Welcome back everyone to day 11 and an accidental revealing of an 11 year old whisky. Sometimes these things just happen. Today we visit yet another distillery that is a first timer for any of our whisky adventures. We had never been able to find a Dufftown bottled by one of the many independent bottlers we have worked with so we just had to do it ourselves.
Dufftown is home to 9 distilleries and raises more revenue per capita than any other town in the UK. The Dufftown distillery itself has been around since 1895 and was founded by two gentlemen from Liverpool. A former meal mill Dufftown started out with only 2 stills. Owned today by powerhouse Diageo Dufftown is most recognizable by it’s proprietary whisky “Singleton”.
When I initially saw this Dufftown on the list of casks that I could taste from I was pretty excited. You all know I love to cross a distillery off the list but I also love trying rare to find casks from distilleries owned by the big companies.
Secret Spirits – Dufftown 11 Year Old – Speyside – Oloroso Sherry Cask # 700435A – 55.4% abv
Colour: Burnished Bronze.
Nose: After yesterday’s Big Peat this is a polar opposite trip North to Speyside. Lovely deep dark forest fruits. The dominant berry for me is blueberry. Like a lovely rich blueberry compote warming on the stove. I could easily have this on pancakes. Does that make this a breakfast whisky? I sure hope so.
Palate: Big sherry influence here, figs and dates, winter spices, Oloroso sweetness in spades. Funnily enough the Oloroso comes across much dryer than I remember from my tasting in Scotland.
Finish: Lovely dry finish that continues to put out layers of rich fruit and spice notes. Very mouth coating and at 55.4% pretty balanced. Was tempted to try a touch of water but am enjoying it as is. All of our intrepid Youtubers have been doing a thorough job of adding water and delving deep into the nuance of every whisky so be sure to check them out.
There may be even at 11 years old just a touch more sherry influence on this whisky than some would want to see but is it ever delicious. There is often several schools of thought about how much sherry cask maturation is the right amount. Some want dark inky whisky that is so sherried that there is little else remaining. Others like just a hint to offset the distillery style. As always I tend to be all over the place and can just enjoy the difference inherant in each different whisky I try.
Tomorrow we have the sole representative of a particularly popular style of Scotch Whisky that sometimes does not appear in a Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar edition. Looking forward to seeing how it stacks up against what has come before.
So until tomorrow have a fabulous day. As Bart from Scotch Test Dummies is doing pause and contemplate something meaningful that has happened this year each day as we roll through this Advent season.
Another day and another single cask from Secret Spirits.
Today for the first time we enjoy a unique cask from the Benrinnes Distillery in Speyside. The first Scotch Whisky I ever sold was the Stronachie 12. The long lost distillery was recreated after an original bottle was procured by A.D. Rattray from 1904. The distillery that they sourced the whisky as the base for the Stronachie brand was Benrinnes. Always a super enjoyable every day dram Stronachie inspired me to seek out more single casks of Benrinnes and see what flavors could be found.
This particular cask of Benrinnes is a 1st fill Oloroso. You may be picking up on a theme here as we managed to get access to a decent range of Oloroso aged whiskies for this edition and after having the vast majority of you screaming for more sherry how could we resist.
Benrinnes was founded in 1826 and unfortunately was destroyed by a flood a mere 3 years later. Rebuilt in 1835 under the name Lyne of Ruthrie. Unfortunately it went bankrupt, was sold again, went through a fire in 1896 and was finally refurbished and converted to electricity and sold to John Dewar & Son in 1922.
Thats a lot for a distillery to go through over it’s lifetime. So happy that it made it through all those challenges and we can taste this cask today.
Secret Spirits Benrinnes 10 Year Old – 1st fill Oloroso # 303872 – Speyside – 56.1% abv
Colour: Another reddish cue to this one but again not as much as you can see from a 1st fill Oloroso cask.
Nose: Cadbury Fruit and Nut chocolate block complete with the imbedded raisins. Big time memories of being a kid in Australia and having a stick broken off the block to chow down on while watching a movie with the family. This was pretty much one of our staple treats. Along with this sweetness is some of that old leather and dusty library book nose as well. Ladies and gentlemen shall we take a dram and chocolate in the drawing room?
