Vignettes – Moments in Whisky

Vignettes in Whisky Trip to Taiwan – part 3/3 By Mark Dermul, Belgium

Trip to Taiwan – part 3/3

By Mark Dermul, Belgium

Apart from being a whisky blogger and vlogger, Mark Dermul from Belgium also works part time as whisky expert for the auction platform Catawiki. In that capacity he was recently sent – together with two colleagues – to Taiwan on a whisky business trip.

This is his report.

Part 3 of 3.

Whisky Bars

Doing business in Taiwan is mired in cultural do’s and don’ts. Luckily, the Taiwanese people are very open, honest, welcoming and forgiving, so we did not worry too much. But a lot of business starts with a meal, continues in a bar and is concluded with some karaoke, it seems. We had lots of fun. Allow me to point out a few bars of interest that we visited.

Backyard Jr is a lovely little whisky bar (little to be taken with a grain of salt for their range is eye-watering) in the famous Breeze Center near the famous Taipei 101 shopping center.


I unfortunately did not note the name of the karaoke bar, but we were treated to Balvenie 21 Year Old and the Taiwan exclusive Macallan Aera. Very nice.

The aforementioned whisky bar in the Hotel Kuva Chateau is a must-visit if you are in Taoyuan. Their whisky list of over 2.000 open bottles is very well organized. Every bottle has a code, to help the bartender locate it in the bar that comprises some four walls.


In Taichung, you have a grand view of the city from the Lounge One bar on the 29th floor of one of the modern skyscrapers that dot the city skyline. A life band of jazz musicians entertains while you sip your favorite malt or bourbon. I had a Glen Ord 18 and Bunna XXV.


Apart from these whisky bars, where we enjoyed a few great sips, the best drams were had while visiting some collectors (who by now have become friends). While they will not be named for privacy reasons, I can say I’ve had some of my most amazing whisky’s in their den. A shortlist, if you’ll allow me:

  • Macallan 25yo (b 1980s)
  • Springbank 1966 (b 1997)
  • Macallan 14yo Moon Import (b 1980s)
  • Rosebank 1967 Signatory (b 1998)
  • JJ&S Liqueur Dublin Whisky (b 1960s)
  • Glen Scotia 8 Year Old (b 1950s)
  • Port Ellen 14 Year Old 1979 Wilson & Morgan (b 1993)
  • Caol Ila 15 Year Old The Manager’s Dram (b 1990)
  • Lagavulin 13 Year Old 1979 Wilson & Morgan (b 1993)
  • Laphroaig 10 Year Old Bonfantimport (b 1970s)
  • Talisker 1955 Gordon & Macphail (b 1992)


Nuff said…


All this beautiful liquid would almost make you forget that Taiwan is also a beautiful country in its own right with many sights to see.

People who know me, know that I am not one to be dumbfounded easily. But when visiting the monuments and temples in Taiwan, I have to admit, I was truly humbled. Not just by the buildings, but also by what they signify, the people who pray in them and were very inviting, the fantastic gardens and parks.

I was impressed with the Shing Tien Kong Temple (Five Saviours), the Dalongdong Baoan Temple and mostly with the Confucius Temple. The Square of Democracy with the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall is just stunning. Goosebumps, anyone?


Tapei is a bustling city that captivates, especially at night (it is a city that never sleeps), while Taichung was more open, less busy and thus actually – to me – more enjoyable. But one thing is for sure… I am definitely in love with Taiwan and its people and hope to one day return here.


After a week – that truly seemed much shorter – in Tawain, I can honestly say that we did good business, made plenty of new friends, had the best food ever, drank liquid history and to top it all off, I was able to pick up two new bottles of Auchentoshan at the airport. Ha! This trip was perfect.


I would like to extend my sincere thanks to Mr Wang and his staff, Mr Hsien, Mr Lin, Ms Lin, Mr C and all the staff at both the Landis, Tempus and Kuva hotels for their gracious generosity and hospitality. You have made this trip one that will be long remembered. Xièxiè!

I also wish to thank my colleagues at Catawiki for the opportunity to travel to Taiwan.

Last but not least I would like to thank my better half Sofie, who continues to support me in all my crazy whisky and other adventures. Thank you, sweetheart.

May the Malt be with you!

