Category Archives: Whisky News

Ardbeg Alligator

The latest (from Ardbeg Committee email):



For many years it has lain brooding and untamed in Warehouse 3. Now in the
deep south of Islay a new breed is ready to be released into the wild.

Scarcely seen…

But while the much-anticipated Committee bottling of Ardbeg Alligator has
emerged, sadly due to European tax laws, it could prove to be a rare breed in
some parts.

Unfortunately, your country is one of those we are unable to ship whisky to
due to these laws. But the good news is that Alligator will be available on
general release from 1st September at your usual outlets. Ferocious ‘alligator’
charring of new American white oak casks has created a spicy, dark dram of
hidden depths, within which lurks deep tarry coffee, barbecue sizzle and sooty

An expression that may prove a challenge to the unwary, it is set to test the
palate of even the most hardened Ardbeg adventurer. So be careful, its unique
spicy bite may catch you unawares…

In the meantime, why not discover the Islay-gator’s tale for yourself at It’s powerful stuff…


Damn.  Here, gator, gator…come to Canada…

The Good Spirits Co.

Congratulations to our friends Mark Connelly an Matthew McFadyen, as well as a third partner I don’t believe I’ve met, Shane Goodbody, in realizing a dream that they’ve been working on for some time.  I’ll leave the details to be shared by our malt mate, Ralfy.  The following was originally posted on

Specialist spirits store opening in Glasgow

Published: 17/05/2011
Three former employees of the crisis-hit Oddbins wine and spirits chain are defying the odds by opening their own high-end spirits store in Glasgow.

The Good Spirits Co. have taken over premises at 23 Bath Street, which for many years housed the iconic 23rd Precinct Record Shop.

The three – Matthew McFadyen, 34, Shane Goodbody, 41 and Mark Connelly, 36 – saw the writing on the wall at Oddbins and got out before the chain crashed.

The trio say they have identified a gap in the market for quality spirits and aim to plug that gap with their new venture.

Mark Connelly, who also runs the online whisky forum and is a partner in Glasgow’s Whisky Festival, said: “Despite all the quality spirits that many of the bars in Glasgow serve, it is virtually impossible to buy them in a shop, and absolutely impossible in the supermarkets.”

“We’ll also be focusing on education with in-store tastings, classes and events. We may not be the biggest boys on the block, but I’d like to think we were of the highest quality.”

Matthew McFadyen added: “From our time in Oddbins, and as fans of quality spirits, there was a frustration at the lack of outlets for quality products. With a growing demand for quality rum and bourbon especially, the venture is well-placed to supply the demands of a more discerning market by stocking and sourcing as wide a range of interesting spirits as we can.”

The venture will take off on May 23rd and the full UK allocation of a Berry Brothers and Rudd’s Own Selection Ledaig 2005 has been secured for this.

The store will also sell champagne, fortified wines and cigars in a specially designed walk-in humidor. Regular tasting events will run in the store as well as in a variety of bars and pubs around Glasgow.

Malt Messenger No. 46

Malt Messenger No. 46

Dear Malt Messenger Subscribers,

I had intended to put this Malt Messenger out on St. Patrick’s Day, but preparations for my trip to the whisky show in Las Vegas, and following vacation time precluded me from finishing. Well I’m back, and the Malt Messenger is finally ready to go… You may detect something of an Irish theme to this edition, a tip of the hat in honour of St. Patrick’s Day. I have highlighted the whiskies of Cooley distillery, Ireland’s only independent distillery, as well as that of Auchentoshan, a Scottish distillery with an Irish connection… 

I have a very good customer with an interesting sense of humour and an incredible palate. Whisky is but a hobby for this individual, but it’s a hobby he takes very seriously. In addition to frequenting many of our tastings he also contributes to a whisky website: I loaned him some samples for an Auchentoshan conspiracy feature/tasting he ran on the website, its worth checking out if you have time: In return, I asked to be able to publish his tasting notes in the Malt Messenger for your comparison and enjoyement!

There is much more to this Malt Messenger than Auchentoshan and Cooley, like our new Arran casks which are finally here, the Machrie Moor (peated Arran), the Glenmorangie Sonnalta (96.5pts  Jim Murray) which is exclusive to our store and a number of other interesting new whiskies we have to offer. The new whiskies include bottlings from: Gordon  MacPhails, Benromach, Tullibardine, Laphroaig and others..

Also of note is our Spring Tasting Schedule, which went online on March 17th. We have an extensive line-up of beer, whisky, tequila and rum tastings for the months of April, May and June. Our Spring Single Malt Festival is scheduled for Thursday June 9th, and as always there’s a special whisky dinner (The Peat Monster Dinner in this case) on the following night. You can register for tasting in store, by phone 403-283-8000/888-283-9004 or on our website:

There is also a very exciting tasting taking place tomorrow night at the store, the BenRiach Vintages tasting. There are some spots left that are worthy of consideration… We will be sampling 5 BenRiachs and 2 of the recently arrived Glendronach vintages.

I had hoped to tell you about Nth Whisky Show in Las Vegas, but that will have to wait until later in the month. I will have some other new whiskies to tell you about at that time like the next batch of releases from Duthies, which feature an Ardbeg 16 Year, Highland Park 18 Year and a massively peated Longrow. I will also have some even bigger news to tell you about. I am off to Scotland on Thursday for an unexpected trip, I’ll fill you in on the details upon my return… in the meantime, I hope you enjoy this edition of the Malt Messenger.


Andrew Ferguson

PS-Don’t forget you can follow me on Twitter at


In This Issue:

  1. Our Arran Casks and the Machrie Moor Are Here!
  2. Glenmorangie Sonnalta PX
  3. Tullibardine 1987 Gold Medal Marketing Cask
  4. Two New Whiskies from Gordon & MacPhail
  5. Laphroaig 10 Year
  6. Two New Expressions from Benromach Distillery
  7. A Couple of New Oldies from Douglas Laing (Old Malt Cask)
  8. A Tale of Two 27 Year Old Port Ellens
  9. Cooley Distillery – Ireland’s Only Independent Distillery of Irish Whiskey
  10. Distillery in Focus Auchentoshan
  11. Collector’s Pick – Gold Bowmore 1964 44 Year
  12. Penderyn – Welsh Whisky
  13. Four New Glendronach Vintages
  14. Spring Tasting Schedule



Kensington Wine Market approached the Isle of Arran distillery to purchase a cask this fall, with the intention of launching it at our annual Burns Supper. KWM bottles a couple of casks of whisky every year, usually choosing the barrel from a selection of 6 samples. This is typically done with the assistance of some handpicked customers. The tasting usually ferrets out a clear favourite, but this time we found ourselves torn between an exceptional bourbon barrel and a superb sherry cask.

I wasn’t sure what to do, I had set out with the intention of bottling a Bourbon cask Arran which I feel generally best compliments the distillery’s raw spirit, but as good as the Bourbon Cask bottling was, and it is great, the sherry cask was excellent too! So we did what any rational person would do, we decided to bottle both, and I am ever glad we did. Our Kensington Arran bottlings will be coming in at around $85 a bottle; by far our most reasonably priced bottling yet!

The whiskies were officially launched at our Robbie Burns Supper on January 26th with special guest, Isle of Arran Brand Ambassador Andrew Hogan. In addition to sampling a range of whiskies from the Isle of Arran distillery, participants were the first to sample our bottled casks. The whiskies are in store now and are both selling very well!

Both whiskies are from single casks, bottled at their natural cask strengths without any artificial colouring. Each of the bottles are individually numbered. My tasting notes for the two casks follow below, as does a tasting note for Arran’s limited edition peated expression Machrie Moor.

  1. Arran KWM Bourbon Barrel – Distilled July 9th, 1999 – Bottled January 19th 2011 – 11 Years – 57.4% – 202 individually numbered bottles –My Tasting Note: Nose: very floral, like a garden center on a hot day, toasted oak, fruit salad, honeycomb and crisp toasted oak; marshmallow and white chocolate show later; Palate: sweet and very toasty, lush vanilla, caramelized honey, poached white fruits, croissant with almond paste and floral oils; Finish: long and still toasty with rich vanilla and more caramelized honey; Comments: when I set it out to find a Bourbon cask of Arran, this is exactly what I was looking for! Secondary Comment (original tasting note from the advanced samples): the nose is the same but now showing creamier tones and buttery fruits. The palate is still spot on, except it again feels creamier and more buttery! Over all the extra couple of months in the bottle has added a harmonious quality to the whisky, with everything sewn seamlessly together! – Exclusively bottled for KWM! – $84.99
  2. Arran KWM Sherry Hogshead – Distilled April 2nd 1998 – Bottled January 19th 2011 – 12 Years – 55.3% – 282 individually numbered bottles – My Tasting Note: Nose: like opening a bag of jelly bellies; nutty, caramelized fruit, fruity chocolate, marzipan, candied orange, ginger and cinnamon top notes; Palate: rich, sweet and sherried; waves of caramelized fruit, assorted jelly bellies, some strong notes of clove up front, but they faded quickly; Finish: long, drying and sweet with more assorted jelly bellies; Comments: I hadn’t intended to bottle a sherried Arran, I had a preconceived desire to bottle a Bourbon cask, but the heart wants what it wants! Secondary Comment: The nose is still largely the same with the Jelly Bellies dominating, i get a note of peanut butter brittle that I don’t recall before, and it is now much softer on the nose. The palate is still largely the same with again more of a nutty character: peanut brittle and beer nuts. This really is a brilliant sherry cask and like the Bourbon the months it has spent settling down in the bottle have been greatly beneficial! – Exclusively bottled for KWM. – $84.99 
  3. Arran Machrie Moor (Peated) – 46% – 14PPM Phenolic Content – 9000 total bottles – No Age Statement – My Tasting Note: coconut rice, fresh mowed lawn, smoke filtered by damp air, honey with soft citrus fruits; Palate: soft sweet vanilla very quickly fades into dried cut green grass and soft peat oils only to morph back into creamy honey; another sip reveals cream brulee, fresh mint and cookie dough; Finish: drying, soft and vaguely sweet with more cut green grass; Comments: for a young whisky it has much to offer. It would without doubt benefit from greater time in the oak, but is a good first start. Anyone who enjoys Kilchoman, Kilkerran or any of the other recently released younger whiskies will see the merits in giving this one a try too! – KWM is getting but 60 bottles, half of which have already sold! – $77.99






The Sonnalta PX was the first expression in The Glenmorangie “Private Collection” range. The range is series of limited edition expressions which will highlight the best of the Glenmorangie style while pushing the bounds of creativity. In Scots Gaelic Sonnalta means “generous”, an appropriate name for this full and complex whisky. Like the Extra Matured whiskies in the Glenmorangie range (Lasanta, Quinta Ruban and Nectar D’Or) the Sonnalta PX has spent approximately 10 years maturing in first fill ex-bourbon casks before finishing for a few years more (extra maturing) in Spanish Pedro Ximenez casks. 

We are seeing a lot of whiskies matured in ex-Pedro Ximenez sherry casks (PX for short) these days. Pedro Ximenez is an intensely sweet and very rich style of sherry. Legend has it that the grape originated in the Canary Islands and from there was introduced to regions along the Rhine in Southern Germany. A Spanish soldier—Pedro Ximenez  serving Charles V in the Spanish Netherlands was said to have brought it to Jerez in Southern Spain in his baggage. The rich, sweet, bold sherry was named in his honour. It’s a great story, but may be a bit of a stretch.  It is more likely that the grape was brought to Spain by the Moors and renamed after the Reconquista of the Iberian Peninsula.

Jim Murray’s Tasting Note: Nose: now this works: has that heavy-handed feel of a sweet sherry butt (or five) at work here, usually the kiss of death for so many whiskies. But an adroit praline sub-plot really does the trick. So with the malt evident, too, we have a three pronged attack which somehow meshes in to one. And not even the merest hint of an off-note…goodness gracious: a new experience…!!! Taste: Neanderthal grape drags its knuckles along the big vanilla floor before a really subtle light Columbian coffee kick puts us  back on course; sharper vanillas from some awkward oak threatens to send us off course again but somehow finds it settled, common ground; Finish: now goes into orgasmic overdrive, as Demerara sugar is tipped into some gorgeous, cream-lightened mocha. This is obviously to wash down the Melton Hunt cake which is resplendent in its grape and roast nut finery…phew!!! It is, unquestionably, the perfect whisky finish… Balance: this one passed me by. If they told me anything about this chap, I’d forgotten. It absolutely groans from the lucid sweet grape and I discover its actually Pedro Ximenez. Brave. Foolhardy, even. Because over the last decade of studying whiskies matured in that sugary beast the experience has usually ended in tears. Not here, though. This is a gamble that has handsomely paid off: Glenmorangie as you’ve never seen it before. Probably Scotch malt as you’ve never seen before. But after buying one bottle, you’ll be wanting to see it again. A giant among the tall stills.” 96.5/100 Whisky Bible

Malt Advocate Tasting Note: The first of Glenmorangie’s new “Private Collection” line of whiskies for Travel Retail. This one is finished in Pedro Ximenez (PX) sherry. With PX being so rich and intense, and Glenmorangie spirit so subtly complex and delicate, does the sherry dominate here? No, it doesn’t. Still, this is viscous and very textural for a Glenmorangie. I’m picking up rhum agricole drenched with honeyed apricot, toffee almond, chocolate-covered raisin, glazed citrus, and cherry pits, all leading to a leathery, tobacco-tinged finish. A visceral whisky with plenty of grip. Great for after dinner. 90/100 pts John Hansell

My Tasting Note: Nose: very elegant, soft and complex on the nose—to steal the words of my employer who sampled it briefly “it is very pretty!”—with a fruity, doughy, French bakery character; notes of honey, vanilla, spice and caramelized fruits dance enthusiastically together while kicking up a dust of assorted powdered, rock and granular sugars; as the nose develops tones of Bourbony vanilla, perfume and white fruit notes emerge; supposedly you can smell sweet… the whisky may have something to say about that; Palate: very soft, complex and deep; right off the bat I am amazed by the bewildering depth and layers, sweet fruits and balancing spices in almost perfect harmony; the creamy honey/vanilla backbone slowly emerges with some burnt orange peel and dark chocolate; thick grassy malt and sweet rum notes are also present with some minty tones; overall sweet, rich and multifaceted; Finish: long, sweet and spicy; sugary malt, honeyed oak and chewy grape tones; Comments: this whisky is a bit of Cameleon, its layers are many, and it shifts its character with each and every sip. The touch is deft for a Pedro Ximenez matured whisky, but the effect is superb. Anyone can enjoy this delightful little dram from the neophyte to the experienced connoisseur! Exclusive to KWM – $74.99





This may be old news to those of you who saw the last Bulletin, but I felt it needed to see the light of day one last time. Our dear friend Andy Dunn, President, CEO, CFO, Mail Room Boy and Owner of Gold Medal Marketing’s heart truly has no bounds. Andy represents some of the most interesting Scottish distilleries in Alberta including Springbank, Benromach and Tullibardine. He’s just recently brought in a cask he’s selected himself for the Alberta market. Andy is donating $5 from each bottle sold to the charity of the retailers choice, ours in this case is CHAS, or the Children’s Hospital Aid Society! The cask is a first fill sherry hogshead (not a sherry finish as my tasting note below hypothesizes), bottled at a cask strength of 58.3 after 22 years in the cask. Only 213 bottles are available from the cask, and knowing Andy, his selling prowess, the charitable slant and the quality of this whisky, it won’t last long. We’ve already sold more than 30!

 Tullibardine 1987 Gold Medal Marketing Cask – 58.3% – Sherry Hogshead Cask #627 – 22 Years – My Tasting Note: Nose: very fruity, cinnamon and cardamom, tones of “goats milk white chocolate” (yes there is such a thing, see Epiphany at 1417B 11st SW in Calgary for more info) and raspberry jam; I also detect a twinge of mom’s rhubarb crumble; Palate: rich and spicy with ripe candied fruits; sticky toffee pudding, cinnamon, ginger, clove and more spices besides; is there an undertone of soft vanilla? The whisky is very nutty, with a rich sherry character; it is hard to tell if under all the layers of sweet, spice and oak whether there is an American oak influence to be found (Is this a straight sherry or a finish I wonder?), in the end I suppose it doesn’t matter, it is the journey that’s important, and I’m enjoying this one!  Finish: the finish is rich, smooth and sweet; candied fruits linger fading with hints of honey, soft spice and toasted oak; Comments: this is an excellent Tullibardine cask, the alcohol comes across a little strong at first, but settles down after a sip or two. Would a little water tame that down? I don’t know. Truth be told I was enjoying it too much straight to find out! – $145.99

* After thought: since sampling the whisky I was informed there is no Bourbon influence, this is a straight sherry cask. I think that speaks to the quality of the cask with no trace of sulphur or rough edges!




Gordon & MacPhail is one of Scotland’s oldest and most respected independent bottlers. Gordon MacPhail was founded in 1895 in the city of Elgin. In addition to being a grocer it was also a wine and whisky merchant. In fact, Gordon & MacPhail was bottling and marketing single malts long before most distilleries. Next to Cadenhead, Gordon & MacPhail is Scotland’s oldest independent bottler. Back when distilleries devoted very nearly 100% of their production to blends, G&M was maturing, bottling and selling single malts to the people of Elgin and beyond. Gordon & MacPhail is different from most independent bottlers in that they mature their own casks from new make spirit, rather than buy mature casks from whisky brokers.

  1. G&M Connoisseurs Choice Glen Keith 1968 – 46% – Exclusive to KWM – Distilled March 1968 – Bottled June 2010 – Remade Hogshead – My Tasting Note: Nose: waxy, floral and honeyed; corn starch, vegetable oil, marzipan and white fruits; it has a very light, elegant but complex nature; Palate: very soft, almost silky then it begins to warm and the soft oils begin to coat, caress and moisturize your palate; more marzipan, sweet spices, mixed sugars (brown, white and Demerara) with tobacco and leather showing late; Finish: drying, sweet, coating and soft. Comments; the finish is a tad short but the nose and palate are sublime. I had originally resisted bringing in this whisky, it seemed to me a little over oaked, but there were no fewer than a dozen people at our Fall Single Malt Festival that just had to have a bottle so we brought it in, and I’m glad we did. My feelings on this whisky have taken a 180! – $247.99
  2. G&M Cask Strength Old Pulteney 1995 – 60.5% – First Fill Sherry Butt – Cask # 1505 – Distilled August 25th 1995 – Bottled March 12th 2010 – My Tasting Note: Nose: thick, rich, lush sherry notes, some toasted oak and spice; thick with caramel and burnt sugars, chocolate cake, toffee sauce and leather; Palate: thick, rich and full throttle; big, , nutty, sweet, spicy sherry dominates the palate; salt, smoke and sulphur all have something to say, but the last word is left to the sherry notes: ginger, clove and nutmeg with Christmas cake; Finish: drying and nutty, with Christmas cake and traces of smoke and sulphur; Comments: You have to hold on to your shorts for the first few sips, but then it settles down into a sherry bomb… I’m by and large not a fan of Gordon & MacPhails’ sub 46% bottlings, but boy do I love their cask strength range! Usually from a single cask, and often first fill sherry. Whether it’s the Longmorn 1973, Strathisla 1960 (KWM), Imperial 1997 or the previous Old Pulteney 1993 they know how to bottle a sherry bomb! 






You may recall the excitement last year when Laphroaig 18 and 25 were launched in the Alberta market! Lost in the excitement was a single 12 bottle case of Laphroaig 10 Year which came into the store. Only 60 bottles had come into the province as a whole. 8 months have passed and Laphroaig 10 Year is back, and by the looks of it for good! Beam Global Canada, the owners of the brand, took over promotion and distribution of it last year. Since then they have rolled it out across the country. I know I don’t have to tell all of you malt lovers how good we have it in Alberta, but this may interest some of the rest of you. Some of these whiskies have also been rolled out in other provinces, but at a much bigger mark up:

– Laphroaig 10 Year – $57.49 (KWM Alberta) / $84.95 (Ontario) / Not Listed in BC

– Laphroaig Quarter Cask – $50.99 (KWM Alberta) / $64.95 (Ontario) / $79.49 (BC)

– Laphroaig 18 Year – $101.99 (KWM Alberta!!when available!!) / $179.95 (Ontario) / Not Listed in BC

– Laphroaig 25 Year – $509.99 (KWM Alberta) / $629.00 (Ontario) / $610.95 (BC)

*Truly the best place to buy Laphroaig in Canada, is in Alberta!


