Monday, December 19, 2011

Malt Mission 2011 #405

St. Isidore
Blended Scotch Whisky
41.4% abv

I am sure if you are reading this then you are likely familiar with the back story, but...

Master of Malt, clever 21st century spirits merchants and genuinely lovely people, came up with the idea to get a group of bloggers to take part in creating a blended whisky. Simple as that, really. And thus the work-in-progress formerly known as THE BLOGGERS BLEND was born. 

Read Jason's backstory HERE.


Complex, deep and fruity with wood, wood smoke, and all the promise of the industrial revolution. 

Wow. Thick. Hearty. Real vanilla, spice and fruit again all swoddled in a blanket of fragrant wood smoke, finishing with a toasty, buttery and popcorn-y character and a resurgence of fruit, now more dried or even burnt. Lovely. 


Chewy and hearty with an Islay heart, not unlike a bowl of coal soup. While admittedly not the most elegant drop on the block, this beauty matches the complexity of some of the world's favourite malts, most premium blends, and reminds of the old-school blending stylings of mid-20th century Johnnie Walker Black and White Horse all for a fraction of the cost. What's more is that in the spirit of Christmas, all proceeds go to cover MoM's admirable investment in such a brilliant project. 

Think you could have done better? Now you can try to prove it. Master of Malt have assembled a Home Blending Kit fit for exactly what it says on the tin. 

Friday, December 09, 2011

Malt Mission 2011 #404

The Silver Grouse
Blended Malt Whisky

Honestly? I have no information about this bottle to share except for what the label told me:

It is a blended malt and is chill-filtered at -8 degrees Celsius, a proposition that seems familiar to the brilliant commercial failure of J&B -6. The label explains that this whisky was specially designed to celebrate Famous Grouse's 25 years as Scotland's number 1 blended whisky. 

I took a sample off a bar in an office in Taipei and I am afraid neither the internet nor my shelves of books offer me much else by way of background. Sorry! Do you know this whisky?

For more info on the Famous Grouse family of blends and to see all tasted so far on the mission, click HERE.


Wildly pleasant and easy-going nose. Creamy and sweet with dates and honey. Slight salty or briney note in there, too.

More dates, raisins and an oaty gristiness, drying with dusty oak and pleasant sherry.


Classic Grouse style, easy to drink and a joy all the while. Now who knows where the hell this thing is available?

Friday, December 02, 2011

Malt Mission 2011 #403

Johnnie Walker Swing
Blended Scotch Whisky
43% abv

Another blend to start off the 400s on the malt mission.

Originally introduced as the iconic Johnnie Walker range's premium export brand, Johnnie Walker 'Swing' or 'Celebrity' was introduced way back in 1932 and was Alexander Walker II's last blend. Although this whisky was apparently made available in the UK from 1982, it isn't a whisky we see much of on these shores. In fact, the world renowned Red Label is at least as absent from the home market having left the UK in 1977 following DCLs need to comply with EEC competition rules.

I look forward to an email from Dr. Morgan correcting at least half of the above. Thank you in advance.

For all Johnnie Walker had on the mission, click HERE.


Coal smoke and candied lemon, green herbal (Glenlossie?) and tangerine (Glen Elgin?) notes with a hint of sulphury sherry adding a welcome weight.

Great texture, big and bold with vegetable sweetness from quality aged grain, vanilla and orange before turning drying with clay, treacly for balance, and arriving at a lasting smoky finish.


Jim Murray called it "a different breed to the other Walker blends" in Classic Blended Scotch (1999) but to my mouth twelve years later, this is a very JW house style blend, with a bit of swagger and umph at its heart.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Malt Mission 2011 #402

Scotch Blue
Blended Scotch Whisky
40% abv
??? WON

Scotch Blue calls itself "the #1 selling blended Scotch whisky in Korea" (it isn't) and was launched in 1997 by drinks giant Lotte Chilsung. It has 17 and 21yo versions very much targeting the more premium Ballantines expressions and local market leader, Windsor 17.

