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Day 19 – Samaroli Miltonduff 1995 | Blog #108

7 Days and counting as we force ourselves to struggle through dealing with 20+ year old drams. 

Today’s 20+ is actually 20 Years Old and hails from the Miltonduff Distillery in Speyside. Miltonduff was established in 1894 on the site of the meal mill of Pluscarden Abbey which was built in 1236. An original stone from the Abbey makes up the foundation of the distillery. So awesome to have history dating back so far as part of a distilleries heritage.

Miltonduff Distillery Miltonduff Distillery

Changing hands several times it is now owned by Pernod Ricard (Chivas Bros) and most of the production goes into the Chivas and Ballantines (would have been part of the best whisky in the world a few years ago in 2011 in the infamous Whisky Bible) Blends.

I have had quite a few delicious expressions over the years and I have to agree with Homer Simpson “can’t get enough of that wonderful Duff”.

Samaroli Miltonduff 1995 – 20 Years Old aged in New American Oak at an ABV of 45%. Cask # 2848.


Colour:     Yep 20 years in new oak and its another Samaroli light colour pale gold.

Nose:     Savory notes, cardamom and caraway seeds, Some light fruit there too although more in the background, sun ripened Roma tomato (it’s a fruit you know). A touch of spicy ginger.

Palate:     Earthy subtle peat which I was not expecting, Rye toast & fennel infused butter.

Finish:     A delicate beast to get my mind around. Even on the savory side of the scale Samaroli still finds a way to make me think about it. Wet slate and cedar and warming all the way down. A tongue coating splash of fire roasted tomato which is a really delicious but unique flavor for me in a whisky.

Had to spend some mulling time over this one. Samaroli is not a get whisky quick scheme. It takes some quiet time and patience to get to the bottom of the whisky and the glass. Love it.

Joshua Hatton regales us with his insights on todays Samaroli HERE

Last year on this day we tasted the Wemyss Malts Spice King 12 Year Old Blended Malt in blog #51

If you also can’t get enough of this wonderful Duff then head on over to these retailers and grab one of the only 30 bottles available:


J. Webb Wine Merchants

Zyn The Wine Market


Andrew Hilton Wines and Spirits


Wine and Beyond

Tomorrow we are off to Wemyss Malts again for a whisky that is so rare we could only bring in 6, yep you heard me 6 full bottles. I hope not many of you like it.


This is how it’s “Spelt” | Blog #87

G’day everyone,

As promised last week I am reviewing a very unique whiskey offering. Distilled at the KOVAL distillery in Chicago. This Organic Spelt Whiskey really intrigued me on my recent visit to KOVAL and being a rare and discontinued bottling meant that I just had to have a bottle.

Spelt has become more popular amongst organic farmers in recent times as it takes less fertilizing however it is also mis-labeled at times as gluten free which it is most certainly not.

I had a choice of either the Toasted or Charred version of this Whisky and went with Toasted as the lighter flavor and delicate nature of this whiskey was overtaken a bit by the heavy char.

KOVAL Single Barrel Whiskey – Toasted Barrel Limited edition – Spelt 40% ABV – Tasted in a Jewbilee Festival tasting glass that is like a slightly smaller cut off Glencairn glass. The top is almost the same with a slightly smaller diameter and instead of the mushroom stem it is flat on the bottom like a tumbler. Great for such a gentle whiskey.

Colour:     Oak Aged Chardonnay in appearance getting lighter towards the edges of the glass.

Nose:     A lumber yard fresh wood shaving pile, a little wheat like but going in a completely different direction with persistent nosing. Baked poached pears drizzled with melted light honey.

Palate:     So soft and light this might be the most delicate American whiskey I have ever tried. Seductively smooth and barely causing a ripple as it flows softly over the palate leaving behind floral notes of Spring blossoms.

