Vignettes – Moments in Whisky

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? 

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


Angels Whisky Club, The Worldwide Whisky Portal for Whisky Lovers – Scotch Whisky News

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Angels Whisky Club, the worldwide whisky portal for whisky lovers, offers this wee snippet to readers

‘Friends of the Quaich’ located in Qualicum Beach, British Columbia on Vancouver Island, Canada. Genesis – The beginning of ‘Friends of the Quaich’. We had an all Canadian start, in as much as Jack Maclean, David Jomini, Willie Odendaal and Ian MacDougall were attending a Pancake Breakfast (very Canadian with Maple syrup). The breakfast was sponsored by Q.B.A.N.A., an acronym for ‘Qualicum Beach Area Newcomers Alumni’. While the boys were partaking of the fayre on offer, the small talk turned to whisky, most likely because one of the group said, “a dram would go down well with these pancakes”. At this Willie proclaimed, “Lets start a whisky club”, the others immediately agreed and so the seeds were sown.

It was decided to inaugurate the new club within the auspices of Q.B.A.N.A. and so it was done, ‘Friends of the Quaich’ was born in 2004. By 2005 the club had reached its maximum membership, being set at 16 persons, this number was arrived at as each member hosts the monthly tasting in their respective homes and so available space was a consideration. It was then decided to spin off a new sister club ‘The Gentle Glens’, the two clubs meet annually at our summer BBQ and of course we do communicate our tastings.  In the 10 years and 300 different whiskies from all over the world, members hunt for unique brands whenever on vacation or in different Provinces of Canada or the USA. 

The club send Angels their tasting notes monthly, here is the latest set of tasting notes.


Friends of the Quaich. Tasting August 18th 2014. Our hosts: Michael and Janice Baird. Special guest honorary member Allan Baird (Mike’s brother) visiting from Ayr, Scotland.

First up. Oban distillery edition 2011 55.2% ABV. Purchased directly from the Oban distillery while on tour with McLean’s Tours Scotland, May 2011. Nose: Orange zest, Tangerine Palate: Seville Marmalade. Very smooth, no alcohol bite. Finish: More orange, hint of ginger, MacIntosh’s toffee right at the end.

Next up: Auchentoshan Coopers reserve, 46% ABV. Bourbon hogsheads, non chill-filtered. Auchentoshan is triple distilled, Nose: Oak, sherry and bourbon. Palate: Big oak, hazelnuts and almonds with the sugar crust of Creme Brûlée. Finish: Almonds, and oak, gooseberries and green tea. Next up: KaVaLan Taiwan , cask strength, 56.9% ABV. From I-LAN in Taiwan. Aged in white oak and air seasoned. After aging in the oak it is then placed in fine European fine wine casks. The casks are charred to bring out the fine characteristics of the oak. Nose: Ripe melon, mango, burst of vanilla and toffee,  Palate: Coconut, toffee, burnt caramel, melon. A little water opens the complexity. Finish: Explosion of fruit with long lasting toffee. Lastly: Shieldaig 18 year old 40% ABV, Speyside. Named after the Scottish village in the western highlands, it’s slowly matured for 18 years and bottled by William Maxwell & Co. Nose: Toffee, toffee, slight almonds. Palate: Peaches, toffee. Finish: Sharp toffee with a burst of sweet fruits. 

The 16 strong club, with a couple of friendly Scots added, toured Ireland with Angels/MCLEANSCOTLAND last year … Our fantastic Irish whisky tour.  What an incredible adventure. Great hotels, great whiskey venues, great food and fabulous company, as well as terrific tour guides Paul and Liz and a big mention to our wonderful bus driver Mark, who showed us more of Belfast than even the locals have seen, a big thanks to Mark for making Belfast amazing. We stayed in castles, dined in castles and imbibed in castles, Clontarf was a great stay and allowed us easy access to all of Dublin, and the staff were great, as was the whiskey tasting. After three days in the capital city and a wonderful reception by The Lord Mayor we were off to points south and yes much more golden spirit. Tulamore D.E.W., a nice way to spend a Monday morning on tour, wonderful drams and a warm glow we were off to Cashel and then to Kilkenny.

Tonight we spent a lovely evening as guests of Robbie, (a charming fellow), at Dylan’s Bar and a special discount for patrons of Mclean’s Tours, well done Paul. Today Tuesday we toured Kilkenny Castle, home of the Dukes of Ormonde, definitely worth the visit here. Waterford Crystal was next up, a few souvenirs in crystal later we were off to the Middleton Distillery and a marvellous deluxe tasting, we won’t mention how many whiskies, there must be a law against it, and oh do try the Middleton Barry Crockett, wow! We stay at the Middleton Park Hotel tonight and dinner is included (as were most dinners). The hotel has prepared the most succulent grilled salmon, we Canadians pride ourselves in the art of salmon cooking, but this was first class cuisine.

