One of my goals in life – get Liz to like a peaty dram! By Paul McLean of MCLEAN SCOTLAND Whisky Tours

One of my goals in life – get Liz to like a peaty dram!

Ask Liz if she would like a dram, of say Laphroaig, she will make a strange noise and pull a face. She cannee stand the smell of a peaty whisky, never mind taste. This is a goal in life – by hook or by crook I will get her drinking/liking peaty drams. The key maybe to start her off with a cocktail. The flavour of peated whisky can be hard going, peated Scotch is floated on top of a drink, where a small amount has maximum aromatic impact, the Penicillin being the best-known example. Another is to pair peated whisky (from Scotland of course), with another spirit, which helps moderate the smoky influence without burying it altogether. The best combination I can think of is peated Scotch plus a mellow, unpeated whiskey, which means an Irish whiskey. Peated Scotch also holds its’ own nicely against rich or sweet ingredients, such as egg whites, syrups or liqueurs. The Wind-Up, showcases both peated and unpeated whisky alongside amaretto, or geat and egg white.

With this in mind; Peat Beast Old Fashioned  60ml Peat Beast/Bid Peat, 5ml Dry White Port, 1/2 Cane sugar cube, 6-7 dashes of hop and grapefruit bitters. Served with a burnt orange peel.  Or we can move on to a famous Scot; The Rob Roy Whisky Cocktail: 2 ounces of Islay Whisky, 3 quarter ounces of sweet vermouth and 2 dashes of Angostura Bitters and serve over ice. Finish the cocktail with a cherry garnish or alternatively, a lemon twist. In fact, this cocktail, unlike its’ name suggests, was actually created at the Waldolf Astoria in Manhattan. The barman decided to mark the celebration of the opening premiere of the Rob Roy operetta in 1984 with his creation, and as such the cocktail grew in popularity very quickly. Today the Rob Roy continues to thrive as a popular choice of drink. Then of course is the Famous ‘Hot Toddy’: but come on, it’s only these past 4 years or so I have got Liz away from toddy’s! 3/4 Cloves, 2 Star Anise, half snap of a cinnamon stick, 2 teaspoons of honey, half a thumb of ginger, orange zest, grapefruit zest, 500mls boiling water, 50mls of Ardbeg Islay whisky per glass.

So where do we go? Maybe a real sneaky way into peat, have our usual tasting session (research & development) and wait until she appears silly (guaranteed), then slip a weak peat into her glass, start low and work up – maybe with a dram of Allt-a-Bhainne ? A Speyside single malt – normally used as an ingredient in blends, this single malt puts a peaty twist on the traditional Speyside profile to achieve a sweet, spicy and accessible malt with, as   Allt-a-Bhainne themselves put it, ‘just enough peat to start a fire’.

PAUL MCLEAN her pal, business partner and friend of over 20 years!

Liz – “I can’t help it, I WANT to like them but they turn my stomach, I once said the worst ones remind me of a funeral parlour!!  That’s fun ‘eh?

“A tasting on tour – the Blind Swiss” by Paul Mclean of MCLEANSCOTLAND WHISKY TOURS

A tasting on tour – the Blind Swiss

Being biased doesn’t exclude our taste in whisky. Some people say they dislike a certain brand or style, based on a previous experience. Tasting “blind” refers to tasting without knowledge of a whisky’s identity and is a great way to become a better ‘taster’, develop your senses, and learn more about your own whisky preferences. Simply put, if I told you one whisky is £500 and another is £50, would you expect the expensive whisky to be of higher quality? When tasting blind, it’s best to reserve discussion until everyone is finished at least the first dram. Members of the group can be easily influenced by positive or negative reactions of fellow tasters, especially if there are various levels of knowledge and experience in the room. A study in the Journal of Consumer Research involving 60 to 150 undergraduate students in various experiments determined that when tasting orange juice, the colour had a greater impact on taste than its actual sweetness. Since whiskies like scotch permit caramel colouring, consider using dark glasses – blue, green etc – to hide the colour.