The 1st part was published on February 17th and the 2nd and February 24th.


Vignettes in Whisky Trip to Taiwan – part 2/3 By Mark Dermul, Belgium

Trip to Taiwan – part 2/3

By Mark Dermul, Belgium

Apart from being a whisky blogger and vlogger, Mark Dermul from Belgium also works part time as whisky expert for the auction platform Catawiki. In that capacity he was recently sent – together with two colleagues – to Taiwan on a whisky business trip.

This is his report.

Part 2 of 3.

The Kuva Spirits Collection

Taoyuan, a city south of Taipei, is the home of the five star Hotel Kuva Chateau. It’s claim to fame among whisky aficionados is their spirits collection (which as it happens consists about 95% of whisky bottles). If you’ve ever been to the Whisky Experience in Scotland and witnessed that fine collection of bottles, wait until you see this!


I’m not sure words can do this collection justice, but neither can photos. You have to be there and see it for yourself. I perused this collection for about an hour, taking hundreds of photos, while being discreetly shadowed by a security guard who kept smiling benignly and was very politely making sure I did not try to pry open any of the highly secured glass cabinets.


Every Scottish distillery is represented and every high end bottle showcased. Macallan 40, Talisker 40, Black, White & Gold Bowmore, Auchentoshan 1965, Springbank 50, the list goes on… There were also hundreds of independent releases – even a few released by people I know personally. Funny.

And if you are wondering where all that Japanese whisky with age statement went, look no further. I kid you not, there were no less than 6 shelves filled with Yamazaki 12 and Hakushu 12 and the likes. Amazing display around the faux still in the center of the… shop? Museum?


Our host had announced our arrival and none other than the assistant to the president of the hotel, took it upon himself to invite us to the whisky bar of the hotel. Well, with a whisky menu the size of a telephone book, it was hard to make a selection. Over 2.000 open bottles! After a couple of local Omar Single Casks, he opened up his very last bottle of Yamazaki 12 Year Old Pure Malt (as it was called when bottled in the late 1980s). Liquid history.


For those interested: the Kuva Hotel hosts Taiwan’s largest whisky festival in August.

For a whisky lover, a visit to the Kuva hotel is truly unforgettable.

High End Whisky Shops

It’s no secret that Taiwan has a whisky community that is hardly rivaled anywhere in the world. Taipei, the capital in the north of this beautiful country – has quite a few whisky shops. I could not resist visiting them and what I saw there was often pretty impressive.

In the heart of the city, we visited Whisky112. The shelves were stacked with very high-end limited bottlings. The whole range of Port Ellen, Chichibu, Black Bowmore, … you name it, they most likely have it. And while I was salivating over some bottles, trying to decide whether I should take one of them home, the credit card said no…


On the other side of town, in the suburbs of Taipei, we visited the shop One Whisky World. Again we were dumbfounded with what was on offer. While this shop had many more standard releases, they also had many Taiwan exclusives and special releases. The owner, Mrs Lin, was about to select a cask of GlenDronach and invited us to try the three cask samples she had received. One was a GlenDronach oloroso cask, the other two were Pedro Ximenez. The oloroso was clearly the more complex, the two PX were much more accessible.


I explained to Mrs Lin as follows: ‘The PX I would share with friends, the oloroso I would keep for myself.’ She nodded her understanding, but I secretly hope – and think – that she will bottle all three.

While it was running close to midnight, our host suddenly got a call. A befriended couple was about to open a new whisky shop the very next day and wondered if we might be interested in a sneak peek. Do bears shit in the woods (excuse my French)? Off we went.

Upon arrival, we noticed that the shop did not yet have a billboard with the shop’s name on the store front. And the people inside were still very busy with filling up the shelves. Wait? What?! The bottles there were putting on the shelves were flabbergasting. The shop will specialize (or by the time you read this: specializes) in Macallan, Karuizawa, Yamazki and Chichibu. I tried (and failed miserably) not to drool.


The next whisky shop we visited was in Taichung, a 45-minute ride on the high speed rail train. It was right next to a lobster restaurant where we were treated to a meal that was beyond delicious. Truth be told, every meal that I had in Taiwan was outstanding. Take out Chinese in my neck of the woods will never taste good again, I fear.

