The Lakes Distillery – very reserved by Paul Mclean of Whisky Tours ~ Mclean Scotland

The Lakes Distillery – very reserved

Dhavall Gandhi is their whisky maker, “The Whiskymaker’s Reserve No.1” by the way is an artistic exploration of maturation and blending; of flavour evolution and defining a sherry-led house style. We were lucky, we had samples for our delicate taste buds sent to us from the kind folks at the distillery. I was just about to smack this round my gums, when I thought of an alternative; I had guests on tour with me, all the way from California, why not ask them to try it and give me their thoughts … this is what we did. So what did our guests think?

Veronica and Bob fae San Francisco ; strong and delicious, would sell well in USA, sherry/wine taste, they both thought it was wonderful, Bob with a drop of water, veronica neat. This dram was powerful; illegal in Norway @ 60.6% a stunner, I really liked it, saying something from me for a below the border dram. A single malt, full bodied matured in PX and red wine casks American, French and Spanish oaks, non chilled, like Highway Star; Deep Purple – a long finish!

To add to the blog … The Lakes Distillery celebrates their first single malt selling out, by releasing The Whiskymaker’s Reserve No.2.

Following the sale of all 5,992 individually numbered bottles of their first widely available single malt whisky in just five weeks, The Lakes Distillery has unveiled the second release in The Whisky maker’s Reserve series.The Whisky maker’s Reserve No.2 has evolved in keeping with The Lakes’ increasing sherry-cask influence. Without an age statement, The Whisky maker’s Reserve No.2 is a new, intense and robust single malt, bottled at cask strength – 60.9% ABV – and matured in the finest, meticulously sourced PX, red wine and bourbon casks. With only 4,788 bottles available in the UK, the nose is rich and complex with dry fruits and treacle, creamy layers of wood spice, comforting vanilla on the palate, and a long and luxurious finish. Non-chill filtered for a richer mouthfeel and fuller flavour, each bottle uses only the natural colours derived from the oak casks. Released on the 17th October, The Whiskymaker’s Reserve No.2 has a suggested retail price of £65 and can be bought from where you can also discover more about The Lakes’ holistic approach to whisky-making.


The One Signature Blend is a new blended whisky from The Lakes Distillery. The last time I was doon there was a few years back now, with Liz on a day trip with an overnight, we don’t venture doon into Saxon land too often. This signature expression has The Lakes Single Malt at its heart, together with select Scotch grain and malt whiskies from the Highlands, Speyside and Islay.  A complex and balanced whisky with hints of stone fruit, light spice and honey-roasted nuts (not I might add Nobby’s Nuts). Bottled at 46.6% ABV, it is non-chill filtered with natural colours derived from the oak casks. Released on Monday 30th September, the recommended retail price is £39 and it can be bought from Where do you find this distillery?  Bassenthwaite Lake, near Keswick, in The English Lake District, it currently attracts over 100,000 visitors each year. Twice named ‘one of eight distilleries to visit before you die’ by the World Whisky Day campaign, the visitor centre, bistro and tour holds the Visit England’s Gold accolade and was voted the Icons of Whisky Visitor Attraction of the Year 2019 by Whisky magazine. Well, we would suggest making your own mind up there, everyone who reads my blogs will know, my thoughts on awards.

The Alternative Whisky Bible by Paul Mclean of Whisky Tours ~ Mclean Scotland

The Alternative Whisky Bible

As in many avenues in life, there is always an alternative – here is mine.

Paul McLean is the world’s most renowned independent whisky expert (in his own mind).  His Alternative Bible is the world’s newest whisky guide, with Paul having visited more distilleries in his own lunchtime than any other person who has ever lived including his dad (who is a whisky angel). Without fear or favour, after tasting many new whiskies, a thoroughly researched guide to all the whiskies he may have tasted. In terms of whisky, this is the alternative gospel. It has to be said, Paul buys all his own bottles, unless nice people at distilleries give him “drivers share” wee nips, he has no bias, no friends to please, no bulging bank account nor brown envelopes. My best (favourite) whisky of 2019 is a hard choice, high on the list is the fabulous Glendronach 18 year old. I do love a sherry finish and I have scored this 100/100. Why? Because each whisky is different, each person tasting has different tastes and likes/dislikes, I am not trying to be one person telling the world what is the best whisky to drink. I also am a fan of the Glenlivet 50 year old, happily consumed at the distillery library as a gift, thanks IL. A new dram to enter the best whiskies would be a cheap bottle – does it matter what cost? – Tamnavulin sherry finish, I bought, aye – bout, a 1 litre bottle at Tesco for £30! Cheap whisky, but not as we know it Jim. Strange as it maybe, some of my favourite drams seem to appear in my own top ten (or top hundred) consecutive years! Unlike certain other books/novels. I am not a Scotophobe, no, I like Irish, Japanese and other whiskies from around the world, but do think Scotland produces the best, but that’s just me.