Laphroaig 10 Year – Tasting Note by Jim Murray, Whisky Bible: “Nose: less intense smoke; Taste: much silkier delivery than usual with the sweetness all up front as the peat dovetails in and out of the barley—more complex; Finish: a drier finale with a shade more caramel…” – $57.49




Benromach is the Speyside’s smallest distillery; its production is less than double that of Edradour, Scotland’s smallest. Benromach was saved from oblivion by Gordon & MacPhail in 1993 when they purchased it from United Distillers. After more than four years of rebuilding, replacement of lost and damaged equipment as well as other upgrades Benromach began operations again in 1998. The distillery has just launched two new expressions in Alberta, available in very limited quantities.

  1. Benromach Pedro Ximenez Wood Finish – 45% – Distilled 2002 – Bottled September 2010 – Finished 30 Months in Pedro Ximenez Casks – 1800 Total Bottles – 120 in Alberta – My Tasting Note: Nose: lots of initial sherry, sweet and sour with nutty tones, homemade date bars; Palate: sweet, chewy and earthy with strong nutty sherry notes; maple syrup, PX sherry and treacle sauce with burnt and candied fruits; there is a whole lot of spice to this whisky too: black pepper, clove and nutmeg; Finish: medium-short with strong drying sherry notes; Comments: much better after I let it breathe for a couple of hours; perhaps the freshly opened bottle just needed time to breathe. Secondary Comment: it has really opened up since the bottle was opened.  My second tasting of the whisky is very close to the first.
  2. Benromach Hermitage Wood Finish – 45% – Distilled 2001 – Bottled September 2010 – 1300 Total Bottle – 30 in Alberta – My Tasting Note: Nose: dry and dusty, jujube-like fruits, burnt sugar and damp liquorice root; Palate: leathery, earthy, peppery and spicy with an underlying creamy backbone; there are some notes of orchard fruits like apricot and poached pear; very woody, firm, taught and lightly bitter; the sweet notes eventually come around but not without a dollop of peppers and spice; Finish: drying and oaky with heat from the spices still glowing; Comments: its good but the earthy, leathery oak is toning everything else down a little too aggressively.




There are few other independent bottlers who can not only sell 40+ year old whiskies, but can do say at a fair price. We’ve recently received our fourth cask of whisky from Probably Speyside’s Finest Distillery, Douglas Laing’s euphemism for Glenfarclas distillery. Glenfarclas is the only distillery in Scotland with extensive stocks of the whiskies aged up to 40 years of age, and they sell these at relatively reasonable prices. Officially Glenfarclas doesn’t sell or trade casks with independent bottlers, but it is interesting that of all the independent bottlers only Douglas Laing has access to these casks and that in return they never refer to the distillery by name, instead praise it as probably the finest in Scotland. We have the new 42 year old expression in stock as well as a very unusual Bunnahabhain expression.

OMC Bunnahabhain 30 Year – 50% – Refill Butt – DL Ref 5120 – My Tasting Note: Nose: spices, clove and nutmeg, a little bit of early heat from the alcohol or sherry burns off quickly, graham wafers, soft toasted oak and crystallized honey; Palate: very spicy (at least at first), oily, and honeyed with some lovely sweet notes mainly in the form of dried apricots, something reminds me of an Imperial(extra strong) India Pale Ale with a very malty, hoppy character, possibly something mildly sulphurous but not so strong as to ruin the palate; there are faint traces of something earthy, maybe peat, certainly some sea salt, but nothing unpleasant or strong: Finish: dry tannins and oak spices and a lithe oils; Comments: a lovely sherried whisky with a very unusual mid palate, I’ve never had such an old “malty” whisky before, and certainly not one that seemed hoppy! – $199.99

OMC Probably Speyside’s Finest Distillery 42 Year  – 50% – Sherry Butt – DL Ref 6245 – My Tasting Note: Nose:  new leather sofa, cobblers shop, damp cigar tobacco and toasted oak all lead into classic sherry notes which gradually develop: candied fruits, Christmas cake, brown sugar and sweet spices; Palate: rich, sweet, sherried, spicy and oaky; a lot of structure and balance to this whisky, Christmas cake notes are complimented by dry spice, there are coffee and espresso notes, along with dark chocolate and Pedro Ximenez; Finish: it finished off very dry, the oak shows its age here, lots of spice, sweet dark chocolate and a mild cigar aftertaste; Comments: not the best 40+ year old “Probably Speyside’s Finest Distillery” (read Glenfarclas) bottling we’ve had, but far from the worst. It lacks the complexity of at least one of the previous bottlings, but is a very enjoyable drink, and certainly not over the hil. – $311.99






You may recall in the last Malt Messenger that I highlighted a new 27 year old Port Ellen from Douglas Laing. Now I have another Port Ellen 27 year old, it too under the Old Malt Cask label bottled by Douglas Laing. I thought it would be fun to give them a go side by side. Only 12 bottles of each are available in the market, with more than half of each already sold! You’ll also note that the prices for even for independent bottlings of Port Ellen are going up… I’ve said it once, and I’ll say it again, Port Ellen is getting older, rarer and more expensive with every passing year. The first is the bottling I announced in the last Malt Messenger:

  1. OMC Port Ellen 27 Year Cask 6588 –  50% – Single Refill Hogshead – DL Reference 6588 – 225 Bottles – My Tasting Note: Nose: dry biscuity peat, lush backdrop of soft vanilla, bread dough, green grass and savoury herbs; there is salt and smoke too, but it has faded with time; Palate: creamier than I expected with an Ardbegian quality to it; the palate also has elements of chewy malt, vanilla custard, the same savoury herbs found on the nose and soft thick oily peat that reminds me of the Ardbeg malt bunds served at Glenmorangie House; Finish: long and savoury with clean smoke, gentle herbs and delicate peaty oils that leave a pleasant film on your palate; late lingering notes of cigar smoke finish it off; Comments: I haven’t come across a lot of Port Ellen’s that I don’t like, just some that are a lot better than others. This one is very drinkable, it is not the best Port Ellen I’ve ever had, but it is a pleasant drink which will please the palate of any Islay drinker. It is a fine example of a Port Ellen matured in American oak Bourbon barrels. 2nd Tasting While Comparing: the nose is just as above but with white fruits like apple; I find the palate to be the same with the exception of traces of browning apple; the finish is just as described before. $349.99 – Only 12 Bottles – Exclusive to KWM
  2. OMC Port Ellen 27 Year Cask 6397 – 50% – Refill Hogshead – DL Reference 6397 – 199 Bottles – My Tasting Note: Nose: rubbery with soft vanilla, briny smoke, fresh cream and gentle oily peat; the nose is surprisingly gentle with liquid honey and a touch Panda black liquorice; Palate: sweet, smoky and salty; the palate is very honeyed and sweet to start with brackish peaty smoke and damp muddy earth; there is a salty backbone and some bitter espresso notes; more black liquorice; Finish: drying and very smoky; the finish is very earthy like a dry mouth full of dirt; Comments:

How to decide between the two? I think it comes down to a simple question which you have to ask yourself. Do you want a brackish, peaty, earthy, smoky, salty Port Ellen, or do you want a Port Ellen that’s creamy with layers that soften and balance out the smoke. If you pander for the former style of whisky, you’re after 6397, but if you’re after a less peaty whisky with more balance 6588 is your dram! Whichever it may be don’t hesitate these two will be gone in no time!




Irish whiskey was once the toast of the world, its quality and reputation were second to none! In the mid 1800’s there were around 1000 legal and illegal distilleries operating in Ireland, today there are three, four if you count Kilbeggan which Cooley is in the process of reopening. But history was not kind to the Irish Whiskey industry. First there was the war of Independence which shattered Ireland’s relationship with Great Britain, and closed its access to the biggest and most important market in the world, the British Empire. The war of Independence was followed by a Civil War which destroyed Irelands already shattered economy. Add to this prohibition in the United States (the last most important market for Irish Whiskey) and the Great Depression and you have a recipe for the collapse of consolidation of the Irish whisky industry.

Irish Distillers was formed in 1966 when the last three remaining distilleries in the Republic of Ireland merged. They shut down their respective distilleries and consolidated production at the newly constructed Midleton distillery in 1975. Bushmills the only remaining distillery in Northern Ireland was also added to the companies portfolio, but being one of the oldest distilleries in the world it was kept open. In 1988 Pernod Ricard acquired Irish Distillers in a friendly takeover. The Irish whiskey industry was a monopoly when John Teeling, a maverick in the true sense of the word (not the Sarah Palin/John MaCain kind) decided to try his hand at starting a new Irish distiller. He already had his hands in Iraqi oil fields, Gold deposits in Iran and a diamond mine in Botswana.

   Cooley Distillery

In 1987 John purchased a closed industrial grain whisky distillery called Ceimici Teo in Dundalk. The distillery was producing potato alcohol for industrial purposes. Teeling began converting the distillery to produce whiskey and renamed it Cooley. In 1988 A. A. Walt Distillery(not an actual distillery) and Tyrconnell (a prominent brand) merged with Cooley. In the same year Teeling bought the decommissioned Locke’s Kilbeggan Distillery, which is the oldest surviving distillery in the world. In 1989 Cooley installed a pair of pot stills to be used in the production of both malt and grain whiskey. In 1996 the distillery launched a Connemara, a lightly peated Irish single malt whiskey. It is a myth that Irish whiskey is different from Scotch whisky in that it is unpeated, only true that remaining brands until the release of Connemara are all unpeated. In 2007 the old Kilbeggan distillery was reopened.

     Kilbeggan Distillery

Today Cooley has an extensive portfolio of whiskies. Firstly, there is Tyrconnell, an unpeated single malt Irish whiskey brand dating to the late 1800’s. The whiskey is named for a horse which won the National Produce Stakes against incredible odds of 100:1. Secondly, there is the aforementioned Connemara, a heavily peated Irish single malt whiskey, more characteristic of what Irish whiskey would have been like in the 1800’s than today. Thirdly, there is Kilbeggan, a blended Irish whiskey named for Ireland’s oldest distillery, and in fact the world’s, which can trace its origins back to 1757. Busmills, is often incorrectly purported to be the oldest distillery in the world. Its owners both past and present often site a 1608 license granted by James I to Sir Thomas Phillips as the original founding date, but in fact the distillery wasn’t established until 1784. Finally, Cooley also produces a single grain whisky called Greenore.  

The Kensington wine Market stocks the following whiskies from Cooley distillery:

  1. Connemara Peated Single Malt Irish Whiskey – 40% – Connemara is a peated Irish single malt whiskey produced by the Cooley distillery. This is the entry level Connemara expression. – My Tasting Notes: Nose: the nose is light and creamy, there is a faint trace of soft peat with grassy notes; Palate: warming with soft earthy peat and clean smoke, light sweet honey and fresh cream; some late burnt orange peel; Finish: drying and dusty with gentle peat and traces of honeyed sweetness; Comments: good but not great, I’d like to see some more peat! – $56.49
  2. Connemara Cask Strength – 57.9% – My Tasting Note: Nose: grassy and earthy, log fire smoke strong enough to hide everything else; Palate: very peaty, lots of smoke, leathery, grassy earthy malt and some sweet vanilla/honey tones and spice, black peppery spice; Finish: drying oily peat, fading sweet vanilla and spice; Comments: finally some big peat, now I know why I loved this whisky best of all the Connemaras when I first tried the range several years ago… This is why I love cask strength, non chillfiltered whiskies. Chill filtering and bottling the whisky below 46% kills its potential! – $69.99
  3. Connemara Sherry Cask – 46% – Sherry Finish – My Tasting Note: Nose: dry, nutty sherry notes dominate at first, some spices and caramelized fruit, cinnamon sticks; Palate: nutty earthy sherry notes, very leathery with soft chunky peat and clean woody smoke; burnt fruits and dark spices dominate the palate; Finish: drying and earthy with sweet spices and burnt leathery fruit; Comments: good, but the peat is so delicate that the sherry really runs rough shod over it. Nice to see this bottled at 46%. – $83.49
  4. Connemara 12 Year – 40% – My Tasting Note: Nose: malty, very floral, clean smoke, subtle vanilla, peat oils; Palate: sweet and earthy, some good body, gentle spices, clean wood smoke and subtle vanilla and honey notes; Finish: drying and sweet with clean earthy smoke; Comments: much better than the entry level peated expression, and more than worth the price difference.  – $98.99
  5. Connemara Gift Pack – Glencairn Glass and one 50ml bottle each of the Connemara Peated, Connemara Cask Strength and Connemara 12 Year – A pretty good deal considering a Glencairn glass alone costs $18. – $27.49
  6. The Tyrconnell Single Malt Irish Whiskey – 40% – Pure Pot Still Irish Single Malt – Named for the horse which won the National Produce Stakes in 1876 at 100/1 odds. – My Tasting Notes: Nose: grassy malt with honey and citrus notes with lemon on goat cheese; Palate: very honeyed with chewy grassy malt, toasted oak, soft earthy spices vanilla extract; Finish: drying with more grassy malt and toasted oak; Comments: a great entry level single malt, and one of the best unpeated Irish whiskies under $50! – $48.49
  7. Kilbeggan Finest Irish Whiskey – 40% – No Age Statement – A blend of Malt and Grain Irish Whiskeys – Kilbeggan is the name of a blended whisky made by Cooley, Irelands only independent distiller. Cooley recently reopened the old Kilbeggan distillery and have begun distillation there. Kilbeggan, extablished in 1757 is the oldest whiskey distillery in the world. My Tasting Note: Nose: very sweet and fruity, raspberry and cherry brandies; Palate: chewy malt and thick grainy oils, almonds, soft vanilla and green grassy notes; Finish: drying with grassy vanilla and roasted almonds; Comments: a great alternative to Powers, Paddy or Jameison. – $40.99
  8. Greenore 8 Year – I wasn’t prepared at the time of publishing this Malt Messenger to prepare a tasting note of the Greenore 8 Year. Tasting Note by John Hansell of Malt Advocate: Light, crisp, and gently sweet. Notes of vanilla, cut hay, honey, and lemon, with a grainy, dry bourbon-oak finish. A warm weather whisky, or as an aperitif. Perhaps a way to introduce a vodka drinker to whiskey? – 82pts – $50.99

Two Additional Cooley Whiskies Recently Available in Alberta

The following bottlings were recently available in Alberta. Their future status is uncertain. Kensington Wine Market is currently sold out of both:

  1. Greenore 15Year – $109.49
  2. Kilbeggan 15 Year – $132.49




Is there a more Irish of Scottish distilleries? Auchentoshan makes a triple distilled, un-peated single malt whisky in the Clydebank suburbs to the west of Glasgow proper.  The Clydebank is an area with deep Irish roots. Settlers poured in from the Emerald Isle between 1845 and 1852 during the Great Famine, known outside Ireland as the Irish Potato Famine. The Irish mainly settled to the west of Glasgow where the River Clyde empties itself into the sea. Searching for a better life they found work in the docks, shipyards, factories and distilleries of the west coast.

A licence to distil was taken out for Auchentoshan distillery in 1823. Built at the foot of the Kilpatrick hills the distillery may have operated illicitly for decades before it was forced to go legit. There are many references to a distillery called Duntocher in the area from the turn of the 19th century. There is some speculation that this may have been Auchentoshan. Auchentoshan is one of only five active distilleries in the Lowlands of Scotland, and is the only one to continue the practice of triple distillation. Springbank distillery produces a small amount of Hazelburn, a triple distilled Spirit, and BenRiach distillery has released a very limited triple distilled expression called Solstice, but Auchentoshan alone is the sole distillery in Scotland practicing full time triple distillation.

The name Auchentoshan means “the corner of the field”, an appropriate name given its early rural roots. The distillery is surrounded on three sides by urban development and a major motorway on the other. Though the distillery is in the Lowlands the water travels quite a distance from a Highland Loch.  The distillery matures on site in a mix of three dunnage(earthen floor) and two racked warehouses. The cooling pond out in front of the distillery is a relic of a German aerial raid in 1941. For three days during what  became known as the Clydebank Blitz the Luftwaffe dropped thousands of tons of bombs of the vital shipyards and docks along the Clydebank. Auchentoshan was severely damaged during these raids, with several warehouses being severely damaged.  The cooling pond was created by one of these bombs.

Stanley P. Morrison created Morrison Bowmore Distillers in 1963 after purchasing Bowmore distillery. In 1970 Glen Garioch Distillery is added to the Morrison Bowmore portfolio, followed by Auchentoshan in 1984. In 1989 Suntory, Japan’s biggest beverage company, takes a 35% stake in Morrison Bowmore, they buy out the rest of the business in 1994. Since acquiring the distillery in 2004 £1 million is spent on refurbishing the distillery and visitor center. In 2005 the distillery ceased selling production to blenders, with the parent company choosing to focus its production on single malts. In 2008 the product line was revamped, currently the Kensington Wine Market stocks the following whiskies:

  1. Duthies Auchentoshan 11 Year – New exclusive due in next week! Distillery Tasting Note: Nose: A fruity flavour burst. Strawberries, raspberries and a very pleasant sweet confectionary aroma. Palate: A very gentle, sweet and delicate dram. Orange fondant, icing sugar and more strawberries. Finish: Lingering vanilla and sugary sweetness. – Coming Soon – New Exclusive – $77.99ish…
  2. Auchentoshan 12 Year –40% – Bourbon & Sherry Casks – My Tasting Note: Nose: lots of caramel, citrus fruits with browning apple, clean soft vanilla and gentle sherry notes with the faintest touch of spice; Palate: the sherry oak notes make a big impact on the palate, this is nothing like the old 10 Year of old; the citrus note signature of Auchentoshan in buried under chewy but gentle sherry notes; dark fruits develop later adding to a toasty-spicy palate; Finish: soft, light and ctirussy once the spicy sherry notes fade; Comment: a great little sherried whisky for under $50. – $47.99
  3. Auchentoshan 18 Year – 43% – Bourbon Cask – My Tasting Note: Nose: very Bourbony with green toasty oak, Moroccan mint tea (served with mint leaves and sugar in the glass) and macadamia butter; Palate: clean and soft with warming toasted oak, traces of the barley can still be found along with caramelized honey and thin vanilla; Finish: finish is drying and smooth with more toasty oak; Comments: I have not always been a fan of this whisky,  but I find I am enjoying this current bottling more than previous ones.
  4.  Auchentoshan Three Wood – 43% – Matured in Bourbon and Finished in Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez sherry casks – No Age Statement – My Tasting Note: Nose: rich, thick and dark; date bar, figs and sweet Pedro Ximenez notes; I also get a twinge of leather and candied nuts; Palate: very soft given its dark foreboding appearance, it is sweet, dark and faintly spicy but with the lightest touch; it becomes chocolaty, nutty and drier with time; the sherry is in charge here but it’s not abusing its authority; there are many layers to this onion; Finish: is drying, light and perhaps a little short; Comments: it is easy to see why this is the most popular Auchentoshan in Canada! Would like a longer richer finish. – $73.49

5.       Auchentoshan 1998 Sherry Matured – 54.6% – Sherry Cask – 11 Years – My Tasting Note: Nose: honey, almonds, a touch of spice and some floral-grassy notes; Palate: surprisingly light in strength and flavour for a cask strength sherried whisky; the palate is very honeyed and nutty, the oak is a light touch with the lemon/lime citrus notes shinning through; I find it zesty, sweet and warming with notes of raisin and caramilk bar; Finish: starts strong then fades rapidly into drying toasty oak; Comments: nice to see a cask strength Auchentoshan under $100! – $64.49

6.       Auchentoshan 21 Year – 43% – Bourbon and Sherry Casks – 21 Years – My Tasting Note: Nose: French bakery each on a Saturday morning with croissants, paint au chocolate, fruit tarts and fresh bread filling the air with their aroma; it is thick with vanilla and dark fruits; Palate: rich creamy vanilla accented with gentle spices and a mix of orchard and tropical fruits; marzipan, coconut and fruit flan fill out the palate with brittle white chocolate candies; Finish: is drying, sweet and long; vanilla, creamy oils and gentle spice slowly fade away; Comments: this whisky feels more powerful than most Auchentoshan but makes up for it with subtle layers. The trademark citrus notes can be found if you search hard enough but there is much more there to take their place. – $126.49

7.       Auchentoshan 1978 – 53.4% – Bourbon Cask Matured – 480 Bottles – 30 Year – My Tasting Note: Nose: sweet vanilla, toasted oak, fresh cream, plum blossoms and natural oils; Palate: very sweet and delicate, white chocolate soufflé, toasted almonds, and candied ginger with thick vanilla; Finish: drying and sweet with vanilla and white chocolate; Comments: I prefer the 1977 mostly because its sherry influence, but never the less this is a very elegant dram! – $543.99

    1. Malt Monster’s Tasting Note: NOSE: Kentucky bourbon sweet, bit of varnish, cherries and oranges. TASTE: spice, almonds and oily buttery notes at the back end. FINISH: Medium. Drying. ASSESSMENT: This really has a new bourbon favor to it.  Let the Bourbon take hold and find yourself floating like a leaf down the Cahulawassee River whilst the genetically compromised hill people gently serenade you with Banjo music from the surrounding hills.