This whisky shop was rather ‘normal’ if you know what I mean. Mostly the standard releases that you find in Europe as well, but upholstered with many Taiwan exclusives, especially from Johnnie Walker and Glenlivet.

The whisky shop we visited after lunch – which was also the last whisky shop we visited – however, was again one that offered bottlings that would make your eyes pop out. The funny thing is, that the Spirits Salon’s storefront was so non-descript that you’d be forgiven for driving by without a second glance. How weird, considering what is on their shelves.


Recent bottlings? Hardly any. Old and rare bottlings galore! Almost all Rare Malts, lots of black labeled dumpy bottlings from Cadenhead, a whole range of old Connoisseurs Choice releases by Gordon & Macphail with those old and ugly brown labels. And what about that Karuizawa 28 Year Old 1984 for ANA Intercontinental? I doubled checked my insurance before handling the bottle, for the price tag was 6.000 euros. Boy, oh, boy… if it were not for another appointment with a Catawiki seller, we’d probably still be there.

The 1st part was published on February 17th and the final part 3 will be published on March 3rd.


Vignettes in Whisky Trip to Taiwan – part 1/3 By Mark Dermul, Belgium

Vignettes in Whisky

Trip to Taiwan – part 1/3

By Mark Dermul, Belgium

Apart from being a whisky blogger and vlogger, Mark Dermul from Belgium also works part time as whisky expert for the auction platform Catawiki. In that capacity he was recently sent – together with two colleagues – to Taiwan on a whisky business trip.

This is his report.

Part 1 of 3.

It goes without saying that one does not visit Taiwan without visiting the Kavalan Distillery in Yilan. It was, in fact, our first order of business.

Kavalan Distillery

Our tour was rather early, so our group was relatively small. The typical load of tourists had yet to arrive. It’s important to realize that Kavalan is visited by some 1 million (!) visitors per year. That’s a tenfold what Glendiffich – Scotland’s most popular destination in terms of whisky tourism – get per year. Hence their visitor center, shop and tasting room – or Spirits Castle as it is aptly named – is the size of a sports arena.

We were first presented with a 15 minute corporate video in the convention center, allowing us to discover that the King Car Group does so much more than just whisky. Milk products, Mr Brown Coffee, shrips, orchids, bio products, bug sprays, Buckskin beer… The list goes on. Factories can be found in Taiwan, but also in China and Vietnam.

It took about 3 full minutes to drive from the convention center to the distillery grounds – it is a vast project to say the least – where our guide was already waiting for us. All the steps of the whisky production were explained in detail. The guide’s English was very good, which was a good thing as my Chinese is limited to hello and thank you. She very patiently took us through the distillery, stopping in the mash room, distillery rooms (plural, there are three of them!) and warehouse.


After the expansion of 2018, Kavalan now has 2 distilleries in fact, plant A and plant B. It is one of the big players in the world. The still houses contain both classic pot stills by Forsyths of Scotland and German Holzstein column stills used for both grain whisky and the new Kavalan gin (coming to Europe in 2019). The production capacity is now a whopping 9 million liters per annum.


Funny detail: the distillery is adorned with information boards with the production explained in both Chinese and English (you can do a tour by yourself as well, even with audio guide), but not all the photos were from the Kavalan distillery. I discovered quite a few photos that were taken at my favorite Lowlander Auchentoshan. Serendipity!


Once past the mash tuns, washbacks and still, we were able to take a look in the warehouse where the casks are actually maturing upright! Maturation is done on a mix of bourbon, sherry, port, rum, wine and brandy casks. As far as sherry goes, the casks previously contained PX, Oloroso, Manzanilla, Amontillado and Fino. Surely you have seen them, for they are released in the popular and award-winning Solist range.


Our guide goes on to proudly explain that Kavalan whisky is now available in over 200 countries and their malts have amassed over 200 rewards. That is quite a feat for a distillery that has only been around since 2005.

But when all is said and done, I found the tour to be rather short. It took less than 45 minutes before we were invited to the obligatory stop in the shop. I took the opportunity to purchase the Distillery Reserve – limited releases of about 300 bottles of 30cl only available at the distillery. This time around, it was a Kavalan Peaty Cask and a Kavalan Rum Cask.