Scotch whisky was the biggest South Korean import from the UK in 2010 with the local brands dominating the market: Diageo's Windsor, Pernod's Imperial Classic and Lotte's Scotch Blue. As expected, Macallan and Glenfiddich dominate the malts but what is most fascinating for me is that Scotch Whisky as a category accounts for more than 90% of the spirits market in S. Korea.

When the South Korean government changed their tax policy on imported alcohol earlier this year, the whisky industry, especially those looking for an opportunity for malts to expand, had a party in their pants. Said Whisky Magazine's Rob Allanson, "South Korea is already the sixth largest export market in the world for Scotch by value and the ninth by volume, so we see this as having a fairly significant benefit to the whisky industry."


Waxy and buttery the way only PET packed whisky can be. Grape juice sweetness and pleather Michael Jackson Beat It-era jackets. Sweet, simple, and welcoming.

Buttery again, rounded. Garibaldi biscuits, raisin sweetness offset by a lemony zest. Chewy and perfectly quaffable.


Shocked. Utterly shocked. Probably lovely with tons of ice.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Malt Mission 2011 #401

Great King Street
Compass Box Whisky Co.
Blended Scotch Whisky
43% abv


Blended whisky is the main volume driver of the scotch whisky industry but still carries a stigma that has proven challenging to shake. The history of blended whisky is the history of the Scotch whisky industry as a whole (see my Bullocks to Blends post from 2008) and for over a century some of these whiskies have been the strongest brands in the world. 

For ten years, John Glaser has been insisting that it is time for the world to take a fresh look at this style, "and that is why we have created Great King Street." The bottle clearly states a few keynotes of their malty manifesto in a Georgian press-style look and feel with terms like "artist", "non-chill filtered" and "natural colour" all making an appearance. The tube quotes Aeneas MacDonald's assessment of the styles of whiskies that appeal by geography, pointing to the central role for blended whiskies on a global level 80 years ago. 

The ambitious ideology is laid out on the website: "More than just a new brand, Great King Street is a mission, a mission dedicated to reviving interest in one style of whisky only: Blended Scotch Whisky. This is the style of Scotch whisky that combines flavourful single malt whiskies with delicate, elegant single grain whiskies."

From the press release, "This is more than a brand; it’s a mission. A mission to get people – all people - to take a fresh look at Blended Scotch; to join in the Rebirth of the Blend: in how Blends are made, how they are viewed, how they are consumed.” – John Glaser, Whiskymaker

So the tube tells us Great King Street is "The rebirth of the blend." Ambitious. Today, blended whisky is a price-driven category in most markets globally, as Compass Box is no doubt aware. So if they see a "rebirth", the labour is due to be a very long a drawn out process for John and his Compass Box team. TAKE THE EPIDURAL!

For all Compass Box had on the mission, click HERE.


Fresh pastry, juniper and lemon. Youthful and assertive.

Spirity, tart apples, and pencil shavings. There is a mineral note throughout with a gristy, malty, new-make-y zing. 



I hate that this is happening. I tasted and tasted again over several days (hard work, yes), but I do not share the exaggerated enthusiasm for this whisky that so many of my friends and peers have shown. It isn't just that the flavour of Great King Street falls flat for me, its also the "house" context; every previous release from Compass Box I have really liked or even, on a few occasions, absolutely LOVED.

What makes it especially hard is that I deeply respect all that CB has done for whisky blending as a esoteric category within an esoteric category, building consumer understanding of the idea that blends are NOT poor cousins to malts, older isn't better, dark colour is not a sign of quality, etc. And it's why the literature around this release puzzles me so greatly. By propagating the myth that high malt content equals higher quality blended whisky not only does it seem that they undermine their mission to have respect reborn for the blend, but it seems to go against what I think CB has been about for a decade. 

And if this is for mixing into cocktails, how does it rejuvenate the blend? Could gin or vodka do the job? If it is for rocks, then I also don't get it as for me it gets even more gin-like with juniper and spice essences of enhanced grain spirit and less like whisky with ice. Have not yet tried as highball (with soda water).