Up in the morning and off to Galway, with a stop at Blarney Castle, bucolic gardens and of course the climb to kiss the famous stone. No tastings today, but yes, we tried MCLEAN’S ‘Bus Tasting’, and so we indulge while stopped, it breaks up our longish drive today and is much enjoyed by all, all except for Mark our driver and we do save a little for him when is driving day is over. A short drive to Kilbeggan and it’s famous distillery and another deluxe tasting, this time it’s Tyrconnel, Connamara and of course Kilbeggan, Connamara the only peated whiskey distilled in Ireland and wonderful stuff it is, try the Turf Mor, you won’t regret it. After a drive to Donegal we stop for the night at Lough Eske Castle, a five star hotel with a wonderful lounge bar and restaurant, living the good life here. Off to the Giants Causeway for a visit and then down to Bushmills, another super tasting, we even get some ‘New Make’ (Paul found it under the bar, shame on him), anyway it was great, a private room and I have to admit, one couldn’t drink all that was offered, one has to pace themselves responsibly.

After staying the night in Portballintrae (lovely spot), we’re now into day six and still lots to see and do, a short drive to Belfast and the Titanic Exhibition, a very interesting two hours spent here and well worth it and then Mark’s amazing tour of Belfast. Now we’re off to Drogheda, (after another Bus Tasting) and an evening at the Scholars Inn, just lovely and the food excellent, try the Pork Belly appetiser, to die for. A visit to Slane Castle for yet another tasting of their house brands. Two nights here in Drogheda and a special tasting in the hotel and a meet and greet with His Worship the Mayor of the city.

Alas we are starting our last day as we drive from Drogheda back to our starting off point of Dublin, we check into our hotel and then, yes, we’re off to Jameson’s for another deluxe tasting, a great way to end our fabulous, wonderful, amazing Irish adventure, thanks again to Paul, Liz and Mark for making our time in Ireland the most memorable of trips, we will never forget our wonderful time spent with all of you.   Paul; This was their tour last year, the club tour every two years with us and we look forward to them coming over.  I must say there were lots of bottles purchased on this tour, for the coach tastings and to take home, Grand stuff!


From Edinburgh to Belfast – and beyond – A Whiskey Soujourn – Whiskey News

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From Edinburgh to Belfast – and beyond – a whiskey soujourn.

Paul McLean takes his own personal tour, a travel log;  After dropping our guests off in Edinburgh at their hotel – almost on the Royal Mile – the coach was to head back to Belfast. The previous night I had made plans and bookings to accompany the coach, for a few well -earned days away. “Having booked the coach from McCombs in Belfast, with a friend driving, Mark Burgess (he does our Irish tours also) I thought it a grand idea to have a few days away” says Paul. So, from Edinburgh, Mark and myself headed west to CairnRyan near Stranraer via Kilmarnock, Ayr and Girvan.  Just over 3 hours later we were at the ferry, as Mark parked up at the coach lines, I headed into the office, me met up on the ferry – another two hours! Arriving in Belfast docks, we then headed into the city, as Mark dropped me off at my hotel, he still had a couple of hours work cleaning the coach before home.

Flopping on ma bed, time to consider plans; a quick drink at the Crown pub; with period gas lighting and cosy snugs. The exterior is decorated in polychromatic tiles. This includes a mosaic of a Crown on the floor of the entrance. A Republican pub, you need walk over the crown as you enter!  The snugs feature original gun metal plates for striking matches and an antique bell system for calling staff. Extra privacy was then afforded by the pub’s etched and stained glass windows, fairies, pineapples, fleurs-de-lis and clowns. A good place for a dram – Jamesons Gold Reserve, wood and pot still with a touch of sherry, honey combines in the mush to create a spicy character. The long finish really caps it off with a pleasantly peppery conclusion. A good start. I dondered next door to Robinsons; Fibber Magees to be sure, here I partook in a Kilbeggan. Fibber Magees is a traditional Irish Bar in the corner of Blackstaff Square, is the city’s hidden gem; the genuine article; a good old spit and sawdust bar, packed to the rafters with little bits of history and steeped in Irish tradition.  My dram, Kilbeggan is named after St Bécán, one of the Twelve Apostles of Ireland who founded a monastery in the area in the 6th century. This dram is smooth and malty. The nose is smooth and gentle with nut oils and barley, cereals and a little peat. I do like these drams, here presented on the bar in its new bottle.  A couple more wee Irish gems, then – time for bed.

Tuesday arrived, bright and cheerful, sun from 05.30 through my window (on the 8th floor). All the usual morning stuff, some breakfast, then picked up by a McCombs driver (Stephen) for a day trip, courtesy of Rodney (owner), was looking forward to this – having done it before with the tourist board.  Watching the coach fill up with tourists – I was still working y’know, we then headed north to Carrickfergus castle; a stop here at this old castle before north again to Larne and Carnlough and my favourite, Cushendall. Cushendall village is the meeting point of three glens: Glenann, Glenballylemon and Glencorp, a perfect place to walk along the beach, donder around the glens, sit by the river or explore stone-aged monuments and its more recent historical, sword-producing, past. Views of Scotland add the final touch why I love this place. Och well, onwards north – ah, the stop I have been waiting for, it’s been hot sitting here on the crew seat with the strong sun hitting me like a plank through the window! Bushmills.

