enthusiasts, Shackleton aficionados and other interested parties gathered at the Kensington Wine Market to sample the whisky while enjoying Dr. Jane Cameron’s photos and a presentation by Susan Eaton who has followed in Shackleton’s footsteps. Well the launch of the MacKinlay’s in Canada on September 30th was a massive success and orders for the second 150 bottles were brisk and quickly started pilling up. Fearing we wouldn’t have enough to meet demand I reached out to the importer and pressed them to find more for us, and it’s a good thing I did because things went from hot to boiling when participant Susan Eaton’s article made the front page of the Calgary Herald last Sunday. All of the 156 bottles due in December are long spoken for as are most of the 300 bottles due later in the spring.

If you haven’t seen Susan’s article in the Herald here is a link to it: as well as the modified version carried in the Vancouver Sun:





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


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




Thanks for reading the Malt Messenger!








Andrew Ferguson
KWM Scotchguy


Malt Messenger Bulletin – 2011 Fall Tasting Schedule‏

Dear Malt Messenger Subscribers,

I hope this Malt Messenger Bulletin finds you well. The Labour Day Weekend is fast approaching, and I’m sure most of you are focused on your plans for the last weekend of the summer. I know technically the summer doesn’t end on Monday but it kind of feels that way, doesn’t it? Kids go back to school, business starts to pick up and the evenings get shorter. The fall can be a lonely and foreboding time, but it doesn’t need to be that way. The Kensington Wine Market has more than a dozen reasons for you to step boldly out into the cool crisp air this fall; our Fall Tasting Schedule is now online! You can view and register for tastings online at , or give us a call at 403-283-8000. As always, many of the tastings will fill up quickly.

The next full Malt Messenger will be out next week. This Fall Preview Edition will be full of information on the exciting new releases we will be bringing to you from now through December. In the meantime I’ll share a few tidbits below on some of the new whiskies to have come in over the last few weeks. More to follow next week…

And one final piece of business. I don’t want to create a Stampede—though the last few times I announced this that was the result—but we’ve managed to get our hands on a little more of both the Alberta Premium 30 Year and the Highland Park St. Magnus. This is not a case of me “Crying Wolf”, I have been assured by the importer Beam Global that this is the last of both in the Province, and very likely, Canada! We managed to acquire 48 more bottles of the Alberta Premium 30 Year, the world’s oldest straight rye whisky. It retails for $54.99 + GST which is ridiculously cheap for a 30 year old whisky; even if they did sell the 25 year for about half the price (they may just as well have given it away). Many of these have already been sold and the rest won’t last long. And as for the Highland Park St. Magnus, we’ve picked up the last 18 bottles of it, and there is but 4 of them which weren’t already spoken for. It retails for $124.99 + GST.

I hope you enjoy this Malt Messenger Bulletin and take pleasure in the waning days of summer!


Andrew Ferguson

PS-Don’t forget to follow me on twitter @ and check out our new store Blog at



1. Classic Single Malts – This is our classic introduction to the world of single malt Scotch whisky. You’ll discover a little history, how it’s made and sample six distinct styles. – Tue Sep 20 7pm – $30.00

2. Raucous Rums – A roundup of some of the finest sipping rums in the world. We’ll be sampling some old, some rare, and some new rums to the Alberta scene. – Tues Sept 27 7pm – $50.00

3. MacKinley’s Shackleton Whisky Launch – Ernest Shackleton, the great Antarctic explorer, was forced to abandon 3 crates of whisky in 1907 to try to save his doomed expedition. Discovered 100 years later, these rare malts have been painstakingly recreated by the distiller Whyte and MacKay. The presentation package is authentic, inspired by the original crates, the bottle was made with the same imperfections as the original and the label has been hand drawn to reproduce a now extinct typeface. This is no gimmick; the whisky has been carefully blended to duplicate the original, and is mostly composed of whisky from the original, now closed Glen Mhor distillery. Only 180 bottles of this very limited whisky are coming to Alberta, all of them to Kensington Wine Market. We will be throwing a party to celebrate the launch, with special guests, a commemorative glass and your first opportunity to sample whiskies from the Fettercairn distillery! – Fri Sept 30 7PM – $30.00