8.       Auchentoshan 1977 – 49.0% – Sherry Cask Matured – 240 Bottles – 32 Years – My Tasting Note: Nose: nutty and spicy with cigar smoke; burnt sugars, chocolate fudge, dried out Christmas cake: Palate: richly sherried, full and nutty with big Christmas cake notes and firm spices; the intensity tones down on the second sip allowing into focus the classic sherry notes: Christmas cake, leather, tobacco and toasted nuts; layered and balanced my third sip reveals layers of fruit and maple syrup; Finish: drying and sweet, with tobacco; the finish betrays the whisky’s age with oak tannins making a strong show, there is a lingering maple syrup like sweetness and more tobacco; Comments: this is an excellent whisky, and a shame that it is from such a small batch. Only 18 bottles came into Alberta, we bought 15 of them and they are all gone! We have requested the last 3 bottles from the distillery, of which one is already spoken for!

9.       Auchentoshan 1957 50 Year Cask 479 – 46.8% – Oloroso Sherry Butt – 171 Bottles – Still available in limited quantities. – My Tasting Notes: some delicate citrus, floral orange and a promise of something bold to come; marzipan, chocolate fudge, red berry fruits and toffee all start to emerge; Palate: oranges and grapefruits morph into marzipan toffee and candied nuts; there is toasted oak, sweet and drying spices, raw cocoa nibs and a creamy buttery character which teases the palate—never fully developing; red berry fruits and strawberry liquorice develop later; Finish: long and drying with sweet warming spices; Comments: very elegant, sophisticated and vibrant the whisky is far from showing its age. This 50 year old isn’t even close to over the hill…

    1. Malt Monster’s Tasting Note: NOSE: toffee and eucalyptus are battling it out at the start giving way to cherries and some ripe oranges. TASTE: Little tart at the beginning then it totally transforms to creamy butterscotch, WOW! Chocolate, Melons, citrus fruits and a little black liquorice. FINISH: long and warming at the end. ASSESSMENT: Much lighter in color than cask # 480..Taste this, and be henceforth among the gods thyself, (Thanks Milton) it’s that good

10.   Auchentoshan 1957 50 Year  Cask 480 – 49.1% – Oloroso Sherry Cask – 144 Bottles – No Longer Available in Alberta – My Tasting Note: floral but fleshy with some honey and jammy fruits; reminds me of some grilled prosciutto wrapped figs filled with blue cheese: sweet, sour, savoury and salty all at once; Palate: thick, sweet and sour to start, the first sip is like a series of waves lapping the shore, there is much going on but I can’t capture it all at once; stewed fruits, a trace of bubble gum, clove, pepper, candied nuts and orange peel; latter the oak seems to take hold; Finish: very drying, heavy oak with notes of sweet and spice crying out in the night; Comments: there are layers a plenty in this dram but it is skirting the edge of too oaky… just a little on the right side!

    1. Malt Monster’s Tasting Note: NOSE: Floral, marzipan, slight hint of cheese and raisins. TASTE: chewy butterscotch, oranges and pecans. FINISH: Medium. Tart and lingering. ASSESSMENT: Its ok, but for fifty it’s just not nifty. Sure the old who are not strong do not whither, but they don’t taste any better.




The Gold Bowmore is the third bottling in the Bowmore Trilogy Series. I’ve written about it before but I have only recently tasted it. The first bottling, the Black Bowmore 1964, a 42 year old, has long since sold out on the distribution level, though there are still a few bottles left to be had. There are still bottles of the White Bowmore, the 2nd in the series and a 43 Year old available, though they are getting scarce too. The Gold, the final bottling in the series has sold through in Alberta, though our suppliers have managed to find us a few more bottles from other markets. These are enroute… but they won’t last.  Here is my tasting note, followed by that of John Hansel at Malt Advocate:

Gold Bowmore 1964 – 44 Year – My Tasting Note: Nose: right off the bat I can tell this will be a whisky like the Black Bowmore, the nose is replete with similar tropical fruits like mango and papaya, there is a lush creamy layer of vanilla, the smoke is faint, but there, a little like being in a room where someone has just finished a cigar or pipe; ginger abounds with hints of candied ginger and darker moist ginger cake; there are also hints of treacle, and plum; Palate: rich, spicy, earthy and fruity with light elegant smoke; the tropical fruits are present on the palate, but not as prominent as they are one the nose; tobacco, leather and Christmas cake notes are much more prominent; later spice and earthy tones take over cushioned by a lush creamy vanilla backdrop; the whisky has incredible diversity of palate, as the spices fade the tropical fruits start to appear drowning in heavy cream and honey, while a tinge of salt can be found on the sides of my tongue; Finish: creamy, soft and mouth-watering with clean drying smoke, cigar smoke and crusty salt; Comments: by any measure this is an excellent whisky! The parallels between the Gold and the Black are undeniable, but I find it bears much more in common with the White. Oh to try all three of these in a glorious tasting… stay tuned! – $4389.99

Gold Bowmore, 1964 vintage, 42.4% Price: $6,250.00 (*Note the US Price!) – “Deep gold color. Surprisingly lively on the nose for its age. A complex array of fruit (tangerine, sultana, pink grapefruit, papaya, and the general overall citrus DNA that you’ll find in old Bowmores), with balancing notes of honey and vanilla. A hint of damp smoke and coconut. Just like with Black Bowmore, this is a texturally soothing whisky on the palate, which continues to evolve in waves — first the sweet honey, coating vanilla, and lively fruit, then turning quite visceral, with juicy oak, damp earth, deep peat smoke, and charcoal, followed by another wave of fruit (this time, dried fruit), finishing off with subtle charred oak and roasted nuts. This whisky is better than White Bowmore, and it falls just short of Black Bowmore (which I rated 97), because it’s just a bit softer and less vibrant on the palate.” 96/100pts Malt Advocate




Wysgi” hadn’t been made in Wales for more than a century when a couple of friends decided to start up the Welsh Whisky Company in 2000. The last legal Welsh whisky distillery closed in 1894 after the demise of its prominent distiller. The industry had been in decline for decades, mostly because of a powerful temperance movement. Penderyn was setup, in the words of Gillian MacDonald, Master Distiller, after a meeting held by “three guys in a pub.”

Pederyn distillery is located in the village whose name it bears in the foothills of the Brecon Beacons in South Wales. The wort is produced by a local brewery, and the whisky is uniquely distilled in a single copper pot still. The Faraday Still consists of a single pot and two columns. The still was designed by a descendent of Michael Faraday, Dr. David Faraday, to produce a very light elegant spirit. The Welsh are able to get creative in this aspect because unlike Scotland there is no prohibitive legislation. Penderyn’s still produces raw spirit at an impressive 92%, around the level of many grain whiskies. The whisky is then filled into Bourbon barrels from Evan Williams and Jack Daniels. The regularily available core expression of Penderyn is then finished for a period of at least 6 months in Potrugese Madeira barriques. Production is very limited, with but one cask filled per day!

I’ve met Gillian a number of times before, but recently sat down with her to sample the range again:

  1. Penderyn – 46% – Buffalo Trace Bourbon/Madeira Finish – My Tasting Note: Nose: toasted oak and gentle spice, grassy-floral-herbaceous tones; Palate: sweet and soft, subtle malt, creamy vanilla, gently toasted oak, poached apples and plentiful sweet spice; Finish: long with warming toasted oak and fading white chocolate; Comments: well balanced. – $76.99
  2. Penderyn Sherrwood – 46% – 30% Sherry & 70% Buffalo Trace Bourbon – My Tasting Note: soft and fruity, raisins, maple syrup and honey notes; Palate: soft, medium-light body, some Christmassy oak notes, undertones of vanilla and grassy malt; Finish: drying with leather and more grassy malt; Comments: my favourite in the line-up. It maintains the delicate Penderyn style with a more flavourful palate. Would love to see a 100% sherry expression in the future! – $114.49
  3. Penderyn Peated – 46% – “Accidental Peated Casks” (unpeated malt spirit was matured in casks which once held heavily peated malt whisky) – My Tasting Note: reminds me of tequila, lush vanilla, sea breeze, smoked mussels and very green grassy/vegetal notes; Palate: big creamy vanilla, white chocolate, kale, clean smoke, white fruits and more grassy/vegetal notes; Finish: grassy with clean smoke; Comments: an interesting addition to the lineup. My second favourite of the three! – $119.99




Four different vintages of Glendronach have come in, and they are exclusive to the Kensington Wine Market in Canada. We received just 6 to 12 bottles of each vintage: two different bottlings from 1990 and one each from 1991 and 1996. These bottles have mostly sold, restricted to one bottle per customer, but there are still a few left. The vintage releases of Glendronach are described below:

  1. Glendronach 1990 Cask 3068 – 20 Years – 52.6% – Pedro Ximenez Sherry Puncheon – Distillery Tasting Note: Nose: Ripe raisins and dates envolope the mouth and this integrates wonderfully with allspice and dense Pedro Ximinez notes. Palate: Creamy and smooth but with huge intense sherry characteristics. Dark chocolate sauce and sweet cinnamon and clove attributes. – $179.99 – SOLD OUT!
  2. Glendronach 1990 Cask 3059 – 20 Years – 54.9% – Pedro Ximenez Sherry Puncheon – Distillery Tasting Note: Nose: Intense Pedro Ximinez aroma at the beginning followed up by ripe berry fruits with brambles and ripe plums. Palate: Fantastic ripe berry fruits and rich cocoa elements. The chocolate element intensifies with pronounced fresh sugar syrup on the mid palate. – $179.99 – SOLD OUT!
  3. Glendronach 1991 Cask 2512 – 18 Years – 51.9% – Oloroso Sherry Butt – Distillery Tasting Note: Nose: Hazelnuts, walnuts and almonds create depth with a rich sweet Oloroso backbone. Palate: Bold sherry notes react in perfect harmony with chocolate fruit and nut torte. Toffee-apple elements impart a fresh fruity element to the mix. Delightful.  – $149.99 – ONLY A FEW LEFT!
  4. Glendronach 1996 Cask 202 –  14 Years – 58.3% – Oloroso Sherry Butt – Distillery Tasting Note: Nose: Super-ripe morrelo cherries and stewed plums combine with spiced raisins and allspice. Palate: Chewy and rich. Sweet plum pudding and chocolate coated raisins with an elegant sherry finish.  – $134.99 – ONLY A FEW LEFT!

* A couple of these vintages will be available for sampling at the BenRiach Vintages tasting on Tuesday April 5th! See tasting schedule below for more details.



SPRING TASTING SCHEDULE – April – June 2011-03-10

Our Spring tasting schedule is now online and open for registration, including our Spring Single Malt Festival. We have another excellent line-up of whiskies for your consideration. To register give us a call (403-283-8000 or 888-283-9004), visit our website: or pop in by the shop 1257 Kensington Road NW. Our Winter sessions filled up very quickly, and I was able to add additional Rare Malts and Classic Single Malts tastings. I won’t be able to do that this session as I will be in Scotland April 7th-13th (more info on that to come) and guiding tours May 8th to 21st. So if there’s a tasting you don’t want to miss, don’t hesitate, sign up now!

  1. BenRiach Vintages Tasting We saved one bottle each of 5 rare vintages from BenRiach for a special tasting: 1991, 1984 (peated), 1978, 1977 and 1976. Only 1 case of each came to Canada! – Tue Apr 5th – $50
  2. What’s Next? Beer and Cheese! – Think wine and cheese make the perfect match? Think again! Beer is cheese’s true soul mate. – Tue Apr 19th and Tue May 24th – $30
  3. Isle of Arran Cask Release Party – It’s official! Our two exclusive casks of Arran (Bourbon and Sherry) will be launched and tasted along with Machrie Moor, the new peated Arran and others. – Tue Apr 26th  – $35
  4. Rare Malts – Only the oldest and rarest whiskies need apply. Taste whiskies which have been matured more than 20 years and are from closed distilleries, or are exceptionally rare. – Tue May 3rd – $75
  5. Cinco de Mayo Tequila – We’ll celebrate the Mexican victory at the Battle of Puebla with 6 of the best premium Tequilas available in Alberta. Viva el México Libre! – Thr May 5th – $50
  6. Spectacular Speyside – The Speyside is home to most of Scotland’s distilleries including many of its most iconic. Join us for a scenic tour and comprehensive tasting of some of its best whiskies. -Thr May 26th – $60
  7. Whisky, Women and Chocolate – Round up the gals and join our scotch expert, Andrew Ferguson, for a pairing of fine whisky and premium chocolate. Lassies only. Fri Jun 3rd – $50
  8. Spring Single Malt Festival – Our bi-annual whisky festival is not the biggest in the city, but it features the most interesting and eclectic line-up of whiskies in Alberta. I always find a couple curiosities and add in a few very special whiskies for the event which will host 100 customers, 80+ whiskies and you’ll leave with your very own Glencairn glass! – Thr Jun 9 – $60
  9. The Peat Monster Dinner –Six massively peated whiskies from the likes of Ardbeg, Bruichladdich and Kilchoman, each carefully paired with a dish complementing its peaty provenance! Dinner will take place at Buchanan’s Chop House. – Fri Jun 10th – S120
  10. Raucus Rums – There are some exceptional older rums available in Alberta, so we’re throwing a tasting to sample some of the best. – Tue Jun 14th – $50
  11. Classic Single Malts – It’s called “back to basics”. Classic Malts is our introduction to the world of Scottish single malt whisky, its regions, history and taste profile. – Thr Jun 16th – $35
  12. Master Malts – This tasting will push your palate to its limits with a lineup of very rare and old whiskies like Macallan 25 Year, Glendronach Grandeur and Glenfarclas 40! – Thr Jun 23 – $100
  13. Summer Brews – We’ll welcome the start of summer with some seasonally appropriate beers to keep your thirst quenched and your body refreshed! – Tue Jun 28th – $30


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

Dust On The Bottle

From Alberta Venture:


by Meribeth Deen | Photography by Darrell Lecorre

WHISKY A GO GO: Habit and Cascade Room bar co-owner Nick Devine promotes Alberta rye to his clientele

Vancouver’s Habit Lounge might be the last place you’d ever expect to find a bottle of Alberta Whisky.

Located just north of the intersection of Main Street and Broadway, which marks both the city’s geographic centre and its cultural heart and soul, the bar (and its next door neighbour, the Cascade Room) is a popular destination for the scores of mustachioed, plaid-clad men and vintage-dress-wearing women who populate the area. While the Royal Canadian Legion hall across the street might seem like a more appropriate venue for a glass of Alberta’s finest, it’s at Habit where the whisky, along with other Canadian whiskies, gets top billing.

Habit’s cocktail menu includes a section dedicated exclusively to Canadian whisky, featuring 21 of the country’s best. At the top of that list is Alberta Premium, which Nick Devine, a bartender and co-owner of both Habit and the Cascade Room, describes as “a good little whisky.” Devine says scotch snobs won’t touch a Canadian whisky, and when customers do ask for one, it’ll be a Canadian Club or, on occasion, a Forty Creek. But if a customer asks for a rye and ginger or a manhattan, she will get a taste of Alberta Premium, the house whisky.

Devine is English and says he didn’t know much at all about Canadian whisky before deciding to make them a focus at his bars. “In the U.K., Canadian whisky is considered smooth, light and entry-level. That’s the stigma. Alberta Premium’s a bit different,” he says. That difference sets it apart from most other Canadian whiskies, which are rye whiskies in name but, in fact, have only a touch of rye blended in for flavour toward the end of the distilling process.

Alberta Premium is made from 100 per cent rye grain. “The rye makes it bolder, gives it more bite,” Devine says. “It’s not everyone’s cup of tea.”

It’s also a stark departure from the traditional Canadian approach to making whisky. When the Loyalists came north, they brought with them the American tradition of using rye to make whisky. A century or so later, that tradition took a turn. Canada’s most successful distillers of whisky – Hiram Walker and Samuel Bronfman – started blending their products with corn and barley to mellow the flavour. Canadian Club and Crown Royal found widespread appeal through this mellowing, but lost the respect of serious drinkers of scotch and whisky.

Alberta Premium’s “bite” is slowly bringing renewed credibility to Canadian whisky.The bargain-priced product, which retails in Alberta liquor stores for just over $20 for a 750-millilitre bottle, was declared the “Best Canadian Whisky” by Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible for four years running, between 2006 and 2009. Murray, a renowned British whisky writer and three-time winner of the Glenfiddich Whisky Writer of the Year award, tastes and evaluates some 3,000 whiskies from around the world every year, ranking each on its nose, palate, finish and balance. Despite the fact that Alberta Premium lost its first-place status in 2010, Murray is quick to recall why it won four years in a row. “It stands out for its vividness, a precise degree of sweetness against the rye. It has an unbelievable intensity. It’s one of the most charming whiskies around.”

Murray is an exuberant supporter of Canadian whisky and is highly critical of Canadians – and Albertans – for not drinking it. He’s also critical of the Canadian industry for doing such a bad job of promoting its product. “The Canadian whisky industry has so much potential; distillers just have to believe in themselves a little,” he says. “And Alberta Premium is the perfect example – 25-year-old bottles were sold for $25! It should have been priced at $125 a bottle – it’s a world-class whisky. By pricing it so low, the distillery is sending people the wrong message.”

The director of operations for Alberta Distillers, Rob Tuer, says there are two reasons why Alberta Premium is priced so inexpensively. The first is that it’s cheap to produce.

“We use rye grown in the Prairie provinces,” he says. “Rye is cheaper than corn, and because it’s local, we don’t have to pay for transportation.” But there’s also a branding strategy of sorts at play. Alberta Distillers has been producing Alberta Premium whisky for more than 50 years, and as a rye whisky at a low price, it held a certain appeal for Alberta’s hard-working cowboy culture of old. Albert Premium continues to chase the so-called “cowboy market” by sponsoring rodeos in small communities in Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Ontario. “We want to focus on support from the grassroots,” says James Monaghan, assistant brand manager for Alberta Premium. “And our pricing is geared towards maintaining loyalty in that market.”

The distillery where Alberta Premium is made is the oldest of its kind in Western Canada and is still situated on its original 40-acre property in central Calgary. It was founded by George Conrad Reifel, who came from a family of determined German braumeisters. The family established numerous breweries with varying degrees of success in Vancouver and on Vancouver Island between arriving in 1896 and 1917, when the Prohibition Act banned the sale and consumption of alcohol in Canada. After closing down their Canadian businesses, Reifel and his father moved to Japan, where they learned to make malt from rice and established the Anglo-Japanese Brewing Company.

The Japanese venture was successful, and George Reifel returned to Vancouver. The circumstances that led to his partnership with Alberta oil tycoon Frank McMahon and the establishment of Alberta Distillers in 1946 are unclear. The Reifel family sold the business to National Distillers sometime around 1970. A decade later, National Distillers sold the company to Jim Beam, now Beam Global Spirits & Wine Inc., owned by Fortune Brands. Alberta Distillers, which also produces Alberta Springs, Canadian Gold, Canadian Spirit and Tangle Ridge ryes, sells approximately 600,000 cases of spirits each year. But it barely registers as part of a company representing many bigger and far more recognizable products, including spirits like Jim Beam and Canadian Club and big names in golf like Titleist, Foot Joy and Pinnacle.

In contrast, High River’s Highwood Distillers might just be the “grassroots” product that Alberta Premium aspires to be. Started as a public company in 1974, the distillery was privatized in 2002 and doubled in size after purchasing Potter’s Distiller in British Columbia in 2005. Highwood wants to keep growing, though, and has attempted to win over vodka drinkers by producing a clear whisky called White Owl. Priced between $35 and $45 a bottle, White Owl illustrates Highwood’s desire to break into the market in Quebec and Ontario, where liquor stores and the customers that populate them tend to favour more expensive products.

The strategy behind Highwood’s White Owl Whisky reflects the direction the Canadian whisky market as whole is heading. It may not be expanding – total sales for Canadian whisky have dropped from 3.7 million cases in 2006 to 3.4 million in 2010 – but it is diversifying, with new boutique distilleries popping up across the country. Like

Alberta Premium’s claim as the only 100 per cent rye whisky and White Owl’s distinction as the only clear whisky, there are a host of competitors with claims of their own. Forty Creek, which emerged out of the Kittling Ridge Winery in Grimsby, Ontario, and first entered the market with a 10-year-old whisky in 2002, can claim to be the only whisky that uses Canadian wood casks in the distilling process.

