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Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar 3rd Edition Day 5 Blog #138 – A.D. Rattray Ledaig 9 Year Old

Welcome back for a little fire breathing today as we finally give those that love a little smoke in their whisky their due. Sourced from the Tobermory distillery on the Isle of Mull today’s dram is labelled Ledaig by A.D. Rattray in deference to the brand used for their peated Single Malt.

Tobermory aka Ledaig
Tobermory aka Ledaig

We always try to have at least one or two island distilleries represented throughout the 25 days of dramming and it is fantastic to finally have a heavily peated Island expression in front of us.

Tobermory is the only distillery on the isle of Mull and was founded in 1798. One of the oldest commercial distilleries in Scotland, Tobermory has a rich history. It was closed for 41 years from the mid 30’s till the 1970’s and then still struggled with uncertain markets and difficult economic times and in the 1980’s some of the distillery warehousing was converted into flats (townhouses) and it looked like another closure was inevitable. Burns Stewart purchased it in 1993 and breathed a new lease of life into the distillery. With a unique spirit that captures the heart of the Scottish Isles Tobermory is amongst only a few distilleries that boast two house styles.

Enter the Dragon
Enter the Dragon

Today we get to try Ledaig (pronounced Le chig) as seen from the eyes of the excellent team at A.D. Rattray. Ledaig Single Malt 9 Year Old aged in a refill Bourbon cask and bottled at the cask strength of 57.9%.

Colour:    Light as you would expect from only 9 years in a refill cask boasting a lovely polished Pinot Gris effect.

Nose:        Buttered Popcorn on the cusp of being over popped. Topped with bacon bits and sea salt.

Palate:      Lamp oil and colored pencil shavings, smoked cod and smoldering latex not necessarily in that order 🙂

Finish:     Long salty, earthy, rubbery and all with a backbone of a smoky sweetness.

This is a delicious Ledaig and I love the contrast here from what Islay brings to the table in terms of peated whisky. This is every bit as large and consuming but definitely has a much different feel. Younger peated whisky is something I find myself reaching for when I want some big smoke and peat flavors that are underpinned by youthful fruit. This Island variant fits the bill perfectly and absolutely warms all the way down. Even now I can still feel it’s magic all over my tongue and throat. Certainly the cask strength here just absolutely gives it wings.

Water:   Just a couple of drops here adds even more sweetness and just takes that living large edge away. Some marzipan kicks in at the death stealing the limelight. I think for most occassions I would go big or go home on this one personally but I did really like the slightly softer and sweeter version that mutated with a little water.

Tomorrow we head to the Highlands to welcome a brand new independent bottler to the calendar.

On this day in the 2nd edition we had the delicious A.D. Rattray Caol Ila I didn’t actually mean for this to be so spot on with the order from the 2nd edition but I do know that keeping the peat lovers away from their favorite flavors for too long is a dangerous thing so there will always be something to sooth the aching need at least once a week.

For those looking for this delicious Ledaig alas there was none to be had after we took our stash for the 3rd edition. Whatever you have in your glass or still in your bottle is all there is.

Johanne has her take on this A.D. Rattray Ledaig here.

Until tomorrow have a fabulous night


Jonathan – taster of secrets

Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar 3rd Edition Day 4 Blog #137 – Lost Distillery Company Jericho

It’s a perfect snowy Sunday afternoon here in Calgary to take some time out for today’s dram. I must add a big welcome to The Lost Distillery company on their debut with their take on Jericho. A unique and enthralling story unravels as we delve into the ghostly past of a long dead distillery.

Jericho began production as a distillery in 1822 and was renamed Benachie in 1884. Unfortunately even with a certain degree of success the distillery was closed in 1913. Brian Woods and Scott Watson founded The Lost Distillery company as a means to turn their passion for the history of closed distilleries into a rebirth of forgotten drams.

Jericho Distillery
Jericho Distillery

To quote Scott Watson, co-founder of Crucial Drinks and The Lost Distillery Company “We’re obsessive about craft and uncompromising when it comes to whisky quality. Each resurrected brand is the subject of an in-depth research project to establish the original character of the long lost distilleries”.

They have an absolutely amazing in depth history of the distillery that you can read here.

As a secret bonus that we did not include on the label today’s dram is actually the Christmas Pudding edition of Jericho that was a limited release in 2015. Thanks guys for allowing us to take the last of it.