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When Diageo took over Bushmills distillery from Pernod Ricard in 2005, sales volumes had been flat for over 10 years. The new owners set a goal to reach 1 million cases by the end of 2012 and set about investing (to the tune of around €45 million) in the distillery itself as well as the brand. Diageo increased the production rate to five days a week and since 2008, they have implemented a seven-day week. This tripled production in just 2.5 years. Bushmills uses two kinds of malt, one unpeated and one slightly peated. The distillery uses triple distillation, something they’ve done since the 1930s. The range of single malts consists of a 10 year old, a 16 year old with a finish in port pipes for 6-9 months and a 21 year old finished in Madeira casks for two years. There is also a 12 year old Distillery Reserve which is sold exclusively at the distillery (as you imagined, I have one). Black Bush (my dram of choice in my local pub – Christies) and Bushmills Original are the two main blended whiskeys in the range. To celebrate the 400th anniversary, a Bushmills 1608 Anniversary Edition was launched (yup, have one also, well – maybe two inches remain in the bottle). The malt whiskey part was distilled using a proportion of crystal malt (malted barley which has been dried at a high temperature whilst the grains are still moist, thus partly converting the grain’s starch into sugars and caramelising them). This special ingredient gives the blend distinct toffee/chocolatey notes. The grain whiskey used for Bushmills blended whiskeys is, in fact, bought from Midleton distillery in Cork which is owned by arch-rival Pernod Ricard. I found Niall, an old pal, chatted asked for freebies (didnee get any, Diageo), enjoyed steak and Guinness pie in the food hall, had 3 drams fae the bar, all courtesy of my minder for the day Stephen.  It was nice to be back, last time here we had a VIP tasting of 8 drams, our Canadian friends and Mark know all about that wee episode, say nae more.  Then up to the Giants Causeway. Baking hot, we were frying eggs on the coach roof!  It was here we had a chat with other McCombs drivers; Derek and Pat, 3 coaches here today, also Sean of Irish railtours. All good things come to an end – a return by the fast route to Belfast, around 7pm, headed to the pub for a long beer, Harp ice cold lager was called for. At 8pm a couple of cousins arrived from the Republic – hugs, hell’s and drams followed! A return to Fibbers. Caught up with family matters and stayed away from trouble – no remarks please Mark, Liz, Sean, or anyone come to think of it. Hit ma bed 11pm knackered. 

Wednesday; cousins in tow we hit what I think the best whiskey pub in the city; Bittles Bar is located close to Victoria Square. Red-bricked and ‘flat-iron’ in shape Bittles is a traditional Victorian Bar. Founded in 1868 the bar was originally called the Shakespeare reflecting is theatrical clientele. It offers one of Belfast’s widest selections of local and international draught and bottle beers and ciders and is famed for its extensive whiskey (and whisky) collection. I sampled a few, chatting to John about his collection of whiskey – some rare old drams here, he offered me a lovely dram, then said “£100 a dram” I reluctantly turned it doon. But did try a good few, met a few locals, had far to long sitting there, by the time we departed, Sean had disappeared, I was heavy with the Irish gold, Pat was slumpin, so we sat down outside Whites bar for a while – founded 1630, we all felt as if we were at the opening night, grim stuff. Sean turned up as we ordered a round, he does that.  It was 3pm and bed called me loudly!  We left Whites and had a doze in the park benches at City Hall, no a good sight, we did think the Guards would move us, we were fine. By 4.30 we were almost alive again and found some food, when I say food, dinnae mean Macdonalds by the way. Bellies full – mine is too big – we headed to The Duke of York; Traditional Belfast bar crammed with original mirrors and memorabilia. Cold beer, great Guinness and the largest selection of Irish whiskeys in Ireland. We know, we tried some!  Ended up in ma bed! Family gone home.

Thursday. My final day here, knowing a few things, I grabbed a taxi to Crumlin Road, took a tour of the gaol, a grim place to be held in, but my reason for the visit; a new distillery will be opening here – possibly 2015. Plans to make whiskey in old Crumlin Road gaol is hoped whiskey-making will boost tourist in Belfast It is hoped whiskey-making will boost tourism in Belfast. Peter Lavery has announced plans to turn part of the former Crumlin Road Prison in north Belfast into a distillery. The £5m investment will see the A wing of the listed building turned into a boutique distillery that will use his existing brands of whiskey. There will also be a visitors’ centre, tasting room, bar, restaurant and shop. It is claimed the project could create 60 jobs. Up to five of those jobs will be in the distillery. Mr Lavery is the chief executive of the Belfast Distillery Company which is behind such brands as Titanic and Danny Boy whiskey.

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Danny Boy Blend is a premium dark golden brown Irish whiskey blend of 20% malt and 80% finest grain, produced by the Cooley Distillery, double-distilled with a four-year minimum and matured in American oak casks that infuse a toasty and vanilla aroma for an exceptionally smooth finish. Danny Boy offers whiskey drinkers notes of soft raisins and Irish caramel with a peppery spice overtone. Six to eight year old malt and a high proportion of eight year old grain are used to produce the premium Irish whiskey. Double Distillation and matured in American Oak barrels. 15% 4 year Malt, 5% 8 year old Malt, 45% 8 year old Grain, 20% 5 year old grain, 15% 4 year old grain. A superb and complex blend that features the very best single malt and clean grain from the famous Cooley Distillery. The age profile explains the depth of character in the whiskey which enabled it to win a silver medal at the prestigious International Spirits Competition in 2010. Unusually aged the Danny boy Brand is a premium blend and has both a exceptional Smooth taste and luxury finish on the pallet. Vanilla and toasty wood flavours are very evident on the nose and these give way to soft sweet fruits and toffees as primary tastes. Smooth and lingering aftertaste has a hint of spice. Paul’s note; A shocking item here, Cooley when bought by Beam, decided to NOT sell any whiskey to anyone, leaving Danny Boy really in the lurch, along with many others including Slane Castle, however some of these are now (like to two mentioned) building their own distilleries.  I have Danny Boy at home, sitting alongside Slane and Michael Collins drams.

