Vignettes – Moments in Whisky

Finland Whisky Fest; News For Whisky Lovers – Whisky Lovers News

Finland whisky fest; News for whisky lovers

This report sent in by Angels whisky club member; Mika Jansson.

The third annual UISGE whisky festival in not so freezing Helsinki on 31st of January – 1st of February (Thu – Fri)

Held at the old students house (Vanha Ylioppilastalo). Expectations were high, with more whisky importers than ever before presented more than 230 different kinds of whiskies from all over the world. UISGE 2013 also hosted a number of whisky world’s movers and shakers as guest speakers, and during the two festival days some 20 guided tastings and presentations took place at the meeting rooms of the venue.

A total of 2,000 visitors, the biggest-ever crowd in the history of the festival, enjoyed thoroughly the event , which started on Thrusday afternoon with the Helsinki Pipes & Drums band proudly playing the bagpipes on the stage. Despite of a record-breaking success, the festival’s atmosphere was as peaceful and friendly as ever. This was duly noted by the international guest speakers, many of whom praised the overall arrangements, and the crowd’s level of enthusiasm and knowledge of whisky in general, as well as the good behaviour of all. One international guest speaker noted that ‘UISGE is right now one of the nicest whisky events in all of Europe to come to’ much to the pride of the organizers.

UISGE whisky festival is the brainchild of two local Finnish whisky enthusiasts, Mika Jansson and Ilkka Ruponen. Back in 2010 these gentlemen from the Malt Whisky Association of Finland started planning a major whisky festival in Finland, despite of local legal and other limitations (anything to with spirits above 22% vol. isn’t allowed to be advertised in the country in any way). It took much convincing and planning, but what seemed like just a dream has now become an annual event, once a year gathering all Finnish whisky hobbyists and importers together for two days each January – February.

UISGE whisky festival also arranges a whisky competition, in which a panel of judges select the best whiskies according to geographical groupings (Scottish Highlands, Lowlands etc). Finally all group winners compete for the title of ‘Best of the Best’ – Whisky of the year. The 40 member panel of judges consists of enthusiasts and bar professionals alike.

In the ‘Best of the Best’ – Whisky of the year competition, the winner was Auchentoshan’s Three Wood, with Highland Park 21yo coming in second, and Bunnahabhain 18yo placing third. From the judge’s comments it was evident that the robust, sherried flavour profile of Auchentoshan Three Wood attracted many, and made the whisky stand out from the rest.

Many thanks to Mika for the story and photographs!

Paul Had An Away Day (overnight) Trip to Ed-Dram-Burgh, Saturday 29 & Sunday 30 December 2012 – Scotch Whisky News

Paul Mclean to the LEFT!

Paul had an away day (overnight) trip to Ed-Dram-Burgh,

Saturday 29 & Sunday 30 December 2012. 

Here is his report; I took the train from Perth to Edramburgh, och it was full of screamin kids, an hour of purgatory later, we arrived at Waverly, whereby I set oot for some breakfast – it was still early! A favourite place of mine is Whiski on High Street (Royal Mile), apart from being a good bar, they have lots of whisky and great food. I settled down with an Irn Bru and ordered an Eggs Benedict, it was on my plate nae more than 5 minutes, grand stuff! Followed by a Dalmore – medical reasons you understand. After a wee bit of shopping, well I need get something for Liz, I headed up to the whisky experience near the castle (

They were really busy, I mentioned what I was after and immediately was sent to level 3 to the whisky fair, even at 1pm it was busy. I wandered in, many excellent bottlings to sample, so I did. Dondered over to Ben Nevis (, old pals o mine, whereby a dram was placed in front of me. Ben Nevis Distillery is one of the oldest licensed distilleries in Scotland, nestled at the foot of Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis, 4’406 feet above sea level. This imposing mountain provides an impressive background to a traditional Scottish craft. I enjoyed the craft with a 10 year old single malt, introduced to the market back in 1996 using whisky produced in 1986, the last year that Long John International produced whisky at Ben Nevis distillery. They were awarded a grand gold medal by Monde Selection in 1999 and again in 2000. It also won a gold medal in 2001 and a trophy for three consecutive years of being awarded gold and grand gold medals. Quickly followed by McDonald’s Traditional Ben Nevis Highland Single Malt Whisky, Distillery Bottling. A special edition whisky from Ben Nevis in celebration of their 185th year. It is an attempt at recreating the McDonald’s Traditional Ben Nevis which was a popular dram in the 1880s. The Clan MacDonald are no far from we Maclean’s, it was superb!