Even Wiser’s, the venerable producer of familiar products like Wiser’s Deluxe and Wiser’s Special Blend, is trying to set itself apart from the crowd. In celebration of its 150th anniversary, the Ontario distiller created Red Letter in 2007, a one-time bottling that is the only non-chill-filtered whisky made in Canada. The one-off creation, priced at $150 per
750 millilitre bottle, even managed to steal Jim Murray’s designation of best Canadian whisky from Alberta Premium in 2010.

It may have missed out on a fifth straight award but Alberta Premium continues to trundle along all the same. In 2010 Alberta Distillers sold 205,518 cases of Alberta Premium, which placed it sixth among Canadian whiskies. Meanwhile, it ranked a respectable seventh out of 22 brands of Canadian whisky sold in Ontario’s government-run liquor stores. At Calgary’s Kensington Wine Market, scotch expert Andrew Ferguson describes Alberta Premium as a “good seller.” However, he doesn’t attribute those sales to any particular brand identity or strategy on the part of the company that makes it. “It’s like an orphan,” he says, and adds, “Whoever makes Alberta Premium didn’t seem to do anything when they were winning accolades from Jim Murray. They probably didn’t know what to do with that.”

Ferguson may be right. It’s also possible that Beam Wine and Spirits isn’t interested in pushing a product that pushes itself without any help from money spent on advertising. As a domestic product, Beam doesn’t need to worry about Alberta Premium competing with the other whisky brand they own and in which they’ve invested effective advertising dollars: Canadian Club. Canadian Club also has Don Draper on its side; consistent exposure on the hit TV series Mad Men will ensure the brand comes to mind for drinkers who might not know much else about whisky. And Canadian Club, unlike Alberta Premium, is distributed internationally.

Jim Murray says he’s sure that Alberta Premium will be at the top of his list of Canadian whiskies again – and it will probably happen soon. “Its sharpness has just waned a bit,” he says. “That happens sometimes. It could be due to strength of sun on the rye on a particular summer or a slight change in the wood casks.” In the meantime, Murray will continue to take bottles of Alberta Premium back to the U.K. from his visits to Canada, and he’ll continue to serve it to guests in his home. With Jim Murray’s endorsement, and the support of Fortune Brands, Alberta Premium is not going anywhere. In the end, though, that might be its biggest problem of all.

Original page here.

Malt Messenger No. 45‏

Malt Messenger No. 45 – The Rum Issue

Dear Malt Messenger Subscribers,

I hope you are enjoying this authentically Canadian winter. I’ve done my best to take it in stride as I’m sure most of you have too. I’ve had a couple of great days of skiing and the heater in my truck is finally fixed, so I no longer need to bundle up for even short drives. I bundled up for the Winter Classic too, a couple of weekends back. That’s an experience I won’t soon forget, the game and its related excitement were great, but if it weren’t for the small flask of single malt I had on me I’m not sure how I would have survived the cold.

I was in Victoria for the Whisky Festival last month, which is without doubt the most impressive in Canada. And don’t just take my word for it, most of the Brand Ambassadors will tell you the same, many of them calling it one of the top 5 in the world. It’s an excellent show, drawing representatives from all over the world of whisky, who put on a slew of first rate Master Classes. One of the people I met up with in Victoria is Mark Gillespie of WhiskyCast. Mark produces a weekly podcast featuring news and interviews from the world of whisky. The podcast and his whisky reviews can be found on his website or on his free app for the iPod and iPhone. Mark interviewed me in a segment that he included in podcast 302 a couple of weeks ago; you can hear that podcast by following this link:

While on the subject of interview I also made an appearance of CBC Radio back in January as part of the Calgary Eyeopener’s annual Robbie Burns Day celebrations. The interview can be heard at: The 2011 Robbie Burns Dinner was a huge success, and the featured whiskies from the Isle of Arran Distillery very well received. The whiskies sampled included two casks which have been selected by and bottled for the Kensington Wine Market. Unable to choose between two exceptional casks, one bourbon and one sherry, we bottled both! I’ve provided a write-up on our Arran’s below, including tasting notes and how you can go about pre-ordering one of the bottlings, or both!

Finally, there are some great rums available in Alberta right now, and I thought it was about time to give them a little love on the Malt Messenger. I wouldn’t go so far as to call this Malt Messenger “the Rum Issue”, the bulk of my news still relates to single malts, but it’s the most attention that’s ever been paid to a topic other than single malts.

All this and much more in the 45th Malt Messenger, I hope you enjoy it.


Andrew Ferguson

PS-You can follow me on twitter at , and yes I am trying to make more regular contributions!


In This Issue


1.       KWM Arran Casks Coming Soon – Pre-order and Save 5-7%

2.       Makers Mark 46

3.       Spring Whisky Tours Update

4.       Victoria Whisky Festival In Perspective

5.       Special Rates for the Universal Whisky Experience in Las Vegas

6.       This Just In: 5 Limited Release BenRiachs

7.       Four New Glendronach Vintages Due Any Day

8.       Rum Roundup!

9.       Collector’s Pick for February – Royal Lochnagar Selected Reserve

10.   Tasting Notes On Two New Old Malt Cask Exclusives: Rosebank 20 and Port Ellen 27

11.   Whisky 101 Part II – What is a Single Malt Whisky?

12.   New Whiskies

13.   Coming Soon

14.   Tastings




Kensington Wine Market approached the Isle of Arran distillery to purchase a cask this fall, with the intention of launching it at our annual Burns Supper. KWM bottles a couple of casks of whisky every year, usually choosing the barrel from a selection of 6 samples with the assistance of some handpicked customers. The tasting usually ferrets out a clear favourite, but this time we found ourselves torn between an exceptional bourbon barrel and a superb sherry cask.

I wasn’t sure what to do, I had set out with the intention of bottling a Bourbon cask Arran which I feel generally best compliments the distillery’s raw spirit, but as good as the Bourbon Cask bottling was, and it was great, the sherry cask was excellent too! So we did what any rational person would do, we decided to bottle both, and I am ever glad we did. Our Kensington Arran bottlings will be coming in at around $85 a bottle; by far our most reasonably priced bottling yet!

The whiskies were officially launched at our Robbie Burns Supper on January 26th with special guest, Isle of Arran Brand Ambassador Andrew Hogan. In addition to sampling a range of whiskies from the Isle of Arran distillery, participants were the first to sample our bottled casks. Both casks were extremely well received and we had strong pre-orders for both whiskies. In that light I wanted to extend the offer to readership of the Malt Messenger. If you pre-order one of our Arran’s I will extend to you a 5% discount. If you order one or more of both I’ll give you a 7% discount!

Both whiskies are from single casks, bottled at their natural cask strengths without any artificial colouring. Each of the bottles will be individually numbered. My tasting notes for the two casks are as follows:

  1. Arran KWM Bourbon Barrel – Distilled July 9th, 1999 – Bottled January 19th 2011 – 11 Years – 57.4% – 199 individually numbered bottles – $84.99
  2. Arran KWM Sherry Hogshead – Distilled April 2nd 1998 – Bottled January 19th 2011 – 12 Years – 55.3% – 282 individually numbered bottles – $84.99


MAKER’S MARK 46 – $61.99

Maker’s Mark Bourbon has been made the same way since its introduction in 1958. Its creator, Bill Samuels, Sr., took a typical Bourbon mash, and used red winter wheat in place of rye. Pure clean iron free water comes from a natural spring located on the distilleries grounds. A mashbill composed of yellow corn, red winter wheat and a small amount of naturally malted barley combine to give Markers Mark a soft mellow character.

The Makers Mark 46  takes the regular recipe, which is typically aged 6-7 years and then takes it up a notch. Borrowing an idea from John Glasser of Compass Box, they have inserted new French oak staves into the casks to give the whisky an added kick of vanilla and spices. Here is how the company describes the process:

1)      Fully matured Maker’s Mark is removed from its barrel. Top hoops are removed from the barrel, and the barrel head is pulled.

2)      Ten wooden seared staves are then affixed to the inside of that barrel.

3)      Searing the staves caramelizes the sugars in the wood, adding a unique flavor that finishes on the front of the tongue.

4)      The fully matured Maker’s Mark is then put back in the barrel and aged several more months. When it tastes exactly right, Maker’s 46 is removed from the barrel, bottled, corked and dipped.

The result is a pretty interesting Bourbon. I had a chance to try it at the Victoria Whisky Festival, but then I sampled a number of things that weekend so I’ll leave it to John Hansel of Malt Advocate to fill you in on the details:

“This is original “red wax” Maker’s Mark that received additional aging in barrels containing internal “seared” French oak staves. The original Maker’s Mark, being a wheated bourbon (instead of rye, which is typically used), is rather mellow and easy-to-drink. The French oak staves in “46” add firm, complex dry spices (led by warming cinnamon, followed by nutmeg and clove), herb (a suggestion of Green Chartreuse, perhaps?), and some polished leather “grip”, which dovetails well with Maker’s trademark layered sweetness (caramel, vanilla, a hint of honey). I’m also picking up some dried fruit in the background. The seared oak stave influence is somewhat aggressive, but never to the point of being excessive.” – 90pts John Hansell, Malt Advocate

My Tasting Note: Nose: sweet corn and soft wheat oils, cognac-like notes, vanilla extract, citric fruit juices and notes of brown sugar and agave nectar which develop later; Palate: soft and smooth, loads of sweet-gentle-toasted oak; there is an initial prickle from the alcohol (which is 47%), but this disappears quickly in the first sip; Maker’s Mark’s signature soft winter wheat adds elegance to the palate, the spices are very delicate, coming from the French oak rather than the rye as in most bourbons, without the more common bitter and clove notes; there is a base of vanilla from the American oak, but is always second fiddle to the French oak influenced sweet-spice notes;  Finish: smooth and fresh with creamy bourbon, grassy wheat and faded spices; Comments: the step up from the good standard Maker’s Mark is definitely worth the extra 15 bucks!



My May whisky tours are going ahead as planned. The second, Speyside and the Southern Highlands, is full. The first Islay and the Southwest Coast still has some room, but time is running out if you want to join in on the trip. The absolute latest I need to know if you would like to take part in the tour is the end of March. You can contact me by e-mail if you have any questions, , or you can visit my website: The trip cost will be about $2500.00, not including airfare. Here is an idea of what you might expect on the Islay tour:

Sunday May 8th – The group assembles and departs from Glasgow in the morning.

  • We visit the home of Robert Burns in Alloway.
  • We make our way to the Isle of Arran to tour the distillery and spend the night on the island.

Monday May 9th – We make our way to Campbeltown

  • VIP Tour and Tasting of Springbank and Glengyle Distilleries
  • Tour of Glen Scotia Distillery
  • Night is spent in Campbeltown.

Tuesday May 10th – We make our way to the island of Islay.

  • VIP Tour and Tastings at Ardbeg, Lagavulin and Laphroaig
  • We spend the next three nights in Bowmore.

Wednesday May 11th

  • VIP Tour Bruichladdich
  • Optional Golf Game

Thursday May 12th

  • Tour Isle of Jura Distillery
  • VIP Tour Bowmore Distillery

Friday May 13th

  • Tour Kilchoman
  • Tour Caol Ila
  • Return by Ferry to the Mainland

Saturday May 14th

  • Tour Auchentoshan Distillery
  • Scotch Malt Whisky Society Dinner in Edinburgh

*Exact details to be confirmed.



I had a wonderful time out in Victoria the weekend of the 21st, 22nd and 23rd of January at the 6th Annual Victoria Whisky Festival. The Festival is put on by a group of whisky enthusiast in Victoria BC, with all the proceeds going to local charities. The festival’s full time volunteer organiser is Lawrence Graham who is a key person in Victoria’s whisky circles. Lawrence presides over a couple of whisky clubs, produces a whisky blog (which publishes each and every Malt Messenger on its site) and is one of but a couple “Malt Maniacs” in Canada. The show is easily the best put on in Canada, not for its large festival tasting which lacks some of the selection of Alberta whisky festivals, but for the Master Classes put on by distilleries and personalities from the world of whisky. This year I attended both as a participant and a presenter.

On the Friday night I attended an excellent Master Class with John Glasser of Compass Box. Rather than just put on a tasting John gave all of those attending the opportunity to blend their own whisky. After tasting the Asyla, Spice Tree and Peat Monster to give us reference points we moved on to sample 5 blending components: 20 year old 1991 Cameronbridge grain whisky, Clynelish from a rejuvenated first fill bourbon barrel, a cask strength version of Compass Box’s Spice Tree, Ardmore (a heavily peated Speysider) and Caol Ila. After a bit of experimentation I set off to produce and bottle (100ml) my own blend consisting of 50% Caol Ila and 20% Ardmore to give it a peaty backbone. I was looking for something like the Compass Box Flaming Heart, but wanted to put my own twist on it. Adding  10% of the Spice Tree for character and 20% of the Cameronbridge for its silky sweet Bourbon notes did the trick! I haven’t had this much fun at a whisky tasting before, and hope to be able to bring an experience like this to Calgary.

Saturday was a busy day, I gave two Master Classes, the first of which was on the effects of aging, called “Better With Age?” I demonstrated how whiskies as young as three years can be very pleasant and that more time in oak didn’t always make for a better whisky. The tasting also showcased to whiskies aged more than 40 years, one of which had a depth and complexity not possible in younger whiskies and another which I felt was over the hill. The second Master Class was for Springbank distillery who were not able to attend the event. I poured whiskies in all three of Springbank’s styles: Hazelburn, Springbank and Longrow, as well as Kilkerran Work in Progress #1 from Glengyle distillery.

After the Springbank tasting I was invited to a Private Canadian Whisky tasting with Davin de Kergomeaux, a sommelier, a certified “Malt Maniac” and producer of the blog: Davin brought along 3 rare Canadian whiskies from his own collection, including a bottling of Crown Royal from the 1960’s, a rare Rye called Lot 40 and a straight Canadian Rye bottled in the US in small batches called Whistle Pig. For me it was the corn which stood out in the Crown Royal bottling, with floral notes and buttered corn on the cob.  The Crown Royal of today is nothing like that of the 1960’s distilled at the Waterloo distillery. The Lot 40 was a revelation, and something I would love to have in my own collection. Made from both malted and un-malted rye it was very peppery and spicy with floral and honey notes. The Whistle Pig is a real interesting story, distilled in Canada it is bottled on a small farm in the US. Produced from 100% un-malted rye it was very sweet with juicy fruits and big spice notes. The tasting was a revelation about how good Canadian whisky is and how underappreciated and misunderstood it can be. There was a fourth very impressive whisky in the tasting, the Wiser’s Legacy which I will discuss in greater detail below. The festival tasting followed the Master Class on the Saturday night, and there were some memorable whiskies, but the weekends highlights and the biggest reasons to attend the Victoria Whisky Festival, are the Master Classes.

The weekend concluded with a small, by invite only whisky dinner at The Mark, a very small intimate dining room in the Hotel Grand Pacific. The evening’s guest of honour was Andrew Gray of Bruichladdich, and he lead us through a tasting of seven whiskies: Links Vancouver, 16 Year Old Cuvee A, 18 Year Old 1st Edition, Golder Still, 18 Year Old Kosher Wine Finish and DNA 2nd Edition 32 Year, and Black Arts II. The highlights were without doubt the DNA II and the Golder Still. The Black Arts II was far better than I had expected, and worth a try, but still nothing close to the Legendary Blacker Still. Speaking of the Blacker Still, we had a chance to enjoy that one too! A fellow Calgarian, and favourite customer of the Kensington Wine Market, Dr. Jane Cameron saw fit to donate a bottle of Blacker Still from her own collection to the night’s tasting. Revisiting this whisky was the perfect way to cap the dinner and the Victoria Whisky Festival weekend.

The Victoria Whisky Festival is truly is the finest whisky festival in Canada, and in the words of many of the presenters, among the best in the world.  This is a testament to the work done by Lawrence Graham and all the other volunteers.  I hope to be invited out again next year.

Tickets go on sale early in November, and sell out in a matter of hours. Nothing is up yet for 2012, but I’m sure it will be soon. Visit for more details.



I am heading down to a really interesting looking whisky festival in Las Vegas this March. On the 18th and 19th of March the Wynn Encore resort will be playing host to the world’s first Super Premium whisky festival.  The show’s aim is to bring together producers, brand ambassadors, specialists, collectors and whisky aficionados to sample some of the rarest and most exclusive whiskies in the world. The show consists of a festival tasting on the Friday night, as well as some “events” included in the entry fee. These “special events” include everything from a Gordon & MacPhail tasting which promises the launch of “very old and very rare Single Malt Scotch Whisky”, a Whisky and Cigar pairing, Whisky and Chocolate and a Women and Whisky seminar. Saturday there are a slew of Master Classes from the likes of Dalmore, Bowmore, Glenfiddich, Macallan, Glenmorangie, Glendronach-BenRiach, Highland Park, Ardbeg and more, each with the opportunity to sample some very rare and precious whiskies. I am very excited about what looks like a very exclusive whisky tasting event.

As with most things in life, the Nth Whisky Show isn’t free, in fact it’s quite pricey, but there is also a lot on offer!  A ticket for the event will set you back $525, though this does include one Super-pour of a whisky valued at more than $300 a glass (see the web link below for more details). It also includes free cigar samples, a gourmet dinner and pre-reception, as well as free entry, subject to space, to Friday’s special events. The Saturday Master Classes run $55 a piece but look really appealing, with the opportunity to sample whisky like the Bowmore 40, Dalmore 40 and some unbelievable Glenfarclas bottlings. The shows organiser and visionary Mahesh Patel is offering a special %15 discount to readers of the Malt Messenger and customers of the Kensington Wine Market on the entry fee, as well as one free Master Class with each ticket. To take advantage of this special offer please contact me by e-mail for the access codes: Also the Encore resort is offering special rates on its rooms to event registrants, but these rates won’t last long! For more info on the Nth Whisky Show 2011 visit:


5 Limited Release BenRiachs

Five single cask BenRiach bottlings have just landed in Canada this year, all of them restricted to a single case of six bottles. All five cases have come to the Kensington Wine Market, and most of these bottles have in already sold out in but 2 days. Unfortunately it takes time to write the Malt Messenger…

I have had the pleasure of trying four of the five bottlings courtesy of a couple customers. I was able to write a tasting note on the 1977 and 1978 vintages thanks to Peter (last name withheld to protect the innocent). Bryan, the bar tender at Divino on 8th Avenue gave me a taste of the 1976 and 1984 before he took them to work. (Incidentally Divino’s whisky bar, while small, is one of the best in the city, with a range of really interesting whiskies.)  I hope we will continue to see more of these limited releases moving forward, here’s hoping. These whiskies are all limited to 1 bottle per customer. Here are the details on the five different vintages and their availability at the time of writing:

  1. BenRiach 1991 19 Year – Virgin Oak Finish – $135.99 – 54.9% – Distillery Tasting Note: Nose: Vanilla beans and butterscotch with oven baked toasted oat biscuits. Palate: Hot buttered toast with hazelnut butter, Incredible dried nut characteristics with a spicy kick. – 2 Bottles Left – $135.99
  2. BenRiach 1984 25 Year – Tawny Port Finish – $182.99 – 54.1% – My Tasting Note: oak cakes, soft-thick-earthy-peat, dark chocolate, toasted almonds and Oreo cookies; Palate: surprisingly malty after such a long time in the cask, juicy-peaty-malt so thick it feels like you have to chew it, the peaty-oils are gentle, and complimented by the chocolate and grape notes lent to the whisky by the port pipe; sweet vanilla notes shine through the avalanche of peated malt; Finish: bone dry with semi-sweet chocolate; Comments: this one took a full hour to open up in the glass, but boy was it worth the wait!  – 2 Bottles Left – $182.99
  3. BenRiach 1978 32 Year – Tokaji Finish – $271.99 – 50.4% – MY Tasting Note: loads of juicy ripe fruit and nut, very orangey with butter and marmalade on toast; burnt brown sugar and spicy toasted oak; Palate: round and fruity, big notes of white fruits from ripe to poached, candied orange peel, thick spice and dark chocolate, it is incredibly sweet and rich with brown sugar and Christmas spice; Finish: long, toasty and sweet with crisp oak and prickling spice. – SOLD OUT – $271.99
  4. BenRiach 1977 33 Year – Pedro Ximenez Finish – $290.99 – 52.2% – My Tasting Note: Nose: coffee bean, liquorice extract and anise, nutty sherry, the thickest caramel, ripe strawberries and chocolate; Palate: it hints at rich sweet notes, but the darker ones take over with notes of something smoky, with leather and tobacco notes developing late; Finish long and dark with espresso, brown sugar and burnt fruit. Comment: needs time to open! – SOLD OUT – $290.99
  5. BenRiach 1976 33 Year – Hogshead Cask – $290.99 – 53.2% – My Tasting Note: Nose: huge honey notes, honeycomb, peanut butter brittle, floral tones and vanilla ice cream; Palate: more honey notes, tropical fruit punch, graham wafers, marzipan, coconut shrimp and silky soft vanilla oils; Finish: long drying and very toasty with more sweet honey notes, and traces of floral notes and tropical fruits; Comments: I can see why they didn’t finish this one, thank God!  – 1 Bottle Left – $290.99



Four different vintages of Glendronach are due over the next week or two and they are exclusive to the Kensington Wine Market in Canada. We are receiving just 6 to 12 bottles of each vintage: two different bottlings from 1990 and one each from 1991 and 1996. Out of fairness to our customers they will be strictly limited to 1 bottle of each vintage per person. The vintage releases of Glendronach are described below:

  1. Glendronach 1990 Cask 3068 – 20 Years – 52.6% – Pedro Ximenez Sherry Puncheon – Distillery Tasting Note: Nose: Ripe raisins and dates envolope the mouth and this integrates wonderfully with allspice and dense Pedro Ximinez notes. Palate: Creamy and smooth but with huge intense sherry characteristics. Dark chocolate sauce and sweet cinnamon and clove attributes. – $179.99 – ONLY 12 BOTTLES AVAILABLE!
  2. Glendronach 1990 Cask 3059 – 20 Years – 54.9% – Pedro Ximenez Sherry Puncheon – Distillery Tasting Note: Nose: Intense Pedro Ximinez aroma at the beginning followed up by ripe berry fruits with brambles and ripe plums. Palate: Fantastic ripe berry fruits and rich cocoa elements. The chocolate element intensifies with pronounced fresh sugar syrup on the mid palate. – $179.99 – ONLY 6 BOTTLES AVAILABLE!
  3. Glendronach 1991 Cask 2512 – 18 Years – 51.9% – Oloroso Sherry Butt – Distillery Tasting Note: Nose: Hazelnuts, walnuts and almonds create depth with a rich sweet Oloroso backbone. Palate: Bold sherry notes react in perfect harmony with chocolate fruit and nut torte. Toffee-apple elements impart a fresh fruity element to the mix. Delightful.  – $149.99 – ONLY 12 BOTTLES AVAILABLE!
  4. Glendronach 1996 Cask 202 –  14 Years – 58.3% – Oloroso Sherry Butt – Distillery Tasting Note: Nose: Super-ripe morrelo cherries and stewed plums combine with spiced raisins and allspice. Palate: Chewy and rich. Sweet plum pudding and chocolate coated raisins with an elegant sherry finish.  – $134.99 – ONLY 6 BOTTLES AVAILABLE!