No whiskies were hurt in writing this bible, none were thrown away, some were tasted and admittedly never tried again (not to mention names, but there is one from Texas, guests brought me, it was so bad I wouldnee even offer it to a Campbell! It was named after a creek in Texas, my mums name actually, so bad so it was, I now use it in summer months to get all those kamikaze flies of my windscreen). As mentioned, my dad is a whisky angel, my mum Rebecca is an angel, she didnee drink. I hear you ask “where can we buy this alternative bible?”answer; nowhere, I do not wish to make money out of telling the world what in my own mind, is the best dram in the world – even if everyone knows it isnee (I am under the illusion that people can make their own mind up). There are so many good whisky books out there, Ingvar, Charlie, David, Hans etc why would you waste good money on a book that is obviously biased as hell, even the devil doesnee buy that book! Use your money wisely, spend on the drams YOU like and the books that give good information. Aye, I have connections with the grand distillery upstairs, my dad, a pal Speyside, my Priest, and in my own mind, I am the best whisky drinker in the world to tell you what you should be drinking. Excuse me now please, I am away working on the best dram for 2020. PAUL MCLEAN.  Ps; I buy my own shirts too!

Art for arts sake, whisky for my sake by Paul Mclean of Whisky Tours Maclean Scotland

Art for arts sake, whisky for my sake

Christmas is just around the corner. After tramping round the shops for pressies, it becomes time for the whisky selections to your favourite people. How many times have you read the headline “the top ten whiskies to buy”?  Forget that list, any list. Art lies in the eye of the beholder. The best whisky lies in the mouth of the drinker, each person (thankfully) has his/her own favourites, so if everyone is different, how can there be a top ten? By sales? Grandad’s present for years has been a good blend – his age and taste dictates maybe? Can you trust independent reviews?  They may earn commission from some of the retailers/distillers but never allow this to influence your selections! The best whiskies in my view, are the ones you like best. Regardless of price, brand, label or even the shape of the bottle. Why not try a blind tasting, use blue glasses so you cannee see the colour of the dram (even cups if you don’t have coloured glasses, egg cups are good), use a cheap superstore blend, a cheap single malt “on offer” bottle, a well known so called top ten dram and one you may never have tasted or heard of, an expensive one (affordable to your pocket), mix them once poured so you don’t know the order but don’t forget to number them to relate to what whisky it really is. Then get some pals/family to test! You may be surprised. We did just this on tour, the favourite dram came out to be a bottle of Tamnavulin Sherry finish @ £30 a litre! This is a good dram, it beat Macallan, Ben Riach, and ran a Glendronach to a close second.

The whisky bible, forget it, one mans’ view on the best whisky in the world, complete rubbish, he is one man, who is greatly influenced in his choices – does he have a better taste machine than every other person in the world? Aye right. Don’t waste your hard earned money on this slop, use what you would have spent buying it on a bottle, who knows, you may even like it! Do I have favourites? Aye to be sure, but not one, I like many, including Glendronach 18 year old, if you can get it. Dalmore King Alexander, Balvenie 40yo, many Ardbegs and Bowmores. I can go on. Whisky is made for drinking, not sitting on shelves, buy what you can afford, maybe rather than two/three cheapies, get one expensive for a change. Try out miniatures, drams in pubs, even shop tasting nights, a whisky festival. All of this helps you determine what YOU like, not what you are told to like (no mention of JW here if you live in Aisia). Liz has a few good ideas, “don’t tell me what it is” – if she likes it, she looks at the label, she also has the “woo hoo” test, if she drams it and says “ woo hoo”, it goes on here favourites list. Then again, you can save up and join one of our whisky tours, you get many samples drams daily with us.

So, whisky is like art, you like or don’t like an item, you think the price is right, or totally stupid (read Macallan here), it’s all about taste at the end of the day. Enjoy an expensive dram at home, savour it, dinnae swig it, take your time, the pub is there for swillin doon the pints with your pals. Don’t let cost influence you, or the colour of the dram or the bottle shape/design.

Whisky is for DRINKING SLOWLY and enjoying every sip. Have a good peaceful Christmas, drink aware. But the New Year resolution could be a revolution! PAUL MCLEAN

Haggis, neeps & tatties with a dram or three by Paul Mclean of Whisky Tours ~ Mclean Scotland

Haggis, neeps & tatties with a dram or three

This is an interview with a friend, a Swede (in Scotland this is a neep). I first met Ingvar when we shared a table at awhisky event in Helsinki many moons ago. We seemed to hit it off right away and have met every year since.  He started coming on tour with some pals of his (photo above – the usual suspects) researching the following year book. Now he comes alone, him and I, driving around, meeting distillery people and sharing good times. He is back in May 2020, right after his brother comes on tour with us – May is usually the “Swedish month” and no exception next year. Annoyingly, he is only two years younger than me but looks ten! Here is a wee chat with him … don’t forget my samples of drams!

What gave you the idea to publish a yearbook about whisky? (I know the answer, but readers maybe won’t).