After promising to go back (which I did) Dewar’s followed (, it was calling me, well, Big Ross and George were! After “hello’s” – hadnee seen the lads for ages – I settled into a dram or three; DEWAR’S Signature – a superb blend, as usual, I enjoyed it more being a sample (free). “Anything new for me?” I enquired; as it happened, aye, Bits of Strange, 16 year old, man! What a smooth dram that is – dinnae believe me? see the photo. After more chat and more samples, I bade them farewell (for now), heading over to Inver House ( I started with the Balblair 1975; fantastic dram, iconic bottle shape with a liquid inside to charm a snake handler! Spicy, raisins, sherry, honey and green apple, a long smooth finish that stayed with me ages! So much so, I had to get over to the cheese table to cleanse my mush. There was a line waiting to be served, myself included. Then, my eyes flew wide open, closely followed by my mouth, other people around me the same, what could this be? Some big troll of a woman was after cheese … “cheeeze” she slobbered as she pushed through, dear me, she had a face like a vandalised Scotch egg and a slash of a mouth, red eyes and the size of an Ork (is that right spelling? Lord of the Rings). I tell you, people (myself included) got out of the way fast! Cheese can do later I told myself. Jeeze, that could scare dogs!

Back to the whisky – quick. Tried another favourite; Glenfarclas 40 year old ( But hey, hold on a smidge here, it was one of the smallest measures I had ever seen! My neighbour standing next to me said the same, come on guys, superb whiskies but dram sizes? If that was what they were doin, I was away. So went for a good smack of a dram to Tomatin (, where a 40 year old had my name on it. Had this before, no disappointed again either, great stuff. I was slowing down by now, peeping through people to find the troll, scary, she was nowhere to be seen so I dondered to the cheese again. “What the hell was that?” I asked, the poor lass and big fella there were still in shock, a nice bit of applewood cheese cleansed my pallet before heading back into the fray. I ventured into a Drambuie ( ). After the Battle of Culloden, 1746, Prince Charles Edward Stuart fled to the island of Skye. There, he was given sanctuary by Captain John MacKinnon of Clan MacKinnon. According to family legend, after staying with the captain, the prince rewarded him with this prized drink recipe. This version of events is disputed by historians who believe it to be a story concocted to boost sales of the drink.The legend holds that the recipe was then given in the late 19th century by Clan MacKinnon to James Ross. Ross died young, and to pay for their children’s education, his widow was obliged to sell the recipe, by coincidence to a different MacKinnon family, in the early 20th century. The latter MacKinnon family has been producing the drink since. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of Drambuie being bottled in Edinburgh, the makers launched a new style of bottle and embarked on a television and print advertising campaign. I had for bypass Diageo as I ran out of time (and the will to live after the troll from hell). I said farewell’s to pals and headed into the sanctuary of the bar, had a quick Ben Riach 25 year old to settle me nerves, before heading out into the glorious summer warmth and sunshine of Edinburgh (I wish). I stumbled into the Bow Bar, great selection of real ales and even better whisky selection, I ordered a triple wood Balvenie and a haggis pie (dinnae tell Liz), ate up and chatted to a couple of Australian’s here for the whisky (sitting next to me), a good long chat, gave a few helpful (I hope) tips and moved on, a wee bit more shopping, before taking a taxi to my hotel.

Kirsty welcomed me in again and I was shown to my den. Quick shower, change and brush up, before heading out to the Dome – my favourite Edinburgh haunt. A whisky/champagne cocktail and I was happy, the place was looking fantastic, it was heaving full, I squeezed up at the bar to a few lassies waiting to be served, “might I be cheecky and ask you to include my next drink with your order?” sure enough, nae bother, the blond girl even paid for it! Great I thought, until it was my turn to get a drink, there were four of them, one of me! Oh well, stumbled back to my hotel over the road and dropped on the bed. I did have a nice bottle of Merlot to keep me company, so dropped me clothes (as you do) fell on the bed and looked at Match of the day (football) on telly. It was then the nightmare started again!!!