Finally, at £50 a litre, I would go home with a bottle of Johnnie Black and a Grouse. Or Black Bottle. Or Grant's. Or, indeed, Compass Box Asyla.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Malt Mission 2011 #400

Johnnie Walker 15yo, Kilmarnock 400
Blended Scotch Whisky
43% abv

Labelled as "Old Scotch Whisky" with a 15yo age statement, this extremely rare drop from the house that Johnnie built is perfectly suited to mark this whisky blog's landmark tasting #400. This whole journey began with Johnnie Walker Black Label over four years ago, alone at a desk/dining table in a cozy flat in North London.

Today the journey continues in ways I would never have imagined. I am back in London, but living in the opposite corner. I have two wee girls, who think nothing of daddy sticking his nose weird shaped glasses. I am one of the lucky few who gets to do work with something I love, with people I am passionate about, I get to say that what I do is who I am, and I am am very grateful to many, many people. I have never stopped being thankful, and a few lists can be found in the annals of this whisky blog. HERE and HERE are just two examples. The list has grown a great deal since then, and continues to grow. THANK YOU!

This bottling has a gold label, but is just 15 years old as opposed to the standard current gold release which is 18 years old. The Johnnie Walker hierarchy goes Red, Black, Green (malt), Gold, Blue, George V, The John Walker, Life, The Universe, and Everything.

For all Johnnie Walker enjoyed on the malt mission, click HERE.


Lures you in deep, sweet tobacco, stewed apples and honey, with a delicate floral prefumerie blowing across the surface.

On the palate the liquid skirts across the tongue, communicating quaffability with rich flavours of more tobacco, mellow and sweet smoke, vanilla wafers, plums, marmalade, and a touch of cardboardy woodiness to close.


Rare juice, but demands persistent sipping and refilling, and sipping again. Very much in the Walker house style, with an added spray of lavender perfume to distinguish it from some of its housemates. Big thanks to DM for sharing.

Malt Mission #396
Malt Mission #397
Malt Mission #398

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Maltstock 2011, Thank you

Maltstock Whisky Festival Netherlands

I have said it before, but I will say it again: I am a lucky man. There are many reasons I remain convinced of this fact, but as it relates to my point today, I get to read, write, make, taste, talk about, share and spend time immersed in something I am truly passionate about.

Nearly ten years ago I fell in love with malt whisky and although I now hold gainful employment in the whisky industry, I assure you the romance is still alive and well. I still buy bottles. I still go to bed with a whisky book by my side (currently leafing through Phillip Morrice's Schweppes Guide to Scotch). I still taste as much new whisky as I am able to. I still relish speaking with other whisky geeks, malt maniacs, and peat freaks. I still go to tastings for fun, out of hours. I still love whisky.

I was fortunate enough to attend what must be the most unique whisky festival in the world, Maltstock in the Netherlands September 9-11, 2011. (Read Cask Strength's Neil Ridley or Master of Malt Ben Ellefsen's thoughts on the event)

My colleagues and I arrived at a scout camp at De Berendonck near Nijmegen with a car bursting with bottles, glassware, two beautiful barrel-shaped pinatas, and three daily costume changes for my fabulous colleague, Tony.

Maltstock lacked many things that define most whisky festivals: queues at stands, branding and pop-up banners, people shoving glasses in exhibitors' faces saying "gimme your oldest"/"what's your most expensive scotch?", poor food, a ticketed dram policy, people attempting to show off how much they know (or think they know) about whisky, some hotel conference room, or a curfew. Running for three days at a campsite in Nijmegan, Maltstock is the only celebration of whisky perfectly suited to the drink it honours.

With many whisky festivals earning nicknames like DrunkFest and WhiskyLoathe due to the large numbers of attendees who are clearly there to drink as much as they possibly can and act like pricks, there are a growing number of new festivals around the world hiking ticket prices to their festivals in an attempt to filter out some of the "undesirable" elements and offering an ultra premium, exclusive experience.

Maltstock isn't premium, it's primal. It is isn't exclusive, it's inclusive. And with over 200 bottles open, poured at will by every attendee to their hearts' content, there was not one incident of vomiting, fighting, abuse, property damage, public defecation, or theft; features of many other festivals that I have personally witnessed.