My first whisky trip to Scotland was in summer 1980. I toured Speyside with a friend and we went to Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, Strathisla and Glenfarclas. I was instantly hooked and malt whisky became a hobby of mine. Many years later, after having worked in different areas but mainly publishing, I was in a position where I wanted to do something different in terms of work. I noticed that there was a huge amount of Yearbooks on the market, targeting every conceivable topic (dogs, cars, guns etc) but nothing about whisky. Finding myself in need of such a book and with a background in publishing I decided to go about and publish one myself, hoping that there would be other whisky enthusiasts struggling to get a summarized, yearly update on the whisky market. And thankfully there were.

How did you start with these high profile writers for the book? Charlie Maclean included. Especially on the first book, you must have been a novice then.

I was a novice in the sense that I did not know any of the famous gurus of the whisky world. I called a guy named Ulf Buxrud, a famous collector of Macallan, who happened to live in my town. I knew that he had helped start up a number of whisky clubs in Sweden and he was also a Keeper of the Quaich. I told him about my idea of doing a Yearbook and asked if he could help me with some contacts. We had lunch and the day after I could send emails to people like Michael Jackson, Charlie Maclean and Helen Arthur, asking them if the would be willing to help me get this Yearbook idea started by writing articles for the first edition. I´ll always be grateful to Ulf for opening the doors to the whisky illuminati. In the following years, these great writers have become personal friends.

Malt Whisky Yearbook 2020 edition is a revised book with new information on more than 400 whisky distilleries from all over the world., I know, I was with you last year for some of the research, how do you ensure you get the latest info?

Actually, the number of distilleries in the latest edition is not “more than 400” but precisely 591! The vast majority of these new distilleries have been established in countries outside of Scotland. This year, I actually went back to my first edition of the Yearbook (written in 2005) to see the development of distilleries in certain countries over the years. In 2005 I had a combined number of malt whisky distilleries in USA, Canada, Australia, England, France and Germany of 16. In the latest edition that number had risen to 292! And in Scotland, 33 new distilleries have opened between 2000 and 2019 and don´t get me started on Ireland! Obviously there is a need for a Malt Whisky Yearbook me thinks.

How long does it take to complete the book each year?

Usually I start working on the next edition of the Yearbook in early February and then it is published beginning of October. Having said that, my research for every Yearbook is an ongoing thing. I always make notes when I stumble on something new worth writing about.

Stupid question really, but you know me by now, how do you select the cover image?

Not a stupid question – have been asked that a lot. Usually I fancy very detailed pictures (inside of a cask, a bung or a small part of a still) just to make it stand out from most of the other whisky books where a glass of whisky on a black background is the cover (I know, I’ve done that myself once because it´s actually quite cool).

Each year you select a different region, next year is Speyside, do you personally have a favourite region to visit?

I love Speyside because it´s very convenient if you wish to visit a number of distilleries in a short period of time – they are everywhere! I also adore doing a combined trip to the western parts where you can visit some of the isles, add a few mainland distilleries and also get some fantastic views of an amazing landscape. Having said that, going north of Inverness is also rewarding with, admittedly, fewer distilleries but breath taking views. Extending the trip to Orkney makes it a stunning journey!

What other books have you written/published?

So far I have published 21 books on whisky (six of them in Swedish) but have also managed to do three books on birds – another hobby of mine.

You live in Malmö, Sweden, how different/similar to Scotland is it? (I keep threatening to visit, one day).

Malmö (the southern tip of Sweden, opposite Copenhagen) is quite different from the highlands but I suppose it could remind you of the lowlands. A rural countryside with fields of barley, wheat and sugar beets. The weather is quite similar with mild, rainy winters (and occasionally snow) but probably a bit warmer in the summer compared to Scotland.

What is the nearest whisky distillery to you?

The nearest distillery is Spirit of Hven on the island of Ven in the sound between Denmark and Sweden. Actually, we have had a summer cottage on the island for the past 40 years and our closest neighbour is Henric and Anja Molin, the owners of the distillery. Every summer I go to the distillery to have a walk around and a chat with Henric. He´s doing some amazing things not just with traditional whisky from malted barley but also rye and corn. Very innovative and exciting!

You have been a writer and publisher for twenty years, what did you do before that? (again, I know, but maybe you don’t)  There is talk of a DJ, can you explain the DJRonde?

OK, let´s start with the DJ thing (although I would’t call it that. Those are your words). I did a series for six years on national radio playing English and American dance band music from the 20s and 30s. A total of 260 shows covered the likes of Bert Ambrose, Lew Stone, Jack Hylton and Nat Gonella (if anyone remembers those names). After my graduate as an MBA in economics I worked for an electrical company but left after six years to start up a chain of retail stores selling equipment for the outdoors. Meanwhile I was working in publishing, doing campaigns for tourists wanting to spend their vacation in Sweden. My business partner and I sold off the outdoor chain some twenty years ago and while I pursued the whisky writing business, Peter became a baker in Edinburgh and opened up a bakery and a chain of outlets called Peter´s Yard which became quite famous.