Outside the window a frighteningly haggard face was looking at me, I was terrified – the troll! And I was 7 floors up! As I panicked and tried to get under the bed, no mean feat for a stodger like myself, the face went higher, it was a bloody halloween balloon!!! Breathing heavy (nae, dinnae go there!) I carried on with a glass of wine watching the footy, eventually falling into a heavy daze and waking up 8 ish on Sunday, thinking about breakfast.

I arrived home to Perth, settled down, checking every room for the troll, before sittin doon with a glass of wine. An eventful couple of days, but they always are eh? Was it worth it? Aye. Dram of the fair? It has to be the Dewar’s Bits of Strange, I will be chatting to Ross again about this one, it’s only available at the distillery, thankfully that’s 40 minutes away, even better, Ross lives in Perth! Until my next outing, slainte!

Paul is owner of and along with Liz, who is away in India, missing all the fun.



Pre Christmas whisky tasting at home in Perth, Scotland. 19 December 2012.

by Paul Mclean

My friend of many years came round for a chat, grub and drams recently, well, today actually. Now, Adeline is well used to whisky, having worked for a while with Edrington, so I thought it time she tried some other wee gems. Some shopping preceded this session (she is a girl after all!), a visit to the hair dresser (for Ad not me) knowing full well she would be on camera, we also dondered over to Sante, a nice restaurant in Perth for a late lunch. Mussels, pigs cheek, hake, tatties and ribs, plus a wine and a champagne. All wee starters of course! Back home, the whisky made an appearance; being Paul’s hoose, we started with what else? An Irish;

BUSHMILLS 1608 ANNIVERSARY EDITION. Aye it’s a blend, but very little grain in this. We both agreed, ginger snaps, marzipan with some citrus, lovely dram to start us off. Am on my 3rd bottle of this.

CLERACH JURA VIN CASK. Surprisingly sweet, more like an after dinner frozen grape wine to me (Paul). I had some left over from a tasting the other night with Tim, Liz and friends in a restaurant in Perth, we did cause raised eyebrows when we asked for 6 glasses, “hey, you cannee do that here!” was the comment from the waiter, after a chat with the manager, we were ok, after all, Tim had travelled from Moscow! Here is Michel Couvreur’s description of this fascinating and unique drink: “The barley was distilled on the 09th July 2001 in Scotland and the “clerach” was delivered to our cellar on the 24th July 2001. On the 29th July 2003, day of the “percée” of Vin Jaune, the cask was filled with the Scotch clerach so causing through the oak wood a slow mutual penetration of the grassy lightness of the barley and the VIN JAUNE extraordinary finesse. The original 228 bulk litres at 68,20% alc.vol., decreased at 61,20% alc.vol. two years later, were reduced to 43% alc .vol., because a high alcoholic content would have hidden the elegant lightness unique to Vin Jaune.”

JAPANESE WHITE OAK. Recently been on a tour to the Perthshire Highlands with me, see; What did Adeline think? Nice, could be Scotch! Paul liked it also.

GLENMORANGIE SIGNET is distilled from malt with a good portion of chocolate malt too. Chocolate malt is heavily roasted malted barley. Chocolate raisins, cocoa, cinnamon, oranges, malt, fruity. Superb! This was the winner by a long stretch, she loved it so much, took a sample in a hip flask home.

Here endeth the tasting, a breather with some smoked salmon followed, just to cleanse the pallet you understand. Like Liz, Ad will soon be away to India – what is it with India? Ad has her own events company here in Perth and meets up with Paul often, many times over a glass of wine. So, we hear you ask, how did she get home? Why a taxi of course!

See all here;

Whisky From Japan Has An Outing in Highland Perthshire On A Snowy Day – Japanese Whisky News

Whisky from Japan has an outing in Highland Perthshire on a snowy day.

December 13th I took a wee trip north into Highland Perthshire, I took a pal with me – this bottle. It was pretty grim weather but one has to do these things (isnee that what someone famous said?).

White Oak is from a Japanese distillery near Kobe. They’ve named Akashi after the town the distillery is in. White Oak: a blended whisky at 40%, smooth with apple, sugar and fruits, there’s a hint of yeast. A simple whisky blend – short finish.