Finish:     A sweet pepper note grows over time with freshly baked scone complete with subtle apricot jam and cream. Right at the end and after a couple of sips at it I suddenly was hit with something that really took me back to my childhood. Sweetened Condensed Milk was a staple on my dummy (pacifier). Mum and dad must have known what they were doing because it shut me up every time. Still a flavor that brings warm comforting feelings.

After tasting an array of KOVAL organic whiskey’s this was my favorite and with availability restricted to the distillery itself I’m glad that I was able to get a bottle.

If you are ever in Chicago I would highly recommend a visit to KOVAL. They are what micro-distilling is all about. Great job guys on thinking outside of the box with a lot of your unique offerings.

KOVAL are available in Canada with their Rye, Millet and Bourbon. No doubt you will have to hunt through select boutique whiskey stores to find a bottle. If you do it will be worth the effort.

That’s two really interesting and amazing whiskies in two weeks. The American distilling scene is really cranking out some brain twisting bottles right now. Boy it’s a great time to be a whiskey/y fan.

The countdown is now on until we start into our 25 days of the Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar blog. Those of you that have yet to secure your calendar there are still plenty available and you can find retail locations on our website at www.secretspirits.com

I hope you will join in as we countdown to Christmas with the daily dram.

Until then keep on the whiskey/y trail


Rocky Mountain High | Blog #84

What an awesome couple of days at the recent Calgary edition of the Rocky Mountain Food and Wine show.

With Brian from Whistling Andy on site we were locked and loaded with an array of delicious whisky and a couple of additional treats.

For those of you that have never been to this event it was held at Stampede over 2 days with 3 sessions for consumers to choose from. 4 till 10 on Friday the 16th and 12 till 4 and 6 till 10 on Saturday the 17th.

Always enjoyable for me, I love the interaction and to get a chance to basically rabbit on about my passion for hours on end with an endless array of interested whisky lovers making the pilgrimage to our booth.

Sporting the kilt and with the addition of the amazing Angel’s Share glassware we were definitely a draw card for the whisky faithful throughout the show.

Brian from Whistling Andy distillery in Bigfork Montana was awesome and one of the most passionate individuals you could ever meet when it comes to high quality small batch distilling. In a future blog we will be sure to interview Brian to try and give you some insight into their amazing family story. Brian was pouring their Straight Bourbon, Harvest Select Whiskey, Cucumber Gin and Hibiscus Coconut Rum.

Whistling Andy Whiskey, Gin, Rum and Moonshine Whistling Andy Whiskey, Gin, Rum and Moonshine

Also on offer was the 3 great Stalk and Barrel whiskies from Still Waters Distillery. Their 1+11 Canadian Blended Whisky, The Single Cask 100% Rye and the Single Cask Single Malt. From A.D Rattray we had the Stronachie 10, Stronachie 18 and Cask Islay. Last but definitely not least was the silky smooth Hyde 10 Year old Sherry Finished Single Malt.

On display and for sale at the Sobey’s on site store was the 2nd Edition Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar and as a teaser we also had the prototype Collector’s Edition which stopped passing festival goer’s in their tracks and really helped to keep us extremely busy the entire weekend.

I would highly recommend going to one of these events for a great night out and the opportunity to try some really amazing products that you might not otherwise ever have in your glass.

One of the topics of discussion was the $ 7000 bottle of Ledaig being poured which had people searching all over the show trying to find the booth and ante up for this rare taste.

For whisky lovers, the Gold Medal table was again at it with a huge array of whisky from Gordon & McPhail, Benromach, Kilchoman, Springbank and Tullibardine.

If you live in Edmonton there is still time to get your tickets for the upcoming Rocky Mountain Show on the 6th and 7th of November. I look forward to seeing you all there. Please come along and say hi and grab a taste of something you have never had before.

A big thanks to Mike, Cathy, Nicole and the rest of the team for putting on another professional show. Tired and extremely happy with the response it was really fun to enjoy one of Calgary’s must visit late night eating spots at UNA Pizza on 17th.