Palate: Wow really palate spreading flavor. The alcohol seems absolutely spot on at 56.1%. There is a burst of Grand Marnier Liqueur and all the while that lovely nutty, fruity chocolate just keeps coming.
Finish: Lovely and warming with cocoa nibs, Terry’s chocolate orange and a zippy dry almost tannic finish that leaves everything watering for another sip.
This is the first time I have ever seen Benrinnes in a 1st fill Oloroso and I’m digging it.
Welcome to the end of the first full week. Cindy and I hope that your whisky adventuring has been fun so far. Today we try something from a very good independent bottler with a long history of exceptional casks and brands. Douglas Laing is a welcome addition to the list of indies that we have featured over the years.
Today much like with Wemyss Malts in the past we are going to explore one of Douglas Laings iconic blended malts, Scallywag.
Including malts from Mortlach, Macallan and Glenrothes, Scallywag is made up entirely of Speyside distilleries. As most of you know I love a good blended malt and we always highlight at least a handful in each edition.
Douglas Laing Scallywag Blended Malt Scotch Whisky – 46% abv – Sherry and Bourbon casks – Speyside
Colour: Rose gold that hints at the sherry casks used in this small batch blended malt.
Nose: The local tuck shop from my childhood where I would take my hard earned pocket money and buy a mixed bag of lollies (sweets). Musk sticks, fruit jubes, wine gums, and sherbet. Strawberry Chupa Chup.
Palate: Lovely soft array of sweet fruit and candy begins the journey but allows some earthier elements to climb aboard. A touch of Christmas spice and a bowl of macadamia nuts.
Finish: A hint of ginger snap spices up the finish. This is just a lovely dram and could happily stay in my glass (with additional pours) for hours.
Yep I love a good blended malt and this is just plain fabulous drinking. Great as an every night dram that won’t break the budget but is a cut above a lot of your usual suspect shelf warmers.
I hope you have been heading over to our guest Youtubers at Single Malt Review in New Zealand. Whisky Whistle in Canada and Scotch Test Dummies in the US. I have seen that we also have a few more that are running through our calendar this year including Food Quig who always has a very thoughtful and detailed taste of each and every dram.
Tomorrow we are back to another single cask dram from Secret Spirits from a distillery that I have had a long and delicious relationship with.
Really looking forward to your company as we start off the second week of this our 6th Scottish whisky tour.
Welcome to our first peaty day of the 6th edition. Some of you are going to have a hard time with this whisky and some of you have barely tolerated the so called whisky that has come before in anticipation of this dram.
Today we are grabbing a ferry to the isle of Mull and visiting a fantastic distillery by the name of Tobermory. Now looking at your bottle you will see Ledaig (pronounced le’chig). Ledaig is the Tobermory brand for their peated single malt whisky.
Tobermory was founded in 1798 but closed in 1930 due largely to the 10 years of US prohibition. It was reopened in 1972 under the name Ledaig Distillery. Located in the town of Tobermory it is now owned by the Distill group out of South Africa that purchased it in 2013. It remains the only distillery operating on the Isle of Mull and produces a wide variety of different single malt styles.
Secret Spirits Ledaig 10 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky – Island – 46.1% abv – Bourbon Barrel # 70099 – distilled in 2008.
Colour: Rich Amber
Nose: Ahhh there it is……sweet smoke and definitely very reminicent of my brisket smoking exploits this Summer. There is a meaty element to the nose that is really drawing me in. Charcoal and hickory. Can’t wait to taste this one.
Palate: Oh yeah, this is exactly what I was hoping for with the nose. It’s actually kind of like drinking delicious smoked brisket that is juicy, slightly sweet and dripping with flavor. There is also a touch of that island salt and a hint of pencil eraser.
Finish: The saltiness increases along with a medicinal rubbery thing (great descriptor) that I can’t quite put my tongue on. The sweet meaty flavors are still there as well. Yummo.