While the rest of the group seemed ready to get back into their cars, I certainly was not. I still wanted to do something extra…. You’ve guessed it: shooting one of my whisky ramblings for Youtube.

After this whisky adventure, it was high time for a hearty lunch in the heart of the city.

Part 2 will be published on February 24th and the final part 3 will be published on March 3rd.


Vignettes ‘Moments in Whisky’ Trip to Islay by Mark Dermul– Part 4 of 4 – Scotch Whisky News

Trip to Islay – Part 4 of 4

by Mark Dermul

We had concluded our distillery visits on Islay – all 8 of them, obviously – and drove to Port Askaig to be ferried back to the mainland. And while there is not much to see at Port Askaig, the ferry’s arrival is a sight to behold, especially when the sun is out, the sky is a cobalt blue and your backdrop is the Isle of Jura with its three peaks known s the Paps.

13 port askaig

As wild as the sea was during our trip from Kennacraig to Islay, the return leg was the exact opposite. The sea was like a mirror. Once we left the coast of Islay and the captain turned the bow of the ship towards the open sea, we were treated to a wonderful show by bottlenose dolphins, puffs and seagulls. But halfway through the crossing, a big mist made it almost impossible to see anything and it was like sailing into a grey wall. A bit spooky, to be honest.

An added bonus, though, was the fact that the Scottish flag on the bow was being replaced. Being in the right place at the right time, I rescued the flag from being dumped in the bin and becoming a lovely souvenir or our trip to Islay.

14 flag

Once back in Kennacraig, we were again marveling at the beautiful scenery driving all the way back to Glasgow. Via Tarbert to Inveraray to the north and then back south along Loch Lomond. There is ample opportunity to stop along the way to make some stunning photos.

15 landscape

Back in Glasgow, we needed to take the plane back to Holland for the drive back home in Belgium, but… one more stop was scheduled. After all… I am the Toshan Man. I cannot possibly travel through Glasgow and not visit my home away from home: Auchentoshan distillery.

It’s true, I have visited this distillery quite a few times now. But when the opportunity arose to visit the distillery before official opening hours and get a historically themed tour from Stevie, this was something we could not possibly pass upon. Ah, it’s always good to visit the distillery of your favorite malt.

What better way to finish our Scottish adventure, eh?

16 auchentoshan

This trip to Islay was one I will not easily forget. And it’s not just for the whisky distilleries that it is worth a visit. Islay is beautiful in its own right and well worth traveling to. I for one will certainly return.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank my better half Sofie and my friends Niek & Ilse for joining me on this memorable trip. But also all the staff at the Harbour Inn who took such good care of us during our stay at their wonderful hotel in Bowmore. Last but not least I would like to offer a big thank you to all the distillery staff and tour guides who tirelessly and good naturedly allowed us to ask questions, make fun, do crazy stuff (not for publication), taste and enjoy and made this trip a dream come true.

God save the Queen… of the Hebrides!

May the Malt be with you! *The previous articles were published on October 15th, 22nd, & 29th).


Vignettes ‘Moments in Whisky’ Trip to Islay by Mark Dermul – Part 3 of 4 – Scotch Whisky News

Trip to Islay – Part 3 of 4

by Mark Dermul

The early bird catches the worm… well, we certainly were early birds when we arrived at the northernmost distillery on the island: Bunnahabhain. The distillery was already in operation – the smoke from the stillhouse was clearly visible against the cloudless blue sky – but the visitor center staff had yet to arrive.

9 bunnahabhain

Our treat for being so early was a stunning view of the distillery in the early morning mist. And another advantage of being there before 9 am was the fact that we got the earliest tour and were the only visitors at that moment. That made this wonderful tour extra special. And without trying to sound too blasé, I do consider myself quite knowledgeable about whisky, but I did learn something new today. Bunna takes its cut – like most distilleries – until the alcohol has gone down to around 63%, but for their peated runs they keep collecting further until 59%. I had never heard that before.

After a couple of drams – well, eight if I’m being totally honest actually – we drove south towards Caol Ila. Along the way, we came across the building site of the soon-to-open 9th distillery on Islay: Ardnahoe.