There is nothing better than that first cleansing pint after talking non stop for 8 hours. Add prosciutto pizza drizzled with truffle oil and arugula and an amazing glass of Blue Mountain Gamay and the night is perfect.

Thanks for all your support and for making this whisky journey that I am on so interesting.


Winter is coming | Blog #82

What a great time of year to get your thoughts turning to all things whisky. Apart from the huge amount of whisky related consumer events coming up there is just that chill in the air confirming that warming drams will be a mainstay to help get you through the long cold months ahead.

To kick the Autumn season off right my wife and I jumped into a little creative whisky warmer.

Boasting a fair amount of warming kick and some potential snuggle worthy time in front of the fire this is a whisky based fall drink not to be missed.

Hot Buttered Hazelnut Whisky


4 parts milk
1 cinnamon stick
2 parts whisky
1 part Frangelico
1 tablespoon whipped cream per individual serving
pinch of cinnamon (for garnish)

Bring the milk and cinnamon stick to a simmer in a thick-bottomed pot over low heat. Allow to gently simmer for 15 minutes, stirring constantly (if you don’t stir constantly, the milk on the bottom of the pan will start to cook onto it, and the next time you stir the pot little cooked milk bits will mix into the liquid. Not so fun.) Remove from heat, remove the cinnamon stick, and pour the milk into the serving glass. Add the whiskey and the Frangelico and stir to combine. Top with whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Serve immediately.

We used a nice Highland dram for this as we did not want anything too heavy competing with the cinnamon and cream. Grab something handy from your collection that has a bit of fruit and a touch a sweetness.

Hot Buttered Hazelnut Whisky Hot Buttered Hazelnut Whisky

Whisky can be such a great base for so many drinks. Using decent whisky is a must. There is no doubt that the best cocktails I have ever had included only the best ingredients and especially the best whiskies. It’s like using great wine for cooking. The better the base the more flavorful the result.

Write in and give us some of your favorite warming drinks. We will work through all the entries and spend some time “testing” the best and post the most delicious on the blog in December. The winning entry will receive a set of 2 Angel’s Share glass Pot Still cocktail stirrer’s.

This is such a pretty time of year as the great outdoors puts on an amazing display of color. Enjoy it all while the leaves hold on as everyone in Alberta knows fall is just a speed bump in Winter’s path.

We have had a lot of you readers asking what events Secret Spirits will be participating in between now and Christmas.

Here is a short list of events that you can find us at:

October 3rd – Rocky Mountain Smokeout – Stoney Nakota Casino (sorry you missed a great night)

October 16th and 17th – Rocky Mountain Food and Wine Festival – Calgary

October 30th – Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar Sneak Peek – Wine and Beyond McTaggart Edmonton

November 4th and 5th – Zyn the Wine Market – Whisky Tasting and Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar sneak peek

November 4th – Whisky in the Warehouse Willow Park

November 6th and 7th – Rocky Mountain Food and Wine Festival – Edmonton

November 7th – Whiskies of the World Festival – Co-op Calgary

November 10th and 11th – Wine and Beyond Whisky Week Windermere and Emerald Hills – Edmonton

November 19th – Whisky fundraising event in Red Deer in conjunction with Liquor Crossing – Red Deer

November 20th – Single Cask Whisky tasting at Andrew Hilton Wines and Spirits – Lethbridge

November 21st – Crowfoot Wine and Spirits Whisky Festival – Calgary

November 28th – Whisky evening at Point McKay Wines and Spirits – Calgary

December 1st  – Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar 2nd Edition Launch Party. By invitation only.

I hope to see you at least once to one of these amazing events.


*Photos compliments of our fav food photographer Eva Kosmas Flores

To share or not to share……. | Blog # 75

Everyone who has some decent bottles of whisky at home will have experienced this dilemma. A friend or two come over and you decide to have a dram but they are not that experienced with whisky.