I love peated island whiskies like Ledaig and Highland Park. Even though at times they use the same amount of peat in their maltings and distillations they somehow always come across a little softer and more balanced.
Tomorrow we will be having a very exciting first for any of our additions with the inaugural whisky release from a new Scotch Whisky Distillery. I don’t want to ruin the surprise so I won’t tell you which region we will be visiting.
That was a great first peated expression and as promised there will be more as our adventure continues.
Looking forward to our landmark unveiling tomorrow.
So until then let this Ledaig warm your cockles and have a good one.
Today we secretly knock off another distillery from my list. I have a map in my office (needs a bit of updating) and I have been slowly highlighting any distillery that we have included in our calendar editions.
Some of them are going to prove to be very elusive as their owners seldom if ever allow an independently bottled barrel. This is where teaspooned casks can come to the rescue. For those of you not familiar with the practice, teaspooning is the act of dropping in a teaspoon of a different single malt into a barrel and thus creating a blended malt. For all intents and purposes it does nothing to change the flavor of the whisky but it is now no longer categorised as a single malt. From what we have seen, many of these casks are noted on the manifest as blended malt but the physical act of teaspooning the cask never happens. Anyway cloak and dagger stuff.
Today we have a pretty recognisable distillery that was opened in 1893. A Speyside distillery near Dufftown it sits as one of the iconic Scotch Whisky brands around the world. Their 12 year old expression was recently named in the top 50 whiskies by Mens Journal. Enough hints? Here is a slightly blurry photo of the distillery to help you out just a bit. Anyway even though we can’t actually name it, I’m highlighting it on my Secret Spirits Scotland map of featured Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar Distilleries just the same.
Secret Spirits Burnside 7 year old blended malt – Sherry Cask – 46.1% abv – non chill filtered
Colour: Golden sunset
Nose: Cinnamon and Raisin tart. Hints of bitter chocolate and caramel fudge.
Palate: Some chocolate orange comes into play with the slight bitterness and caramel edge coating everything.
Finish: Really warming for only just over 46% a lovely lighter dram that plays over the palate with really nice balance. The lingering semi-sweet chocolate on the finish is delicious.
Anyone care to guess now that you have had a taste? Hehehe this just makes the adventure even more fun and is pretty much like doing a blind tasting. Hope you have enjoyed this secret dram.
So here we are in Speyside (one of my favorite regions) with a delicious offering from the folks at A.D. Rattray independent bottlers.
We have had a few Tomintoul single casks in previous editions but none that were aged in a sherry butt. You may remember earlier this year while travelling through Scotland we asked for input on whisky selections. Questions on sherry and peat etc. Well there will be a few more peaty whiskies along the way and we had a huge thumbs up from the vast majority for more sherry casks. Due to the expense and rarity, Sherry casking in the Scotch Whisky world has decreased considerably in recent years. We have heard your cry for more and will be delivering it in spades this edition.
Tomintoul located in the bustling distillery region of Speyside is a relatively newish distillery on the Scottish scene having been founded in 1964. Changing hands on numerous occassions including being owned by Whyte and Mackay it now belongs to the Angus Dundee group. There are now proprietary bottles available in many markets around the world in contrast to a decade ago where single casks were only found under independent labels.
A.D. Rattray Tomintoul 13 Year Old – Speyside Region – Sherry Butt – Cask No. 11 – 60% abv
Colour: A very similar colour to yesterday’s Auchentoshan but with 4 years less time in the barrel. Sherry butts are one of the largest barrels used for aging Scotch and because of the volume of whisky they hold, generally speaking they impart less colour than hogsheads and other smaller types of casks.
Nose: Strawberries and cream, almond cookies and freshly toasted pop tarts. Fantastic array of aromas fairly leaping out of my Glencairn. Be a wee bit careful though as the 60% can make it a touch focussed so forge ahead, but gently does it.