Back in the city, having seen enough of the Union flags everywhere, dropped into Fibbers again, before heading to the airport. Ah … flybe, get your act together, never flying with them again, over charging, hidden charges, late flights, no thanks! Liz met me at Edinburgh airport for my ride home. Another wee whiskey trip done!

(Paul & Liz run MCLEANSCOTLAND Whisky Tours and can be contacted here )


The Friends of the Quaich Whisky Club, Vancouver Island, Canada, Enjoyed a Whisky Tasting for Burns Night!

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The Friends of the Quaich whisky club, Vancouver Island, Canada, enjoyed a whisky tasting for Burns Night! 

January 2014; The Burns unit team. 

Friends of the Quaich, Robbie Burns supper and tastings, January 28th 2014. 

Our hosts, Martin and Margaret Hill. Hats off to Martin and Margaret for an excellent evening of great drams and excellent cuisine. Also, a big thank-you to all the gang, for the delicious and appetising dishes prepared for our Robbie Burns banquet.

Tasting: Up first, Aberlour 10 yr old, 43% ABV.  Nose: Hints of toffee and vanilla.  Palate: Buttery Sherry with toffee.  Finish: Malt, citrus and spice. 

Next up, The Peat Monster. 46% ABV.  Nose: Big peat. Salty. Sweet.  Palate: Smokey bacon, with hints of papaya.  Finish: More peat, sweet oak. 

Number three: Seagrams Crown Royal Maple. 40% ABV. More a liqueur than a whiskey.  Nose: Sweet Maple syrup hints of vanilla and oak.  Palate: Pancake syrup, some cinnamon, perhaps a little allspice.  Finish: Maple syrup lingers.  

Last up: Benriach Curiositas. 40% ABV.  Nose: Sublimely medicinal, sweet grassy asphalt and heather. Hints of malmsey.  Palate: At once sweet and heavily smoked. Peppery spice tingles, iodine, a warm nuttiness. Finish: Bittersweet, dry wood, creosote and fennel. Cheers, Mike.  

Paul’s note; that final dram finish; who in the group has tasted creosote?  Personally I would have left the Monster to the end. 

See more tasting notes from the friends here; 

Angels Whisky Club is a free, worldwide membership whisky club, Patron Charlie Maclean.

Owned and run by Liz Gillespie & Paul McLean, owners of MCLEANSCOTLAND

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Pub Visits by Paul Mclean of MCLEANSCOTLAND -Scotch Whisky News

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OBAN PUB EXPERIENCE – name with-held for obvious reasons! Story by Paul.

The whisky classic – in the pub, enjoying a dram at the bar. Three old guys (aye, older than me!) also at the bar dramming. Got chatting to them, wondered where the hell I am from? Cannee make out my accent – no matter, even my mates can’t. Once we had establish I was from Connel – 5 miles away – all was fine and happy, they bought me a dram. My turn, I bought 4 drams (myself included) of Aberlour 10yo. Let it linger in ma mooth and enjoyed it, as did the others; Jack, his usual is a half of Best with a dram. Euan, a JW Black, usually drinks Cally Best. Ronnie, he was persuaded to try a Glenlivet, he liked it and smacked his lips! As he disappeared to the toilet, I mentioned to the other two, “it’s known as the ladies whisky, coz its easy to drink”, they thought this funny. As he came back they told him and laughed more, he ordered a Lagavulin – he downed it nicely and said “there’s a real mans dram for ye!” The barman gave us all a nip on the hoose; me; Black Bottle, Jack; Famous Grouse, Euan; Glenfiddich, Ronnie; JW red – don’t go mad now with the expense! Just as things were calming doon, in walked an American couple, soaked to the skin and freezing, they BOTH ordered a Lagavulin! All four of us laughed so much we were choking – a mans dram eh!


OBAN PUB TALE – IRISH BAR – name with-held for obvious reasons! Story by Paul.

I walked in, went to the bar and ordered a Tullamore Dew single malt. Fella next to me said to his pal “now there’s a man who knows a good whiskey”, they both had thick (but understandable) accents. They chatted away arguing about Irish whiskey, so I bought myself a Redbreast 10yo, and a Writers Tears and a Connemara Peat, once each for the two fellas. Mayhem followed! Great craik, two “rounds” of whiskey followed, they asked where I was from?  “Connel” says myself. Confused looks spread over their faces, they had had a few by now, “what county is that in?” says (let’s call him) Paddy, “it’s 5 miles doon the road” I say, oh they say. When I mentioned my mum is from Kilkenny, they lit up! “ we are from Co Kilkenny!!!” Two drunken Irishmen chatting about home, whiskey, my mum, I just about managed to escape!