Should you ply them with the cheap stuff rather than waste your better bottles? Or should you treat them to something amazing that might just get them further down the path to enjoying the finest imbibing liquid on the planet?

I have heard this many times from people tasting something a little higher end and amazing… “this whisky I’ll be keeping just for myself” and “can you taste me on a good everyday bottle that I can share with my friends”?

It seems that the rule of thumb if you are a novice whisky drinker is that you will be missing out on your buddies better offerings.

I rather take the opposite view and am happy to offer up almost any of my more delicious whiskies as long as the company in question has shown some interest.

Inevitably one dram turns into a couple and seldom the same dram twice so I normally offer up a number of choices and let my guest choose their poison..ahem um nectar.

Perhaps it stems from the Scottish penchant for stinginess that people would hide away the special and serve the mundane when company calls. There are those, trapped in the drinking culture of their native land (Newfoundland for example) that just tend to drink more and so do not want their crowd of invited guests plowing through their 25 year old. I can absolutely empathize with why this would be just such a scenario that would warrant a few bottles of palatable but unexciting whisky.

Heaven forbid if you were having a party that you would leave an untended bar brimming with 20 year old this and 30 year old that.

It would be like coming home to find that your sister in-law had raided the wine cellar and “randomly” grabbed that special bottle of which there was only one in the entire country (that you had been cellaring for a decade) and opened it as the evenings quaffer (true story).

But at the end of the day it is only booze. Delicious, expensive and sometimes irreplaceable but still at it’s core just a drink. We could be teetering on the edge of the investment vs drinking debate but I will save that for another time. Let me just be clear that I am a drinker of whisky not a collector. Any bottle that I have in my home is fair game and I love to share it all (sometimes forcing one or two drams more than I should on unsuspecting guests so my wife tells me).

It is so easy to get excited when someone is just getting into their whisky journey and I, like a kid in a candy store, want them to experience it all straight away.

I guess one of the questions you might have to ask yourself is how many friends do you have that are on this whisky journey  and specifically those that you like to sit down with you regularly to work on all those open bottles in your cupboard.

Outside of people that I have met on my industry journey’s I have probably less than a handful of friends that really salivate at the prospect of hitting my place for some “dram time”. Perhaps that is why I am so free and easy with my bottles. If I had a small army of thirsty friends then I might quickly revert to those hum drum offerings that currently take up pretty much zero space in my collection.

My appeal to everyone out there in the spirit of education and enlistment of any and all friends into this passion that we share, please be generous with your whisky.

Be especially generous with interesting and unique bottles that could just get someone hooked for life. I guess writing a blog and plying everyone and anyone that will stand still in front of me for 10 seconds with whatever yummy dram I have in hand would make me a pusher of sorts. Well guilty as charged I say and if you meet me at a show or in a class be sure to come on over and demand that I make good on my promise to give you a taste of something delicious.

Live free and drink well …


Unobtanium…..fun to read or a big tease | Whisky Blog #72

Let’s face it most bloggers that spend enough time and energy on their hobby to garner some read solid readership numbers will begin to open up opportunities to drink more and more expensive whiskies.

As a consumer on the other side of your electronic medium of choice do you get excited about reading insights into especially rare or expensive drams? Or do you find it irrelevant when you can neither afford it or find it on shelves.

As someone who has been in and around the industry for over a decade I have of course had access to some pretty amazing whisky. Most of the expensive bottles that have found their way into my home have been sourced via channels that would normally be well above my current pay grade. For me one important question I ask myself when reviewing a whisky is if I could see myself shelling out hard earned dollars to add said bottle to my collection.

I can see that writing about super rare and expensive whiskies actually does a lot to help those agonizing over a purchase to consider whether or not to take the plunge. Rare and older whiskies are always expensive but are not necessarily amazing. From this perspective it is probably even more important if you are buying the whisky strictly for consumption rather than investment that you read up on as many opinions as possible so as to make a somewhat informed decision.