White Oak Distillery now runs at a capacity of 60,000 litres per year. The distillery is owned by Shuzo Co. Ltd (Eigashima Shuzo Co. Ltd), which dates back to 1888, is located in Akashi City, Hyogo Prefecture, Honshu Island.

On my trip I stopped off at Blair Atholl Distillery, well, it was on the way! Just to take pix mind, I was still driving. Taking things easy as I left Pitlochry on the back roads through Atholl, I stopped now and then to take some images and admire the views (as I always do, even living here I still like to donder around). I arrived at the hotel (checking it out for a group stay next year) dropped in a heap on the bed, sorted a few things out and headed doon to the bothy bar. A bite to eat and a pint of Braveheart later, I felt better. Climbed back upstairs and settled down in front of the telly, eventually opening the bottle.

Did I like it? well, enjoyed it a great deal, then tried it with some cheese, even better I thought. Aye as you have to – I dribbled a wee dram over the cheese and let it soak in, delicious. A few drams later (large) I drifted into a glorious sleep, dreamt of going to Japan – woke up with a start as the snow blew in the open window! Give me another dram to settle me down, what a grand excuse!

Paul and friend took the trip;

The Big Whisky Interview – Can It Get Any Bigger? – Scotch Whisky News

The Big Whisky Interview – can it get any bigger?

Angels whisky club INTERVIEW Charlie Maclean –  Hi again Charlie, nice of you to spare me some time for this chat , I thought it well in order and about time we interviewed you, being our Patron. Are you sitting comfortably? Let’s begin…

What first got you interested in whisky? One of my best friends at school was Charlie Grant, whose father owned The Glenlivet Distillery. They were direct descendants of the founder, George Smith. I was first introduced to single malt whisky up at Glenlivet, in the late 1960s. I was brought up on the Isle of Arran, and in the pub of an evening with the locals the custom was to start with beer, then switch to Scotch. Whether you liked it or not! There was no choice. I began writing about whisky in 1981 and then more and more, including booklets for Macallan, Glenmorangie, Allied and United Distillers (as was then).

Next question comes easy (to me); what part of a distillery do you get most satisfaction from? I would say the still house and the warehouse.

Do you have any thoughts about finishing? Port, Sherry etc. More and more finishes are now on offer. In fact, do you have a favourite finish (mine is sherry)? I’m not a great fan of finishing, although it is perfectly justified and produces whiskies which are smooth and easy to drink I admit. I prefer unfinished, or Oloroso finished, if pushed.

Here’s one to test your mind; what would happen if, for example, a distillery used beech or larch in place of oak casks? I believe chestnut has been used, but oak is the best by far. Oak is watertight but not airtight, which allows the whisky to breathe, and chemicals in the oakwood leech into the liquid, adding colour and desirable flavours like vanilla, coconut, dried fruits, etc., depending on whether the oak is American or European.

What do you look for in a new whisky? Maturity, but still traces of the individual distillery character; an intriguing aroma and a taste which develops the aroma. Complexity. Fruitiness. Not too grainy or malty. And, yes peat-smoke – but not all the time!

Apart from our membership (of course) is there anyone in the whisky world you still wish to meet? Past or present. That’s a hard one! There are so many people I’d like to meet. (After a wee while…) Robert Burns!

Weird question time; if Aliens came and took ALL our whisky in the world, what would you then do with your time? Ha, ha! Never been asked that before! Commit suicide? Seriously, I would just have to start writing about something else! Or do nothing!

Weird question part 2; apart from being immersed in distilleries and the trade, what are your outside interests? I like to shoot, fish, cook (and eat), sail; I collect whisky books, and I read a lot – particularly Scottish history (same as Paul then!).

Finally; a winter night in Scotland, it’s snowing and cold enough to scare monkey’s, it’s 9pm and you are sitting in front of the fire, what dram do you have? I pour my first dram of the evening at 6.00 pm, while I’m ‘tidying up my desk’. You may be surprised to hear that what I reach for is a blend. Most of my work is with malt, so when I just want to relax, a blend’s ‘your only man’. If I could afford it, I would reach for Johnnie Walker Black Label.