This wee group on tour with us from Switzerland where up for most things, all had their own favourites and we did too, conversation before the tasting revealed a lot – who liked blends, sherry or peaty finishes. Paul selected the whiskies, we had no coloured glasses at this point, so tried to select drams of a similar colour. The only thing we said; these are all Diageo drams. We aren’t experts but it was fascinating to hear all the different ideas, suggestions as to what each dram was. In this blind tasting we limited drams to three, interesting results; out of three drams we had at least twenty possibles. When the actual drams were outlined, ooh’s and ahh’s followed and “I thought so”.

So to be honest, it a very hard to find expert who can say which each dram is on a blind tasting, Charlie Maclean is a close candidate for the champion I know, but at this time, it is very educational, enlightening, fun and satisfying to see what fellow drammers think and if anyone got any dram correct!  Have a go yourself, we will continue to do this on our tours. PAUL MCLEAN

Is Jura the forgotten island? Not by me. by Paul Mclean of MCLEANSCOTLAND WHISKY TOURS

Is Jura the forgotten island?  Not by me.

Jura is found on Scotland’s west coast, next to its’ busy neighbour, Islay. Although not as busy and as many inhabitants, it has whisky – well just one distillery, more later. It does however also have deer and history in abundance! Jura has been inhabited since 8000 BC and had homes since 5600 BC oh aye, a wee while back. Even 10,000 BC has been put forward,  ok donder along to Lussa Bay and, 3 stone circles can be seen in Lussa Wood – believed to hold the oldest stone structure in Scotland. I do like history and scraping aboot.  Even better, I love delving into clan history, especially my own; Maclean. The Battle of Kura, a little know affray, June 768 AD, a fight between the Britons (Strathclyde) and Dalriada (Ulster as is now and the west of Scotland – I do insist on you doing your own discovery work on Dalriada),  this all came about around 258 AD, it is fascinating, do go and check this out, it is where Scotland and its’ language began. Wee note; the Maclean’s are related to the Kings of Dalriada.

Did I mention the Vikings were here? No, well they were, and it’s almost certain it was them who named this island “deer island”. The Norwegians gave up the island in 1266, it was then ruled and held for the Scottish king by those Macdonalds, Lords of the Isles. Here we go – in 1390 lands were given to Lachlan Maclean of Duart. Then in the early 1600’s those barbarous, land grabbing, devil worshiping, thieves (the Campbells) were given the isle and the Macdonalds driven out. The northern lands of Jura were still Maclean, we didnee get on too well with these savages, two big battles are known to have taken place; both 1647, Barnhill and Glen Garrisdale, all the hero’s of clan Maclean were killed, for years after there was a skull at the glen locally known as Maclean’s skull. In 1690 John Campbell (surname means crooked mouth by the way, very apt) took action against our hero’s , with constant eruptions between the two clans the Maclean’s were forced out but not before selling (canny chief) their lands to Donald McNeill of Colonsay. This 30 mile long and seven mile wide island is surrounded by the wild waters of the Atlantic, home to serene bays, seals and sea eagles. The Corryvreckan, a giant whirlpool at the north tip off the isle, the Royal Navy considers it to be one of the most treacherous stretches of water in the British Isles.  Jura’s only village Craighouse is where the distillery is located. The isle is some two hundred people strong (last counted),  in previous centuries there were as many as a thousand.

Here is a wee tale; a story goes, of an old woman, told prophecies, she saw the departure from the island of the Campbell chief. The last Campbell would have one eye and that all he owned would fit on a cart, drawn by a white horse. In 1938 Charles Campbell had one glass eye, all his goods were taken to the pier by a cart and white horse. Justice!!!  There is an alternative ending, rather than a horse, it was a white car – horsepower.  Which leads me nicely into the whisky! Jura Distillery;  Founded in 1810, it collapsed at the end of the 19th century and fell into ruin. Despite this and the two World Wars, the Diurach spirit remained. In 1963, it was rebuilt to help revive the small island community. Jura Prophecy (whisky)  heavily peated with a sweet and spicy finish. It’s said that centuries ago, an old seer prophesied that the last Campbell to leave the island would be penniless. In 1938, this came to be. To mark the legend, the seer’s symbol watches over every bottle. See? Told you so. Today you get to Jura from Port Askaig, although there are wee ferry companies who will take you from the mainland (no cars). Last time I was there, some wealthy Aussie was building a golf course and posh digs, will be there again pretty soon to be sure. PAUL MCLEAN