Working from home as I know you do, how distracted can your lab become? (Ingvar has a black Labrador)

My lab (Vilda) doesn´t distract me at all. On the contrary, she´s an integral part of the Yearbook work. She lies faithfully in her bed by my desk (like any lab would do) until it´s time to take a walk. And she keeps me from sitting too long by my computer with the risk of contracting a bad back.

I know you share a hobby (a mad one) with your brother,  bird watching since the early 1970s. Do you tweet?

Haven´t got the faintest idea what you mean – there´s nothing mad about bird watching. But apart from that, you´re absolutely right. I’ve been a bird watcher since I was thirteen and I suppose you could call me a twitcher, however nowadays I don´t jump into my car to drive 200 miles in order to secure yet another new species. For the past ten years or so it´s been more about micro birding which means that you try to see as many species as you can in the surroundings of your own home town. Possibly a combination of not having that much time to go birding and trying to be environmentally friendly.

You are a fan of The Boss, when did this start?

It all started in 1980 when I attended a concert of his in Copenhagen. Have seen him live around twenty times since then and still consider him one of my three rock and roll heroes with Bob Dylan and Van Morison being the other two. Hopefully he will be in Sweden for yet another concert with the E Street Band  in the near future and I´ll be there!

You are also a big fan of Star wars – you know it’s no real don’t you?

(Suggest we skip that question)

And, you love Scottish history, have you ever thought of a book on this subject?

I do love Scottish history and I actually added a small chapter about that in one of my latest books on whisky but to write an entire book on that subject I feel I need to know a lot more. Perhaps after having done another 5 or 6 trips with you, then I could do it.

Having been all over Scotland in your research, I was amazed last year when we went through Glencoe/Rannoch Moor at your reaction, is there any other location that gave you that reaction? We need drive to Applecross Ingvar!

The passage across Glencoe last year was amazing! Stunning views for at least an hour drive. I actually had the same kind of reaction the first time I went to Orkney. Yesnaby cliffs, Italian chapel and Skara Brae were fantastic. Applecross is still on my bucket list so yes, let´s go there soon.

How long do you think you will continue with the Malt Whisky Yearbook?

Very easy to answer. I´m now 62 and I´m seven years older than my wife. In Sweden we generally retire at 65 but I wouldn´t want to sit around the house in my slippers doing absolutely nothing while my wife is still working. So my plan is to carry on with the Yearbook until I´m 72 and then retire at the same time as my wife does.

What do your wife and daughter think of the whisky king and his fame? Let’s face it you are famous.

Even though they are a bit proud of what I’ve accomplished with the book (not to mention the fact that I was inducted as a Keeper of the Quaich a couple of years ago) neither of them enjoy whisky so to be honest I definitely don´t feel like a celebrity at home. I guess the same goes for Brad Pitt, George Clooney and the likes of them.

Don’t forget to send me the distilleries we are to visit in May, I need get my plans worked on. Should be less driving this year, grand! We should be calling on people we both know well, looking forward to this.

Way less driving. Will keep you posted!

#FreeTheWhisky ~ The Liquor rules and regulations have yet to change in British Columbia – Whisky News

“An injustice against one is an injustice against all.”

On the morning of January 18, 2018 three liquor inspectors from the BC Liquor Control and Licencing Branch (BCLB) attended Fets in a rented U-Haul van, filled with empty boxes. They entered the premises, requested the attendance of the Vancouver Police Department, and after briefly interviewing one of the owners of the establishment, they seized (over a period of several hours) 242 bottles of Scotch whisky, all of one brand; The Scotch Malt Whisky Society. They did so without a search warrant, and they did not advise the owner that Fets was being investigated for an offence, for which she could be jailed if convicted.

Simultaneous raids were conducted in Victoria at Little Jumbo and the Union Club as well as The Grand Hotel in Nanaimo. All 4 establishments were Scotch Malt Whisky Society Partner Bars and the only whisky taken at each location were the SMWS bottles.

Believing the actions of the BCLB to be improper, Fets refused to accept the penalty imposed by the BCLB and requested a hearing. Fets requested documents related to the investigation and this was refused by the BCLB; a subsequent Freedom of Information request was heavily redacted and arrived after the submissions deadline. Finally, following the hearing, on June 6, 2019 a delegate of the General Manager of the BCLB (in other words, the same organization that laid the charges makes the decision on whether their actions were lawful) issued a 64 page written decision confirming their view that the actions of the liquor inspectors were lawful, and confirming the monetary penalty against Fets in the amount of $3,000. Fets applied, as required under the Act, to have the decision reconsidered. The BCLB upheld the original decision and therefore Fets has appealed the decision to the BC Supreme Court under a judicial review application.