Maltstock is about people. People who love whisky. People who want to be with other people who love whisky. No matter their income or nationality or age or knowledge level. And you know who that attracts? Nice people. Nice people who want to meet other nice people. People who want to share in the discovery of new single casks from obscure indie bottlers. Nice people who want to rediscover Glenfiddich 12yo or Glenlivet 15 French Oak (as I did). Nice people who want to find the worst whisky in the world. Nice people who want to enjoy something they love in the company of other nice people.
Who wears nametags at the whisky fair in your city? Vendors? Distillers? Ambassadors? You can put a nametag on a hired model who explains that "at the Johnnie Walker distillery we use closed distilleries in our Green single malt," but unless she is coming back to my hotel room, I cannot help but wonder why I needed to learn her name. At Maltstock everyone wears a nametag and every single person I met was a fucking legend.

And again, that is what whisky appreciation is about: People. It is a communal elixir, a product that grew out of the agricultural tradition and nourishes the society that so naturally builds around it. Whisky is, as David Daiches has so perfectly articulated, "more than indulgence: it is a toast to civilization, a tribute to the continuity of culture, a manifesto of man's determination to use the resources of nature to refresh mind and body and enjoy to the full the senses with which is has been endowed."

When you look at woodcuts or old paintings of distilling in Scotland, or of crofters enjoying some clearach, you don't see a man sitting alone in a sterile makeshift home office with his nose in a glass and his twitter feed twitting away. No, you don't see people hovering at one side of a trade display table, arms outstretched, discussing why Ardbeg 10 is inconsistent or Springbank has gone downhill or the stainless steel washbacks at Macallan have any impact on the flavour of the malt or "gimme yer oldest." You see human beings with other human beings in a natural environment enjoying whisky and talking about nearly anything but.

This is what Maltstock provides.

Thanks to the organisers and volunteers and to every single attendee. When I began to work for William Grant & Sons 3 years ago, I was proud and excited. But I remember spending an evening dramming at Sukhinder Singh's office with John Glaser calling me "sellout" all night. And maybe he was right. In this role one must be corporate and responsible. Maltstock, thank you for allowing me to be neither again.

If you are already attending next year, see you there. If you are not and are within a few hours flying time of Schipol, get your ass to Mars.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Master of Malt Bloggers Blend

whisky blog
In the 21th century, where having a whisky blog can get you friends in 7 continents, samples in the post, interviewed for "real" publications, on a judging panel, or even lead to a job in the whisky industry (!), you wouldn't be on crack if you decided to start one yourself. And I can observe that the world wide whisk-e-verse has exploded since I began in 2006, when Dr. Whisky had only 4 English language "blogs" to link to and NONE that offered what I thought I could share: a dram a day, distillery descriptions, stories from books I had trawled, distilleries I had visited, and people I had met, an international persepctive, irrational and heated opinions, and of course some colourful tasting notes. Today, after some deletion and MANY additions, there are nearly 25 times as many links on my "Get informed by others" sidebar as there was when this Malt Mission began January 1, 2007. Of course, all of the others involved in this project are listed among many other amazing online resources. The world of whisky is the warmest community I am fortunate to be part of outside of a Saturday morning in bed with my wife and daughter, and if you are reading this, I raise a glass to you for loving Scotland's greatest gift to the world.

As a very 21st century retailer, Master of Malt invited 10 leading blogs to participate in creating their own blends by sending them kits of the constituent liquids, beakers, pipettes, and an excel doc for recording recipes.

Recipes were submitted, blends assembled to spec and then offered up as a sample pack on the MoM website for £30. With the purchase, of course, came the responsibility to vote on your favourites by assigning them 1st place to 10th place. The kits are now completely sold out.