10 ardnahoe

Construction was well underway. This distillery is being built by Hunter Laing & Co, the independent bottler that was founded a few years back by Stuart Laing, after he left the company Douglas Laing which he ran with his brother Fred. As a sidenote: Hunter Laing is also the owner of the land that Jean & Martine Donnay wanted to buy to build their Gartbreck distillery along Loch Indaal. But apparently they did not agree on the price and Gartbreck is now off the map.

Our next stop brought us to the last distillery we still had to visit: Caol Ila. This huge distillery – the largest on Islay in volume – was unable to offer tours at the moment of our visit as one of the spirit stills was being replaced. A serious setback in my opinion, as Caol Ila is my personal favorite from Islay and I was really looking forward to the classic view of the still with the the Paps of Jura in the background. It was not going to happen.

11 caol ila A

But our host – a Brit from Southampton who had lost his heart to Caol Ila – more than made up for it with a special tasting in the shop. We got to try the Caol Ila Distillers Edition (my wife’s preferred dram), the Coal Ila Distillery Exclusive Bottling for 2017 (with some red wine cask matured Caol Ila in the mix, a first for the distillery) and both the 17 Year Old and brand new 18 Year Old Unpeated Style. I put my credit card to good use and will enjoy those back home while reminiscing about this wonderful trip.

12 caol ila B

With a heavy heart, we set course for Port Askaig, where soon a ferry would arrive to pick us up and returns us to the mainland.

to be concluded… (the final article will be published November 5th).


Vignettes ‘Moments in Whisky’ Trip to Islay by Mark Dermul – Part 2 of 4

Trip to Islay – Part 2 of 4

by Mark Dermul

I think it is fair to say that Port Ellen is legendary. The releases of this closed distillery command high prices. And let’s be honest: the whisky is good! So when we left Ardbeg for Kilnoughton Bay, we could not possible pass by this factory. For that is what it is nowadays. The Port Ellen Maltings provide peated barley to almost all distilleries on Islay (except Kilchoman). The Maltings are not open to the public, but you can walk freely among the warehouses. Seeing the type of padlocks on the doors, I think it is a fair bet that quite a few casks are still on site.

5 port ellen

The finish off the day, we drove to the Mull of Oa to take the long hike up the American Monument. It has to be said: it is a dramatic sight with the waves crashing into the rocky coast, but a storm was brewing and we could hardly stay on our feet. A must-see!

When driving back to Bowmore – we were staying at the wonderful Harbour Inn, highly recommended! – we stopped at Gartbreck, but no sign of the doomed project was to be found.

Our next day brought us all the way to the northwest of Islay, where we visited the Kilnave burial site and the Ardnave Point. To our surprise, the vegetation was quite different from the south of the island which we had seen the day before.

Driving back inland, past Loch Gorm, we found our first distillery of the day: Kilchoman.

This farm distillery, founded in 2005 and therefore currently the youngest distillery on Islay, offered a great tour with some lovely drams afterwards. Everything at Kilchoman is at a smaller scale, except the passion with which they produce the liquid nectar.

6 kilchoman

But changes are afoot at Kilchoman. They recently acquired the farm and are in the process of building a much bigger kiln and stillhouse where a barn used to be. For their 100% Islay release, they use barley grown on their own fields surrounding the distillery.

Driving further south we arrived at Bruichladdich. We had not booked a tour and it appeared it was already fully booked. But the lovely tour guide gave us a big smile and said ‘We’ll make it work!’

7 bruichladdich

And what a wonderful tour indeed. Our guide explained – and allowed us to taste – the different barley used for all three malts produced here: Bruichladdich, Port Charlotte and Octomore. The mash tun – the biggest in the Scottish industry – is bigger than your average swimming pool! Impressive to say the least.

It was also nice to ‘meet’ Ugly Betty, the Lomond Still used to create the popular The Botanist gin. And back at the visitor center, it was a feast to bottle our own 16 years old Port Charlotte from the distillery cask.

Speaking of Port Charlotte… just a few minutes south of Bruichladdich you can visit this lovely village of the same name, where Bruichladdich currently uses some old warehouses. And you can still clearly see some remnants of the old Lochindaal Distillery. This old warehouse turned into a Youth Center is a nice example.

8 port charlotte

We continued on south to the Rhinns of Islay. No distilleries there, but a beautiful village – Portnahaven – where we enjoyed watching the wildlife in the bay. Otters, seals, puffins… Wonderful.

to be continued… (Part 3 will be published October 29th).