The General Manager’s decision, if not varied or rescinded, will set a dangerous precedent for all liquor licensees in British Columbia. In summary, the decision confirms as acceptable the following practices of the Branch and liquor inspectors:

When a licensee is faced with enforcement action, the Branch only needs to disclose to it the documents that help it prove the contravention. It is not required to produce any other
documents from its files that may assist the licensee in avoiding the contravention;

The General Manager’s delegate is not required to maintain an “open mind” during an enforcement hearing. It is acceptable for he or she to make up their mind at the very outset of the hearing, before evidence and submissions are made;

Liquor inspectors who observe liquor that in their opinion is kept contrary to the Act, can return at any time without a search warrant to seize it;

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees individuals the right to be free from unreasonable (warrantless) searches and the right to be informed of the potential for jail time, does not apply to the enforcement of British Columbia’s liquor licensing regime; and

Liquor inspectors can rely on the “mandatory cooperation” powers contained in s.42 of the Act to conscript evidence from licensees that may be used in a prosecution of an offence for which imprisonment is a potential penalty.

All licensees should take notice of this dangerous and potentially precedent setting decision. Although currently it is only Fets Whisky Kitchen dealing with the fallout, soon it will be other bars, restaurants and LRS’s who may face warrantless searches of their premises, and procedurally unfair hearings. British Columbians deserve better.

To date the costs fighting this exceed $40,000 and Fets is committed to an additional $30,000 to take this to the Supreme Court of British Columbia. These costs do not include the value of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society whiskies that were seized, those were valued, at the time of seizure, at more than $40,000, and all are irreplaceable. Fets is cautiously optimistic that the courts will side in Fets’ favour, but the government, with unlimited resources, can appeal the ruling. All funds raised are going towards this fight and any additional or excess funds will be put towards our lobbying efforts to see the implementation of the recommendations Mark Hicken laid out in the 2018 Liquor review. We will pledge any other remaining funds to the BC Hospitality Foundation.

Thank you for your support and together we can hold the government accountable to the Charter and amend our province’s archaic liquor laws.

Help us with this fight Here

If you wish to better understand how the decision could impact your establishment, or are interested in participating or assisting in a potential judicial review of the decision please contact our lawyer Dan Coles at or Owen Bird Law

Whisky originates from Ireland by Paul Mclean of Whisky Tours ~ Mclean Scotland

Whisky originates from Ireland

Whisky expert Dave Broom, from Glasgow, says  Scotland’s national drink has its’ origins in Ireland. He said there is “strong evidence” whisky may have been first developed in Ireland and brought to Islay, to be drunk at the seat of the High Kings (is he talking about the Macdonald’s?).

Broom said: “If you look at the north of Ireland and across to Islay, that’s the cradle of distillation… but the first record I found is in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.” Film producer Adam Park (The Amber Light), said research carried out for the film suggests the Beaton family, who were Irish physicians, (related to the Maclean’s) developed a vast international knowledge of botanical remedies.  They were most likely to be instrumental in creating what would become the first Scotch whisky. “The Beatons were pretty amazing people, they travelled the world translating medical scripts and building their knowledge,” he said “They came to service of the High Kings and became experts in distilling spirit and added to it the plants and flowers that grew around them.”  Let’s be fair here; the Beatons, whose family name appears as MacMeic-bethad and MacBeth, are believed to have first arrived on Islay in the 13th century at the time of the marriage between Aine O’Cathain and Angus Og MacDonald, Lord Of The Isles and also closely associated with the Maclean Clan. The Beaton family became hereditary physicians to the Scottish crown, serving Robert The Bruce and every subsequent Scottish king, while also providing medical knowledge to clan chiefs from the Western Isles to the Lowlands.  Here we go –  a spokesman for the Scotch Whisky Association said: “The earliest known record of Scotch Whisky production dates from the Exchequer Rolls of 1494, but it is likely the ‘Aqua Vitae’ was being produced long before this date. It is likely early development of distillation in Scotland and Ireland took place in parallel, ultimately leading to two distinct global industries.”

I have said numerous times, the Irish invented whisk(e)y. The first written account of distilling in Ireland comes from Kilkenny in the 14th century with the Red Book of Ossory and the Kilkenny Whiskey Guild are celebrating and highlighting this history. The Red Book of Ossory is a fourteenth century register of the diocese which is associated with Richard Ledred who was Bishop of Ossory, 1317/60. The volume contains copies of documents which would have been important for the administration of the diocese – constitutions and taxations, memoranda relating to rights and privileges, deeds and royal letters. The register is, however, best known for the texts of songs composed by Bishop Ledred for the vicars choral of St Canice’s Cathedral ‘so that their mouths be not defiled with theatrical, foul and secular songs’. It also contains a treatise on acqua vitae (whiskey to you and me). Richard Ledred is must be noted, is the notorious Bishop who went on to tackle what he considered the important issue of witchcraft. He chased Dame Alice Kyteler out of the country and burned poor Petronella de Meat, her maidservant, for witchcraft. Check out;

Birthplace of Irish Whiskey. Ballykeefe Distillery is situated in Co. Kilkenny the heartland of Ireland, adjacent to its medieval capital, Kilkenny city. It is steeped in a historic heritage and tradition, holding the unique distinction of being the birthplace of Irish whiskey. It is from this area that the first written account of distilling in Ireland comes in 1324 in the Red Book of Ossory. The word “Whiskey” is an Anglicisation of the Gaelic phrase, uisce beatha, meaning “water of life”.