Palate: Yep BINGO, more of the same notes as on the nose and the higher abv just intensly spreads it all over the palate. Like biting into that first yummy warm taste of Strawberry Pop Tart as soon as the toaster give up the goodies. I know that normally I reach for obscure references to unique Aussie fare but you have to remember that I am also now Canadian and have been here for 18 years. Pop Tarts are delicious. My wife Cindy once had an awkward moment with an Australian Customs official on our return from a trip to Canada. Having taken all the shiny little pop tart packets out of the box for more streamlined packing, they looked for all intents and purposes like carefully laid out stashes of goodness only knows what drugs to a rather stern official. Anyway disaster was averted and they didnt even open any of the packets. Pop tarts can be addictive but at least they are not illegal.
Finish: The fruity tingle and creamy palate just roll on with the 60% keeping it all going for a long time. The marzipan/almond comes back again at the finish and the tiniest whisp of strawberry is the last thing I think of.
Love, love, love this style of whisky. Magical casks that provide such delicate and intriguing flavor all from fermented and distilled barley. Crazy, fantastical stuff this.
The last few months have been somewhat challenging as Cindy and I continue to work hard to get our 6th edition out to as many whisky lovers as possible.
Without going into excruciating detail this has actually been our most difficult year ever. Some of the highlights include embargoes, tariffs, shipping nightmares, bottling and warehousing problems, labelling controversy, our first ever crowdfunding venture and last but not least Amazon UK (would require an entire book to tell that story).
As a really positive counterpoint to all of this has been the super fun trip to Scotland, friends, family and so many in our community that have supported us above and beyond this year. A big thanks to my sister Jayne for helping out with Google, To my bro Peter for being patient with us and helping with the whole Amazon piece. Patrick and Tiana for getting our Facebook on track and a massive thanks to Chris Burrows at The Dram Team. Without Chris there would have been no 6th edition.
So with only half a month to go till D Day I thought I would throw out a customary reminder blog and warm up for the 25 days of non-stop blogging that I do each year.
If you have not put your name on a calendar yet there are still some available in Canada the US and around the world but we are almost sold out as we only made 500 this year.
We have amped up content on a lot of platforms if you are interested in following along more closely with our adventures. The Whisky Advent Calendar facebook page has taken on a life of its own including the regular “whats in your glass” segments from yours truly with guest appearances by Cindy, Shadow and Sashes. Our Youtube channel has a ton of content from our Scotland trip and is worth a peek.
As always if you just want to reach out and talk whisky I’m always up for having a yarn pretty much anytime.
Hard to believe that it has been 6 years of creating whisky adventures already. Hopefully there will be many more to come.
Really looking forward to the journey this year as we had so much amazing input while we were in Scotland from everyone that was part of the initial Indiegogo campaign. Spoiler alert, there will be sherry cask influenced whisky in this edition and lots of it.
Come along with Cindy and I this year and join the Secret Spirits Scotch Whisky Adventure Train.
Welcome to Christmas Day everyone. What a journey we have had together in this our 5th edition. I hope that through the varying complexities of Speyside to the honey’s and heathers of the Highlands along with some big hitting Islay, salty Islands and old grain Lowlands that you have come to appreciate how diverse the Scotch whisky landscape truly is.
We finish our journey today with a 30 year old Single Malt from the Glen Grant Distillery bottled by A.D. Rattray. This is the first time we have had a different independent bottler for Christmas day since our calendars began. Editions 1 through 4 were all stolen by Italian Independent bottler Samaroli. It seems fitting then that Glen Grant is the dethroning whisky as it is the number 1 selling Single Malt in Italy.
Glen Grant was founded in 1840 by two illicit distillers, John and James Grant who decided that they should legitimize and seek a license. The distillery was then passed onto James “The Major” Grant who was a true innovator and really laid the foundation for the ultimate success of this iconic distillery. James owned the first car in the Highlands and installed the first electric lights at any distillery in Scotland. He also built taller slender stills and purifiers that gave Glen Grant a freshness and clear sparkle that still defines the whisky today. Major Grant passed away in 1931 and his grandson Douglas took up the reigns. in 2006 Campari acquired Glen Grant as part of the Pernod Ricard Group and still owns it to this day.