We’ve seen a distinct growth in the interest paid to premium rums over the last couple of years, and have done our best to satisfy the needs of Calgary rum connoisseurs. We can’t lay claim to having the largest selection of rum in town, currently we stock about 40 different varieties, but we can proudly lay claim to one of the best premium rum collections in the country. You won’t find the latest coconut, passion fruit or bargain (read cheaply produced) rums here, but you will find exceptional sipping rums from the Amrut Old Port to the Gordon & MacPhail Longpond 1941 58 year old.

There is neither the time nor the space to write a history of rum for this Malt Messenger, and similarly I do not have the ability to do justice to the topic of “how rum is made”. I hope you will settle for a description and tasting notes on 22 of the most interesting rums we stock:

1)      Amrut Old Port Rum – This little Indian rum is probably the best bargain in the store. It is produced by the same distillery that makes Amrut single malt. The price is so reasonable you wouldn’t hesitate to mix it, but the palate is so smooth and complex you don’t need to. – $26.46

2)      Appleton Estate Legacy – The Appleton Estate Legacy is crafted for rums of up to 30 years of age. Nose: toasted oak, spice and sugar cane with hints of citrus; Palate: very smooth with lots of oak, slightly sweet and oily; Finish: a slight spiciness and lots more oak. – $96.49

3)      Cadenhead Classic Green Label – This is an independently bottled rum from Scotland, but distilled in Guyana?, Jamaica? or Cuba? There seems to be a lot of disagreement on this issue. The bottle only indicates it is from the Caribbean, matured in oak and bottled at 50% without colouring or chill filtering. This rum always reminds me of Christmas with its strong notes of molasses, orange and spice so thick you could cut it with a knife. – $69.99

4)      Cadenhead 12 Year Demerara Laphroaig Cask – Surely the only peated rum in the world! This one came about by accident, with Demerara rum having been filled into barrels which had previously been used to mature Laphroaig single malt. Laphroaig has a very unique taste profile, even among Islay single malt whiskies, with a very salty-medicinal-smoky character. Caramelized and sweet on the one hand this rum is also peaty and medicinal. Islay whisky drinker’s rejoice, this smoky, peaty rum is right up your alley… – $83.99

5)      Cadenhead 8 Yr Panama Rum – I tried this little non-chill filtered rum well over a year ago, and remember it being quite chewy. The only tasting note I can now find is in German, so for all of you who sprechen sie duetche: Farbe: Leuchtendes Bernstein. Duft: Geben Sie diesem Rum etwas Zeit im Glas. Duft nach Karamell, Kokosnussmilch, etwas Lakritze. Geschmack: Komplexe cremige Süsse, sehr sanft, trocken. Nachklang: Unglaublich lange – sehr delikat.

6)      Clement VSOP – Martinique is a former French colony, officially designated an “overseas department”, meaning that it is still a part of France, but with roughly the same autonomy as the city of Paris. French colonial rums were typically made from cane juice or sugar cane extract, and are often more subtle and cognac like than the molasses driven rums of the English and Spanish Caribbean.  This rum has been matured 3 years in recharged Bourbon barrels, and one in ex-cognac casks. Rhum Clement is produced and bottled on the estate. Peppery, sweet and silky with cocoa & honey. – $51.99

7)      Clement XO – Is also referred to as the Top Vintage Cuvee. Rhum Clement is one of the few rums in the world to claim a terroir for its sugar cane, which is grown in a unique microclimate of volcanic soil on a single estate. Like the great wine producers of Bordeaux, Cognac or Champagne, Rhum Clement’s rums show the influence of weather, soil and geography. Rhum Clement is produced and bottled on the estate. The XO is superb I first tried it months ago, but lost my notes. Never the less its shows charcoal with maple and Demerara sugar and dried fruit on the palate. It is incredibly smooth, and very complex. – $124.49

8)      Cruzan Single Barrel 12 Year – We’ve carried a few of the Cruzan rums over the years, but this one caught our eye, being from a single barrel. The single barrel is made from a blend of rums aged up to 12 years of age. After blending the rum is re-casked and filled into new oak barrels to further matureand marry for at least six months, but up to a year. From this point on each barrel is bottled individually, meaning that there should be considerable variation from batch to batch. This rum typically shows notes of toffee, spice and dried fruit. – $40.49

9)      El Dorado 12 Year – El Dorado is the name given to a family of rums produced by Demerara Distillers of British Guyana. It was formed from merger of the last remaining rum producers in the country. Guyana has been producing rum for more than 350 years. By the 1800’s there were over 300 sugar estates, each with its own still(s). Port Mourant (Est. 1732) was the choice of the British Royal Navy in its early years, and when on to produce one of the most recognizable rum brands of the 1800’s OVD or Old Vatter Demerara. The El Dorado range is produced by blending rums produced at three unique stills: the unique wooden coffey still from the old Enmore sugar factory; the world’s last remaining wooden pot still for Port Mourant Estate; and the French savalle still from Uitvlught (pronounced “eye-flute”) Estate. All three stills are housed under one roof today on the Diamond Estate. The 12 Year is full of dark sugar and spice, lush toffee and citrus notes over powered towards the end by a big surge of caramel. The 12 year age refered to on the bottle is the age of the youngest rum in the blend. – $47.99

10)   El Dorado 15 Year – Tasting Note Adapted From : “You can taste the oak imparted by the barrels the components of the blend were aged in, but amazingly, they never overtake the whole blend…” “… You can separate out well balanced hints of caramel, molasses, burnt sugar, wound around with the faintest hint of cinnamon and vanilla, and the barest trace of orange peel.  There is just enough sweet for me to appreciate depth and body, and just little enough to pronounce its age.  In fairness, it’s a phenomenally well-balanced drink over all – it can go well neat, on ice or even as a mixer.” – Lance Surujbally – $57.49

11)   El Dorado 21 Year – Is a bit of an enigma when compare to the 15 and 25 year olds, both of which are considerably sweeter. The 21 year old is a considerable jump in price from the 15, but worth every penny, it is smooth, rich and complex. I once poured it blind for my whisky club, and not one of them could tell it was a rum, most of them thought it was a sherried Speyside whisky. To me this is a testament to the maturation, and the character derived from the unusual stills. Once again I will borrow from Lance Surujbally of “Good stuff this. At 40% it is like caramel velvet going down…” “…Very very smooth, hardly any bite on the way down. And a long finish, where those sweet highlights come out and almost, but not quite, overpower all the other spices.” – $92.99

12)   El Dorado 25 Year – This is perhaps the rarest rum currently available in Alberta, next to the 58 year old Jamaican one (see G&M Longpond 1941 below). The rum was distilled in a single vintage, 1980, and has been bottled after maturing 25 years. Kensington Wine Market’s initial allocation was of only 6 bottles, of which we have 2 left. I have no word on whether we’ll get any more. My Tasting Note: Nose: initially it is very dusty/musty, like entering a earthen floor warehouse; it become more chocolatey with candied fruits and notes of Christmas cake, warmed brown sugar, vanilla extract and firm oak round out the nose; Palate: incredibly sweet, massively so… not since the Ron Zacapa 23 Year have I sampled such a sweet rum, and even then I’d have to try them side by side to say which is sweeter; aged Christmas cake, port wine, assorted chocolates and the softest caramelized fruits you can imagine; there is incredible depth to this rum, with notes of Pedro Ximenez, maple syrup and Beaver Tails; this is decadent, and a dessert in itself, it is as though concentrated Coca-Cola syrup  has already been added to the rum; Finish: drying and toasty with hints of the sweet complex layers that just surged over my palate like a storm surge! Comments: at close to $300 this rum isn’t for everyone, but it is infinitely better value and quality than the Santa Teresa Bicentenario which will set you back even more. $297.99

13)   El Dorado Single Barrel EHP (Enmore) – The label EHP was applied to rums distilled at the distillery attached to the Enmore Sugar factory which was founded by Edward Henry Porter nearly 200 years ago. This rum is produced by the only wooden Coffee still in the world. Of the three single barrels this one is sweetest and shows the most molasses. – $94.99

14)   El Dorado Single Barrel PM (Port Mourant) – PM is the marquee given to identify rums that originated from the Port Mourant Sugar Factory which, founded in 1732, was one of the oldest Estates in the world. Rums from Port Mourant were for a long time part of the British Royal Navy’s traditions. Demerara Distillers has preserved the last of Port Mourant wooden copper pot stills, which continues to be used to this day. This is the spiciest of the three single barrel El Dorados. – $94.99

15)   El Dorado Single Barrel ICBU (Uitvlught) – ICBU is the mark used to identify whisky which originated from the distillery attached to the Uitvlugt Sugar Factory which was founded on the West Bank of the Demerara River. Traditionally fermented and distilled in a French Savalle Still which has been relocated to the Diamond Estate where Demerara Distillers produces all its rums today. This is the most complex of the rums and if sales speak to anything it shows, the first case sold day 1! – $94.99

16)   English Harbour 1981 25 Year – Like the El Dorado this rum can stake a claim to being from a single vintage. This rum is from a batch of but 5712 bottles produced by the Antigua distillery, on the island of the same name. My Tasting Note: Nose: waves of ripe, stewed and candied fruits, treacle sauce abounds, as do notes of damp tobacco and moist cedar; Palate: I am struck immediately by how subtle and balanced the rum is, first being struck by orange peel, soft caramel and molasses which lead into some clean smoke; spices emerge more prominently on my second sip, as do traces of vanilla, crème brule and stewed fruits; Finish: long but soft, with more molasses, deft vanilla and fading stewed fruits. Comments: very well balanced and well structured; the lover of fine spirits will find much to admire here! $195.99

17)   G&M Longpond 1941 58 Year – This is surely the oldest bottled rum in the world, I am certainly not aware of any older! It was produced at the now closed Longpond distillery in Jamaica. The whisky is a curiosity because it was produced during the Second World War. Sometime afterwards it was transported to the UK where it came into the possession of Gordon & MacPhail (whisky merchants). This probably explains the advanced age of this rum, in the heat of the Caribbean it would have evaporated from the cask much more quickly than it did Scotland. My Tasting Note: Nose: I’m not sure there is a better word than unusual to sum up the nose; a bold combination of spearmint, linseed oil, marmalade and Nutella; the nose is thick, sweet and concentrated! After it begins to settle down it becomes more jammy and fruity with raspberries, and even some leafy smoke; Palate: first impressions is sweet, then oily, then floral, a touch bitter, then even sweeter with thick spearmint notes and soft thick vanilla, there are some leafy notes, hints of tobacco and even a hint of smoke; Finish: enormously drying, more spearmint and finally some trace of molasses with soar milk; Comments: after 58 years in oak it’s not surprising that this rum is unusual. What’s remarkable is that they have a rum of this age at all. I’ve never heard of a rum this age before, and as such my recommendation is that it is a must have for any serious rum connoisseur. If this was a Macallan it would be more $20,000.00 a bottle!

18)   Legendario Elixir – Legendario is a bit of an enigma, probably because it is produced in Havana, Cuba. There is very little information about it on the internet, and most of what is available is in Spanish. The elixir is a 7 year old Cuban rum, fortified by the addition of a small amount of grape extract. It is very sweet, and if you get on the bottle and thus your hands very sticky. This should probably be classified as a liqueur, but regulations are not that strict with rums. – $37.49

19)   Legendario 9 Year – This is rather new to the market, a 9 year old rum produced by Legendario in Cuba. My Tasting Note: Nose: rum raisin and fruit cake with orange marmalade; Palate: is soft and smooth with more orangey fruit, and a soft bed of not-too-sweet molasses; Finish: drying and salty with tangy molasses notes; Comments: this is a versatile rum which could go either way with respect to sipping or mixing!

20)   Santa Teresa Bicentenario – A very rare blend of rums up to 80 years of age which is married for 15 years before bottling. Only 1000 bottles of Bicentenario are released per year, and only 24 of them have come to Canada! My Tasting Note: Nose: elegant and restrained I find it a little eggy of the start, reminiscent of good home-made eggnog; honey, brown sugar and anise slowly develop for the patient enough to wait them out; Palate: the palate is light and sweet, with more egg-noggy notes, there are hints of the sweetness that would once have dominated this old rum, but it has mellowed over time into something which could easily be confused with a fine cognac; molasses and brown sugar lazily waltz around as if waiting for someone to pick them up; the oak doesn’t start to develop until 3-4 sips in; Finish: light drying and sweet. – $339.49

21)   St. Nicholas Abbey 10 Year – The owners of St. Nicholas are blending small batch rums until those produced by their distillery are of sufficient age to be bottled. This is a rum blended from a number of Barbadian rums. Only 150 bottles have come into Alberta! My Tasting Note: Nose: is honeyed and floral with molasses and nutty caramel notes; Palate: very soft and smooth, soft vanilla oils rain down on the palate, oak resin adds a layer of depth, to vanilla extract, old oak barrels, toffee apple and rum raisin; Finish: long, drying and oaky with sweet fading oils; Comment: a very soft, smooth rum with an elegant touch. – $145.99

22)   Zaya Gran Reserva – This used to be produced in Guatemala, but now says product of Trinidad on it. But why not said made or distilled in Trinidad? I’ve heard rumour it is still distilled in Guatemala but bottled in Trinidad. No matter it is still a very interesting rum. Aged 12 years in Bourbon and ex-whisky(?) barrels it is a very sweet rum with notes of coffee and chocolate, similar to the legendary Ron Zacapa. – $70.99



  1. OMC Rosebank 20 Year – 50% – Single Refill Hogshead – DL Reference 6396 – 232 Bottles – My Tasting Note: Nose: fresh, floral and creamy with white fruits; gentle vanilla cream, dew moistened flower petals, pan seared pear and apple crumble; Palate: creamy and soft with big notes of toasted oak and surging vanilla; poached and seared white fruits are augmented by light floral oils; there are grassy herbal tones too; Finish: drying and light with wore grassy herbal notes, firm toasted oak and traces of sweet vanilla. – $189.99 – Only 12 Bottles – Exclusive to KWM
  2. OMC Port Ellen 27 Year –  50% – Single Refill Hogshead – DL Reference 6588 – 225 Bottles – My Tasting Note: Nose: dry biscuity peat, lush backdrop of soft vanilla, bread dough, green grass and savoury herbs; there is salt and smoke too, but it has faded with time; Palate: creamier than I expected with an Ardbegian quality to it; the palate also has elements of chewy malt, vanilla custard, the same savoury herbs found on the nose and soft thick oily peat that reminds me of the Ardbeg malt bunds served at Glenmorangie House; Finish: long and savoury with clean smoke, gentle herbs and delicate peaty oils that leave a pleasant film on your palate; late lingering notes of cigar smoke finish it off; Comments: I haven’t come across a lot of Port Ellen’s that I don’t like, just some that are a lot better than others. This one is very drinkable, it is not the best Port Ellen I’ve ever had, but it is a pleasant drink which will please the palate of any Islay drinker. It is a fine example of a Port Ellen matured in American oak Bourbon barrels. – $349.99 – Only 12 Bottles – Exclusive to KWM


COLLECTOR’S PICK FOR FEBRUARY – Royal Lochnagar Selected Reserve – $358.99

Royal Lochnagar distillery is special for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it is one of only three distilleries to ever be given the prefix or suffix “Royal” (the others being Royal Brackla and Glenury Royal, the latter of which is now closed). Lochnagar was given a Royal Warrant after Queen Victoria’s visit in 1848. She could see the Lochnagar distillery from her window, and it remained her favourite whisky for the rest of her life. Secondly, the distillery is the smallest in Diageo’s portfolio of close to 30 distilleries.

The predecessor of Lochnagar distillery, Glen Feardan is founded on the north bank of the River Dee in 1823 by James Robertson. Three years later the distillery is burnt down by competitors. Robertson establishes a new distillery near the mountain, Lochnagar. In 1841 the distillery is again burnt down.  Four years later John Begg establishes a distillery on the south bank of the River Dee, it is called New Lochnagar. The distillery was built less than a mile from Balmoral Castle, the Queen’s official residence in Scotland.

The distillery only producesthree official bottlings, a 12 year old which is not sold in Canada, the Distillers Edition and the Selected Reserve. The Selected Reserve is usually a vatting of half European oak ex-sherry casks and half American oak ex-Bourbon casks. The bottling has no official age statement though it is believed to be composed of whiskies matured to between 18 and 20 years of age on average. The Selected Reserve is not bottled every year. This edition of the Royal Lochnagar Selected Reserve was bottled and released in 2008. It is limited to 4,700 bottles filled at 43%. The whisky has been in Alberta for a couple of years, but I resisted bringing it into the Kensington Wine Market until we could get it to a more reasonable price. We have been able to do so, and are now selling for fully $100 less than we would have had we brought it in on arrival.

87pts Malt Advocate Magazine: “So nice to see this whisky available here in the U.S. again. A more mature, more sherried expression of the standard Royal Lochnagar. Rich, silky, and sweet, with molasses, nutty toffee, old demerara pot still rum, caramelized fig, marmalade, and juicy oak. More subtle notes of honeyed ginger, coffee grounds, and tobacco leaf add complexity. A soothing post-prandial dram. “

My Tasting Note: Nose: soft and candied, Christmas spices, elegant sherry notes, like walking into a French bakery with fresh croissants, pain au chocolate and other rich assorted confectionary having just been removed from the oven; Palate: soft, rich and sweet with crisp spice; the palate is thick with caramel and molasses, there are notes of burnt fruit along with some dark sherry; the palate is sherry driven with only the faintest traces of American oak and vanilla, but all the while it is very soft; Finish: sweet, drying and spicy with smooth gentle oak; Comments: Royal Lochnagar is a relatively obscure single malt on this side of the Atlantic. I’ve only seen one independent bottling here in the 8 years I’ve been at the Kensigton Wine Market. This aged premium version by that criteria is rare indeed. It is a pleasant, complex, easy drinking whisky. My only criticism is that Diageo has yet to see the light and start bottling its whiskies at 46% or higher!


WHISKY 101 PART II – What is Single Malt Whisky?