Vignettes ‘Moments in Whisky’ Trip to Islay by Mark Dermul – Part 1 of 4 – Scotch Whisky News

Trip to Islay – Part 1 of 4

by Mark Dermul

End of September 2017 my wife Sofie and two friends (Niek & Ilse) joined me for trip to Islay, that mythical whisky island on the west coast of Scotland. It will be a trip long remembered. Therefor, I gladly share it with you.

Now… planning a trip to Islay is one thing. Actually getting there is quite something else. It took a drive from Ghent (Belgium) to Amsterdam airport, a flight to Glasgow, a two-and-a-half hour drive through scenic Scotland to the Kennacraig ferry port and a one-hour trip by boat to reach the Queen of the Hebrides. But so worth it…

During our first night in Glasgow, we visited the well-known pub The Bon Accord where we treated ourselves to some lovely malts, such as the Port Ellen 7th Release and the Ardbeg 30 years old. Just to get in the mood, you know?

When we arrived the next day, our first distillery visit was to the oldest distillery on the island: Bowmore.

While we were very well received and got a private tour (as we arrived just in time for the final tour), we were somewhat disappointed with the fact that we were not allowed to film inside the distillery. We had to make do with photos. Which we did.

1 bowmore

Having said that/, we were treated to a very informative tour and got a lovely Bowmore 17 Year Old 1999 Warehousemen’s Selection in the visitor center afterward.

The next day, after visiting the historical site of the Kildalton Cross, we spent half a day visiting the three distilleries on the south shore: Laphroaig, Lagavulin & Ardbeg.

2 laphroaig

The Laphroaig tour, that lasted a little over an hour, ended with four lovely drams. We even got a peak at HRH Prince Charles’ cask from 1978. No touching, though! It was well protected behind bars.

The Lagavulin distillery – again no photos allowed, unfortunately – lies hidden in a dramatic bay. The wind was fierce and the sea wild, adding to the impressive scenery. But we were welcomed to warm up in the visitor center with a few drams, including the Feis Ile 2017 and Jazz 2016 editions. The cold soon left our bones.

3 lagavulin

But so much whisky while it was not even lunchtime! So we walked over to the Old Kiln Café at the Ardbeg distillery where we had a lovely meal and tried the new Ardbeg Kelpie and Arbeg An Oa.

Ardbeg has quite a bit of a cult following and it shows. There has clearly been a lot of money invested in the distillery grounds and the visitor center. Everything had a museum quality to it. But all was spic and span. No cobwebs here… and to us, it was lovely, but just a tad too… artificial? Maybe that’s not the right word, but I’m sure you know what I mean.

4 ardbeg

After lunch, we travelled back to Kilnaugthon bay. We wanted to check out what was left of the legendary Port Ellen distillery, that has been closed to 1983.

to be continued… (Part 2 will be published October 22nd)


The Balvenie Rare Craft Event in NYC’s Chelsea Market – Scotch Whisky News

AA tasting

The Balvenie Rare Craft Event in NYC’s Chelsea Market ran from 17 November 2014 through 22 November 2014, and gave place not only to rare and unique handmade pieces from artisans from all over the United States, but it also allowed ticket holders to sample  Balvenie whiskys while admiring the crafts. The collection curator was Indy racer Dario Franchitti, and the event itself was hosted by Balvenie Brand Ambassador David Laird, from Glasgow. My husband John and I attended on the final day, 22 November, and wanted to share some highlights with the other angels!

In all there were twenty-one crafts showcased, ranging from cars to clothing, but by far our favorite was a set of intricately decorated bagpipes made from Balvenie whisky barrels! These pipes were crafted by Roderick “Roddy” MacLellan, a Scot who emigrated to the U.S. in 1980 and who now lives in North Carolina. Some other favorites were: an Indy Car Parts Table by Julian R. Halpern of Steelhead Studio, a shuffleboard table by Todd McClure of McClure Tables, a guitar by Scott Baxendale of Baxendale Guitars, and a Sea Board (surfboard) by Mike Lavecchia of Grain Surfboards. The heart of the exhibit was a Morgan +8 Roadster, hand-assembled and crafted with extensive Balvenie branding. Wish we were allowed to sit in it!