4. Rare Malts – Only whiskies 20+ years of age, from closed distilleries or the very rare, need apply for this staple of our tasting schedule. – Mon Oct 3 7pm – $75.00

5. Kilchoman – Anthony Wills, founder of the Kilchoman micro distillery on Islay, will be in town for a special vertical tasting of whiskies from his cult distillery, including our now sold out Kilchoman KWM Fresh Bourbon Cask and the new Kilchoman KWM Sherry Cask! – Tue Oct 11 7pm – $30.00

6. Glenfarclas Family Casks w/ George Grant – George Grant, Glenfarclas’ larger than life ambassador will be back for the fourth annual Family Casks tasting at the Petroleum Club. 319 – 5th Ave Sw..This year we have a special treat, a 40+ year old special bottling, The Chairman’s Reserve, celebrating the distillery’s 175th year. – Mon Oct 31 7pm – $160.00

7. Scotch Malt Whisky Society Friday I – This is the first of our monthly SMWS tastings. $25 for members and $35 for neophytes. These tastings will highlight 5 new releases every month from the most prolific bottler of single cask, cask strength, single malt whisky. You have to be a member to buy the bottles, but we’ll let you have a taste, and membership is open to all… For more information on the Society or call our Scotch Guy at 403-283-8000 – Fri Nov 4 7pm – $35.00

8. Jura Distillery with Willie Tait – Jura’s brand ambassador and employee of nearly 37 years, Willie Tait, will be in town to shed some light on the distillery, its whiskies and the mysterious island they come from. – Tue Nov 8 7pm – $40.00

9. Glendronach 1972 Launch Dinner – Our exceptional new cask will be launched this night during a special whisky dinner with Alistair Walker at Buchanan’s Chop House, 738 3 Avenue, SW. – Wed Nov 9 7pm – $135.00

10. Fall Single Malt Festival – Our iconic whisky festival is back for another year with a line-up of up to 100 premium whiskies from some of Scotland’s finest distilleries. Don’t hesitate, it sells out every year, and there are only 100 tickets! – Thr Nov 10 7pm – $60.00

11. Whisky, Women & Chocolate – Nothing pairs better with whisky than chocolate, so gather the gals for a sumptuous ladies only sampling of fine single malt Scotch and premium chocolate. Fri Nov 25 7pm – $50.00

12. Master Malt – Only the most rare and special whiskies are showcased at this tasting which always highlights some of the most exciting whiskies in the world! – Tue Nov 29 7pm – $99.00

13. Scotch Malt Whisky Society Friday I – This is the second of our monthly SMWS tastings… $25 for members and $35 for neophytes. These tastings will highlight 5 new releases every month from the most prolific bottler of single cask, cask strength, single malt whisky. You have to be a member to buy the bottles, but we’ll let you have a taste, and membership is open to all… For more information on the Society visit or call our Scotch Guy at 403-283-8000 – Fri Dec 2 7pm – $35.00


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

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

Thanks for reading the Malt Messenger!


Andrew Ferguson

KWM Scotchguy



1257 Kensington Rd. NW

Calgary, AB, Canada

T2N 3P8

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

Dear Malt Messenger Subscribers,

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

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

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

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


Andrew Ferguson


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

The list:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10.   Benromach Traditional – $49.49 – Save 7%

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

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

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

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

15.   Benromach Origins #2 – $83.49

16.   Benromach Origins #3 – $83.49

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

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

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

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


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

The Peat Monster Reserve Towering Over Its Lesser Namesake!

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

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


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

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

An elegant whisky packaged with sophistication!

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

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


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

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

 You can follow me online on Twitter at

Thanks for reading the Malt Messenger!