Diageo Celebrating World Water Day 2020 – Whisky News

Water is our most important ingredient, but is also a precious shared resource which is coming under increasing pressure in many parts of the world. Water is essential to our production processes and used widely throughout our value chain. It is vital to ecosystems, local economies, communities in which we live and work, and especially to grow the crops we use. Managing our impact on water, and being good stewards of this resource, is our highest environmental priority.

Meet the people behind the Cotswolds Distillery – English Whisky News

Continuing our series to introduce you to the hard-working individuals at the Cotswolds Distillery, meet Connor, our Events Coordinator.

Have a read on our latest blog to learn more about Connor’s role and to find out his favourite pubs in the Cotswolds for a bite to eat!


The Scotch Malt Whisky Society Founder Pip Hills with Classic 1937 Lagonda – Scotch Whisky News

Pic – Greg Macvean – 06/09/19 – 07971 826 457

Founder of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, Pip Hills, outside The Vaults, with the 1937 Lagonda classic car he used to transport the first-ever cask of SMWS whisky. This week the historic building in Leith, Edinburgh welcomes whisky-loving SMWS members from all over the world to celebrate ‘The Gathering’.

Pip is pictured holding bottle 1.1 from the first-ever Scotch Malt Whisky Society cask.


The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) is hosting ‘The Gathering’, a week-long celebration of its Leith origins that will bring members together to discover and share wonderful whisky experiences. The festival is taking place from Monday 2 to Sunday 8 September at The Vaults and other iconic Leith venues. ‘The Gathering’ encapsulates what it means to be a member of The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, with a jam-packed week of fun-filled whisky-themed events. Festivities include a fascinating walking tour of Leith’s illustrious whisky history, an exclusive whisky and Leith food pairing, tasting and film screenings at renowned Leith venues, as well as member events in the courtyard of the spiritual home of the Society, The Vaults.

Will there be a Russian whisky tidal wave? by Paul Mclean of Whisky Tours ~ Mclean Scotland


Will there be a Russian whisky tidal wave?

Is Russia silently producing vast amounts of whisky? If so, will it ever be seen in the west? These are written down thoughts from Paul McLean with input from his pal in Moscow; Tim. Paul and Tim have toured Scotland many, many times together, Paul as driver, they are good friends and Tim is much more of an expert than Paul, he also arranges a whisky festival in Moscow and has a great collection of whisky, maybe a book on the way? Meanwhile Paul continues his whisky education taking guests on whisky tours, one other friend worth a mention here is Ingvar Ronde, Paul and Ingvar also doodle around Scotland researching and photographing all to do with whisky! In his latest book; Malt Whisky Yearbook 2019, he states (page 262) Russia is the largest player in the Eastern Europe (non EU) with volumes of whisky going to Poland and Latvia eventually arriving in Russia.

Russian-made whisky appeared in the late 1940s in the USSR and was produced under two brands – “Soviet” and “Whisky-73”. These malts were sold at the price of a cheap brandy, and in taste they resembled a herb-seasoned bourbon. Obviously, nobody went to study whisky technology in Scotland! Nowadays, about 95% of the whiskies sold in Russia have no relation to Russia whatsoever. These are whiskies imported into Russia by a so-called bulk, (large tanks) and here they are just bottled there. The duty on bulk alcohol is slightly less than on finished products – around US$ 2 per liter. From a litre of bulk (at strength of 63%) one can get 1.5 litres of diluted commercial whisky, the bottle is cheaper in Russia, the label is cheaper, this saves about 30% compared to importing the finished product from Scotland. Because of this, whisky already occupies around 15% of the Russian alcohol market, and this figure can only grow. The fact is that a drink poured in Russia is nearly half price than in Scotland. Bulk price – from 400 Russian rubles ($6), the average cost of a bottle is 700-800 rubles ($11-12). So far, only two distilleries in Russia produce their own new make spirit. The first one, the Praskovey winery, has been producing its own whisky distillates for many years, but not in large volumes. They claim to produce a whisky similar to Irish whiskey. The second one is a new whisky production distillery located in Dagestan (Kizlyar city). This place is similar to Scotland in terms of climatic characteristics; a double distillation process is employed there too.   They also pay a great deal of attention to the wood (barrels) management policy to mature their whisky.