While browsing, guests could sample Balvenie 12 Year Doublewood and 14 Year Caribbean Cask, but we were lucky enough to get into the Master Tasting later in the day. David Laird hosted and it was a rare treat. We sampled the 12 and 17 Year Doublewood, the 14 Year Caribbean Cask, 12 Year Single Barrel, and 21 Year Portwood! Lucky us, we got to take home Rare Craft branded Glencairn glasses and a Balvenie branded water dropper!

An amazing day, but your angels weren’t done yet. David invited us to the VIP after party, where we sampled more of the Balvenie range; the details are a little fuzzy at this point! A heartfelt welcome from David and live music started off the night, and NYC’s famous Meatball Shop catered the party. Unfortunately, we had to leave before the 25 Year Single Barrel was opened; we had to catch the last train home.

Maybe next year!

AA morgan 2

Marcie and John sent this to angels recently, we apologise for the late report!

AA marcie1

We do suggest other angels do the same, want to become an angel? It’s free, just email us at



Tasting Session at the Temple Bar, Temple, Dublin – Irish Whiskey News


Tasting session at the Temple Bar, Temple, Dublin. 

I was dondering around Dublin’s temple Bar district early one morning (when I say early, I mean 10.45 ish, which is early opening for pubs) which I said I would not do, far too touristy for me.

But, I thought at that hour there will be no tourists around, I found the door open at the pub, so took myself inside and perched at the whiskey bar.

Behind the bar was Roberto, from Argentina; Patagonia, Chubut to be exact. He has been there 12 years or so now and is in charge of the whiskey bar – and jeeze, he knows his stuff.

Cannee mind what my first drink was, possibly a Paddy, but here are some of what I tried or saw; Jameson Cask Mates, the whiskey is a Jameson as you’d expect, the cask is then sent to the Franciscan Well brewery to steep itself in beer residue for 6 months, it then goes back to Jamesons, this approx. a 5 year old dram, very different from the others in the range, I liked it I have to say. The story begins with a pub in Cork between Midleton’s Master of Science, David Quinn, and Franciscan Well’s founder, Shane Long. Shane asked if he might lay his hands on a few spare whiskey casks to age his beer in. Franciscan Well released its first Jameson cask-aged stout in time for Christmas 2012. When the most recent batch of twelve casks went back to Midleton, the distillery figured they might as well try their own experimental maturation. The casks had only been used once to age pot still spirit before their stout “seasoning” so there was plenty of oomph left in the wood. They refilled the casks with blended Jameson (at around the normal cask strength of 60% rather than bottling strength of 40%). After six months, according to Quinn, they were “shocked” by the transformation. There was something interesting going on, something they wanted to share with the rest of us. Hence Jameson Caskmates, 3,500 bottles of it.

Next, I was introduced to a dram from Roberto’s homeland, Old Smuggler whisky. A blend of Scottish fine malt whisky and Argentinian grain. I have to say, I was no impressed sorry. There is another he told me about, Alazana Single Malt released 2011/12 – named after a horse would you believe?

Other notable drams included; Powers single cask, pot still whiskey. A single pot still release of Powers whisky. Crafted at the Midleton Distillery near Cork, Powers John Lane Single Pot Still Irish Whiskey is named after the original Powers Distillery, which was situated on John’s Lane in Dublin. The whiskey is made exclusively from malted and unmalted barley, which is triple distilled through pot-stills in the traditional Irish way, matured in first fill ex-bourbon casks, while the remainder is aged in casks that were previously used to mature Oloroso sherry. After a twelve-year rest the whiskey is bottled 92 proof.

Jack Ryan 12 year old single malt, this has the name of current proprietor Eunan Ryan’s late father Jack who managed the establishment until his untimely death 36 years ago.  ‘Ryan’s Malt’ had been produced by the family in association with the Dublin Whiskey Distillery until this famous distillery closed its doors in 1946. Today’s Jack Ryan ‘Beggars Bush’ Single Malt Irish Whiskey (46% ABV) has been aged for 12 years with no chill filtration. The whiskey has been matured in ex-bourbon barrels hand-picked by the family themselves to deliver the unique taste.  Only 1,450 bottles of Jack Ryan ‘Beggars Bush’ Single Malt have been produced. The Beggars Bush has been at the centre of cultural and literary circles in Dublin since it opened its doors in 1803. Residing next to the old Beggars Bush British army barracks it has seen soldiers go to war against Napoleon and the Kaiser, revolution against the British and eventual handover to Michael Collins in 1922 followed by the execution of Robert Erskine Childers, father of fourth president later that year by the Free State Government. It was a few drams away from my usual – Black Bush!