Everyone has a different pallet and therefore opinions will vary greatly. 

It’s like reading reviews on Trip Advisor. It doesn’t matter how amazing a resort is or how awesome their customer service, there will always be a number of people that are either habitual complainers or did in fact have a horrible experience. Never base your decision on just one review. Make sure you either weight more highly sources that you have come to trust or go by the vast majority or reviews either good or bad.

Finally having taken all this into account you should just go with your own choice. I have for example thoroughly enjoyed many movies that critics were scathing with their detrimental comments. The difference is that when I go to the movies I can just enjoy it as a relaxing form of escapism and entertainment and am not analyzing the deficiencies for a newspaper column.

Whisky is the same way. The more bloggers write, the more we can potentially become jaded and opinionated. Read my blog #67 on Mellow Corn to see that even believing that I am completely open minded and always try to judge every whisky on it’s merits does not always hold true.

It is so easy for all of us to be swayed by age statement, distillery, colour and definitely packaging and expense. You can read my Blog #69 written about blind tastings and how beneficial it is not knowing everything about a whisky before trying it.

So lot’s to think about every time I reach for a higher end bottling.

With all that in mind however it is time that I visit the most expensive bottle of whisky that I currently own as it has fallen below the marble limit (see blog #60) and needs to be finished off this year.

Glenglassaugh 41 Year Old Decanter edition (Pre Benriach sale)

I came upon this bottle due to an unfortunate series of events that caused some leakage en-route which made it non-saleable. Terrible when these things happen 🙂

Tasted in the Glenglassaugh crystal cut glass that came with the whisky.

Distilled in 1967 this whisky is older than me and I’m getting to that age where this is going to become much more expensive to say. This was the first release of Glenglassaugh 40+ whisky after the revival of the distillery in 2008. Presented in a beautiful cherry wood box it comes in a crystal decanter and 2 Glenglassaugh crystal glasses in case you have a really good friend or family member that would be deserving of sharing this with.

Colour: Rich amber and mahogany and looks every bit the 41 year old sherried whisky it is.

Nose: Takes me back home to when my awesome mum prepared rich Christmas puddings during the holidays between Christmas and New Year that would hang wrapped in cheese cloth until the following year. The smell of rich Christmas spices, sherry, brandy and candied orange would waft from the pantry every time it was opened. I looked forward to Christmas day as much for mum’s puddings as for the pressies under the tree.  This Glenglassaugh expression contains all of the above but also kicks in another of my childhood favorites – dried apricot. My Grandpa had several huge apricot trees in his back yard and my brother and I ate them till we were almost ill. So many buckets that the only way to handle the harvest was to dry them. A staple item in the daily lunchbox they were a juicier and more flavorful version than found at your local supermarket.

Palate: Roll on the lovely dark slab of rich Christmas pudding drowned in home made vanilla bean custard…..(mum time to make another one I’m coming home for Christmas). Even slightly diminished due to sitting in the decanter for 5 years (thank goodness for the marbles) it is a really great example of why 40+ whiskies that retain the youthful sparkle with the seasoned experience of age are truly amazing. Sherry influence is there but not overpowering and the dried fruits complement the spice. No overtly powerful cask influence to ruin the delicate balance.

Finish: Soft fruits linger on and a tapestry of delicate flavors develop, definite apricot that gets its look in amongst the fruit basket that also has some hints of cassis and blackberry. Finally kicking in some candied bitter orange peel like hand made marmalade.

So this little beauty sold for $ 3600 in BC $ 3500 in the UK and was an absolute steal here in Alberta for a mere $ 2600. There are still bottles out there so feel free to contact me if you are on the hunt and I’ll point you in the right direction.

Would I pay the money? There are certainly drams that I have had that are less expensive and provide similar amazing qualities. However it is going to be a lot more expensive and a lot more difficult to find these lovely fruit driven 40+ year old whiskies in the future so if my level of income allowed it I would ante up. This is one bottle that I shall be very sad to finish.