If you’ll recall in the last instalment I outlined what exactly whisky is. In review, whisk(e)y is a spirit distilled spirit made from fermented grains (corn, wheat, rye or barley) which has matured 2-3 years (depending on the Country) in oak barrels with a strength of no less than 40%. But what is a single malt whisky?

Before we go any further it is worth noting that single malt and Scotch are not synonymous terms. “Scotch” refers to any whisky made in Scotland, but not all Scotch whiskies are single malts and not all single malts are Scotch. Single malt whiskies have been made in Scotland and Ireland for centuries. Japan got on board in the 1920’s and in the last couple of decades in the 20th and early 21st centuries single malt distilleries have been popping up the world over. From Cape Breton to Sweden, Spain to Thailand, India to Wales and the USA to Pakistan (yes even Pakistan) single malt whiskies are now being distilled the world-over, but you can’t call them Scotch!

The term single malt has two segments, the word “single” and the word “malt”. Single, when used in reference to a malt whisky indicates that the whisky was made at a single distillery. Malt is a reference to the style of whisky, one which has been made from malted barley. Barley is a particularly hearty grain, storing the energy it will employ to grow a future plant in the form of starch. The seed first must convert the starch to sugar before it can use that energy to grow a plant. Similarly, with respect to the production of whisky, the yeast needs enzymes in the barley to convert the starch to sugar before it can start producing alcohol. This process is called malting, and will be discussed in the next instalment of Whisky 101.



1)      OMC Port Ellen 27 Year – Exclusive to KWM. Only 12 bottles available. For more information on this whisky, see above. –  $349.99

2)      OMC Rosebank 20 Year – Exclusive to KWM. Only 12 bottles available. For more information on this whisky, see above. – $189.99

3)      OMC Mortlach 12 Year – 50% – Single Sherry Butt – 330 Total Bottles – Smooth and oaky with sweet spicy fruits, cherry coke, cinnamon, cardamom and clove. – Exclusive to KWM. Only 12 bottles available. DL Reference # 6074. $109.99

4)      Glenrothes 1988 – 43% – 20 Years – European and American Oak – “Rich candied orange peel  and fruit compote.” –  $99.99

5)      Hazelburn 12 Year 2nd Edition – 46% – Sherry Casks – “Malty, fruity and elegant. A very well balanced and rounded dram with hints of oak, figs and nuts. – $97.99

6)      Glenlivet Nadurra – 57.7% – American Oak – “Smooth and silky with the sweetness of soft fruits and honeyed flowers balanced by a dry, oak finish of considerable length with notes of ginger and hazelnuts.” – $77.99

7)      Royal Lochnagar Selected Reserve – 43% – European and American Oak – For more information and see above. – $358.99

8)      Bruichladdich Black Arts II – 49.7%21 Year –  As if Bruichladdich didn’t have enough of an identity problem to begin with, this just complicates things. Allegedly from a secret mix of casks known only to Jim Murray, with no doubt a high proportion of wine casks. I had chance to sample it in Victoria and will put my tasting note up on the website just as soon as I find it. – $140.99

9)      Bruichladdich Sherry Classic – 46% – Matured in Bourbon and Finished in Sherry – 91pts Jim Murray: “a barley-grape-see-saw which moves effortlessly, into a dry winey middle; the malt when apparent appears youthful and lithe”. –  $59.99

10)   Bruichladdich 16Year Cuvee F Pomerol – $46% – Bourbon Matured, Chateau Lafleur Finished – “Taste: barley tries to make a brief statement before the microphone is snatched away by bristling fruit; the mouthfeel is a bit like a dissolving sugar candy; Finish: some oak gets a word in, but can barely make itself heard against the barley.” – 135.99$73.49

11)   Ardmore Traditional – Peated Highland single malt whisky finished in Quarter casks. I will publish my own tasting note in the next issue. “Full, smooth.Peat smoke and earthy richness, tempered by subtle sweetness.” 88.5pts Jim Murray. – $43.99

12)   BenRiach 1991 – Exclusive to KWM. Only 6 bottles available. For more info see above. – $135.99

13)   BenRiach 1984 – Exclusive to KWM. Only 6 bottles available. For more info see above. –  $182.99

14)   BenRiach 1978 – Exclusive to KWM. Only 6 bottles available. For more info see above. –  $271.99

15)   BenRiach 1977 – Exclusive to KWM. Only 6 bottles available. For more info see above. –  $290.99

16)   BenRiach 1976 – Exclusive to KWM. Only 6 bottles available. For more info see above. –  $290.99

17)      Penderyn Peated – 46% – 1st Batch created when they accidentally matured Penderyn in peated casks. They received good reviews so they have recreated the mistake… My Tasting Note: Nose: reminds me of tequila, lush vanilla, sea breeze and steamed mussels, very green and vegetal; Palate: big creamy vanilla, white chocolate, kale, soft of clean smoke, and more vegetal grassy notes; Finish: grassy with clean smoke. –  $119.99



Coming Soon

1)      Arran 1999 KWM Bourbon Cask – Our own exclusive single cask of Bourbon matured Arran. Pre-order it and save 5%, pre-order both it and our Sherry cask and save 7%. For more info see above. – $84.99

2)      Arran 1998 KWM Sherry Cask – Our own exclusive single cask of Sherry matured Arran. Pre-order it and save 5%, pre-order it and the Bourbon cask and save 7%. For more info see above. – $84.99

3)      Arran Machrie Moor – The first release of peated Arran will soon be available. It is called Machrie Moor after the stone circles on the islands west coast. It has been getting good reviews and won’t last long. Only 90 bottles are coming into Alberta, and KWM is getting 60. – $77.99

4)      Glendronach 1990 Cask 3068 – For more info on the Glendronach single cask bottlings see above.

5)      Glendronach 1990 Cask 3059 – For more info on the Glendronach single cask bottlings see above.

6)      Glendronach 1991 Cask 2512 – For more info on the Glendronach single cask bottlings see above.

7)      Glendronach 1996 Cask 202 – For more info on the Glendronach single cask bottlings see above.

8)      Highland Park St. Magnus – The second bottling in a new series from Orkney’s most iconic distillery. – $TBA

9)      Glenmorangie Sonalta PX – 96.5pts Jim Murray – Pedro Ximenez finished Glenmorangie. This will be exclusive to KWM. – $TBA

10)   G&M Connoisseurs Choice Glen Keith 1968 – Exclusive to KWM. 40 year old Glen Keith, bottled at 46%! Only 30 bottles coming in to Canada. – $TBA





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 No. 44‏


Malt Messenger No. 44

Dear Malt Messenger Subscribers,

A very Happy New Year to you all! I hope the holidays treated you well, and that you are rested, rejuvenated and brimming with optimism for the coming year.

I’m looking forward in 2011, to some great new whiskies, interesting tastings and some fun whisky tours. On the whisky front we have two new casks on the way from the Isle of Arran distillery. It was so difficult choosing between the two best cask samples—one bourbon and one sherry—that we simply decided to go with both! These whiskies will be formally launched at Scots Wha Hae, our Robbie Burns Supper, on January 26th , and will be available for purchase in late February or March. With a forecast price between $85-90 these will be our most reasonably priced private bottlings to date.

Speaking of our Burns Supper, we are back for our 6th straight year in 2011. For the third year in a row we will be back at Fort Calgary, which has been an excellent venue for us. The room is beautiful, the food excellent and the service first rate. “Scots Wha Hae” incorporates the traditional elements of the Burns Supper, poetry, song, highland dance, bagpipes and haggis, and blends into it a tasting of six whiskies from a feature distillery. This year our guest distillery is Arran and its brand ambassador Andrew Hogan our special guest. More information can be found on our Burns Supper below.

After a break in 2010, my whisky tours are back on the agenda beginning in May 2011. Speyside and the Southern Highlands (May 15th-21st) is already full, but the Islay and the Southwest Coast (May 8th– 14th) my most jam packed trip has plenty of room. I will be posting dates for my fall tours later in late February or early March. If you would like some more info on my whisky tours checkout:

There are plenty of exciting new whiskies on the way this year, but before we can even start thinking about those, there are some whiskies which came in late in 2010 that we need to get caught up on first. There is Ballentine 17 Year Old (Jim Murray’s 2011 World Whisky of the Year), the Amrut Intermediate Sherry, some exciting new whiskies from Compass Box (Hedonism Maximus, Peat Monster Reserve, Flaming Heart and Double Single), Glenglassaugh Manager’s Legacy 1974 and 1986, Forty Creek Confederation Oak and  Signatory Dufftwon 1984 26 Year to name just a few!

Finally, I have a few New Year’s resolutions I’ve made that I hope will make the Malt Messenger more useful and more enjoyable. Firstly, I resolve to continue sending it out when I have something important to say or when I’ve been inspired by the whisky muse. The most rewarding compliments I have had about the Malt Messenger over the years have remarked on the genuine love and enthusiasm which comes across when I’m writing about whisky. Secondly, I resolve to not make the Malt Messenger more formulaic. Let’s face it, that just not my style. Anyone who’s ever seen my workspace can attest to that. The Malt Messenger will continue to vary in length and composition according to how much I have to write about, how inspired I am and what kind of time is available to write it. In short I resolve to continue giving you all, what so many of you have told me you’ve enjoyed over the past five years.

So curl up by the fire with your malt of choice and dig in. I hope you enjoy the first Malt Messenger of 2011!


Andrew Ferguson

PS-Don’t forget you can follow me on twitter at , I promise I will eventually getting around to sending out tweets again soon!


  1. Scots Wha Hae! – Our 6th Annual Robbie Burns Supper
  2. New Tastings Added
  3. A Tale of Two Dufftown’s
  4. Distillery in Focus – Glenglassaugh
  5. New Whiskies From Compass Box
  6. Collector’s Pick for December
  7. Collector’s Pick for January
  8. Kilkerran “Work in Progress” #1 vs. #2
  9. Forty Creek Confederation Oak
  10. Whisky 101 – Part I – What is Whisky?
  11. Ballantine’s 17 Year – World Whisky of the Year?


SCOTS WHA HAE! – Our 6th Annual Robbie Burns Supper at Fort Calgary – Wed Jan 26th 7PM – $99

Please note the deadline for registration is Tuesday January 25th at 3PM. With the first 80 tickets nearly sold we’ve just added another 40!

Our Robbie Burns Supper has grown from a humble event with just 20 participants—and one clueless host: yours truly—to one of the most respected in the city. We take a traditional Burns Supper and blend in a tasting of single malt Scotch whisky. Every year we feature one distillery, and invite their brand ambassador to attend as our special guest. This year we are pleased to present the Isle of Arran distillery, and its man, Andrew Hogan. Andrew’s a brave man, like Jamie Mackenzie of Bowmore distillery last year he has agreed to address the haggis, the evening’s most important ritual.

Isle of Arran is one of Scotland’s youngest distilleries, but in its 15 years of operation it has earned a strong reputation. The distillery produces soft, smooth whiskies with signature grassy-honey notes. We’ll sample 8 whiskies from Arran distillery including two barrels being bottled exclusively for Kensington Wine Market:

  1. Robert Burns Single Malt
  2. Arran 10 Year
  3. Arran 14 Year
  4. Arran Moscatel
  5. Arran Sauternes
  6. Arran Amarone
  7. Arran KWM Bourbon Cask
  8. Arran KWM Sherry Cask

In addition to the whiskies there will be a traditional three course meal prepared by Fort Calgary, highland dancing from the Springbank School of Highland Dance, poetry, piping courtesy of Mary Ann Houston who is with us for her 5th year, song and great camaraderie. And of course Terry Lauder, who’s been with us since the start, will be there again this year to delight and entertain. The evening is light-hearted and fun, whether in a group, as a couple, or single you’ll have a great time. If you’ve never been to a Kensington Wine Market Burns Supper, come see what you’ve been missing!


To meet demand, we have added an addition “Classic Malts” and “Rare Malts” tasting, the description and dates follow below:

  1. Classic Malts II – Monday February 28th – Back to basics, “Classic Malts” is our introduction to the world of Scottish single malt whisky: its regions, history and taste profiles. – $35.00
  2. Rare Malts II – Friday March 11th Only the oldest and rarest whiskies need apply! Taste whiskies that have been matured more than 20 years in oak, and are from closed distilleries or are exceptionally rare! – $75.00



We’ve had a very heavily sherried bottling of Dufftown in store for the last couple of months. It was a sherry monster with notes of burnt fruits and a trace of sulphur (full tasting note to follow below). I reordered it for Christmas, but instead of getting more of the same serendipity intervened. We received a different bottling of Dufftown from the same producer, distilled and filled into sherry casks on the same day, the only difference is that one of them is a first fill sherry cask, and the other a refill. I describe this as serendipitous because it was only by chance that we had two different bottles of whisky from the same distillery which we can compare with each other for the purposes of satisfying ones curiosity. Here we have a classic example of the difference between first fill and re-fill sherry!

Dufftown is one of Scotland’s more overlooked distilleries, not because it is in bad nick, but because it is an almost unknown quantity. There was until recently only one official bottling, and more than 97% of the distillery’s production continues to be used for blending, mainly in Bell’s. The distillery was until the launch of Roseisle a few years back the largest of Diageo’s 27 distilleries. Dufftown was the 7th distillery built in the town for which it was named. While other Dufftown single malts have gone on to great fame like Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Mortlach it continues to live in their shadows. But we have two interesting and very different bottlings of Dufftown which can help shed a little light on this little know distillery. Both of these Signatory bottlings are exclusive to KWM.

  1. Signatory Dufftown 1984 26 Year – Distilled: 09/01/1984 – Bottled: 12/04/2010 – Age 26 Years – Refill Sherry Butt – Cask #79 – 311 bottles – 55.0% – My Tasting Note: Nose: biscuity, fruit flan, graham wafers and honey, some rich sherry notes, buttery oak, malted milk candy bar and traces of sauternes; Palate: lovely soft sweet sherry notes, a dollop of sweet spices like cinnamon, ginger and cardamom and rich toasted oak which fades to soft leather and damp tobacco; there is sweet Christmas cake and some burnt fruits too; Finish: vanilla extract, more fruit flan, honey and soft sherry with some lingering tobacco; Comment: this is the more elegant and complex of the two. – $209.99
  2. Signatory Dufftown 1984 25 Year – Distilled: 09/01/1984 – Bottled: 14/09/2009 – Age 25 Years – First Fill Sherry Butt – Cask # 80 – 455 bottles – 57.5% – My Tasting Note: Nose: big, dark and chocolaty (dark), old saddle leather, a pleasing trace of burnt matches, and big, bold sherry notes; Palate: big and chewy, the sherry is lush and full throttle, some sweet and sour fruits with a bold layer of sulphur, firm earthy tannins and more leather; as the bottle develops the sulphur fades and spices and fruit come to the fore; Finish: sweet, spicy and fruity with fruit chocolate and earthy leather; Comment: this one is for the sherry bomb fan and is the more full bodied whisky of the two. $209.99



Glenglassaugh distillery was founded between 1873 and 1875 on the Morray Firth between the towns of Portsoy and Cullen. The distillery’s early history is a little like passages from Genesis in the Bible with so and so begetting so and so, distillery closures, reopening and the like. The real story begins in 1957-59 when the current distillery took its form. It reopened in 1960 and all the whisky we know of as Glenglassaugh was produced between this date and 1986 when the distillery closed again. The early to mid eighties were a difficult time in the world of whisky, a glut of production in the 1970’s provoked a spate of closures.

Few official bottlings of Glenglassaugh have been released. In 2005 a 22 year old was launched by then owners the Edrington group. In 2006 19, 38 and 44 year old bottlings were produced in very limited quantities. Then in 2008 Scaent Group of the Netherlands purchased the distillery for an astounding £5,000,000.00. What made the purchase price all the more surprising was the fact that the deal included only 400 casks of maturing whisky. The new owners would have to make do with this until their new make was old enough to sell and market as whisky. The distillery’s core range which was quickly launched in 2008 consisted of 21, 30 and 40 year old whiskies; certainly the oldest core range ever launched. And further the distillery required more than a million pounds in refurbishment and upgrades just to get operational.

Time will tell whether the Scaent Group’s investment will pay off, or whether the price for the distillery was too dear. In the short term we have some excellent distillery edition bottlings of whisky to sample and enjoy. One interesting note on those whiskies before we get to the tasting notes: it seems the distillery had some questionable advice when it came to marketing its core range. Even though the distillery’s first three whiskies were 24, 31 and 41 years old the marketing gurus felt they would have better prospects if they were sold as 21, 30 and 40 year olds. They won’t be taking this advice any longer. The new 26 year old is 26 years old!

Kensington Wine Market stocks and or has access to the following Glenglassaugh bottlings:

  1. Glenglassaugh Spirit Drink – New make spirit at 50% – 500ml – My Tasting Note: floral and fruity, raspberry vinaigrette, creamy-aloe-like vegetal notes, soft and grassy; Palate: malty, soft, sweet, more floral tones, raspberry jam and marmalade, somewhat vodka-like with soft oils; Finish: grassy with faint honey notes; Comment: interesting to be able to try the raw spirit, but too expensive. – $47.99
  2. Glenglassaugh Spirit Drink That Blushes… – New make spirit matured 6 months in “rare” California red wine casks. Just don’t call it whisky!” – 50% – 500ml – My Tasting Note: Nose: earthy with red berry fruits and green grassy malt; Palate: lusher than expected, soft and earthy, juicy wine notes, more grassy malt with gin-like tones; Finish: warming and earthy with more grass; Comments: I think this is a brave idea, but far too expensive to make it anything more than a curiosity. – $47.99
  3. Glenglassaugh 21 Year – Sadly this whisky is no longer available. Although the bottle declares the whisky to be 21 years old it is actually 24. – 21 Year – 46% – My Tasting Notes:  Nose: lovely elegant sherry notes, chocolate “turtles”, candied nuts, moist brown sugar, maple syrup on Belgian waffles and pecan pie; Palate: warm and rich with sweet-spicy-buttery sherry notes that smother the palate with delicate flavours; there is a minty element; the spice keeps the sweet notes under control—perhaps a little too much; there are many layers including Christmas cake, toffee cake in fresh cream and black liquorice; Finish: soft and gently sherried with a tinge of something bitter like coffee that fades; it is long pleasant and coating; Comment: elegant, lots of layers but a there is too much of a stiff upper lip here, I want a little more from the sherry (bourbon notes were more prominent when I tasted this whisky again after the 26 year)! – $256.49
  4. Glenglassaugh 26 Year – Replaces the 21 Year Old. – My Tasting Note: Nose: shyer than the 21, fig bars, marzipan, savoury, highland toffee and chocolate fudge; Palate: a lot richer than I was expecting and very lively with bold sherry notes, very sweet, creamy and just spicy enough to hold it all together; not as soft as the 21 year, but more complex and layered, my mouth is wavering between drying out and salivating; this is an exceptionally drinkable whisky with big sherry notes; Finish: a little perfumed, and showing a faint whiff of sulphur the finish is drying with lovely rich sherry notes. Comment: Jim Murray is off his rocker…  there is little wrong with this dram, the nose was a little weak and the sherry notes may have been a little top heavy but it is a great drink! – $256.49
  5. Glenglassaugh 30 Year – Actually 31 years old. My Tasting Notes: Nose: toffee and caramel to start; the nose is shier than the 21 year; there are vanilla and custard notes, as well as orange citrus and some grassy malt; green apple and other white fruits emerge as the nose opens up; Palate: big citrus and loads of spice (burnt ginger and clove); lemon and lime citrus notes along with orange peel and grassy oils; the palate is very green and vegetal, there is some vanilla and toasty/creamy bourbon notes; there is some unripened green apple and heather honey too; Finish: long drying and grassy with traces of something sweet more citrus; Comments:  a good whisky, but a little light and under-gunned compared to the 26 year old.  $683.99
  6. Glenglassaugh 40 Year – Actually 41 years old. My Tasting Note: Nose: massively rich, damp tobacco, stewed fruits, moist toffee cake, tropical fruits (mango and papaya), medium-dark chocolate, and soft dark sherry notes; Palate: dark coffee notes and firm earthy tannins on the first pass; the dry oloroso sherry notes dominate the palate, but the second sip is more fruity and lush with the same moist toffee cake found on the nose and the same tropical fruits though they are more restrained, the third sip is soft with gentle oils and waves of complexity, there is spice aplenty with burnt ginger and clove; one final pass reveals dates, raisins, plums and other dark fruits; Finish: the finish is long and drying with lingering notes of coffee, Oloroso sherry, dark fruits and cigar smoke; Comments:  this is a fine example of a good older whisky, on the verge of being over the hill: too old, bitter and oaky. It has extracted the best of what the oak has to offer and been bottled not a moment too soon. Though not in the company of the Macallan 50 Year Lallique or Black Bowmore 1964 42 Year it is an excellent older whisky and a rare one at that! $2528.99
  7. Glenglassaugh Manager’s Legacy 1986 – Limited release of 500 bottles. KWM has 1/6 left. – 45.3% – Sherry Butt – My Tasting Note: Nose: candied nuts, Christmas cake, spicy sherry oak, almond paste, marzipan and treacle; Palate: very soft and fruity with a thick oily body, becomes more fruity and creamy as the slightly bitter sherry notes begin to fade into chewy candied fruit; there is some toasted oak, but it is soft; my mouth is watering in anticipation of more; Finish: long, dark and rich, a sherry bomb; Comments: a great single cask bottling, something we won’t see a lot of from a distillery which started out with 400 mature casks.
  8. Glenglassaugh Manager’s Legacy 1974 – Limited release of only 200 bottles. Sadly KWM has already sold out of it! – Bourbon Cask – 52.9% – My Tasting Note: soft, fresh cream, fall grass, crème brule, dusty malt, coconut shavings and peaches and cream; Palate: very sweet, creamy, honey in fresh cream with caramelized strawberries, some liquorice and warm brown sugar; Finish: incredibly long and soft with fresh cream, honey and toasted coconut crisps; Comment: an exceptionally elegant whisky, wish I had another couple dozen bottles!