Many thanks for being honest and putting up with all of this mush, do you have a parting shot? Aye, a happy Christmas and Hogmanay to all of you! Charlie

Charlie was interviewed by Paul McLean, 4pm, 6 December 2012, Edinburgh.

ANGELS WHISKY CLUB – AWARDS 2012 – Scotch Whisky News


We gathered once again at the usual watering hole; Christies pub, Perth, Scotland. All the usual suspects were invited; Paul, Lizzie, Ming, Boab, Diageo Man, Ron, apologies from Kevin, still out on the rigs of the North Sea, Offaly man was in Ireland.  Now please bear in mind, we are no professional nose/tasters, we are a herd of whisky lovin people who enjoy a dram, why choose these drams?  Over the year we have “had a go” at these and many others, these were some real favourites.

We all brought at least one dram to try, Billy & Helen threw one in also. Beers started the event, as everyone dondered in, we perched at the usual end of the (newly refurbished) bar and brought oot the first award contender. At this stage let me introduce the contenders; Cutty Sark Storm, Isle of Mull blend, Ben Riach 1995 single cask, Springbank 15 yo 1997, Tyrconnell Single Malt.

We started with the easy to drink drams, Mull first, we all liked it. A wee dram of Irish next as we downed the Tyrconnell, we all liked that as well! Next was the Storm, strangely – we all liked that too! That left us two to try (again), well what can I say? They were both excellent drams, but the Springbank slightly edged it.  According to the panel, our whisky of the year is the Springbank 15 yo 1997.  Nose: Oaky, citrus, caramel, brown sugar and sweeties. Taste: spicy, citrus. Result: we all agreed, a really nice dram. A long finish.

So after an almost 100% decision we had to test again just to be sure (but we changed the order a wee bit). Cutty Sark Storm;  The creation of Cutty Sark Master Blender Kirsteen Campbell. She has used many of the whiskies used to create other expressions of the Cutty Sark range, including grain whisky from North British and single malts from Highland Park and Macallan. The differences are the single malts used in Storm, these single malts are older. A bright golden yellow with niff’s of brown sugar, raisins and sultanas, syrup. The finish is long and grabs your taste buds, easy drinking (too easy, eh slow down Boab).  Isle of Mull blend;   A blend of Highland Malt and Grain Whiskies. Sweet and fruity with a hint of shortbread.   Tyrconnell Single Malt; This whiskey is elegant, sweet taste, fresh, malty, fruity bouquet, smooth sweet taste and delicate dry finish. A wee gem from the Cooley stable, always a favourite in the pub. Springbank 15 yo 1997; Nose: soy sauce. Water brings chocolate?  orange, sherry, touch of smoke. Fruitier with water, which we tried of course. Just a wee wetting. And so to the Ben Riach 1995 single cask; From cask 7164 distilled in May 1995, this 16-year-old bottled at 58.3% vol. On the nose, bananas, citrus and oregano, melons and lychee. 695 bottles, each bottle is hand-numbered – we had 693. We all agreed bananas, we ended up all do the “monkey!” hoppin aboot and hands under the armpit, what a right bunch we looked.

The second outcome? Same as before but only by a nose from the Ben Riach a very close second.

Awards took place at Christies Bar in Perth, Scotland. November 2012. is free or everyone to join. Patron; Charlie Maclean.

SERGE AND HIS BELOVED BENRIACH 1976 MEGA-TASTING! – BenRiach Sunday on Whisky Intelligence


BACK in June, Serge Reijnders, a Belgian BenRiach enthusiast, hosted a unique tasting to sample nineteen BenRiach 1976 Single Cask expressions in one afternoon…and he sold out all forty places in just two days!

Collectors normally collect simply to collect – but Serge had different ideas. Such is his passion for BenRiach, he wanted to share as many of his beloved 1976 expressions as he could with his invited guests.

As 1976 is his favourite BenRiach year, you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s also the year he was born. It’s not – he was born in 1978 but justifies his choice by pointing out there weren’t that many outstanding Benriachs from that year!

So where did his obsession for 1976 BenRiachs come from?