Andrew Ferguson
KWM Scotchguy

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

Whisky Festival 2010 – Willow Park Wines & Spirits


Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

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

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

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

The Calgary Police Pipers Band

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Glaser of Compass Box fame.

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

Willow Park's Exclusive 1985 Glendronach on display.

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

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

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

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

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

I should briefly mention as well…

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

Ardbeg's Core range was on offer.

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

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

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

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

A few of the highlights / lowlights:

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

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

Biggest Surprise:  Big Peat. 

Diassapointment:  Bowmore 18

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

Whisky Club member, Bruce, among the hoards.

2010 Fall Single Malt Festival – Kensington Wine Market

Sadly I was unable to attend the Kensington Whisky Festival this year (no excuses next time).  Hey…the pockets only run so deep, folks.  In my absence ATW was fortunate enough to have friend and resident caustic wit, Maltmonster, in attendance.  MM was kind enough to offer his services (bill in the mail?) in writing up a quick rundown of some of the highlights and lowlights of the event.

I’ve been trying to recruit his services for the ATW cause for a couple months now, so am right tickled pink to have him jump aboard, even if only on occasion.

Without further ado…

I like to recycle, support wild life groups, hell I even like the damn whales (medium rare to medium in a wine reduction) but it’s really hard when you’re lining up outside Kensington Wine Market at – 20 C for their Festival to groove on the ideal that I should support the fight against global warming. No wonder people in Canada are tipping over smart cars in protest and burning Al Gore’s movie ‘An Inconvenient Lie’ to stay warm. If the early Scots distilled whisky to fend off the cold and improve their lot in life, then we as Canadians should be able to claim our whisky as a tax deductible item under the category of ‘essential for survive’.

7:00 PM Thursday, November 18, 2010 saw the start of the Kensington annual Fall Festival. This Festival is not the biggest in Calgary but proves to have one of the most interesting lineups. There are the standard bottles in the usual ranges, but Kensington always seems to add interesting bottles you would probably never otherwise try.

As I stated before, Festivals that I attend are more of social get-together with like minded drudges, so tasting notes rarely happen. I will however offer up some opinions and observations for the great unwashed. Given that I have tasted most of the whiskies out there I shall only comment on the ones that are new to me and or a few favorites.

– Least favorite – Singleton of Glendullan – second tasting for me on this one and still not impressed.  Although the price point I believe is around $40-$50 which makes it inexpensive and could attract some rum drinkers.

– Biggest surprise – Well instant Karma (what goes around comes around) got me for the bad deeds that I had propagated over the last year on the organizer of the festival. Each tasting station had pictures of the Maltmonster pasted on the presentation boxes of the best bottles calling me a repeat tasting offender and warning people to refuse me service. Luckily I’m generally well liked and was never refused.

– Favorite malt – This was a tie between two new malts for me, 1968 Connoisseurs Choice Glen Keith with creamy butterscotch and ripe fruit and the 1969 Signatory Springbank with its incredible exotic fruits.

-Best hidden malt – Tom O’Connor of Purple Valley Imports gave me a go (Jonathan Bray would never have) at a hidden gem the Amrut Intermediate Sherry. This was a sophisticated malt with no sharp or harsh sherry notes.

– Favorite Ambassador / Agent – Eric Raymond, Diageo (EL Diablo). I can only say nice things about somebody after they let me sample more than my fair share of Port Ellen 8th and 9th release.

– Redemption malt – After the dull performance of the Flaming Heart, I gave the Hedonism Maximus by Compass Box a go and was rewarded with a rich bourbon vanilla . This is an older blended grain whisky and was easily my third favorite malt of the night.

– Loneliest tasting station – This had to be Macallan / Highland Park – I think the server scared people off with his prison beard.

All in all this was well worth coming out for in the cold Artic night. This event and the Willow Park Festival should be added to all malt drinkers must do list (not to be confused with the rum drinkers honey do list).


– Maltmonster

Congratulations to Andrew Ferguson and the team at KWM.  Looking forward to next year’s event.