I have great respect for David Broom, in a way, we agree that the Irish started whiskey and the Scots took it under their wing a century or so later. Why do I write these articles/blogs? Because I can. My life evolves totally around whisky, I buy and sell it, I discuss it, I write about it, I visit so many distilleries with my tour company – it’s in ma hoose it’s in ma blood! Why is our whisky blog called the ANGEL’S BLOG? Named after a few things really, the angel’s share; the amount of alcohol (whisky) that is lost to evaporation when the liquid is being aged in oak barrels. The angel’s share. My Dad; he has been an angel for some 60 years or so, liked a dram when he was with us (I was told by my Uncle Harry) and I believe he is still taking his share in that distillery in the sky. I write almost all of the whisky blogs, with a few being from friends around the whisky world now and then. Club Patron (it did used to be a club) is another Maclean, this time of the Charlie variety; Charles Maclean. We know Charlie well (cousin) early on Paul (McLean) asked Charlie if he wished to become a club member, his reply; “Yes and I will be your Club Patron”.  And so it came to pass … you can find him here; If you like a good read, an argument and a debate, take a look, there are tons of blogs waitin for you here; PAUL MCLEAN Perth Scotland, also Kilkenny Ireland.

Wee note; notice the Irish Cowan’s whisky doesnee have an E

A dram too far? by Paul Mclean of Whisky Tours ~ Mclean Scotland

A dram too far?

Planning permission has been granted for Ardgowan’s proposed site in Inverkip, on the banks of the River Clyde about 30 miles west of Glasgow, with construction set to begin in 2020. So in all honesty how can this be called a distillery release when said distillery HAS NOT BEEN BUILT! Nor even started! Max McFarlane, whisky maker for the yet-to-be-constructed distillery, said: “In our first release I wanted to produce a top-drawer blended malt and I believe that is what we have achieved. All the single malts going in are from first-fill Sherry casks, which is unique in the industry – it’s something I’ve always wanted to do.’” EH? Distilleries cannot launch a dram if the distillery does not exist, a blend at that. Coppersmith comprises whiskies sourced from unnamed Speyside and highland distilleries, all aged in first-fill Oloroso sherry casks, before being bottled at 48% abv.  The whisky will be available in specialist retailers worldwide from 1 October and can be pre-ordered on the Ardgowan Distillery website, website before distillery … is this actually legal? McFarlane said the yet to be announced second entry in the Clydebuilt series will also consist of first fill sherry cask malts but sourced from different distilleries. Ardgowan’s first bottling, released earlier this year, was a 20 year old blended malt containing whisky that has visited the South Pole.

This “distillery release” is highland and Speyside by the way, NOT EVEN LOWLAND WHERE IT WILL BE BUILT!!! The Ardgowan Distillery will be sited on Ardgowan Estate, owned by Sir Ludovic ‘Ludo’ Shaw-Stewart, and which has historical ties to Robert the Bruce, who fought in the area twice, and Pocahontas – Michael Shaw Stewart, fifth Baronet of Ardgowan Estate married Eliza Farquhar in 1819, who was a direct descendant of the native American princess. Oh my God, will we be seeing the first Pocahontas whiskies? What are your thoughts on this? Should this be renamed Shipbuilders Shoulder? This makes a mockery out of whisky awards; The Ardgowan Distillery’s very first whisky “Expedition” has been awarded a gold medal in in the 2019 Scottish Whisky Awards. The 20-year-old premium blended malt won the Blended Malt 12 year and over category at the prestigious awards held in Edinburgh. I ASK AGAIN – HOW CAN A DISTILLERY WIN AN AWARD WHEN THERE IS no DISTILLERY? AND IT IS not THEIR OWN WHISKY! The exclusive dram – which was created specially by Ardgowan Chairman Willie Phillips – was  ranked against its’ peers in a number of categories.  Ardgowan Expedition 20 year old is a blended malt which includes classic single casks from upper Speyside and the northern highlands. The 600 bottle run also contains whisky which has travelled to the South Pole and back, carried by polar explorer Robert Swan OBE. By the way, this not April 1st.  Is it me? Or are you in agreement? Come on SWA, make a ruling here.

A Truism.

THE MCLEANSCOTLAND WHISKY INTERVIEW by Paul Mclean of Whisky Tours ~ Mclean Scotland


This (interview) chat was with a pal I’ve know some years now, a hard one to be honest, as he is a part of the church and, me being Catholic, be careful what I ask!  Even so, it was fun.