The Kensington Wine Market has access to all of the Glenglassaugh whiskies with the exception of the 21 year old and the 1974 Manager’s Dram; these have sold out. There is only one bottle left of the 1986 manager’s dram.


Compass Box’s John Glasser is arguably Scotland most interesting and innovative blender. He has taken the small batch, non-chillfiltered, no colouring added approach of the most innovative single malt distilleries and applied those lessons and others to the Blended Scotch whisky categories. Since the explosion of interest and selection of single malts, the blended categories have come to appear boring and stale; Compass Box is making blended whisky cool and fun again!

More than 10 years ago John Glasser was working for Johnnie Walker as a blender. He had an idea for the company which he felt could add to the portfolio. He wanted to establish a branch of the company which would make small batch hand crafted blends. They weren’t interested, so he set out on his own. John’s whiskies are creative, innovative and different. His house style can be summed up in one word, elegant. Over the last two years I have gone from feeling indifferent to the blended categories, and Compass Box included, to a true believer. The Spice Tree was the first one to really catch my attention, and now we have four more worth consideration:

  1. Compass Box Flaming Heart – Is the official 10th Anniversary Bottling. Only 4186 bottles have been produced, with about 144 having found their way to Alberta. Without even marketing it, we’ve sold 22 of our initial 24 bottles. More are on the way. The Flaming Heart retails for $96.99  It received excellent score from both John Hansel and Jim Murray. I’ve included them below along with my own tasting note:
    • Malt Advocate: 95pts John Hansel – “A marriage of three different single malts, aged in American and French oak. This whisky shows the advantage of marrying whiskies from more than one distillery (when properly done). Vibrant, with a complex array of fruit (orchard fruit, sultana), sweetness (light toffee, marzipan, honeyed malt), spice (creamy vanilla, mocha, warming pepper), smoke (tar, smoked olive, coal), and lesser notes of toasted almond and beach pebbles. More smoke and tar on the palate than the nose, yet always in balance. Well played! (Editor’s Choice)”
    • Whisky Bible: 95.5% Jim Murray – “The Canto range was, I admit, a huge over oaked disappointment. This, though, fully underlines Compass Box’s ability to come up with something approaching genius. This is a whisky that will be remembered by anyone who drinks it for the rest of their lives as just about the perfect study of full-bodied balance and sophistication. And that is not cheap hyperbole.”
    • My Tasting Note: Nose: dusty, some peat, very savoury (like a New York steak covered in sautéed mushrooms), sweet vanilla and ginger linger in the background, mulled and stewed fruits add to the complexity; Palate: at once smokier, sweeter and spicier than I was expecting; the palate is weighty and thick with the peat quickly taking control, there is rich sweet vanilla and round earthy peat, chocolate and stewed fruits provide the backdrop with the salty smoke showing late; overall rich, soft and very smooth with the signature Compass Box elegance; Finish: long with salty smoke and oily earthy peat; Comments: fans of Ardbeg, Bowmore, Laphroaig and Port Ellen will love this one, and how cool is the packaging!”
  1. Compass Box Double Single – This is a unique expression of Compass Box, also released to celebrate their 10th Anniversary. It is called the Double Single because it is composed of one single malt and one single grain whisky. The single malt is 18 year old Glen Elgin and the single grain is 21 year old Port Dundas, in a ratio of 76:24. Only 876 bottles have been released of which KWM is expecting only 12. The label features two very happy looking frogs.  $159.99
    • From Compass Box: “What if we were to match perfectly one single malt whisky with one single grain whisky in just the right proportions? That is, what if we were to make a blended Scotch whisky with only two components, only two single whiskies rather than many? What if we were to make… a ‘double single’? This is the question our friends Duncan Elphick and Tatsuya Minagawa of the Highlander Inn on Speyside asked us in 2003, resulting in our first limited release bottling of The Double Single. For our 10th anniversary year, we’ve decided to bring it back. The whiskies we’ve chosen this time: an 18 year-old malt whisky distilled at Glen Elgin distillery (76 percent) and a 21 year-old grain whisky distilled at Port Dundas (24 percent), both aged in American oak (Glen Elgin was refill, the Dundas was first fill). The combination yields a full, soft palate of flavours reminiscent of pear fruit, maltiness, vanilla and creme brulee. This whisky is a testament to the virtues of combining grain whisky with malt whisky, a testament to the virtues of blended Scotch whisky. The grain whisky creates a lovely, soft, sweet pillow on which the malt whisky flavours luxuriate. This is just as great blended Scotch whisky should be.”
    • My Tasting Note: Nose: very fresh and creamy, coconut macaroons and coconut breaded shrimp, something minty and softly vegetal, soft vanilla and graham wafers, toasted oak with light spices; Palate: very sweet and soft with a big malt footprint, vanilla and coconut cream abounds and comes in soft undulating waves; the grain adds a layer of silky oils which compliment the rich bourbon notes which range from toasted oak to white chocolate; there is a firm backbone of clean spice underpinning the whole thing as well as some burnt citrus; Finish: warming and clean, sweet drying oak and vanilla with hints of mandarin orange; Comments: elegant is the only appropriate descriptor; Johnnie Walker Blue you’ve been bested!
  1. Compass Box Peat Monster Reserve 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, 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”. Exclusive to KWM – $154.99
    • Whisky Bible: “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 
  1. Compass Box Hedonism Maxximus – 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”. 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. – Exclusive to KWM – $259.99
    • Whisky Bible:  “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…”



COLLECTOR’S PICK FOR DECEMBER – Amrut Intermediate Sherry – $114.99

Only 90 or so bottles of this very limited release from the Amrut distillery have made it to Alberta, and of the dozen that the Kensington Wine Market acquired we have but 5 left! This whisky is limited to 1 bottle per customer out of fairness. It has been bottled at a cask strength of 57.1%. My tasting note follows below after Jim Murray’s which explains the origin of this whisky. Me thinks he may have had something to do with it…

“Amrut Intermediate Sherry – 96.5pts Jim Murray – “Nose: instead of the usual biscuit aroma, we now get moist cake. And my word: is it fruity and spicy!! Love the freshly waxed oak floor, too. Brain-explodingly complex and multi-layered with one of the most intriguing sherry-style-bourbon-style marriages on the market; Taste: cracking delivery and entirely unique in form. The structure is decidedly oak-based, but acts as no more than a skeleton from which the juicy sultana and spices drape. Salivating, too, as the barley kicks in powerfully. But the liquorice-orangey-honeycomb bourbon theme quietly shapes the flavour profile; the spices pulse and glow; Finish: quite a chunk of natural caramel quietens the more exuberant characteristics, long and elegant; Balance: how do you three freshly emptied oloroso butts from Jerez to Bangalore without the casks spoiling, and not use sulphur? Answer: empty two cases of Amrut cask strength whisky into each of the butts before shipping them. Not a single off note. No bitterness whatsoever. And the fruit is left to impart its extraordinary riches on a malt also matured in American oak. Amrut is spoiling us again. 57.1%” – Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2011

My Tasting Notes: Nose: good depth, sweet candied fruits, papaya and mango, vanilla milkshake, mixed berry jam, ginger snaps, molasses and caramel aplenty; there is fresh green grassy character; Palate: lots of spice, cinnamon, clove and ginger, sweet sherry notes, firm but not overpowering oak warms the palate; the whisky has a nice weight to it, silky oils stroke the back of my palate while the spice (or the alcohol) leaves it pleasantly tingling; vanilla custard and boiled cream show up late to represent the early Bourbon maturation of this whisky; Finish: drying with more spice and pleasant oak notes; Comments: very good, and very drinkable; the cask strength is nowhere near as overbearing as it is on some of the other Amruts; overall a very pleasant sherried whisky!

COLLECTOR’S PICK FOR JANUARY – Amrut Kadhambam – $115.99

Only 234 bottles of the Kadhambam have been produced, with but 30 or so coming to Canada. Kadhambam is a Tamil word for “combination” or “mixture”, appropriate given that this whisky was matured in a mix of Oloroso sherry, rum and Bangalore brandy casks. The bottles are hand numbered, and filled at a strength of 50%. Kensington Wine Market has acquired 6 bottles, two of which have already sold. We are crossing our fingers for another case, my tasting note follows below:

My Tasting Note: Nose: sweet honey, grassy elements, dusty and a little shy, especially compared to the Intermediate Sherry; as it opens up it becomes minty and floral with soft vanilla notes emerging, Demerara sugar shows late; Palate: starts out light but develops quickly becoming sweet and creamy with gentle spices; the second sip is a little earthy but the sweetness builds with silky oils coating the palate; Demerara sugar, fresh cut grass and toasty American oak develop later but the spice continues to linger; vanilla seems to dominate the later stages; Finish: long drying and sweet with spices, green grass and smoky oak; Comments: this is definitely a lighter whisky than the Intermediate Sherry, but makes up for that in greater complexity. I love sherry, but think this is the better of the two!

Kilkerran “Work in Progress” #1 vs. #2

Kilkerran is the name given to whisky distilled at Glengyle Distillery (2004) in Cambeltown. The distillery is the first new one to open in Scotland this millennium, and is the first new distillery in Cambeltown in more than 120 years. The distilleries origins go back much further than 2004, it was originally opened in 1872 by William Mitchell. At one time Cambeltown boasted more than 30 distilleries, and was the whisky capital of Scotland. However the whisky boom which spurred the growth of the Campbeltown whisky bubble eventually went bust and the distillery closed in 1925. In the years following the closure the buildings were used alternatively as a farmers’ cooperative and even as a shooting range. The buildings were acquired Hedley Wright, owner of the Springbank distillery and great great nephew of William Wright, in 2000.

The buildings at Glengyle were badly in need of repair, one of the buildings having served unofficially as a home to the towns pigeons for many years. The old equipment having long since been removed a new kit was in order to begin making whisky again. Stills were brought in from the closed Ben Nevis distillery and reworked to suits the needs and specifications of Glengyle. The malt mill is also gently used, formerly of Craigillachie distillery it was surplus to that distillery’s needs after its expansion. The mash tun and four wooden washbacks were all installed new.

Hint: The second one is darker!

As there is a blended malt under the name Glengyle, the single malt from Glengyle distillery cannot therefore be referred to as Glengyle single malt. The distillery has decided to call the whisky Kilkerran, after the church of St. Kieran which can be seen through a window in a wall on the distillery grounds. This view is now the distillery’s logo, proudly displayed on each bottle. In 2007 a first limited release of Kilkerran 3 year old was launched. A more widely distributed Kilkerran “Work in Progress” was bottled in 2009. This is one of the two Kilkerran’s tasted below. Kensington Wine Market has bought the last 6 bottles of it in the province to display next to the new “Kilkerran Work in Progress” #2 also tasted below.

  1. Kilkerran Work in Progress #1 – 46% / 5 Year / No Cask Types Specified (Suspect Ex-Bourbon) – Nose: young and a bit spirity, lots of dusty oak and malt, freshly cut grapefruit, very grassy with soft sweet vanilla hanging on against the sour citrus notes; there are also hints of honey, new Christmas tree and something vaguely smoky; Palate: lots of vanilla, clean smoke and traces of salt; the palate is creamy and sweet with vanilla and heather honey, but there is also something more vegetal and brackish which adds depth; Finish: long and smooth with vanilla and salty smoke. – ONLY 7 Bottles Left! – $69.99
  2. Kilkerran Work in Progress #2 – 46% / 6 Year / 50% Fresh Bourbon, 25% Fresh Sherry and 25% Refill Bourbon – Nose: creamy and buttery with floral tones, it too is dusty, but the vanilla is shoving the sour citrus notes of the 1st bottling to the side; it is less intense than the nose on the first bottling, but more balanced, opening more with time; Palate: it immediately feels thicker with more mouth-feel,  soft vanilla and white chocolate make their presence known first, the smoke is still present though it is soft and there is something green and vegetal; this is a maritime malt through and through with the Campbeltown sea salt adding balance to big toasted oak; Finish: long, drying and mouth-watering with more dusty malt. – $69.99




“One of the finest Canadian whiskies I have ever tasted!” is how John Hansel starts out his review of the latest limited release from Forty Creek. Forty Creek has in very short order become one of Canada’s finest whisky producers. Its whisky maker John Hall is on the cover of Malt Advocate Magazine this month.

The Forty Creek Confederation Oak is the fourth and largest of the distillery’s limited releases. It is a small batch Canadian whisky finished in casks made from Canadian oak trees found growing 40km from the distillery. Based on the size of their trunks the whisky maker John Hall believes the trees are around 150 years old, meaning that they were taking root around the time of Canadian Confederation; hence the whisky’s name. Only mature trees were selectively harvested leaving the rest to continue growing, perhaps one-day they too will give life to whisky! The Canadian oak trees are the same species as the American white oak trees used in casks for maturing bourbon, but the cooler conditions and shorter growing season give the Canadian oak a distinctive character.

We tasted it in the store shortly after it came in, and it wasn’t disappointing. My colleague Thomas said it best: “This beats the heck out of any $65 bourbon!”

My Tasting Note: Nose: lots of rye on the nose, along with soft vanilla, sweet corn and gentle earthy spices; something on the nose reminds me of those new Chocolaty Mint Girl Guides cookies; layers of honey , sour malt and dusty grains; Palate: really sweet with loads of spice, huge sour rye with thick oils, lush layers of vanilla, big orange and light maple syrup; there is a strong nutty component too with hints of walnut and macadamia; the spices are here too, but not as strong as on the nose; Finish: long and coating with fading walnut, vanilla and coconut cream cake!

Overall this is very impressive, and one of the best Canadian whiskies I’ve ever tasted. It is balanced, deep and very complex. A bottle of this could disappear very quickly… 16,800 bottles have been produced, but given John Hansel’s review (see below) and the growth of the Forty Creek brand in the US it won’t last long. 180 bottles are currently available in Alberta. At $65.49 a bottle you would be foolish not to give it a go!

John Hansel’s Tasting Note: “Forty Creek Confederation Oak Reserve, 40%, $70
One of the finest Canadian whiskies I have ever tasted. Creamy and seamless from beginning to end. Gently sweet, with orange creamsicle, marzipan, sultana, praline, maple syrup, and a hint of coconut macaroon. Forty Creek whiskies have always been very good, but none have ever had the right stuff to reach classic status. Until now, that is. An outstanding, very distinctive whisky! Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 95”

WHISKY 101 Part I –  What is Whisky?

Over the next year I hope to include an educational component to the Malt Messenger, and where better to start, than at the beginning.

Whisky is the oak matured spirit made of distilled fermented grains. Whisky’s base component is grain, whether it be corn, wheat, rye and barley or a mix thereof. The type or mix of grains used will impact the style and flavour of the spirit you produce. Whisky must be aged 2 (North America) to 3 (the rest of the world) years in oak casks before it legally can be called whisky, and must be bottled at no less than 40%.

Scotch Whisky by definition can only come from Scotland. Distilleries in many countries make Scotch like whiskies—whether single malt or blend, peated or not—but they cannot legally be called Scotch whisky. A single malt distilled in Canada is a Candian Single Malt as one from Japan would be a Japanese single malt, and not a Canadian or Japanese Scotch. In short any whisky in Scotland can be called Scotch, and all those from outside cannot. The Scots make 5 different types of whisky, and these can get confusing:

1.       Single Malt: a whisky made from fermented barley distilled at only one distillery.

2.       Single Grain: a whisky made from wheat or corn distilled at only  one distillery.

3.       Blended Malt: a whisky composed of two or more single malts from different distilleries.

4.       Blended Grain: a whisky composed of grain whisky from two or more distilleries.

5.       Blended : a whisky made by blending malt and grain whiskies together.

Irish Whiskey can only be made in Ireland, but I’m guessing you’ve guessed that already. Irish whisky is similar but different from Scotch whisky, and if you think I’m talking about “peat” you’re barking up the wrong tree. Most Irish whiskies were lightly to moderately peated until 50-60 years ago, and there are peated Irish whiskies being made today. The first major difference is that most Irish whiskies are blends made at the huge Midleton distillery in the Republic of Ireland. Ireland’s whisky has followed a different path from Scotlands, mainly for geopolitical and economic reasons we won’t get into here. Whereas Scotland has well more than 100 distilleries, Ireland (including the Republic and North) has just 4; this is the second difference. The third major difference is that the Irish typically use a mix of malted and un-malted barley in their mashbill.

Canadian Whisky is not rye, nor event largely made from it as most Canadians have been lead to believe. The “rye and coke” is next to beer Canada’s signature drink, and yet it contains very little rye! Most major Canadian whiskies are made predominantly from corn with but the slightest addition of rye for flavouring. Straight rye whisk(e)y is actually far more commonly made in the United States than Canada, with Alberta Premium being the only true regularly available rye produced in Canada. This is probably for the best. Most Canadian whisky is mixed with coke or ginger ale to mask its flavour, real rye whisky is too strong for coke or ginger ale which themselves gets masked! Canadian distilleries also make Scotch-like single malts and Canadian whiskies consisting of a mix of malted barley, corn and rye.

American Whiskey is not Bourbon, though Bourbon is American whisky. Bourbon is an interesting style of whisky for two reasons. Firstly, by law Bourbon must be matured in a new oak barrel. A very powerful coopers union and lumber lobby had a law passed in Congress forcing whisky makers to use a new oak barrel each and every time. This new oak has a lot to give the whisky very quickly, and as a result the whisky is usually very sweet with lots of creamy vanilla. Secondly Bourbon is composed of a mixed mash bill, legally at least 51% corn, but also containing wheat, rye and barley. Straight rye, wheat and single malt whiskies are also made in the US.

There are many other countries which make whisky, but these are categorically speaking the key ones. The Japanese make single malts and blends largely in the Scottish style. India is the world’s largest producer and consumer of whisky, but most it is very low quality and made from molasses (which we would call rum here). One of their single malt distilleries, Amrut, is however well respected around the world.

NEXT ISSUE – WHISKY 101 Part II – How is Whisky Made

BALLANTINE’S 17 YEAR – World Whisky of the Year?

Another year, another Whisky Bible; the 2011 issue is the 8th edition of what has become the most comprehensive and detailed whisky buying guide in the world.  Jim Murray’s reviews may not necessarily make or break a whisky, but they certainly don’t hurt when their generous. Every year around November when the Bible comes out I start getting requests for some of the top scoring whiskies. This year was exceptional because Mr. Murray’s pick for the number one whisky in the world, though Scotch, was not a single malt but a blend. This was an apparently news-worthy event, the most well known living whisky writer in the world had picked a blend over a single malt.. Some enthusiastic PR types got on the phone and convinced a number of newspapers in Canada that this was a newsworthy story and retailers, myself included, scrambled to find a case to put on the shelf to take advantage of the excitement and sales.

Ballantine’s 17 Year was launched with very little fanfare sometime between a year and two years ago. I can’t recall exactly when, because I, like most of the single malt drinking public was more concerned about what new single malts were available. I never brought it in, and neither apparently did almost any retailers in Alberta. In fact, after as little as 3 cases sold in close to a year the product was withdrawn from the Alberta market, and the product slated to return to the distributor. But then the 2011  Whisky Bible came out with Ballantine’s 17  Year on top and retailers—KWM included—lapped it up. Only there’s a little wrinkle in the story; it would seem there are different versions of Ballantine’s 17 Year; Jim Murray alludes to this himself in the preamble to the 2011 award winners, and there is no way of distinguishing which batch is which. Some of the whiskies come in different coloured boxes, and even if they don’t there are certainly multiple batches. And from batch to batch like any other blend or single malt for that matter there will be variation.