Share your most amazing whisky experience to date, I would love to hear your stories.


Scotchy Scotch Scotch | Blog #63

Wow! Great to be back in Scotland again … after a rainy bus ride from Edinburgh airport to Glasgow that took twice as long. We later learned that the Celtics were playing Milan and Glasgow was packed with football fans. For those that must know the game was tied 4 goals all.

Craigton Bottling Plant - Jonathan, Cindy & Kevan Craigton Bottling Plant – Jonathan, Cindy & Kevan

Day 1 and Cindy and I were up and early heading to Craigton bottling. Not until we had sampled the full Scottish Breakfast available at the Hilton Glasgow complete with haggis which Cindy worked on and a lovely bowl of creamy porridge covered in fresh cream and a healthy portion of Ballantines Scotch Whisky. Definitely a first for me. A big thanks to Rachel who picked us up and along with Kevan gave us the grand tour of the Craigton plant and helped to nail down some of the finer details in bottling so many wee 50ml bottles for the second edition Scotch Whisky Advent Calendar.

We spent some quality time cuddling old barrels in the Craigton warehouse – there were some decidedly yummy looking casks (no we didn’t try any).

Suffice to say that the bottling and packaging for this years calendar is in good hands with Kevan and Rachel.

Right, time for us to go source some whisky!

Picked up by Iain from A.D. Rattray we were whisked out to the “Scotch Whisky Experience” in Maybole, Ayrshire which is an interactive whisky experience and shop front for A.D. Rattray independent bottlers. Without giving anything away we looked at and tasted some mighty fine drams while scarfing down delicious sandwiches and cake.

The Scotch Whisky Experience - Maybole The Scotch Whisky Experience – Maybole

A.D. Rattray, as a lot of you already know, was my first foray into the world of single cask Scotch and it’s wonderful to still be working with them almost a decade later. Nick, Francis, Iain and the rest of the team poured on the hospitality and after some fierce negotiations a suitable list of whiskies was agreed upon and our journey to completing this years list had begun.

“After some fierce negotiations a suitable list of whiskies was agreed upon and our journey to completing this years list had begun.”

Time for some serious whisky drinking with our host Iain in all of his favorite Glasgow haunts. First stop was Stravaigin for a pint and dinner to get some fortification in place for the whisky to come.

“All I can say is this is a must for your next visit to Glasgow as the food is sensational.”

Off to the Ubiquitous Chip which is legendary in Glasgow for our first dram of the evening. Bruichladdich Bere Barley was just the ticket to get our palates off to a good start. Not wanting us to miss anything we were then off to The World Famous Bon Accord which is one of the best whisky bars in Glasgow. It was great meeting owner Paul and the team and we were even ushered behind the bar for an impromptu photo shoot. First dram on the bar was an A.D. Rattray Glen Grant 20 Year Old bottled exclusively for the Bon Accord. Yummo!

The World Famous Bon Accord - Glasgow - Iain, Jonathan & Cindy

We got to learn all about the ringing of the bell initially warning us of the impending last call then ushering in the last call and eventually telling us to get the heck out! While all this bell tolling went on we still had time for another dram and I chose a proprietary bottling of Glen Deveron (MacDuff) as I had never tried it before. Always great to try new whiskies.

By this stage Iain had split the scene to get a late cab ride home and Cindy and I were fortunately within walking distance of the hotel.

What a great first day in Scotland and our first in Glasgow.

“Ahem….. remember as you read this that Cindy and I were fully engaged in dedicated field work and whisky sourcing. Any resemblance to a “vacation” or fun junket is purely coincidental.”

Day 2 and we were once again escorted by Iain and his fabulous fiance, Zoe, who firstly took us out to the Southernmost Highland Distillery Glengoyne. Literally sitting on the Highland side of the road that divides the Highlands and the Lowlands the whisky is distilled on the Highland Side and then moved to the warehouses to age in the lowlands. Fun stuff.