Wild Geese, in a long high straight bottle, as opposed to the square bottles normally found, interesting this one.

Temple Bar, own label whiskey. Traditional Irish Whiskey; some spices, fruits, vanilla, sweetness and wood, maybe plumbs in there!  It is of course triple distilled, a blend, there was a time when most Irish pubs bottled whiskey. This I believe, is selected by Tom Clearly, bottled 10/2014, for the Temple Bar Whiskey Company. From small batches, matured in bourbon oak casks and finest Port casks, then blended … I liked it so much, I bought the bottle to take home!

I spent a deal of time at the bar with Roberto, a good man and knowing his whiskey, so if you are in Dublin, take a morning visit to the bar, it does get very, very touristy late afternoon/evening.

Paul McLean, of and was in Dublin for Christmas week, he did indulge in some research & development on your behalf…


A Whisky Mudslide (with Paul Mclean) – Scotch Whisky News


A whisky Mudslide

Timeline; Wednesday 17 September 2014, 5pm.

Location; Craobh Harbour, west coast Scotland.

I had dropped of my guests at their lodgings for the night, superb by the way! And drove the mile and a bit to my cottage (thanks Julie for this), fiddled aboot, changed and made ready for my pick up. Sure enough at 5pm Julie and Ty dropped by to collect me. There started the wacky races to Oban in the batmobile. Julie does have her own way of driving, my foot was pressed on the floor at the imaginary brake all the way!  Arriving in Oban ten minutes later (takes any normal driver 30 minutes) we stopped off for a fish supper. Took these to the recording studio/rehearsal rooms and munch em doon. There followed a band practice session – Mudslide; a five piece blues band based in mid Argyll, with a set list that covers all styles of blues. To say it was enjoyable would be an understatement, it was superb – and this is a rehearsal! Go see Mudslide if at all possible before they fill the Glasgow Hydro. If I closed my eyes – far too many drams – I would have thought the Stones, Fleetwood Mac or John Mayall were playing, it was that good.  I had taken along a few samples for the band (and myself), poor Julie was driving. A good Aberlour Abunach, Glendronach, Ben Riach peaty, Laphroaig Select, Glen Moray peated and a wee Angels Envy for Julie to take home. The band played on.

Abunach; oloroso galore! big notes of raisins, chocolate, cherry liqueur, powerful but not undrinkable.  Glen Moray peat; a new style from Glen Moray – peated. This is the first batch to be released, in a 20cl bottle, and isn’t yet whisky, having not been aged for 3 years. A whack of peat –with fruitiness to leave warming iodine notes. The others we all know about! My own favourite dram tonight was the GlenDronach – as usual. A 1990 I think.

Blues, rock, blues-rock the band were driving me to drink (in the very best of ways). The images do not do the night justice. Best dram? Depends on who you talked to, Ty likes everything, Julie liked the Angels (when home), I liked it all, the band looked on as some were driving.

The session (music) ended, a few drams then load up the van, Evil Kinievel then drove us back to the bothy, 10.30, pitch black, wee winding roads at a speed! During the ride back poor Julie got in around 10 words! Myself and Ty were yappin on music the whole way, myself; Deep Purple and Creedence, Ty; a Zepplelin freak! Zeppo!  I cannee believe all the music he has from Zep, I wanted to murder him and take it all!  Another time Zeppo. They dropped me at the track to my cottage, dark as the inside of a coffin, I took out my mobile phone as a light and started doon the track, suddenly an owl flew out, frightened me to death!  After reaching safety I needed a large dram, so I did and again, and again. What a night, great music, laughs, great friends and some good whisky.

My last thought on the night; when will they write a song – sufferin midgie blues? 

AA GM Peated

 Paul was enjoying the evening with Mudslide in Argyll, a half hour south of Oban.


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