In creating my recipe, I trialled 10 vattings and let them marry for many days in bottle before re-sampling and deciding which one to submit. And it was a hard decision! Depending on the percentages of each part (highland, grain, old grain, old highland, etc.), the value/cost of the liquid would change, so we each had to weigh between whether to make a blend built around desired cost or to make a blend based on taste. Somewhere in between? When deciding which to submit I was torn. Do I go with the cheap and cheerful blend? The expensive one? The quaffable one? The smoky demon? The sweet grainy one? The one I could spread on toast?

Likewise, selecting a favourite of all the submitted blends was a real challenge and a reminder of how with the flavour palate a commercial blender has at their disposal, the room for variation, and indeed, error, is vast. So creating a good, consistent blend is a skill for which I continue to have the utmost respect and that art and skill is, after all, what allows the whisky world to be what it is today.

Others involved have reported their experiences (Whisky For Everyone for example). Did you buy one? I'd love to hear your thoughts on the whole thing.

Whatever the result, all the blends were highly drinkable with a few being truly stellar, and while each blender deserves kudos, the good people at Master of Malt deserve respect for not just dreaming up, but for actually executing such a project. Nice work, and until the results are announced and I press "confirm order", cheers!

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Malt Mission 2011 #399

Ardbeg whisky blogArdbeg Provenance 1974 Bottle #1605
Islay Single Malt Whsky
54.7% abv
+/- £1000
+/- $1200 (USD)

I featured Ardbeg twice in the first month of this malt mission over four years ago and I am fortunate enough to get to taste this piece of history in the run-up to Malt Mission #400

Bottled in 1998, this is the US edition of the legendary Ardbeg Provenance series (geeky bits HERE) that reportedly made people shit their pants upon first tasting it. Seriously, this is a story that has been relayed to me by an enthusiast and I cannot think of any reason why someone would lie about doing such a terrible thing to their Joe Boxers. And soiling oneself is a pretty good reassurance to the naysayers that the Glenmorangie takeover in 1997 was going to be a very good thing, if sometimes requiring a change of underwear.

Ardbeg is probably the king of the cult distilleries in terms of attracting the most diehard fans and quasi-religious followers. They have the Ardbeg Committee, they have dedicated fan sites (Tim's Ardbeg Project), and past bottlings have, as noted above, made grown men shit their pants.

I was fortunate enough to be on Islay recently and distillery manager Mickey Heads explained to us how many people spend the night at the distillery to be sure to get Feis Ile bottles (and sell them online?) the following morning. Now, I love whisky, and I really like Ardbeg, but sleeping over in Islay rain?

Finally, a big thanks must be extended to the amazing Jazz Dentist. Not only did Peter set aside a sample when I last visited Dram Central Station before leaving New York, but he had prepared it in a wee bottle to take home for my wife, the Ardbeg freak of this family. I hope he won't mind me saying that he has also undergone his last chemo treatment and is that much closer to his dram to celebrate THE END of what he calls "this whole business."

Whatever drop you choose, Peter, may it taste not of heaven, but of earth.

For more distillery info, or to see all Ardbeg whiskies tasted since the beginning of this blog, click HERE.


All the sweetness of aged quality ex-bourbon casks emerge first, coconut shavings, marshmallow, coffee cake, vanilla custard, followed by the expected tide of magic markers, latex, plasticine, fishtanks, and finally, algaic peat, but maintaining a creamy sweetness throughout.

A tease of brown sugar before an strange brew of cocoa, smoke, mustard and toffee. Otherworldly flavour development. Oh my. Just sinking its nails into my cheeks with peach, honey, barbecue sauce, and salty tears. May these sensations never end.


A big whisky for a big occasion. A liquid that today might be underappreciated quaffed over the Ardbeg stand at some FEST or LIVE or MESSE, where superficial impressions make lasting ones. This whisky is really all about a complexity that only makes itself known with patience, attention, and respect. Respect your whiskies this dramming season be it at Limburg, WhiskyFEST Chicago, or Spirit of Toronto. Thanks again, Peter.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Breakfast Whisky, Master of Malt 8yo

Not only have the good people of Master of Malt created a beautiful blended whisky for under £20 (to be tasted as a part of the malt mission at a later date) but they have asked some online whisky geeks to share their ideas for ways in which to consume it.