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Monday 23 December; distillery day today, started with a drive to Ardnamurchan, furthest westerly point of British mainland. Back tracked a little to where Adelphi are building a distillery. I reckon about 3 months to the finish now. With Concerto barley, being grown especially for the distillery, next to their bottling warehouse in Fife this will be a totally Scottish whisky!  Whisky industry veteran Graeme Bowie is to run new distillery. Graeme will initially oversee the visitor centre project. He moved from Inver House’s Balblair Distillery in Ross-shire, where he has been assistant manager. All the buildings, except for the visitor centre are now up. Even though, as images show, not quite finished, it can’t be long before I am there again, dry this time!  It was a hell of a day on my visit!  Remaining completely independent, Adelphi is able to select its single malt whiskies from as many distilleries as possible. Adelphi will only put its name to an outstanding whisky, they bottle single malt Scotch whiskies from only the very best single casks available. No two casks mature their contents the same, and with only 100-700 bottles produced from one cask, Adelphi single malt bottlings are both rare and highly sought after, only the very best single cask, single malt whiskies are good enough to be bottled on their own. With the help of Charles MacLean, it selects a mere 4% of those that are offered. Your guide and host (Paul McLean) will vouch for that, having tried many!  Too many.

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From here a fantastic drive (ok, some really bad weather) to the Corran ferry, and on to Fort William (again), where I had a meeting arranged with Colin Ross of Ben Nevis distillery.  A good long chat with Colin in the boardroom, chatted over distillery tours, special bottlings and all sorts of things, even bible man! There will a new distillery visitor centre opening next year (2014) and a new whisky name also! Warehouse Number 7, this will replace Legend of the Dew. Warehouse 7 is now where the current visitor centre is located. Two very exciting bottles soon to be available; 21 year old Port finish looks good, in it’s own decanter, also exciting, the 25 year old, again in decanter, only approx. 500 of these available and 200 of the 21 yo available in decanters, looking at £400 ish for the 25, a limited edition. So don’t say I didnee warn you!

 AA benriach95

Back at the pub for the final night, sitting at the bar, there was an American couple staying, also seated at the bar, after a wee opening chat, with the ok from Steve (owner) I nipped to the room for some whisky bottles (200 ml), we then had a blind tasting, another “silence of the drams”! I told them how it worked and they were up for it. Bottles included, BenRiach 1995, Templar dram; 21 yo Speyside, Bruichladich Rocks and a Cutty Sark Storm. After the pen and paper bit, we then chatted away with the 4 drams. What did we think? Overall winner by far, BenRiach! One comment re BR; “anyone who does not like this whisky, needs surgery!”  I like to these silence tastings, no one can speak until we all wrote down what we thought, no suggestive comments made to influence the others, my own idea (Paul). For a finish we enjoyed a Famous Grouse chocolate bar!

Paul McLean was on a selfish, chill out trip, all on his own (except for Stan the Stag)! But can repeat the trip for anyone who wishes to tour with MCLEANSCOTLAND in 2014, a west coast thriller! See facebook for many images of this trip; McLean Whisky Tours

The Drivers Share by Paul Mclean of MCLEANSCOTLAND – Scotch Whisky News

AA driver share website

THE DRIVERS SHARE – what about a round of applause for the drivers!  Normally, this is what the driver has at each distillery; a cup of tea/coffee or an empty glass. We hope you all appreciate your drivers for whisky tours, being a driver myself (Paul) I know how it feels. The Drivers Share; An interview with our Irish whiskey tour driver; Mark Burgess, a Scot, now living in Belfast.

1. Mark, what does it feel like driving a whiskey tour group when you cannee drink?  A; Well I take great pride in driving the Whiskey tour, as I was brought up in the whiskey world, with my father being a master distiller (retired now) way up in Speyside at one of the stills, so I feel a strong pull and connection while on tour and love getting to know the groups and getting to know there interests and the whiskey clubs from around the world, but I have to say the worst part of the job has to be the fact that I am the driver. So no sample’s for me during the day.

2. Watching the group (and myself) enjoy samples usually with a satisfied smile, is it hard when do don’t even get to sample anything? A; Watching the group enjoy the samples on tour, does give me a bit of mixed feelings, (not bad ones) I love watching peoples reactions on tasting as everyone knows, each persons taste is different and I like hearing what they think, but on the down side, I do feel a little jealous when the groups get a wee special one to taste, which I know I will most likely never have the chance to try again.

3. back at the hotel each night, if asked what dram you would like, what would you choose? A; Back at the hotel I would often be offered a dram or 2, what I choose would depend on the area I was in, for instance if I was around the Middleton area of Co Cork I would choose something from the Jameson collection, or even trying a whiskey I have heard of but not tasted, basically having my own personnel tasting

4. again, at the hotel, how does it feel when you stop drinking at 8.30pm? A; Being a driver on tour does have disadvantages, having the Responsibility’s of having passengers on your coach, you have to very sensible and responsible and only trying one or two drams in the evening is enough, as the passengers safety and enjoyment is the most important part of the tour, so I don’t mind sitting with the groups drinking soft drinks as the crac is always great.