Lost Distilleries Company Jericho Christmas Pudding Blended Malt – Sherry Finish 46% ABV no chill filtration and natural color.


Color:   Not overly dark for a sherry finished whisky but certainly some tinges of red among the amber hues.

Nose:  Does certainly take me in a Christmas direction with cinnamon and rich glazed sultanas and orange peel.

Palate:  Much richer on the palate than the nose implies with a lovely Christmas Cake (the dark fruit laden kind) edge including the ever present marzipan icing. Rolls into some dark blackberry notes like an accompanying berry coulis. Softly sweet throughout over a base of heavier almost savory notes that only come through in sporadic bursts.

Finish:  Mouth watering with some drying citrus that immediately asks for more. I could happily drink this pre or post Christmas dinner or anytime for that matter.

The wonderful world of whisky is so much fun and to delve so deeply into the past and recreate as closely as possible the style of long departed distilleries is awesome. Thanks for all your attention to detail guys The Lost Distillery Company is a really cool edition to our Scotch Whisky Calendar landscape.

For those of you looking for your own bottle of Jericho please email me at jonathan@secretspirits.com and I’ll point you in the right direction.

On this day in the 2nd edition we had the excellent Velvet Fig from Wemyss Malts.

Please head on over to Whisky Lassie for her take on today’s dram here.

Blended malts as anyone that has read my past blogs knows are the decidedly delicious and mostly ignored category of Scotch that offers up so much for more often much less than you would pay for an equivalent Single Malt. Remember that Blended malts are made up of a combination of Single Malts the very same ingredient that is seen as the pinnacle of Scotch Whisky.

Tomorrow we head to the Highlands for an a-typical Highland dram that will make a lot of you very happy.


Jonathan – Taster of Secrets

Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar 3rd edition Day 3 Blog # 136 – Shetland Reel Blended Malt

Today’s outing sees us heading up to Unst and the site of what soon will be the most Northern whisky distillery in Scotland. I have not yet had the pleasure of getting up there but it is in the works sometime over the next few years. It is a very, very long way from Scottish civilization. So while you are installing your whisky still and distilling gin from your small gin still what else can you do to get the distillery name out there?

Shetland Island Distillery
Shetland Island Distillery
Stuart Nickerson is never backward in coming forward and his fast track rebranding of Glenglassaugh is proof. Stuart came up with the fun idea of moving barrels from the mainland all the way up to Unst, aging them there and bottling them as Shetland Reel blended malt. I am a true believer in Stuarts abilities and pedigree when it comes to whisky and so I was not surprised even one bit that this blended malt is really delicious.
Stuart Nickerson in Unst
Stuart Nickerson in Unst
Blended Malts are as I’ve mentioned many times before the most maligned and misunderstood Scotch whiskies to ever be bottled. If you are a Single Malt lover then you will also love Blended Malts end of story. A blended malt is simply made up of a number of Single Malts from different distilleries. It’s the word blend that catches most people out and has a lot of consumers dismissing it before even reading the rest of the label.
So we will always showcase a number of outstanding blended malts in each edition and I know that a lot of calendar customers have already become blended malt converts over the past few years.
Shetland Reel – Blended Malt from various regions and distilleries bottled at 47% ABV. No chill filtration or colouring added.
Shetland Reel Blended Malt
Shetland Reel Blended Malt
Colour:     Nice polished gold hue with a touch of something deeper when you tilt the bottle.
Nose:     Char and spice like leaning over an old tandoori clay oven and smelling the years of delicious dishes that have been prepared along with a smoky edge that infuses everything.
Palate:     Like what the inside of my pencil case would have tasted like if I decided to eat it instead of what mum packed inside my lunch box when I was a kid at school. Rubber and pencil shavings with a mouth coating waxy character (crayola). Dried mandarin peel and turmeric.
Finish:     lovely warming length that carries a long way past the palate. Dates and sweetly burning incense.
The combination of single malts for this whisky are a closely guarded secret that Stuart keeps to himself. It is really delicious and has a lot going on. The combination of some obvious Islay is really nicely balanced with some heavy speyside influence. 47% is really a good ABV carrying a ton of weight but not overpowering and still allowing for us to play if we wish.
Good job again Stuart I cant wait to see what the Shetland Island Distillery has to offer in the future along with the release of their first in house distilled whiskies down the road.
Last year on Day 3 we had ironically enough a blended malt from Samaroli, albeit all of the Single Malts contained in that whisky came from Speyside. You can read about it here.
Please head over to Whisky Lassie and read her take on this bombastic blended malt here.
As we do every year we like to give people a heads up as to where they can find these whiskies in full bottles. As stated earlier we normally have a list but unfortunately it is against the laws of the land for us to do so publically on a web site. Please just email me at jonathan@secretspirits.com about any whisky and I will forward a list of retail options for you.
Tomorrow we head back down South and welcome a brand new independent bottler to the party. The guys at the Lost Distillery Company have a fascinating tale to tell and we are going to find out all about it.
Get ready for something to get us all in the holiday mood.
Jonathan – Taster of Secrets

Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar 3rd edition Day 2 Blog # 135 – Wemyss Barrista’s Dram Craigellachie

Off to the wonderful and magical land of Wemyss Malts. I might have said this before, in fact I definitely have, but I love the creativity that Wemyss bring to their single cask range with an awesome descriptive title that gives everyone an idea of what they might expect from each unique bottling.
There has certainly been a lot of attention on the US of late and its actually a bit of relief that there are other events of note that are getting media attention now. I wanted to throw in a tiny 2 cent info piece to get some feedback from the calendar community if I may. Wemyss Malts are colorful and creative when it comes to their naming of casks. When you as a consumer see the title of today’s whisky “Barrista’s Dram do you think of possible coffee notes or do you think that this might be a flavored whisky that includes a coffee infusion?
I ask because I know that there can be confusion about flavours found in whisky. The label approval process in the US makes it very clear that any descriptive term on the label should not lead the consumer to believe that there is something held within the whisky that there is not. We found this specifically challenging when trying to register whiskies like Kumquat Cluster and Aromatic Orange Tobacco from the second edition calendar. Makes it tough for companies like Wemyss and Compass Box. The label clearly states that this is Craigellachie Single Malt Whisky so I ask you, should that be good enough to clear things up or should labelling be more protective? Just thought I would stir the pot a little on this second day of December. I am fairly transparent in my blogging so I’m sure you already know where I stand on this issue.
So onto the whisky – Wemyss Malts Barrista’s Dram Craigellachie 13 Year Old Single Malt Whisky. Bottled from a refill Sherry Butt numbered 900083 – region Speyside and bottled at the usual Wemyss strength of 46% ABV.
Barrista’s Dram Craigellachie
Craigellachie is a distillery that I really enjoy and has made several appearances in past editions. It is also a town in Scotland that has an awesome couple of whisky bars that I was lucky enough to frequent earlier this year on my first trip to Speyside. The Highlander at the Craigellachie Hotel was awesome and you can catch my blog on the trip here.
The Distillery was planned and building commenced in 1891 with whisky production starting in 1898. Owned by Bacardi and used for their Dewars Blended whiskies. Craigellachie is a workhorse distillery that is not a picturesque tourist attraction like so many other gorgeous Scottish Distilleries. It does however produce some delicious whisky and also has a proprietary label in the market. It is from independent bottlers though that I have found this distillery really shines.
Craigellachie Distillery
Colour:     Just a hint of a blush to give you a wink and a nod that this was indeed aged in a sherry butt. Without that slight tinge it could easily be mistaken for an American oak aged whisky as it is honeyed amber beyond that tiny flush of pink.
Nose:     Ahhh there it is and unmistakable – Sweet sherry and bitter chocolate mocha with a deep dark almost tar like note. As spock would say “fascinating”. I could go along with Wemyss on this as the mocha could easily be dark roast slightly bitter coffee grounds.
Palate:    Crema, that tiny but tasty top layer on only the best double espresso’s is right there rolling into those softer sherry notes that spike some sweetness into the mix.
Finish:     Dry and lingering with some crusty orange peel and I get that earthy bag of spent coffee grounds that you would spread on the garden as part of that drying effect.
Really interesting dram and probably the most unusual Craigellachie I have ever had. I love it.
In the 2nd Edition on day 2 we had the amazing Portsoy Sauterne from Malt Whisky Company (another Stuart Nickerson special). This whisky turned out to be one of the most sought after bottles of the second edition. You can read all about it here.
Would love to get some feedback on your thoughts about labeling. Get ready for tomorrow as we head to somewhere way up North and I mean WAY North, for a really cool whisky put together by our friend Stuart Nickerson of the Malt Whisky Company and Shetland Island Distillery.
You can read Johanne’s take on the Barrista’s Dram at Whisky Lassie here.
If you like this whisky email me at jonathan@secretspirits.com for retail options.
See you tomorrow
Jonathan – taster of secrets

Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar 3rd edition Day 1 Blog # 134 – Secret Spirits 18 Year Old Speyside

Welcome again to another rollicking 25 days of whisky whisky whisky. What a ride it has been this year to get to this day. Unfortunately with the best intentions we inadvertantly killed our launch parties. We had some challenges with calendars on display being “played” with a little too much by some customers resulting in holes being punched out and whisky dropped on the floor and tears flowing. Having applied the awesome shrink wrap to deal with that we now find that no one has unwrapped it to find the launch party invitation. Just can’t win on this one. Anyway today is an awesome snowy day in Calgary and I’m looking forward to getting stuck into the first dram.
It is a real treat for us this year to be able to offer up the first ever whisky selected and bottled by Secret Spirits. We are not looking to turn ourselves into a full time independent bottler but rather just throw our hat into the ring a little as we go on this journey. I feel extremely humbled that we are amongst great companies like A.D. Rattray, Wemyss, Malt Whisky Co. Samaroli and Single Cask Nation that have all been a part of making it all happen in previous editions. This time around we are even adding a few more amazing companies that we will get to meet in the coming weeks.
So without further ado lets look at Whisky No. 1 for the 3rd edition SWAC. Our first stop is the Speyside region which as you are probably aware accounts for the vast majority of Scottish distilleries and as such normally makes up a good portion of the SWAC offerings every edition.
Secret Spirits Speyside 18
Secret Spirits Speyside 18 Year Old undisclosed Single Malt Whisky – 58.1% cask strength. No coloring, no chill filtration, refill Bourbon cask # 3299 – Region Speyside
Coming from or near the town of Rothes there are a few distilleries that could be potential candidates for this one lets check out the nose and the taste and you can make up your own minds because I have been sworn to secrecy. A quick look online will reveal the small number of distilleries to choose from so get googling.
3rd Edition NEAT Glass


Time to grab that NEAT glass and get stuck into the fun part. We decided to go with this unusual glass to further the cool collection of unique whisky glasses that we have started and because I was really impressed with how open this glass is and yet how much the nosing is enhanced without being overpowering. This will be going into my next series of whisky glass comparison blogs coming in 2017.
Colour:     Firstly it is light in color more like a rich Chardonnay than an 18 year old whisky. This is no doubt definitely due to this being a refill cask that is probably on its third time around the block aging delicious whisky just for you.
Nose:     Peaches and Cream on a pavlova base. No wonder I liked this whisky. Flavors from my childhood. Cindy got Creme Brulee which is her absolute favorite dessert so when we looked up from the wee sample bottle on a wild and wet day in Scotland and gazed deeply into each others eyes we knew straight away that this was going to be our first Secret Spirits whisky.
Palate:     Very slightly sweet and creamy palate here bursting out all over with notes of honeysuckle and French vanilla.
Finish:     58.1 leaves a little lingering tingle to let you know its up there but does not take away from the whisky. The finish takes on an earthier note with a hint of aromatic bitters that I like a lot and actually has me craving another sip to load up the sweetness again. Dying hints of watermelon salad with just a touch of mint.
This is one unique whisky with a lot of interesting layers. So fun to find this our first time out looking to bottle our own selection. I didn’t play with water but I’m sure it would be interesting to give it a little splash.
Anyone like to take a guess at the distillery in question here? We of course could have and will in the future bottle whiskies with the distillery name on the label but those that have read some of my blogs in the past will know that sourcing an “undisclosed” cask can be really fun and invariably less expensive than it would otherwise be. Besides Secret Spirits just had to release a Secret Whisky its first time out right.
So thank you for joining in either on your first journey through our Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar or for coming along again. For those that want to reminisce over the Day 1 whisky last year you can look at my blog here and think about that lovely sherried Tomintoul from A.D. Rattray here. Please head on over to Whiskylassie to read Johanne’s take on our Speyside 18 along with all the whiskies from the 3rd edition over the next 24 days.
If you like this whisky and want a full bottle you can email me for a list of retailers that will be carrying it at jonathan@secretspirits.com.
Tomorrow we will be tasting something from those fun people at Wemyss Malts that love to tell you all about the whisky in the title.
Heres to the next 24 days and by the way my calendar is number 736 what’s yours?
Jonathan – taster of secrets