Known in the Low Countries as “that guy with all the BenRiachs”, he explained: “Bert Dexters got me started. His enthusiasm was contagious – his explanations about whisky and his insistence on writing down all the tasting notes. I was immediately sold so I joined “Cask Six”, Bert’s whisky club, and my first tasting was a few weeks later at a whisky festival where, as instructed, I noted everything we tasted.”

Serge prefers mainly fruity and sherry-matured whisky. “It took me some time to appreciate peated whisky – although I have always enjoyed whisky with only a hint of peat where the fruit or sherry comes through.”

As with many people, his love of BenRiach was started by the company’s Chief Executive and Master Blender Billy Walker and Serge tasted his first BenRiach at a Lindores tasting.

Serge takes up the story. “Then Bert Bruyneel arranged a tasting and we tasted 11 different BenRiachs including my first 1976 which was specially bottled for the Craigellachie Hotel, the first-ever 1976 bottling. I just adored it – that evening I lost my heart to BenRiach!”

Soon Serge started searching for all the 1976s that had been bottled…and once he had got them all, he found he couldn’t stop.

“I just had to get every new 1976 that was released, wherever that might be. Through Magnus Fagerstrom, currently the biggest BenRiach collector worldwide, I was introduced to his Japanese contact which helped a lot because soon afterwards the first 1976s for Japan were released.

“Magnus also put me in touch with his contact in Taiwan which allowed me to buy two bottles of cask 3033. I took one of them to last year’s Lindores Whiskyfest where everyone had to take and introduce one bottle. Someone else had cask 3557 which was specially bottled for La Maison du Whisky and another had the 1976 for Aston Morris with him. We tasted them and everyone liked the La Maison du Whisky bottling the most.”

It was that day which gave Serge the idea of doing his 1976 mega-tasting.

“Originally I thought I’d keep them for my fortieth birthday in 2018 but every time I told people about my tasting plans, they’d invite themselves over to my house! That’s when I thought: if people are so interested in attending, why not put all the whiskies in a huge tasting, and that’s what happened.”

The tasting was presented by Jurgen Vromas and cost €200 per person. The 19 whiskies were tasted in 4 groups, 3 consisting of 5 whiskies and at the end a blind tasting of 4 whiskies. The whiskies were grouped according to reputation which meant that the tasting would only get better as the day progressed.

Group 1 involved three peated whiskies and two sister casks bottled by Signatory. Journalist Johan van Samang from Whiskypassion magazine also attended the tasting and noted: “They were enjoyable but not exceptional whiskies – although we could taste the amazing character of BenRiach coming through.

“In Group 2, we tasted cask 2013 which hasn’t been bottled yet, but we could compare it with the 2014. Cask 2014 won, and also won this group.”

In Group 3, they tasted three 1976s bottled for Asia and two for Europe. In this category, the Shinanoya bottling stood out for everyone.

And finally, group 4 was the best of the best, blind tasted:

Johan said: “Cask 3557 from La Maison du Whisky was expected to win, but amazingly it didn’t even make it into the top three. Gold was won by cask 3033 for Taiwan, silver for 3029 for Shinanoya and bronze for 3032 for Japan, so Asia won convincingly from Europe.

“But what 3557 and 3033 have in common is that they are really complex, more so than the others. They go deeper, they have more layers and above all they have what makes BenRiach 1976 so special – that fantastic taste of tropical fruit.”

He concluded: “This was probably one of the hardest tastings I have ever done, but it’s also one of the most interesting and definitely the most enjoyable.

“This kind of tasting won’t be repeated very often so our thanks go to Serge for his incredible drive and passion. It’s clear the passion of the few has benefited the many BenRiach enthusiasts in the Low Countries!”

(This feature is based on an article which first appeared in the Dutch Whiskypassion magazine.)

LivingRoom Whisky Visits the Whisky Exchange Whisky Show – Whisky News

Our post on The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show can be read by clicking on the link below



Wobbleydon Aftermath – ‘Vignettes – Moments in Whisky’

Wobbleydon aftermath.