A.D. Rattray Glen Grant 30 Year Old Single Malt Scotch Whisky – Sherry Butt # 9173 – Speyside – 55.1% ABV
Colour: Gorgeous 14K Gold. Still lighter than you could have with a 30 year old sherry so definitely at least a second fill.
Nose: There is a lovely wafting of tropical fruit. A bowl of bananas, passionfruit and mango. Bahind all of this there is some old library action going on. Polished teak and old leather. A hint of tobacco like sitting in a deep backed leather chair in an old drawing room. This would be the place to retire and relax after dinner with your esteemed guests. I could smell this for half an hour easy. The 55 and change alcohol really doesnt come out at all. I would be very careful about watering this whisky as older drams tend to be quite delicate.
Palate: This has all of the above and more on the palate. There is no way I am putting water in this. Barely any alcohol burn and an absolutely sensational all over creamy coating on the palate. It tastes old. The tropics are hanging in there and partnering with the old world charm of something that took 3 full decades of time and patience to bring to your wee glass this Christmas day. Thank you A.D. Rattray for allowing us to use this precious whisky for our 5th edition. A bit of a swirl and some over ripe citrus comes into play as well.
Finish: The effect of 30 years in this cask does have its way with the finish. There is an abundance of dried fruits and lingering oak There is a lot going on here and I wish I had more. Thank goodness we do 50ml bottles. Sharing with Chris to do this blog would have been a real challenge with anything less. This Glen Grant has remained surprisingly spry on the fruit side after so long in cask. There is still a touch of Christmas tingly magic that slowly fades and I mean really slowly. I can still taste it a good full 5 minutes after my final sip and it’s still going. final note is a dried piece of papaya. What a priviledge to drink something that took so long to complete. Wow I love whisky.
Today I actually shared this dram with my good friend Chris Williams. After an unfortunate incident in transit someone received their 5th edition with the day 25 broken and empty. When Cindy and I were recently in Texas I packaged up and sent my own personal day 25 bottle. Chris stepped in and offered his own bottle for us to share so that I could get these tasting notes. What a legend, thanks mate.
I know Bart and Scott of Scotch Test Dummies are together on Christmas Day and Daniel of the Whiskey Vault is no doubt aching to get to Christmas festivities with his family so check out their take on the Glen Grant.
So the final count on each Region, Style, Cask Type and ABV are below including one heavily peated Highland:
Undisclosed Region Blended Malts – 3 – Undisclosed Cask Type – Reduced Strength 3
The numbers very much mirror the actual balance of distilleries that are active in Scotland today. To be a touch more accurate there would actually be a few less Highlands and a few more Speysides. For our 6th edition we will be asking all of you to have your input on where you would like to travel on our annual Scotch Whisky Adventure.
At the end of January we will be launching a crowdfunding campaign for the 6th edition where you all get to help pick regions and even casks as I comb the length and breadth of Scotland. Secret Spirits is taking the interactive nature of our calendar to a whole new level and making it even more fun and entertaining.
Don’t forget today to head to www.secretspirits.com and vote for your 3 favourite whiskies for a chance to win our 6th edition.
Thank you everyone for coming along with Cindy and I and entering into the most controversy, discussion, tasting notes, chats and drams that we have ever had in 5 years. So exciting to be able to share this with everyone and help expand our experience of this amazing category of whisky.
Day 22 dawns. It just seems like yesterday that we started this adventure together. It’s been a great ride so far this edition and there has been plenty to learn, plenty to talk about and most importantly plenty to contemplate. Apart from Christmas Day when we had the stellar Samaroli 33 Year Old Blended Malt and the 34 Year Old Blended Scotch we have not normally apart from the odd Samaroli seen anything blended in the last 5 days of any edition. Back in March when I was at Dummfries House tasting through a bunch of whiskies with Brian Woods from Lost Distillery Company this Towiemore really struck a chord. For me it wasn’t just the great story but also the balance of this dram and that it stood out even amongst the many single casks that I was trying (16 different drams I think from memory or lack thereof). It was a great opportunity to showcase a very well put together combination of Single Malts at a time in the calendar when we are really scritinizing everything a little more carefully.