A wee bit more research and I stumbled on these bits and bobs; Russia took a first step towards joining the list of whisky-making countries when a distillery project in Kaliningrad received the OK to start construction. The $14.6 million project is meant to build a distillery capable of producing 5 million litres of spirit per year, and is projected to create 200 jobs between its construction and operation. Praskoveyskoye Distillery in the Stavropol territory. Owner:  Unknown or not registered  – does this mean it’s a government operation? Homepage: Praskoveyskoye  Email:   Spirits produced by Praskoveiskoe JSC are whisky produced from young cognac distillates. Whisky five-year grain “Praskoveysky” is developed from selected barley, which generalizes the centuries-old traditions of Ireland and the experience of Masters of Praskovey brandy production. Obtained by double distillation and aged in oak barrels for more than five years. Whisky grain six-year “Praskoveysky” is developed from barley. Obtained by single fractional distillation and aged in oak barrels for more than six years. Russia’s first whisky distillery to be built in the Kaliningrad region, local news website reported the project was announced by Igor Kudryavtsev, general director of the Alliance-1892 winery and cognac distillery, the company behind the move. Whisky consumption has not fallen in Russia despite the country’s economic recession, according to Kudryavtsev. He said the new product will fulfil up to 35 percent of Russia’s demand for the beverage and will also be exported to India, China, Africa and Latin America but seemingly not Europe or USA. “The distillery will offer a domestically made product, which will be comparable to the world’s best,” Kudryavtsev said. He added that a number of foreign companies have offered to collaborate in the project. Who? The question begs (Diageo by any chance?). Investment in the new distillery will total 13 million euro ($14.6 million). The manufacturing of whisky became possible in Russia only last year after Russia legalized the production of distilled beverages from grain.

Although Russia already has home grown whisky brands, these are based on sourced, imported whisky and not domestic production. The government opened the door to a Russian whisky industry by legalizing production in July 2015. Kaliningrad is a heavily militarized zone nestled between Poland and Lithuania on the Baltic Seacoast. It was created when the Soviet Union annexed part of the old territory of East Prussia from Germany at the end of the Second World War. Stoli Whisky. A Russian liquor company intends to introduce its own low-priced whisky and undercut foreign imports, according to an article that appeared in Kommersant. The single largest constraint for Russians who prefer whisky to vodka has been the crash in the value of the ruble, but Russian import bans against the likes of Jack Daniel’s, bourbons, and other types of whisky have been a problem as well. According to Eastern European Distribution Company, the new brand will be named “Stoli,” and will be priced at 600 and 650 rubles (roughly $11) per 750 ml bottle. Praskoveiskoye, costs 950 rubles (about $17) a bottle.

Whisky Live Moscow debuted in October 2018 with great whiskies. St Andrews whisky festival is also offering whisky lovers a chance to try many great drams.

My next thoughts; are there more distilleries (whisky) in Russia than we know, and – will there soon be a flood of this heading our way?  PAUL MCLEAN, PERTH 2019

A personal blether from Paul McLean.


Is Edinburgh the new whisky capital? by Paul Mclean of Whisky Tours ~ Mclean Scotland


Is Edinburgh the new whisky capital?