Who are you and what do you do?

My name is Vic Cameron, and I am a minister and whisky consultant. Yes, quite a difference in roles, however I am ‘living the dream’. Pastoring my church and travelling the world doing whisky consultancy is my dream job. I am also a husband, father and Drowdie (that’s a grandfather) and a passionate follower of Forres Mechanics Football Club.

What whisky do you collect if any and why?

I don’t really collect whisky as such; I am a firm believer that whisky is purchased for drinking and enjoying. I have nothing of course against whisky collectors; however, it is not for me. There are certain whiskies I thought that I will keep. I’m always on the look out for whiskies with distillation dates when I was based on a particular site. So, I’m always on the look out for Blair Athol and Aberfeldy from 1995 and 1996, and Dailuaine and Benrinnes from 2000 to 2003.

How did your passion for whisky begin?

I was never really into whisky as a young man but got a taste for good whisky while I was training to be a Distillery Manager with Diageo. I was 29 at the time and was based at a good site (which will remain nameless) working under an experienced manager (who will also remain nameless). One Friday afternoon I was informed we were going for a walk round the warehouse and we ended up at the back of one next to a 30 year old sherry cask. Samples were drawn and drams were poured and I was offered one. “I don’t drink whisky”, I said. I was told in no uncertain terms, with a few expletives thrown in for effect, that if I wanted to be a Distillery Manager, I had to drink whisky. So, I did, and it was wonderful; it was smooth (even at about 55% alcohol) and delicious and I have never looked back. It was also at this point that I saw distilling as a vocation and career and not just a job.

Would you like to see the closed distilleries rebuilt? Any one in particular?

I’m probably not the best person to ask this question seeing as I stood up in a training session a couple of years ago and stated that Diageo would never open Port Ellen or Brora! So, I’ve not got a great history in this respect. There are of course many sites that could be opened again. It is good to see the ‘old giants’ opening again; Port Ellen, Brora and Rosebank for example. As a local Forres boy it would be nice to see Dallas Dhu opening again, just to have another distillery in Forres to go along with Benromach and increase employment and visitors in the area.

The prices for certain whiskies keep on climbing. How does that affect your decision to keep or open a bottle?

I have to say that I will not pay what I think to be silly prices. You can still get great whisky for good prices; you can get a decent dram from the SMWS for under £60 in my opinion. Up here we can get good distillery bottlings at decent prices from Glen Moray and Benromach. And as I’ve said before I buy to enjoy not invest, so if I buy a bottle, I will open it eventually.

How do you feel about whisky investment – and do you consider yourself an ‘investor’?

As I’ve said I do not see myself as an ‘investor’ but nothing against those that are good at it and think they can make some money from it. Sometimes it bugs me when I see something that has just come out being sold on Facebook and auction sites almost immediately but that is always going to happen.

Do you think you’d be as passionate about whisky if you didn’t have connections so immersed in it?

No, I don’t think I would. Having worked in the industry for so long and being involved in so many aspects of the industry has seen my passion increase over the years. Now I just love being involved in this wonderful industry, that is known about all over the world. Everywhere I go in the world, once people know I am Scottish they want to talk about whisky, and I love that.

What are the most prized bottles in your collection?

It would be whisky distilled when I was in the management team at that site, so they would be my 1996 Gordon and MacPhail Aberfeldy, 2000 Cadenhead’s Benrinnes and 2002 Gordon and MacPhail Dailuaine.

Do you like sharing your own bottles?

Aye, I certainly do. Whisky is for sharing and I love drinking my whisky with my family and friends. I have found that people who are passionate about whisky are also normally generous as well and I’d like to think that my friends would say I was a very generous host with regards to my whisky.

What do you think about the modern whisky industry and the finishes of the product?

I think we are seeing some really exciting things happening in the industry right now. I had the great pleasure to be the Technical Advisor in the first ever Scottish Whisky Awards recently and saw the great entries that came in for this competition. The industry is full of experienced and innovative people doing great work and I am very excited about what they are doing now. And this includes what both the established guys and the new guys are doing; there is space in the industry for both.

What’s been the greatest whisky experience of your life so far?

I think it is what I am doing currently; having people put their trust and confidence in me, allowing me to work for them as a consultant. That is an amazing experience and means I have seen many parts of the world that I would never have been to, such as Myanmar and Singapore.

What are your holy grail bottles to taste/own/find?

For me it must be the ones I help to make!

Talking of Holy Grail, what drew you into becoming a spiritual leader? And your role with the higher spirits?

I started attending church in the early 1990s but soon fell away. I came back after the Twin Towers terrorist attack and made a real commitment to the Lord. I became a leader in the church fairly quickly and then studied via correspondence and on-site training to become an ordained minister (yes, I can call myself Reverend Cameron). I did this while working for Diageo and started leading a church in my ‘spare time’. 5 years ago, I felt led to change my work/church balance in order to work more in the church, so I left my full-time role with Diageo. I then started a consultancy business and done that in my ‘spare time’. And this is what I am still doing.