A very pretty distillery, Glengoyne has an exceptional visitors center and tour which really shows in an easily understandable way the impact of casks and aging. I would highly recommend anyone visiting Glasgow to make the trip to Glengoyne. During the tour we did of course get a chance to try some whisky and the Glengoyne 12 Year Old was a nice easy dram to get started with.

“Back to Iain’s for some ridiculously good cheeses and a cleansing ale to round out an amazing time with the good folk at A.D. Rattray.”

More whisky to be tasted though, and so it was that Cindy and I closed out our Glasgow experience with firstly a visit to the un-named pub … seriously, it has no name! … where I broke protocol being that it was the best Bourbon bar in the city and had a Sazerac Rye.

(Later we found out it’s name is Chinaskis)

“This spot is brilliant with it’s candle lit tables and cozy but buzzing atmosphere.”


One last visit to the World Famous Bon Accord which just happened to be on our way back to the hotel. Couldn’t have planned it any better. It was here that Cindy had her first ever full dram of whisky ordering the Auchentoshan Three Wood. After my visit to Glengoyne earlier in the day, I just had to try something older from them and so had a dram of the Glengoyne 21yo in hand when Cindy and I toasted the success of the first leg of our 4 supplier journey.

On to Edinburgh for the next installment of Calendar Whisky Sourcing 101.






I’ve Lost My Marbles! | Blog # 60

Ever tried something really special? Perhaps it was the setting, or the company or the quality of the dram itself. A combination of all three could make it one of those cherished memories to last a lifetime.

So it was with my first night ever spent in Scotland. A whisky newbie at the time I arrived with my wife Cindy in Edinburgh to be greeted at the airport by a young and passionate James Cowan who was the brand ambassador for A.D. Rattray.

After a delightful dinner down by the waterfront and Cindy tucked away in our lovely B&B room it was time for James and I to head out to some whisky haunts.

I could regale you all with the details of the entire evening, however my focus is on one particular dram. Our last stop for the night was at the trendy nightclub Tiger Lily. Scanning the back bar for an interesting dram we spied a 1973 Auchentoshan. Distilled on the 14th of March 1973 it was bottled on the 8th of July 2005 a mere two months before my visit. Coming from a single Sherry Butt and bottled at a cask strength of 55.5% it was a very unique offering.
We decided to split the dram as it was 25 pounds for one ounce.

The bartender grabbed a tumbler and filled it to the brim with ice and was about to pour our lonely ounce when James and I in unison cried out “no ice”. With disaster averted it was poured into a clean tumbler and passed across the bar.

Auchentoshan Distillery Scotland Auchentoshan Distillery Scotland

Auchentoshan, a lowland distillery that triple distills its Single Malt is very much stylised as a fresh grassy and floral dram that is perfect for breakfast or anytime you want to savour the delicate side of whisky.
This sherried cask of Auchentoshan is another beast altogether.

Tasted for the purposes of this blog again in the comfort of my dining room using a Reidel whisky glass.

Colour: Violin bow resin with burnt red highlights.

Nose: Soft expensive sherry and sweet dried figs with caramel fudge, more dried fruits emerge, apricot, prune and marmalade. Sticky Toffee Pudding.

Palate: Rich palate filling and expansive. Deep backed leather chair with mahogany inlay, dried fruit in abundance and a backbone of semi-sweet to dry sherry. Lasting finish of aromatic suptle citrus potpouri. All of this at over 55% wow. This is a sherried whisky lovers dream.

Water: A burst of caramelized bitter orange takes over and extends the finish even more.
For a 32 year old whisky that started life so delicately this was a fantastic sherry barrel/s to still have so much fruit and balance.

It was an impressive dram to end the night on way back almost 10 years ago. I thought of course that I would never taste it again until back in Calgary later the next year I stumbled across a bottle at Varsity Wine Merchants. I had never spent even close to the $750 price tag on this whisky a decade ago so after a little haggling I became a beaming happy buyer lovingly cradling it my arms. Money well spent.