I’ve tried Ballantine’s 17 Year over the last few years and it is a very pleasant whisky, as are its even older incarnations; but it never occurred to me that I was drinking the best whisky in the world. When and how do you arrive at that decision? I’ve tried some stunning whiskies over the years and I’d be stumped, I find it hard to list my Top 5 without leaving something out. It’s unlikely that I’ve tried the same batch Jim Murray thinks produced the best whisky in the world, and I’m sure it’s a fine whisky! But whether you agree with Jim Murray or not is beside the point; his reviews—like my own—are the opinions of one man. What you do with those opinions is up to you. I have one customer whom I’m very fond of, who once told me he looks for the whiskies Jim Murray trashes in his bible. “If he doesn’t like it” he said, “then I know it must be good!” My advice, be your own critic and decide for yourself!

“Nose: deft grain and honey plus teasing salty peat; ultra high quality with bourbon and pear drops offering the thrust; a near unbelievable integration with gooseberry juice offering a touch of sharpness muted by watered golden syrup; Taste: immediately mouthwatering with maltier tones clambering over the graceful cocoa-enriched grain; the degrees of sweetness are varied but near perfection; just hints of smoke here and there; Finish: lashings of vanilla and cocoa on the fade; drier with a faint spicey, vaguely smoky buzz; has become longer with more recent bottlings with the most subtle oiliness imaginable; Balance: now only slightly less weighty than of old. After a change of style direction it has a comfortably reverted back to its sophisticated, mildly erotic old self. One of the most beautiful, complex and stunningly structured whiskies ever created, Truly the epitome of great Scotch. To the extent that for the last year, I have simply been unable to find a better whisky anywhere in the world.” 97.5pts Jim Murray, Whisky Bible 2011

KWM managed to purchase 12 bottles, at the time of writing there are 3 left. We hope to get more. $87.99


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

Ardbeg Alligator

June 2011 Updates here:


Original Post:

From WhiskyNotes

Posted by: Ruben In: * News

Ardbeg AlligatorIt seems a new Ardbeg expression is ready to be launched: Ardbeg Alligator (according to Angus who used to work there if I’m not mistaken).

Alligator is the name of the deepest way of charring / toasting casks. It refers to the resulting scale-like pattern of burnt wood, similar to a croc’s skin. Almost all bourbon makers use this type of charring, but for Scotch distilleries it’s less common.

Ardbeg did some experiments with heavily charred new oak casks and released two of them for Feis Ile 2009: Ardbeg 1998 cask 1189 and Ardbeg 1998 cask 1190.

I liked those casks A LOT (although most other people didn’t seem to care much) so I’m really looking forward to the release. Especially since they focus less on peat smoke and more on bourbon flavours (vanilla, cocoa, mint, tobacco).

Malt Messenger Bulletin – Burns and the Super Sale!‏


Dear Malt Messenger Subscribers,

We’ve survived another year, and if the doomsayers are right, this could be our last, so we’d better enjoy it! I have two pressing reasons for you to enjoy life this January, even if it’s cold enough to freeze your breath outside. The first is our 6th annual Robbie Burns Supper which will be taking place on the 26th of January. That’s right Caledonians, the fête of Scotland’s favourite son is nearly upon us. I’ve included some information on our Burns Supper, Scots Wha Hae below, and there will be much more in the next Malt Messenger due out on Tuesday.

The second and even more pressing reason to celebrate is our annual Year End Super Sale! We only have two sales a year (the other is in November) and we have some incredible deals on whisky this Friday, Saturday and Sunday… Selected whiskies are between 7 and 25% off. The sale is only available in-store and online (no phone orders will be accepted). The full list of sale items can be found below, but there are three deals worth highlighting:

1.       Springbank 1996 KWM Oloroso Cask: Our Spirngbank cask, which has been a huge hit over the last year, is 25% off. We normally sell it for $109.99, but this weekend, and this weekend only you can have it for $82.49 +GST. Less than 75 of the original 660 bottles remain!

2.       G&M Glen Grant 1966: This cask is one of the more elegant bottles of whisky we’ve ever stocked. It was chosen because for a whisky of more than 40 years, it wasn’t even close to over the hill. Smooth and soft with deft sherry notes and delicate citrus, we originally listed this whisky at $499.99, but dropped it to $449.99 a few months back. This weekend you can buy one of the less than 30 remaining bottles of our Glen Grant for just $337.49 + GST, 25% off our last list price!

3.       Glendronach 1995 KWM PX Sherry Cask: Our Glendronach cask, which contained closed to 660 bottles is now half sold after just two months in store. Normally selling for $114.99 it will only be 10% off this weekend, but while supplies last we will be giving away a Glendronach Glencairn glass with every bottle sold (the glass itself is an $18 value). Our Glendronach is the chocolatiest whisky I’ve ever tasted, and is an incredible value when compared to other sherried whiskies like Macallan 18 Year (also on sale) which lists for $175.00. I expect this cask to sell out before the summer.  Don’t hesitate!

These three whiskies and many of the others on sale are open for sampling! Hope to see you this weekend!


Andrew Ferguson


SCOTS WHA HAE! – Wednesday January 26th 7PM – $99

Caledonians Unite! It’s time to celebrate all things Scottish. Isle of Arran is the featured distillery for our 6th annual Robbie Burns Supper, and Andrew Hogan is our special guest. We’ll have bagpipes, poetry, haggis with neeps and tatties and six amazing single malts all from Arran, including a couple of new single cask bottlings selected by and exclusive bottled for KWM! One’s a bourbon cask and the other sherry. The tasting panel couldn’t decide between the two, and the price was right so we decided to bottle both! Our Burns Supper has grown into one of the most respected in town, and there is no previous whisky experience required. So buy a ticket and join us at Fort Calgary for a night of mirth, whisky and a lot of merry making!

More details to come in the next Malt Messenger.



Sale Rules and Conditions:

1.       Applies only to marked items.

2.       Applies only to in-store items with the exception of exclusives.

3.       Items must be paid for at the time of purchase.

4.       Items may only be purchased online, in store or by e-mail (no phone orders).

5.       All sale items are final sale.

6.       Sale will begin at midnight on Thursday (tonight) and end at midnight on Sunday night.

Single Malt Whisky

1.       G&M KWM Glen Grant 1966 41 Year – Bottled exclusively for KWM this is massively complex whisky that has even after more than 40 years retained the delicate citrus notes which typify whiskies from this distillery. Of the 134 individually numbered bottles we have less than 30 left. The whisky comes packaged in a rosewood box with an etched glass window. This is the best deal of our entire sale! – Regular $449.99 – SAVE 25%

2.       Springbank 1996 KWM Oloroso Cask – Going, going, almost gone… our second cask of Springbank has been a huge success! Of the 660 bottles in the cask there are fewer than 75 remaining. If I were to sum up the experience I would have to say it is a little like crossing Macallan 18 with Lagavulin 16. You get the rich spicy sherry notes of the Macallan and the clean salty smoke of Lagavulin. If you haven’t tried it yet, don’t hesitate, before you know it, it will be gone. And at this price, how can you resist! – – Regular $109.99 – SAVE 25%  

3.       Glendronach 1995 KWM PX Sherry Finish – This recent private bottling is our best selling whisky by a long shot these days! Nearly half of our cask sold between the months of November and December.  It is massively chocolaty, rich, chewy and very smooth for its strength of 52.2%. While supplies last we are giving away Glendronach glasses with ever bottle purchased! – Regular $114.99 – SAVE 10%

4.       BenRiach 15 Year Rum Finish – Matured 14 years in Bourbon and finished for a final year in Jamaican Dark Rum casks. – Regular $82.49 – SAVE 15%

5.       BenRiach 15 Year Tawny Port Finish – Finished for one year in tawny port pipes the whisky is dark and chocolaty. – Regular $82.49 – SAVE 15%

6.       Bowmore Tempest Cask Strength – Until our Glendronach cask came in this was our best selling whisky. Creamy, buttery with salty-earth-peat! – Regular $81.99 – SAVE 15%

7.       A.D. Rattray Strathmill 31 Year – Regular $211.99 – SAVE 15%

8.       A.D. Rattray Tomintoul 30 Year – Regular $211.99 – SAVE 15%

9.       Duthies Caol Ila 13 Year – One of the finest independent bottlings of Caol Ila around, very earthy with some hints of sweet. Exclusive to KWM – Regular $87.49 – SAVE 15%

10.   Duthies Craggamore 15 Year – Big wet leaves and grassy notes with malt and sweet honey. Exclusive to KWM. – Regular $94.999 – SAVE 15%

11.   Duthies Glen Scotia 17 Year – Silver medal winner in a not to distant issue of Whisky Magazine this whisky is a little steely but overall a complex and very well balanced bottling from Scotland’s most neglected distillery. Exclusive to KWM. – Regular $101.99 – SAVE 15%

12.   Duthies Laphroaig 11 Year – Not quite as medicinal as your regular Laphroaigh it has plenty of peat, smoke and salt to balance out the oak. Exclusive to KWM. – Regular $98.99 – SAVE 15%

13.   Amrut Double Cask – 96pts Jim Murray, exclusive to KWM. – Regular 124.99 – SAVE 10%

14.   BenRiach 15 Year Madeira Finish – One of our best selling whiskies this dram is sweet, spicy and very soft. – Regular $82.49 – SAVE 10%

15.   Cadenhead Classic Green Label – The closest thing to Laphroaig 10 year! – Regular $72.99 – SAVE 10%

16.   Caol Ila 10 Year Unpeated Cask Strenght – At 65.1% you would think it was a monster, but in reality very soft with big notes of white chocolate and vanilla. – Regular $ 103.99 – SAVE 10%

17.   Compass Box Hedonism Maximus – Only 24 bottles of this exclusive to KWM whisky in Canada, it is a Blended Grains whisky composed of 70% 41 year old Invergordon and 30% 29 year old Carsebridge. A lovely smooth desert whisky. – Regular $ 259.99 – SAVE 10%

18.   Compass Box Peat Monster Reserve – Not just a different, peatier recipe than the original, but in a bottle twice the size too. 92pts Jim Murray. Exlcusive to KWM. – Regular $ 154.99 – SAVE 10%

19.   Coopers Choice Glen Mhor 1982 – Regular $178.49 – SAVE 10%

20.   A.D. Rattray Glenglassaugh 29 Year – Regular $198.99 – SAVE 10%

21.   Duthies Auchroisk 20 Year – An excellent, complex and balanced whisky from an obscure distillery. Exclusive to KWM. – Regular $96.99 – SAVE 10%

22.   Duthies Bowmore 17 Year – This whisky harkens back to the old distillery 17 year, and is a very elegant smoky dram. Exclusive to KWM.  – Regular $90.99 – SAVE 10%

23.   Duthies Hazelburn 9 Year – A recent Gold Medal winner from Whisky Magazine this little dram is soft and fruity with jujube notes on the palate. Hazelburn is the name given to triple distilled Springbanks. Exclusive to KWM. – Regular $84.99 – SAVE 10%

24.   Duthies Ledaig 13 Year – A somewhat raunchy, medicinal and massively complex bottling of heavily peated Tobermory. This dram will not disappoint, but is not for the faint of heart. – Regular $79.99 – SAVE 10%

25.   Duthies Longmorn 19 Year – Burnt caramel, vanilla and smoke with soft fruity notes, this is a smooth, elegant dram. Exclusive to KWM. – Regular $96.99 – SAVE 10%

26.   Edradour Caledonia – A lovely mix of both Bourbon and Oloroso sherry notes gives this dram from Scotland’s smallest distillery layers of soft, smooth, complex notes. – Regular $93.99 – SAVE 10%

27.   English Whisky Company Chapter 3 – Regular $61.49 – SAVE 10%

28.   English Whisky Company Chapter 4 – Regular $61.49 – SAVE 10%

29.   G&M Cask Strength Imperial 1997 – Big sherry notes from this single cask first fill sherry. A very reasonably priced whisky from a now closed distillery. Exclusive to KWM. – Regular $114.99 – SAVE 10%

30.   G&M Conn Choice Convalmore 1984 – Very soft and smooth with loads of creamy oak and big vanilla notes. The distillery which sits on the grounds of Balvenie is closed and will not likely ever reopen. Exclusive to KWM. – Regular $182.99 – SAVE 10%

31.   G&M Conn Choice Glen Keith 1993 – White fruits, chocolate and sweet vanilla abound on this little dram. Distillery closed just before the millennium, and is not expected to reopen. Exclusive to KWM. – Regular $87.99 – SAVE 10%

32.   Glendronach 14 Year Sauternes Finish – Regular $82.49 – SAVE 10%

33.   Glendronach 14 Year Virgin Oak Finish – Regular $82.49 – SAVE 10%

34.   Glendronach 15 Year Moscatel Finish – Regular $84.49 – SAVE 10%

35.   Glenglassaugh Spirit Drink – Regular $47.99 – SAVE 10%

36.   Glenmorangie Quarter Century – Regular $449.99 – SAVE 10%

37.   G&M Strathisla 25 Year – A combination of 1st fill and re-fill sherry cask this is a massively fruity whisky with notes of Chirstmas Cake, tobacco and leather. Exclusive to KWM. – Regular $182.99 – SAVE 10%

38.   Isle of Jura 10 Year – Regular $42.99 – SAVE 10%

39.   Kilchoman KWM Fresh Bourbon Cask – Kensington Wine Market is one of only 3 stores in North America and a handful more in the world to have acquired our own cask of Kilchoman single malt. Massive creamy vanilla-Bourbon notes balance out a surge of salty, smoky peat. Surprisingly approachable at an impressive strength of 61.9% this whisky is a must try for lovers of Ardbeg, Laphroaig or Port Ellen! – Regular $114.99 – SAVE 10%

40.   Macallan 18 Year – Regular $174.99 – SAVE 10%

41.   Macallan Fine Oak 10 Year – Regular $54.54 – SAVE 10%

42.   OMC Mortlach 12 Year – New and exclusive to KWM. – Regular $109.99 – SAVE 10%

43.   OMC Port Ellen 27 Year – New and exclusive to KWM. – Regular $349.99 – SAVE 10%

44.   OMC Rosebank 20 Year – New and exclusive to KWM. – Regular $189.99 – SAVE 10%

45.   PC7 (Port Charlotte 7 Year) – Regular $109.99 – SAVE 10%

46.   Port Ellen 29 Year – Regular $361.99 – SAVE 10% 

47.   Signatory Bowmore 1972 – Exclusive to KWM, this is the poorman’s Black Bowmore. Chewy, rich, massively fruity with faint tropical fruits. – Regular $634.99 – SAVE 10%

48.   Signatory Dufftown 1984 First Fill Sherry – Exclusive to KWM. This is a sherry monster! – Regular $209.99 – SAVE 10%

49.   Signatory Dufftown 1984 Refill Sherry – This sister cask to the other Dufftown 1984 couldn’t be more different. The sherry notes are still strong but with a much more deft, lighter touch. It is very elegant – Regular $209.99 – SAVE 10%  

50.   Signatory Glencraig 1976 – Exclusive to KWM. – Regular $252.99 – SAVE 10%

51.   Signatory Glenlossie 1985 – This is an elegant sherried whisky, smooth and full of flavour but without any of the stronger sherry notes. Exclusive to KWM. – Regular $209.99 – SAVE 10%

52.   Signatory Springbank 1969 40 Year – This is one of the most delightful whiskies I’ve ever had. Certainly in my Top 10. Bottled at an impressive strength of 54.4% this whisky is soft and massively complex with layers of honey, soft and dried fruits, a trace of light salty smoke, black licorice, Christmas spices and everything you could ever want in an older Springbank. – Regular $1267.99 Exclusive to KWM. – SAVE 10%

53.   Amrut Peat Cask Strength – Regular $102.49 – SAVE 7%

54.   Auchentoshan 1978 – Small batch vintage Auchentoshan limited to less than 500 bottles worldwide. – Regular $543.99 – SAVE 7%

55.   Auchentoshan 1977 – Only 18 bottles of this sherry cask matured bottling came into Canada out of a worldwide availability of just 240. KWM bought 15 of them, because it is a superb whisky! – $506.99 – SAVE 7%

56.   Bowmore 25 Year – Much improved over the last few years this sherry dominant top whisky in their core range is big and chewy. – Regular $302.49 – SAVE 7%

57.   Bunnahabhain 12 Year – Regular $71.49 – SAVE 7 %

58.   Dalwhinnie 15 Year – Regular $75.99 – SAVE 7%

59.   Dalwhinnie Distillers Edition – Regular $102.49 – SAVE 7%

60.   G&M Cask Strength Highland Park 1995– Regular $111.99 – SAVE 7%

61.   G&M Cask Strength Miltonduff 1996 – Regular $111.99 – SAVE 7%

62.   G&M Cask Strength Old Pulteney 1993 – Regular $119.99 – SAVE 7%

63.   Glen Elgin 16 Year – – Regular $99.99 – SAVE 7%

64.   Glen Garioch 12 Year – Regular $47.49 – SAVE 7%

65.   Glengoyne 21 Year – Regular $96.49 – SAVE 7%

66.   Glenkinchie 12 Year  – Regular $71.99 – SAVE 7%

67.   Glenkinchie Distillers Edition – Regular $98.49 – SAVE 7%

68.   Glenlivet 18 Year  – Regular $95.99 – SAVE 7%

69.   Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban – Regular $70.49 – SAVE 7%

70.   Highland Park 12 Year – Regular $56.49 – SAVE 7%

71.   Kilchoman Summer 2010 Release – Regular $89.99 – SAVE 7%

72.   Macallan 12 Year – Regular $69.99 – SAVE 7%

73.   Oban 14 Year – Regular $99.99 – SAVE 7%

74.   Oban Distillers Edition – Regular $143.49 – SAVE 7%

75.   Port Ellen 30 Year – Regular $449.99 – SAVE 7%


1.       Jack Daniels KWM Single Barrel – Regular $49.99 – SAVE 20%

2.       Pappy Van Winkle’s Reserve 20 Year – Regular $142.49 – SAVE 10%

3.       Knobb Creek – Regular $47.99 – Save 7%

4.       Maker’s Mark – Regular $46.49 – Save 7%

Canadian Whisky

1.       Alberta Premium  – Regular $23.49 – SAVE 7%

2.       Crown Royal – Regular $32.99 – SAVE 7%

3.       Forty Creek Barrel Select – Regular $27.99 – SAVE 7%

Other Whiskies

1.       Arran Robbie Burns Blend – Just in time for Robbie Burns Day! – Regular $35.99 – SAVE 7%

2.       Black Grouse – Regular $34.99 – SAVE 7%

3.       Johnnie Walker Black Label – Regular 44.99 – SAVE 7%

4.       Johnnie Walker Blue Label – Regular $241.99 – SAVE 10%

5.       PENDERYN WELSH WHISKY  – regular $76.99 – SAVE 7%

6.       Redbreat Irish Whiskey– Regular 41.99 – SAVE 7%


1.       Chateau Montifaud VS – Regular $49.99 – SAVE 10%

2.       Chateau Montifaud VSOP – Regular $60.99 – SAVE 10%

3.       Chateau Montifaud XO – Regular $98.99 – SAVE 10%

4.       Chateau Montifaud Gift Pack (VS/VSOP/XO) – Regular $111.99 – SAVE 10%

5.       Courvoisier VSOP – Regular $61.99 – SAVE 7%


1.       Amrut Old Port Deluxe Rum – Regular $26.46 – SAVE 7%

2.       Bacardi White – Regular $26.49 – SAVE 10%

3.       Cadenhead Laphroaig Cask Demerara – Regular $83.99 – SAVE 10%

4.       Cadenhead Panama Green Label 8 Year – Regular 65.99 – SAVE 10%

5.       El Dorado Single Barrel EHP – Regular $94.99 – SAVE 7%

6.       El Dorado Single Barrel ICBU – Regular $94.99 – SAVE 7%

7.       Gordon & MacPhail Long Pond 1941 58 Year Old – Regular $ 1150.99 – SAVE 7%


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

Season’s Greetings

Season’s Greetings from ATW!

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

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

All the best to you and yours…

…and be safe!

          – ATW

Canadian Whisky Awards 2010

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


Canadian Whisky Awards 2010

December 6, 2010

Canadian Whisky Awards 2010 – The Winners

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

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

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

Virtually every Canadian whisky introduced in Canada or the U.S. in 2010 was tasted. The best was chosen in one of three categories: the Canadian market, the export market, and multiple markets. Awards of Excellence are also conferred for accomplishments in innovation, brand extension, and notable success in raising the profile of Canadian whisky in general.

The Connoisseur Whiskies:

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

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

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

The Awards of Excellence:

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

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

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

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

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