Towiemore was a distillery that really only had a comparitively short shelf life in Scottish terms. Starting it’s production in 1898 it unfortunately only survived for 33 years. As always you can get the complete whisky education story at the Lost Distillery Company Website on the Towiemore page.
Lost Distillery Company Towiemore Archivist Blended Malt Scotch Whisky – 46% ABV – no caramel or chill filtration
Colour: Rich dark amber on this one. There are definitely some sherry casks involved as Towiemore was known for their sherry aged malt.
Nose: Hitting me like a Manuka honey infused hot toddy complete with lemon and a favorite Scotch Whisky plucked randomly off the shelf. It is delicate though and needs some time to delve into. There is a lightly roasted coffee note or is it a fresh crusty bread note? I think maybe both. There is a tinned manderin note as well that pokes its way into the mix.
Palate: The honey comes across as more creamed honey than Manuka now. Less earthy. The fruit note has gone from a citrusy touch to richer stone fruit like apricot and nectarine.
Finish: I’m getting cloves and orange and it’s taking me back to kindergarten when we made scented hanging decorations for mother’s day. We all had to bring an orange and the teacher handed out a ribbon and big bucket of cloves. We spent the next 30 minutes shoving cloves into the orange until it was completely covered. Wow did they ever smell nice and my mum proudly hung it up near the kitchen window till it dried out and finally lost its smell. Some Cocoa also coming in at the end.
Ahh yes Inchgower. I first fell in love with a cask from this distillery that was the first release of A.D. Rattray ever released in Canada. On that occassion it was an inky dark first fill sherried 25 year old. The price that we sold that for 15 years ago would make you cry. Today however is all about Hunter Laing and their Old Malt Cask Range. Inchgower was built in 1871 in Buckie, Moray to replace Tochineal Distillery. Unfortunately it only survived for just over 30 years before being closed. Purchased by the Buckie council in 1936 after another 30 years of dormancy it was sold to Arthur Bell’s & Sons in 1938. Diageo now owns it but still uses the Bell’s logo in connection to Inchgower to preserve its heritage. Rarely seen as a Single Malt it is again more often than not independent bottlings that allow us to peek behind the distillery curtain and try this whisky in all it’s glory.
Hunter Laing Old Malt Cask Inchgower 25 Year Old Single Malt – Sherry Butt # HL14253 – Speyside – 50% ABV
Colour: Solid amber hue. Sherry Butt’s are big casks (500 liters) and impart less colour than smaller barrels due to less cask to whisky contact however after 21 years you could expect more colour. Each cask is so unique it constantly amazes me.
Nose: Orange sherbet, caramel squares and a creamy flat white. Very inviting and quite subtle considering the 50%.
Palate: This is absolutely fantastic. Delicate sweetness that rolls around the tongue. I’m getting a mix of milk and white chocolate with tiny hits of candied bitter orange rind. The sherry influence here is soft but does not lack in adding complexity to this dram after 21 years. Right up my alley this. A dram that is taking some time to get to the bottom of. Just like lighting up a lovely cigar knowing you will spend the next hour enjoying it’s company and the friend you are sitting across from. Drams like this should command respect. How many other commodities can you enjoy only after they have been sitting in a warehouse for over two decades?
Finish: The 50% is oh so soft. To my palate this feels more like 40. The gorgeous creamy chocolate feel lingers on and there comes perhaps the faintest of cinnamon notes right at the death. That candied orange keeps on going and going.
Thanks Hunter Laing for this cask. A great way to continue enjoying the last week before Christmas.
Dont forget your nightly fix of the Whisky Vault and the Scotch Test Dummies. These guys have been doing great work to keep things rolling all the way through December. Undertaking a blog or review of an Advent calendar is no small feat so my various hats are doffed to these gentlemen for doing such an amazing job.
Tomorrow we are off to discover an older dram from the boys at the Lost Distillery Company.
3 more sleeps and drams before Christmas day and the promise of something old and special.