The fun part of this is that the bottle I had in Scotland was a 700ml and quite often with a limited bottling you don’t see it in any other size. The bottle I picked up in Canada was part of the release that went to the US and was a 750ml version. Amazing that something so limited would be split into different bottle formats. Awesome!

So why the marbles? For a dram of this magnitude in both dollars and deliciousness I only seldom crack it to pour for the odd occasion. As air gets at it over the years it does oxidize and lose its fruit and complexity. To stave off father time I replace the whisky with marbles keeping the precious liquid right at the top of the bottle neck. This keeps the amount of air to an absolute minimum and allows for the full enjoyment for many years to come. I would highly recommend this losing of your marbles for any special drams that you want to keep going for years and years.


James later went on to work for Benriach in the far east and currently works for Sazerac in Europe as their brand ambassador. Thanks James for that first night in Scotland, it will never be forgotten.

Jonathan & James at the Stronachie Distillery ruins.

Write in and comment on one of your most memorable whisky experiences.


Advent Day 21 – Wemyss “Evergreen Forrest” 1989 Cragganmore 23 Year Old Single Malt | Blog #53

The last Sunday before Christmas and a very fitting whisky title. Hopefully you have a lovely Evergreen Christmas tree up at your place and can snuggle on the couch with this dram from Wemyss.

This is another chance for a comparison if you think back to Day 3 and the “Samaroli Spey” which we learned was also from the Cragganmore distillery.

Whisky: Wemyss “Evergreen Forrest” 1989 Cragganmore 23 year old single malt

*Cask # 2853 – Bourbon Hogshead – 46% non-chill filtered*

Evergreen ForrestColour: Another extremely light whisky for 23 years of age. I am really anticipating some lovely delicate flavors here, goody goody. You can almost see some very light greenish highlights with the right lighting.

Nose: Damp moss and wild field berries. Some wet slate and white flowers. Like taking a walk through Kananaskis after heavy Rain.

Palate: Super smooooooth at 46% wow this is gentle on the tongue and releases it’s flavors in a very velvety delivery. A touch of candied pistachio and soft sweet caramel.

Finish: Very fresh almost like 8 O’Clock mint’s, sweet white mint filling with a touch of dark chocolate. That fresh creamy mint also ties in with the stroll through Kananaskis and the fresh mountain air.

Water: Develops a little more into a touch of black cat hair…..no wait what has Shadow been doing with my glass noooooooo ………..

Shadow -on the iPad keyboard on the computer keyboard ... cats! Shadow -on the iPad keyboard on the computer keyboard … cats!

…ahem….. after a bit of a reset and clean of the old faithful Spiegelau tumbler I get a touch of savory crusty fresh bread.

Don’t know if I’m tainted now after the close encounter with a particularly long cat hair but this was delicious whisky indeed.

**Curt from All Things Whisky has also been “Tasting” along with the calendar. Check out his notes HERE.

This yum in a bottle whisky is available from the following awesome retailers in the quantity of 60 units only:


Coop Wine and Spirits

Willow Park Wine & Spirits


Vinestone Wine Co


Andrew Hilton Wines and Spirits



Ingredients Artisan Market

Completely different from Day 3. With the comparisons of 3 Glentauchers and now 2 Cragganmore’s I hope that you can see how unique each single cask can be. While vatting together 100’s of barrels certainly has it’s merits for creating an ongoing flavor there is a lot to be said for finding those amazing barrels and saving them from becoming just one of the pack.

Independent bottling’s are super special for this very reason. If you take nothing away from this calendar journey except that trying single cask whiskies is cool then my work here is done.

See you tomorrow for the short countdown to Christmas Day. We head to an as yet untouched region of Scotland that only has a small number of distilleries so is pretty rare to see outside of their own labels.



Wemyss Malts Website