I do class my main job as Pastor (or minster). I love this job, being there for people and helping them live their lives. I like seeing people achieve their potential and I feel I can help them do this in my spiritual role.

How do you blend both pastimes? Is pastimes the correct word?

Maybe pastimes is not the correct word but I’m OK with that. Perhaps vocations would be a better word to use? I am very blessed at church in that I have a good team of leaders around me who can take the strain of the ministry as and when I am away on business. I love the freedom I have just now, being able to juggle my time according to what is needed. I can minster during the day for example and work at night, something that was not possible with a full-time secular job. So, I can be available for people in the church more than I used to be. I am passionate about both my vocations and feel if I manage my time well, I can do both.

What of the future?

Who knows! But whatever it is I am really excited about it. I have a few projects in the consultancy business about to start that are very exciting, both at home and abroad (watch this space), and that will keep me busy. I am also excited about our church project in India, where we have built and now run, an orphan and widow feeding station. I visit ever year and am about to go out again soon. In the long term I hope to live for half the year in India and build a school near our feeding station. So, lots of plans and lots of things to do? And of course keep enjoying a wee dram every now and again!


Dewar’s to launch Caribbean Smooth ~ by Paul Mclean of Whisky Tours ~ Mclean Scotland

Dewar’s to launch Caribbean Smooth

an eight year old whisky blend finished in rum casks – as the first in a new series of ‘innovative’ blends set for release over the next few years.  The whisky has been finished in rum casks for ‘around six months’ before being bottled at 40% abv. Priced at US$21.99, Dewar’s Caribbean Smooth is available exclusively in the US and Canada from 1 October. MY QUESTION IS how can a rum cask flavour this dram in under six months? Casks were sourced straight from the Caribbean and brought to Glasgow to be filled with an 8 year old blend. SECOND QUESTION as the new laws on whisky came out in June, June to September is only 3 months or so, when did Dewar’s obtain the casks? Did they know in advance the changes about to come into force? What if it hadnee happened? How long does it take to formulate a blend, then re cask and bottle, then have it available the other side of the world?  All since June and mid September? Come on, somebody is pulling the wool here! How did Glenfiddich Distillery get away with it? Like many industries, it seems to me that whisky has many hidden, hidden/underhand deals going on behind the scenes, far too much money is at stake to just take chances. What did Glen Moray  do with those cider casks? It seems to me that the big boys in the whisky industry get away with things, that wee distillers cannee. Why did they decide to only launch in North America? Are the rules different? Are the drinkers less knowledgeable? Like JW did with their ill-fated Jane Walker, use that region as a guinea pig? If all goes horribly wrong, just dinnae mention it again and forget it. The amendment to the Scotch whisky technical file, made in June 2019, allowed Scotch whisky producers to use a wider variety of casks for maturation, including ex-Tequila and Calvados casks. However, rum casks were already permitted for the maturation of Scotch before the rule change, with recent examples including Glenfiddich Fire & Cane and Ardbeg Drum. The amendment to the Scotch Whisky Technical File, gives specific guidance on which casks can be used to mature or ‘finish’ Scotch whisky, with new text as follows:

The full detailed guff;  ‘The spirit must be matured in new oak casks and/or in oak casks which have only been used to mature wine (still or fortified) and/or beer/ale and/or spirits with the exception of: wine, beer/ale or spirits produced from, or made with, stone fruits – beer/ale to which fruit, flavouring or sweetening has been added after fermentation – spirits to which fruit, flavouring or sweetening has been added after distillation and where such previous maturation is part of the traditional processes for those wines, beers/ales or spirits. Regardless of the type of cask used, the resulting product must have the traditional colour, taste and aroma characteristics of Scotch Whisky.’ In practice, the new rules mean that distillers can now mature Scotch whisky in a much wider variety of casks, including those previously used to age agave spirits (including Tequila and mezcal), Calvados, barrel-aged cachaça, shochu and baijiu, as well as some other fruit spirits. The rules also do not allow the use of ex-cider casks, despite the launch of a cider cask-finished single malt by Speyside single malt Glen Moray in October last year. In January 2018, a report by The Wall Street Journal claimed that Diageo, the world’s biggest Scotch whisky producer, had formed a ‘secret task force’ to explore possible changes to Scotch’s strict production rules, including ‘finishing’ Scotch whisky in casks previously used to mature Don Julio Tequila, which the company owns. At the time, the plans were said to have been rebuffed by the SWA. There is more of this than meets the eye, have Diageo been “up to dealings”? Most distillers have been supportive of Scotch whisky’s strict production regulations, but some have privately expressed concerns recently that the tight rules governing cask maturation in particular might be putting Scotch at a commercial disadvantage to rival whisky categories.  Balvenie have used rum casks for many years now, is it just me? I don’t understand this “new development”. PAUL MCLEAN



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