5. I know on our tours, we normally give you samples and drams to take home, would it not be better to be able to join in on the tour? A; Paul has always been kind to me and gives me samples to take home with me which is a real bonus for me and makes my tour even more special, as I can’t wait to get home and and try them and fill my whiskey notebook in with my own notes, but I must say it would be nice if you could sample the whiskeys with the groups on the visits to the stills, but as they say its the nature of the job.

6. At home, what are your whiskies of choice? A; At home, I like to have a good peat whiskey both from Scotland and Ireland, a few being, the Coal Ila 12 year old, Laphroaig quarter cask, and the Connemara single malts.

7. Finally, having driven tours for us this year myself, I do feel sorry for all drivers and know myself the drivers share is usually NOTHING, or a CUP OF TEA/COFFEE. Do you have a parting shot? A; The drivers share ha ha, what can you say? a tea or coffee sir, yes I do feel I am missing out on that special one, but I love the job it very interesting and very rewarding just to see my groups with big smiles on there faces after each visit and mostly empty wallets as well, but it would be nice if the stills did think about the driver and give a little sample to take away with him to try at his own leisure. Its not that he wants a bottle, just a little sample in a sample bottle would go a long way to a happy driver!

AA driver share glen grant

Interview by Paul McLean and


Save the LARS Whisky – Vignettes – Moments in Whisky

Save Lars Whisky!

It is known that the Belgian blogger Mark Dermul is a whisky lover. But he is also well-known for being a huge Star Wars fan. In 2012 he lead a special project name Save the Lars Homestead. During a week in 2012, six fans from around the world travelled to the Jundland Wastes (Tunisian desert) to battle the elements and restore the igloo-like abode of Luke Skywalker to its full movie glory. You can read all about that on


At the end of July, the second edition of the Star Wars Celebration Europe, the largest sci-fi convention in the world dedicated to the sage, took place in Messen, Germany. Mark was at this convention presenting a panel about the project Save the Lars Homestead.

a1 LARS Star Wars Celebration

So what does all this have to do with whisky, you ask yourself?

To celebrate, his Dutch whisky buddy Imanuel and himself took it upon themselves to create a very special, very limited and very private bottling with the help of A.D. Rattray, independent bottler from Glasgow. Only 6 bottles were created – one for each so-called Saviour. Well… actually there was a 7th bottle, labelled ‘The Project Lead’s Cut’, as Mark felt the Saviours might want to keep their bottle for a while as a souvenir and he wanted the opportunity to taste it. Hence the extra bottle, of course.

After the idea was spawned, Mark got in touch with A.D. Rattray’s Iain Croucher, who is a bit of a Star Wars fan himself. He loved the idea and sent a list of available casks. Mark and Imanuel selected a Bruichladdich 20 Year Old 1992 bourbon hogshead #3799 at 46% ABV. Mark designed a special label – obviously with the restored Lars Homestead in it and Iain did the rest.



First he printed all the labels and filled the six bottles. After labelling them, he shipped them out via courier service to Mark in Belgium. All this was taken care of in less than a week.


Mark and Imanuel travelled to the Star Wars Celebration, where they surprised the rest of their crew with this very pleasant and delicious gift after the panel. They were obviously chuffed. They opened up the extra bottle, which did not survive the evening. That should hardly come as a surprise, eh?

a1 LARS at the celebration with the whisky!

At the celebration with the WHISKY!

You may expect another one of Mark’s Whisky Ramblings soon, detailing further the story of this exceptional bottling and – of course – the tasting notes.

May the Malt be with you!

BEAM Spirits Confidential – Toronto , June 26, 2013 by Wendy Harker – Whisky News

BEAM Global Spirits & Wines

 BEAM Spirits Confidential – Toronto , June 26, 2013

By: Wendy Harker (representing Whisky Intelligence)

“Every time it rains, it rains Bourbon from Heaven”

(Dean Martin, When You’re Drinking ‘Bourbon from Heaven’)

On June 26, 2013, I had the great pleasure of attending Spirits Confidential – Toronto.  This was a Beam Global event that showcased the breadth of their spirited products held at the very hip and urban venue, Evergreen Brick Works.  It was an all-day event, split into an afternoon session for trade insiders and media and an evening session open to the public.  Beam Global’s portfolio is a palate seducing wish list that includes bourbons and other whiskies, rum, tequila, cognac, and vodka.  Spirits Confidential was also a special occasion to meet Master Distillers, Blenders and Brand Ambassadors.

Fred Noe

On this occasion, it was notably significant to have the opportunity to meet Fred Noe, Great-Grandson of Jim Beam and seventh generation Beam family distiller based in Clermont, Kentucky.  The Beam family name is synonymous with bourbon where their legacy of producing innovative and premium quality whiskey is still going strong. The Small Batch Bourbon Collection is a stellar foursome comprised of Booker’s, Baker’s 7, Knob Creek and Basil Hayden’s.  The Jim Beam brand carries a variety of bourbon whiskies like Devil’s Cut, Red Stag, and Jim Beam Black to name a few.  It is impossible to not share a deep appreciation for Mr. Noe’s family history and the baton of greatness that is being passed on from one generation to the next with bourbon expressions wearing the Beam name.