Well here we are again. My local pub and hang out haunt CHRISTIES PUB, PERTH. This wee criak is all about a session we had in July, just after Big Andy was sadly beaten by the Swiss guy at tennis, wobbleydon. After some hard touring I just needed to chill and break out a wee bit. The usual suspects were up for it of course, I would like to say “long suffering Karen” served us, but – Karen usually gives better than we give her, have been told off for a wee dribble left in my favourite bottle – Black Bush, she just picks up the bottle and waggles it at me, giving me those telling off eyes only your mother could do! Been told off for not shaving, Bob gets her “look” often and she is fast on the returned remark, we know who she likes and who she doesnee like serving (no names mentioned) but we do love her all the same.

Bob and Dave are suppin Belhaven Black, or is it Dark Island? I take my usual, Black Bush. Waiting on a couple to join us before starting. Lizzie and Kevin arrive. They have a drink to settle in before we start whiskying. First dram is one I have brought in myself (sorry Billy – pub owner) – a dram from Finland; Teerenpeli single malt. This is distilled and bottled at Teerenpeli Distillery Lahti, Finland. 43% volume, 8 years old from oak cask. To be honest Bob likes most things and he liked this. The name Teerenpeli means ‘flirtation’ or ‘dalliance’. We tried this and were surprised how balanced and tasty it was, usual vanilla, flowery niffs, wee bit nutty, all in all, a good start, not peaty which helps, a good Finnish we thought. Thanks Mika. Moving on, “new glasses please Karen”… a pub dram; Glenmorangie Original… fruity, notes of lemon and apple, vanilla, toffee, malty and very fruity (have said that eh). A 10 year old perfected by the sixteen men of Tain no less! Lizzie liked this one, well she would be, originally from Tain hersel’. Talking of Lizzie, she (the queen) was here in Perth recently, she didnee call into the pub though, what a shame eh? After a break for a glass of irn bru, water, juice (we all have different tastes) even a Dark Island, we set out on the long road again, this time calling into Glengoyne for a nice easy 10 year old… big bourbon taste, fruity. Barley rich, more bourbon influence. Nae smoke or peat here either, funny wee thing this, the distillery is Highland, the warehouses and car park is Lowland! So what are we? Kev (Aberdeenshire), Lizzie (Tain), Paul (Connel) are Highlanders, Bob and Dave from Scone so borderland highland/central.

Back to the water of life; new glasses please! What is that racket goin on in the pub! a nice lookin Bowmore 12 year old was looking at us. Age is going up as we go on, well, we are all getting older as we sip. A 12 year old, a whiff of grass. Peaty, smokiness wafts of seaweed. Some sherry. Lots of salt! Ah a peaty dram to end on, er no – I had another up my sleeve; Lagavulin 16 yo. Sorry Billy (again), brought this with me from a recent trip to Islay (eye la) massive peat/smoke – one of the smokiest from Islay. It’s big, niffs of iodine, spices, vanilla, a mouthful of malt and sherry but sweetness, spicy finish, figs, dates, vanilla.

This ends our tasting for today (well it doesn’t but my mum may be reading this, who knows?), well done Andy from Dunblane (no far from where we are sittin), sadly no distillery there but, the lad has a long finish, outstanding nose, good right arm, can play on peat we hear, or grass, tried a seaweed finish one day, slipped up there son! Well you have to celebrate getting to the final, only two did and a Scot was one! At the end of the day, Andy Murray. He has balls.

Written by Paul McLean, of Angels & MCLEANSCOTLAND fame. Fame? He’s a legend in his own lunchtime.

The Travels of Whisky Intelligence – 24 Hours in Edinburgh – June 2012 – Scotch Whisky Madness

3:50 AM. Whose bright idea was this? Ah, that would be yourself bucko. It had seemed like a good idea at the tasting last night (tonight?) in The Whisky Shop where they had kindly hosted the Malt Maniacs for a stupendous farewell tasting; a fitting finale for our 15th Anniversary gathering in Scotland. Does it every really become fully dark in Edinburgh in the summer? No matter, stick to the plan. Only 3 more whisky related activities left on the schedule in this 24 hour period; how delightfully Maniacal. Put on the kettle for a quick cup of tea and then a phone call to Ho-cheng’s room; “Are you awake?” “Yes” he replied, “OK, see you in the lobby in 10 minutes”. Indeed a quick cup of tea and 10 minutes later Ho-cheng and I were in the lobby. And he’d shaved… the hell had he done that?? The front desk arranged for a taxi which arrived with impressive speed and we gave our destination “28 Victoria Street please” and we sat back for the short journey. “Wait one, this is Castle Hill and not Victoria Street” I thought …but, ah, the entrance to the stair case which leads down toVictoria Street. Some what dark and ominous but there is WHISKY at the destination so press forward!