They invited Dr. Whisky to create a cocktail with their perfectly-lovely-as-is blended whisky. I told them, "I am not a mixologist." They said that was exactly why they were asking me. "But I am not a medical doctor!" Their response, "thank god."

So here it goes.

The "cocktail" is called Breakfast Whisky. Let's begin with what you will need to make it:

whisky blog cocktailYou will need NONE of the above items to make this cocktail.

But, you will need ALL of the below

I want to create something to balance the care, cost, and quality of this whisky. The whisky is full of cream soda, vanilla and grape juice. Really juicy whisky. I need to ride that wave. First I thought Ribena, but then the Aha! moment: Vimto! If equivalent in size, the Fizzy Vimto would cost £1.17 to the whisky's £20. Wow, the critics are right. Whisky IS expensive! Fizzy Vimto comes in this nice small bottle for only 39 pence. And for something so tiny and cheap, they sure pack a lot of ingredients in there! The whisky only has water, yeast, wheat and barley. Rip-off!

1 part Master of Malt 8yo Blended Scotch Whisky
2-4 parts Fizzy Vimto (depending what kind of morning* you desire)
Some ice
1 mint sprig
Jam (of your choosing)

Put your toast in the toaster. Mix the liquid ingredients together over ice (ice optional). Remove toast and apply jam. In turn, take gentle sips of the drink and slap yourslef in the face with mint sprig.

Good morning and enjoy!

* I am not actually suggesting that you drink alcohol for breakfast. However, if you do, I recommend it with vimto and a mint sprig slap to the face.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Balvenie Whisky Academy

Although I try not to use this whisky blog as a platform for my job or to talk too much about my whisky work, I am so proud of what we have just completed that I just have to. Please excuse me.

Like a whisky-geek's dream fulfilled, we have completed a series of films on the history, production, and enjoyment of Scotch Whisky called The Balvenie Whisky Academy.

In working with film-maker Stuey Burnett, we initially imagined a series of films for the education of William Grant employees, sales and distribution partners. What we quickly realised was that we had something taking shape that would be of interest and benefit to the wider whisky drinking world, as well.

What I am most proud of is that The Whisky Academy is not a "brand" video, it is not an advertisement, it is an educational series of films about the wider category of Scotch Whisky featuring Charles MacLean, Sukhinder Singh, Eddie Ludlow, Arthur Motley, and Gavin D. Smith as well as colleagues, distillers, scientists, and, of course, yours truly.

Yes, in the process, I have developed an entirely new respect for TV presenters, and for my colleague David Mair who deftly hosts the bulk of the series. So a big thanks to David as well as the film crew of Stuey, John, and Anita.

The whole series goes live today for members of Warehouse 24 and comprises four modules, containing a total of 34 short films. We hope to expand and grow the content over time, but think that we are starting with a pretty impressive chunk of films.

The Balvenie Whisky Academy

I really hope you enjoy it and if you have any feedback, let me know!

Monday, March 07, 2011

Malt Mission 2011 #398

Arran 10yo, 10th Anniversary (1995-2005)
Single Malt Scotch Whisky
46% abv

Once the new kid on the block, Arran has settled in to its existence as the Harry Belafonte of malt whisky, the charming islander with mainland appeal. Day-O!

Now in its 16th year of production, Isle of Arran continues to show what a fine spirit they have been quietly making on "Scotland in minature." It has always been tasty and many have written about it's "potential," but age is allowing Arran to figure out who it is and wants to be at least as much showing folks that they were right.

For more distillery info or to see all the Isle of Arran malt that Dr. Whisky has enjoyed, click HERE.


Comes across like a classic speysider (which it is not) with great mellow fruitiness and soft oak influence. Raisins, apples and
salt taffy.

Spicy, bready rye notes, raisins and apples again, and a toasty oak impression of dry amontillado sherry casks and sweet treacly notes of oloroso. Nuts and fudge through the finish.


I loved this today just as I remember loving it when Ewan from Arran poured us some at a Water of Life Society meeting in Edinburgh back in 2005. That was the same night, after tasting new make, 3 year old, various 7 year olds and this Anniversary malt, that I uttered the classic "it is so cool tasting the progression, it is like a child growing in your mouth!" Umm...