The afternoon event began with an exclusive invitation to an hour long Masters VIP Tasting of eight different spirits.   The principal spirits and presenters were:   Jim Beam & Small Batch, Devil’s Cut, Fred Noe, Master Distiller; Cruzan Rum, Cruzan Single Barrel, Don Nelthrop,  Assistant Master Distiller, Son of founder, Donald Nelthrop;  Marker’s Mark, Maker’s 46, Greg Davis, Master Distiller; Cooley’s Irish Whiskey, Kilbeggan 18 yo, John Cashman, Master Ambassador; Canadian Club, Canadian Club 20 yo, Dan Tullio, Master Ambassador; Courvoisier, L’Essence de Courvoiser Cognac, Patrice Pinet, Master Blender; Laphroaig, Cairdeas Port Wood Edition, Simon Brooking, Master Ambassador; and, Sauza Tequila, Sauza Tres Generacions Plata Tequila, Karina Sanchez, Master Ambassador.

At registration, I was given a chip with #5 on it which represented the table where I would begin the exclusive tasting circuit.   The eight site-tables were arranged in a circle comprised of ‘give or take’ groups of 10 guests moving from one table to the next with a bell announcing the end of each presentation.  To get the ball rolling, I was happy to discover that table #5 was Canadian Club and hosted by CC’s dynamic Brand Ambassador, Mr. Dan Tullio.  Without a second to waste, Dan launched into a brief historical synopsis of Hiram Walker, the Windsor Distillery and then introduced our palates to a sample of Canadian Club 20 year old, aged in sherry casks, 40% abv., $49.95.  The CC 20 awakened and warmed up my taste buds with its lingering notes of toffee and cloves.  I felt it was the perfect whisky to begin the afternoon journey of tasting premium Beam spirits.

Each presentation was educational and held something of particular value to me.   Of the 5 Bourbon/whiskies that were presented, the one that I hadn’t previously tasted was the Laphroaig Cairdeas Port Wood Edition, 51.3% abv, NCF.  I was thrilled when I saw it on the table.  This bottling is a limited port finish release created for the Islay whisky festival, Feis Ile 2013.  It has been double matured in bourbon and port wood casks.  This is a unique Laphroaig with its’ all natural pink hue colouring after being aged in port barrels. The Laphroaig was presented by the animated Simon Brooking, Brand Ambassador who gave an engaging and tactile session. I very much appreciated having the opportunity to sample this Islay whisky because it is not available at the LCBO; and, on the Laphroaig website, “sold out” marks the spot.  On my palate, I thought it was a balance of extracted sweet berry fruit that complimented Laphroaig’s signature back bone of brine and peat.   I was impressed that the port had such strong character to pop out like that.  My only regret was that I didn’t have more time to taste and think about it.

Before I knew it, the hour long Master VIP Tasting was over.  Fortunately, there was a fun filled afternoon to look forward to.   I headed over to a large open concept building where booths representing the Beam portfolio filled the venue.  As I stepped into the hall, it felt both daunting and amazing to think that one company owned such a distinctive stable of spirits.  I decided I would begin the next tasting chapter with another Canadian whisky named Alberta Premium Dark Horse, 45% abv, $29.95.  As I got my bearings, a dram with a lot of rye running through my veins felt like a good thing.   This portion of the event was relaxed, casual and filled with its fair share of pleasant surprises.  I welcomed the opportunity to talk with the Brand experts and to learn as much as I possibly could from them.

Wendy Harker & Greg Davis

It was a real pleasure to catch-up to Maker’s Mark Master Distiller, Greg Davis.  The signature seal of the red wax bottles were on full display, with an oak plank stretched across the right corner of the table. This striking display told the story of what makes Maker’s 46 different from Maker’s Mark.  In the final 2-3 months of aging, seared French oak staves are inserted into barrels of Maker’s Mark whisky to draw out more flavour notes and to give this bottling its unique characteristics.  The chance to retaste Maker’s 46, 45% abv, reminded me of how much I really liked it.  So much so, in fact, I bought a bottle the next day!

My next stop was with John Cashman, Brand Ambassador of Cooley’s Irish Whiskey.  In January 2012 Cooley Distillery was purchased by Beam Global.  I am a fan of Irish whiskey and the brand produces a couple of my favourites like Tryconnell and Greenore; other well known whiskies under Cooley’s umbrella are Kilbeggan and Connemara.  I asked John what we had to look forward to from Cooley’s and what have been some of the changes it has experienced now under Beams wing.  He said that the distillery will now be able to hold onto their younger aged whiskies that would have otherwise been sold to other companies.  He added that this will also give the distillery the opportunity to produce older aged whiskies and develop new finishes.  This had me wondering if the increased volume of in-house whiskies would also increase limited releases.  I asked him about Cooley’s Poitin, a Single Pot Still New Make whiskey which is also currently being aged in barrels.   I asked if he thought the barrel aged whiskey would be released in 2014?   Shaking his head, John non-specifically predicted that it would be later than that.  He also talked about how they had been faced with the obstacle of marketing and distributing on a global scale. But with Beam Inc, they would now be able to reach a worldwide market. I was left with a good impression that we were going to see some exciting new releases from this distillery.  And, the quality, creativity and Brand heritage that Cooley’s is known for was very much intact.