A minute later we pushed open the door of The Whisky Shop to reveal numerous bright eyed people bustling about setting up for the Compass Box world record attempt with John Glaser. John was attempting to hold a tasting in eight Whisky Shop locations in the UK in a 24 hour period and it involved a route from Inverness to Brighton. Shortly after our arrival Tim Puett from the Ardbeg Project glided into the shop (he’d shaved too). Interestingly for the future of whisky present at the tasting  were a number of young women who appeared to simply be there for the whisky; just like us. Surprise, surprise in walked Carsten Hering Nielsen whom I had first met a few years ago; small world!


After much fretting by staff the set up was complete and with a few minutes until the start time we were presented with little confetti devices along with final instructions for when John popped his head in the door. Bang on time in came John and who was suitably covered in streamers and confetti along with a warm welcome. John had shaved. Seemingly only your Honourable correspondent had failed to shave, I managed to consol myself with the knowledge that drams would soon be served.


John took a minute or two to say hello to everybody individually and then he started the tasting with a short talk about the world record attempt and the philosophy behind Compass Box whisky. We started off with a whisky cocktail made with Great King Street blended whisky, a ‘naked’ sample of Great King Street, followed by the Spice Tree and the story of how it came about and then finally the Peat Monster which went down very easily considering the time of the morning. Surprisingly quickly the allotted time was up and John and his team were off to their next stop, two down, six to go. 

As we walked back to the hotel we realized it was so early not even the Edinburgh tram line was running…but then will it ever? Only an hour and a half until breakfast so finally I’d have a chance to shave!


Noon Only two more events to go; now it was time for lunch at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society Queen Street; Tim had arranged for a lunch with some of the team from Glenmorangie Plc and we (Peter, Krishna and I) were going to meet Tim for a dram prior to his going off to lunch. After all it had been six and half hours since our last dram and we felt that we really needed to keep up our strength! Drams were duly selected from the monthly list and then suddenly the Glenmorangie team had arrived; Dr. Bill Lumsden – Head of Distilling & Whisky Creation, Iain Russell  Brands Heritage Manager, Hamish Torrie Head of Communications and Mark Harvey Business Development Director – USA and they very kindly invited us all to lunch downstairs in the main dining room which was very brave of them to take on 4  Malt Maniacs at once but they accomplished this by distracting us with drams of SMWS Glenmorangie and a stupendous meal (Scallops followed by lamb shank, both with appropriate wines). Thank you gentlemen. 

After lunch it was time for some shopping for souvenirs and gifts and perhaps a quick dash into one or two of the many whisky shops on the Royal Mile including the Scotch Whisky Experience near the castle. As always it was a very busy place and Amber restaurant was busy busy (one step above busy you understand). After shopping a quick diversion to the hotel to unload the purchases, check email, check-in online for tomorrow’s flights and then off to the Vaults for the grand finale of the day. 

6PM Tim, Peter and I had agreed to meet with Mark (WM Cadenhead Ltd) and Willie (WhiskyWhiskyWhisky forum) at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society’s Vaults at 87 Giles Street for a bite to eat and a ‘few’ drams. Tim and Peter being stout fellows seemingly had gone straight from post lunch drams at Queen Street to the Vaults and were happily ensconced sampling more (many) of the Society’s whiskies. 

Dinner, as usual at the Vaults was excellent (mixed green salad, grilled sausages and mash, gravy) and the drams were a malt lovers cornucopia including many bottlings which were the very first from various distilleries hidden far to the left hand side of the bar. Those bottlings have not been available for many, many years and all sported the Society’s original label (and bottle shape). Also a number of Society older Glen Moray went down range and soon enough it was time as both Tim and I had very early flights. 

The SMWS Vaults was a fitting venue for the 4th whisky event in 24 hours. As Tim and I left Peter, Mark and Willie were hard at it…

L to R below; Ho-cheng, Carsten, Lawrence, John & Tim

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