Edinburgh is thinking of itself as a whisky destination with four new distillery projects and the multi-million-pound Johnnie Walker experience. Scotch whisky tourism is at an all-time high in 2019. Figures from back in 2017 show there were almost 2 million visits to distilleries – tourists from all over the world, who spent almost £61 million between them. Whisky producers across Scotland have at last – for many of them – realised the value of the tourist pound and have invested – and continue to invest – in incorporating visitor facilities at their distilleries. Of the 800,000 tourists visiting Moray (Speyside) each year, three out of five visit a distillery for a tour, cup of tea, bite to eat or shop. The density of distilleries in the region – there are 51 operational sites – along with outdoor pursuits, visitor attractions and breath-taking scenery, make Speyside a popular destination with international whisky enthusiasts, as well as those as yet unfamiliar with the drink. But what about Edinburgh – the second-most visited city in the UK, attracting over two million overseas visitors each year – the Scotch Whisky Experience on the Royal Mile has been the city’s only real whisky visitor attraction. Glenkinchie is the closest malt distillery, a 15 mile confusing drive from the Royal Mile is no an easy visit for tourists. Thirty odd years after the Scotch Whisky Experience opened there are now four new distillery projects underway, a major revamp for Glenkinchie in the works plus the construction of a multi-storey Johnnie Walker whisky experience.

Can Edinburgh become the centre of Scotch whisky tourism? NO (Paul). Edinburgh as our capital attracts tourists aye, but in the main not the dedicated whisky geek. Susan Morrison, chief executive of the Scotch Whisky Experience, welcomed around 400,000 visitors in 2017. No bad you think, but let’s see what Edinburgh Castle and the National Museum of Scotland – the top tourist attractions outside of London – both suck in over two million visits annually. Diageo’s multi-million-pound, seven-storey Johnnie Walker whisky experience was given the all systems go by city planners within the former House of Fraser store on Princes Street, right in the city centre, the attraction will feature a ‘multi-sensory’ experience guiding visitors through the art and science of whisky making as well as the 200-year history of the blended Scotch brand. A rooftop bar – which is yet to receive approval – will offer views of Edinburgh Castle and across the city skyline, while a ground-level shop will provide tastings and whiskies from the Johnnie Walker and Diageo range. The attraction forms part of a £150m investment by Diageo in improving its whisky visitor experiences. Cristina Diezhandino, Diageo global Scotch whisky director, says the group expects the Johnnie Walker Experience to attract the same level of interest as its Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, which welcomes 1.71m visitors each year. Aiming at opening in 2020, the brand will create a welcome for whisky fans around the world… meantime, the revival of John Crabbie, one synonymous with Edinburgh’s 19th century blending heritage, is well underway. Brand owner Halewood International began distilling single malt spirit at Chain Pier, a small site at Granton Harbour in December 2018, although plans are to relocate its core single malt production to a larger premises in Leith. The new £7m distillery, named Bonnington, is currently being built on Graham Street, near to John Crabbie’s original premises at Yardheads. This will be followed by Holyrood Distillery. Situated in the renovated Engine Shed on St Leonard’s Lane, a 15-minute walk from the Royal Mile, Holyrood distillery has been built with the visitor experience at its heart. With an interactive distillery tour, bespoke cask ownership scheme, and expects 45,000 visitors in its first year, building up to 200,000 by year five. The unique vertical Port of Leith distillery on the Firth of Forth is expected to commence imminently, the £5m scheme will be the first Scottish whisky distillery to be built vertically, with the production process laid out from top to bottom. The rooftop bar and restaurant with views across the Firth will no doubt attract a less experienced crowd.

All this is grand aye, but the real whisky geeks like myself will still flock to Speyside and Islay, not to mention Skye, with three to visit now  and superb scenery. Just think of the west coast; fabulous scenery, distilleries all along the coast and islands. Perthshire with many diverse distilleries including my favourite Edradour, will continue to draw the whisky crowds. So, will Auld Reekie be number one whisky location anytime soon?  NO.

A personal blether from Paul McLean


What’s going on with Johnnie Walker? by Paul Mclean of Whisky Tours ~ Mclean Scotland


What’s going on with Johnnie Walker?