Not all of the brands at this event were owned by Beam Global.  Grouped together at one end of the hall were three Scottish Whiskies: Highland Park, Macallan and Famous Grouse.  I wondered what their relationship was with Beam Global and asked one of the Brand Ambassadors.  The whiskies are owned by the Edrington Group with Beam Global being their Canadian distribution partner.

I approached the Macallan table and was equally delighted to find the knowledgeable and hospitable, Marc Laverdiere, Macallan Brand Ambassador, and The Macallan 1824 Series: Gold, Amber, Sienna and Ruby.   The bottled series uses a range of woods for flavour and colour and is without age statements.  As of the first week of July, the series is a new release at the LCBO with Canada being one of the worldwide markets to receive the entire collection.   I was grateful to have the opportunity to sample the four new expressions.  Of the four, Sienna was my favourite; the whisky has been aged in 100% American oak sherry casks and bottled at 43% abv. I tried to savour my sample with its lingering finish and flavours of plump fruit, honey and warming spicy tones.   It felt like a lovely treat.

With the afternoon coming to an end, it just seemed right to finish my day with a dram of Baker’s 7, one of the bourbons from the Small Batch Collection.  It was my personal way of toasting the namesake of the event and to ponder the past four hours that seemed to slip through my fingers.  I felt that I had been navigating myself through a series of complex whiskies and brand relationships.  One lasting thought was that while under the umbrella of the powerhouse of Beam Global, the cultural beginnings and the rich heritage of bourbon and other whisky brands that comprise its portfolio have remained preserved.  These gems of whisky symbolized a blend of ingenuity and traditional value while at the same time delighting and challenging my senses of taste and smell.  It is also important to recognize the hard working experts like the Master Distillers, Blenders and Brand Ambassadors that are so personable and willing to answer questions and share their knowledge.  The spirit of this event was one of generosity and fun.

Kensington (KWM) Calgary Spring Whisky Festival – Scotch Whisky News

Kensington (KWM) Calgary Spring Whisky Festival 13th June, 2013

The Kensington Spring Whisky Festival is so popular that it’s sold out months in advance and a second ’emergency’ mini Festival was scheduled the following week to deal with the extra demand. Whisky Intelligence was fortunate to be invited and flew to Calgary to attend the Thursday evening event.

KWM is not a physically large store but its foot print on the Canadian whisky scene is far out strips its diminutive size. The whisky team is led by their in house ‘scotch guy’ Andrew Ferguson who has a passion for whisky that is infectious.

KWM seeks out many varieties of whiskies and works relentlessly to expand their whisky selection, as an example their selection of Japanese whisky is showing rapid growth, many of which are exclusive to KWM. They also bottle around 6 to 8 single casks a year which are exclusive to the store and many customers are consulted in during the selection process which KWM describes as ‘whisky democracy’.

They are run an astonishing array of tastings throughout the year and these tastings are jam packed with all types of highly sought after whiskies. Customers are kept up to date by Andrew’s popular and detailed Malt Messenger (which is often published on Whisky Intelligence).

They are also the retail home of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society in Alberta and they host the very popular 1st Friday Outtrun Tastings which have expanded to two events on the 1st Friday and then a third on the Saturday evenings, such is the demand for Society whiskies.

The Festival is supported by local agents and their tables are arranged throughout the store and amongst the racks of wine and spirits. Most tables feature between 6 and 8 different whiskies from all over the world although the malts from Scotland predominate. The Festival lasts for 2 hours however WI was able to gain access 30 minutes prior to the opening; time spent in reconnaissance is seldom wasted! A count of the whiskies on offer topped out at 110 which is pretty amazing selection.

W.I. sampled Glenglassaugh 26yo, Dalwhinnie 25yo, W&M Port Ellen 30yo, Hammer Head Czech whisky, two single 2005 casks exclusive to KWM which are due to arrive in a month or so, the new Macallan Ruby, SMWS Laphroaig 20yo 29.124, the very recently released Ardbog, Laphroaig 18 (a dram or two it must be confessed), Arran 16yo (again, a dram or two – a point not lost on the hyper observant lady behind the table), Tomatin 25, Tomatin 30yo, G&M 1979 Dallas Dhu and a 1980’s vintage G&M Glen Albyn. The W&M North British 50yo was also on offer however the pours were microscopic so it was impossible to achieve any sense of the whisky however the pours were adequate if one merely wanted to say they had tried a 50yo whisky; as a sales tool such a small pour was a failure.

Naturally a purchase or two was made; a SMWS Laphroaig 29.124, a 16yo Isle of Arran (see, those extra pours did the trick), Ardbog and a Wilson & Morgan Port Ellen 30 Year (Exclusive to KWM, only 12 bottles of this whisky have been made available to Canada. From sherry butt 2031, distilled in 1982 and bottled in 2012 at 57.7%. This is one of just 420 bottles.)

Enough is good as a feast as they say and soon time was up, the pourers were packed away and it was time to call it an evening for the following evening was the Ultimate Ardbeg Event…details to follow.

If you plan on attending one of Kensington’s Whisky Festivals (held in the spring and the fall) then sign up for the Malt Messenger via their website ( and purchase your tickets early!

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