I bought a bottle that I have lost somewhere between my moves to London, New York, and back again, although our running hypothesis is that they guy with whom we left other bottles for safe keeping (including JMR original Irish-only Smooth Sweeter and Hazelburn 8yo 1st edition, BOTH of which he consumed) may have had something to do with this disappearance. That's what friends are for.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Malt Mission 2011 #397

Balvenie 8yo
Pure Malt Whisky (Single Malt Whisky)
70 Proof
26 2/3 Fl.oz

From today's perspective, with over 500(!) new single malt expressions launched in 2010 alone, it seems so strange to think that in the whisky boom period of the 1960s only a fraction of 1% was bottled as a single (read Dr. Whisky's blended whisky history). The likes of Macallan and Glenmorangie, leaders in the single malt category today, did not widely release their makes as single malts until 1980 and it took decades of Glen Grant (Italy), Glenlivet (Pullman railway in America) and Glenfiddich (exported as a single from 1963) to set the idea of single malts in the consciousness of the drinking public.

As far as I know, this was the first incarnation of The Balvenie released in small volumes as a single malt. For more distillery info and to see all Balvenies had on the mission, delve into the whisky blog past.


Fresh and light with a hint of depth and age. Perhaps some liquid older than 8? Chamomile, watered-down honey, hippie teas, damp wood or cardboard in there as well. Sweet white wine. Water releases a sweaty element along with coconut and hazelnut.

Moves from soft and sweet to hard and mineral, but all very weakly. Old bubble gum, baseball card cardboardy taste, coffee cake and walnuts. Ends burnt and toasty.


An interesting drop mainly for archival reasons. Although it appears that some bottle "maturation" has effected my sample, I imagine in the 1970s all the best Balvenie was ending up in Grants 12, Best Procurable, Grant's Royal, etc. In short, not something I would open to show "how much better whisky was in the old days." I'll stick with my Balvenie Signature, thank you very much.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Malt Mission 2011 #396

Big Peat
Islay Blended Malt Whisky

46% abv
$85 (USD)

Welcome to March! I haven't seen you since 2010. I have to get back on the horse and gallop towards the 400 landmark!

I am sure by now you have already met or read about Big Peat. Brought to you buy the good people at Douglas Laing & Co., he was released back in September 2009 and has since received word-of-mouth acclaim and awards from Whisky Magazine (World Whisky Awards) for Best Blended Malt Scotch Whisky, Best Peated Malt Whisky(Daily Dram) 2009 by the Malt Maniacs, and Jim Murray called it Best Vatted Malt in his 2011 Whisky Bible.

Apparently, Fred Douglas Laing senior loved Port Ellen and thus invested heavily in casks from the now shuttered distillery decades ago. This legacy has left an emotional attachment to this distillery for his offspring with every nose of a Port Ellen likely reminding them of their father's goodnight kisses.

The vatting includes several anonymous malts but Bowmore, Ardbeg, Caol Ila, and the increasingly rare Port Ellen are all named in the mix with the youngest whisky coming in at 5 years old, the oldest at least 26.

Thanks to Kirsty and Fred for the sample and I will see you for a dram this weekend at WhiskyLIVE London. For other Douglas Laing bottlings enjoyed on the Malt Mission dig deep into this whisky blog's past.


Tarry, with some toffee, candied lemon, raw salmon, and a generally sweet core.

Salty and sweet, even more tarry than the nose suggested, earthy, but with only gentle smokiness wrapped in toffee and orange.


Extremely enjoyable drop that is at once industrial and sooty but equally confectionary with sweetness, creating a very well balanced whisky in a very 21st century package.

For other opions, JSMWS tasted Big Peat HERE, Whisky For Everyone HERE, Whisky Boys HERE, and Dramming share some tasting notes. In the medium of moving pictures, Ralfy shares his thoughts HERE and Dickie P and Fred Laing share a few HERE.

Malt Mission #395

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