Johnnie Walker has launched yet a new dram, this time a variation of Green Label blended malt, this one with a greater influence of smoky whisky from Caol Ila distillery on Islay, this unaged blend includes Clynelish, Glenkinchie and Cardhu (it sounds very Game of Thrones!). JW Island Green will be available in one-litre bottles for around £40. What does that price tell me about this whisky? That it’s no that good, it’s cheap!

Then we come to the Johnnie Walker Black Label Origin Series (not Black or Double Black) – a range from the ‘four corners’ of Scotland. This limited-edition range (limited to what? 20,000 bottles of each? Diageo wouldnee say on the quantity of the ‘limited edition’, only that the range will not be repeated, they probably won’t need to after a flood!) comprises Islay, Highlands, Lowlands and Speyside expressions, all 12 years of age. The Islay, Highlands and Speyside Origin whiskies are all blended malts, while the Lowlands Origin is a blended Scotch whisky, combining malt with grain whisky from Cameronbrig (Haig). All are 42% abv, RRP of £35 per one-litre bottle, more cheap stuff. The whole range will be rolled out globally in 2020. The Islay Origin expression uses 100% refill casks to avoid ‘too much woodiness’ (less taste eh!), while the Highlands Origin expression features ex-European oak and ex-Sherry casks.

So, just how many different JW bottlings are there out there? Not only these, but the existing stuff, all the usual suspects, travel retail/duty free and Game of Thrones. A vast super loch that could fill Loch Ness! Johnnie Walker brand is the globally best-selling Scotch, output in excess of 20 million cases per annum. For years Johnnie Walker offered Red Label and 12-year-old Black Label, but now also includes Double Black, Gold Label Reserve, Platinum and Blue Label – a number of bottles have escaped, including a King George V edition, remember Jane Walker? A 2015 Limited Edition, Explorers’ Club Collection, which includes The Spice Road and The Gold Route. Johnnie also has ‘Houses’ in a number of Asian cities, such as Shanghai, Beijing, Mumbai, Seoul and Taipei, with another destined for Edinburgh. Which way is Johnnie walking now? Paul McLean, Perth 2019.

A personal blether from Paul McLean


Maclean brothers on a whisky challenge over the Atlantic by Paul Mclean of Whisky Tours ~ Mclean Scotland


Maclean brothers on a whisky challenge over the Atlantic

Three brothers plan to row 3,000 miles across the Atlantic launch their boat in Loch Lomond. Lachlan, 21, Ewan, 27, and Jamie MacLean, 25, from Edinburgh, will take part in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge in December, rowing from the Canary Islands to the West Indies. First they plan to row to the distilleries of Scotland’s west coast, collecting whisky to raise money for charity. From August 3-10 they’ll be rowing around the west coast, including Arran, Islay and Jura, Talisker etc, dad’s [Charlie] contacts in the whisky industry will come in handy, they’re all donating a couple of bottles or a case or two. At the end of the row Charlie will blend all of the whiskies together and they’ll sit in a cask, then auction the whole lot off and for charity. Well you can add our name to the list who will buy bottles!

Charlie is well known to us here and we wish the boys all the very best for their challenge. Charlie; “I’m very, very proud of them and terrified in equal measure, I’m almost losing sleep about it, but I think they are so positive and it’s been an incredible learning curve.” They have raised more than £50,000 to buy their rowboat with help from sponsors including the James Dyson Foundation, Nairn’s Oatcakes and Glasgow University. In total, the brothers hope to raise £250,000 for their chosen charities through the ocean crossing; Children 1st and Feedback Madagascar. The race is expected to last for more than a month and contestants expect to face 40ft waves and the risk of capsizing.

SCOTLAND’S NATIONAL CHILDREN’S CHARITY exist to prevent abuse and neglect, to protect children and keep them safe from harm. Together we can help children in Scotland live in safe, loving families and build strong communities. We help survivors of abuse, trauma and other adversity to recover and we work tirelessly to protect the rights of children in Scotland. Feedback Madagascar contributes to sustainable development goals by exploiting the many connections between primary needs and long-term conservation.

This only makes me even more proud of my surname; Paul McLean, Perth 2019

A personal blether from Paul McLean.


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