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Tuesday 30 November 2010

The BiG Awards 2010 shortlist is unveiled!!

Ok folks, the tension is mounting now as we get closer to our annual BiG awards, which celebrates the 10 best whiskies released this year.

This time, we asked you, the readers for your recommendations too- and you duly obliged, with hundreds of emails about your favourite releases of 2010. So, like they do on Crimewatch, we've gone through each email with a fine-toothed comb and have counted up how many matches there were with our own thoughts... and it seems like we're all roughly on the same page!!

So, without further ado, here are the nominees for the overall prize of Best in Glass 2010. We'll be judging each whisky in early December, with one winner being plucked from the bunch with a triumphant fanfare:

In no particular order:

You may also remember that we were running a little competition for 3 readers. Well, the lucky winner is Mike Aikman from Edinburgh. A box with something interesting will be winging its way to you shortly. We'll also pick out 2 runner up names when we've announced the overall winner of Best in Glass on the 10th December, so watch this space. Until then, congrats to all the whiskies above for being the cream of this year's best releases.

Friday 26 November 2010

The Bitterest sometimes the tastiest

What a week it's been so far. Not one to remember on many counts, that's for sure.

At Caskstrengh, Bobby, my faithful companion and wonderful cat was hit by a car.
Whilst the accident wasn't fatal, it shook me to my core and made me realise just how we have a natural instinct to protect the ones we dearly love, animals included.
Time will heal him, along with love, cuddles and lots of roast chicken dinners.

I am also in need of some healing too after such a shock to the system and it's times like these that I think back to the days gone by when there was a preparation for everything. Cure-All tonics, embrocations and tinctures to rid the body of Alopecia to Varicella-Zoster (Chickenpox...alright smart-arse...try finding an ailment beginning with Z...!)

Many of you may not know that cocktail bitters, those mysteriously pungent and aromatic potions in tiny bottles actually hark back to some of the original recipes used in these slightly misleading elixirs. Angostura Bitters, one of the most famous throughout history, was formally a recipe of Dr Siegert's tonic, used by the quack to treat pain in some of his patients. Whether they worked is a mystery, but people bought into them, big time.

There were so many false claims as to healthy properties and also erroneous ingredients - some, which actually did more harm than good. These included Snake Root, a fairly common bittering agent, which can cause renal failure and the frankly hilarious, Cocaine Toothdrops (a modern day marketing execs dream, in more ways than one)

Today the bitters market is becoming big business again. Some major, yet artisianal players are making waves with their formulations, some harking back to the yesteryear, ala Dr Adam Elmegirab's Boker's Bitters and our wonderfully affable German friends - The Bitter Truth, who make a sensational range of exciting new flavours, as well as variations on traditional recipes.

We also welcome the great Master Of Malt to the bitters arena- who... being... erm... Masters Of Malt, have decided to go a step further, by producing some very specially formulated bitters, married and matured for extra depth and richness in a little cask which previously held a 38 year old Glen Grant. Their premise is that the whisky aged bitters will add a perfect compliment of spiciness and aromatic zing to whisk(e)y based cocktails, such as a Manhattan, Rob Roy, Old Fashioned or Sour.

Ever ready and eager to try some out, a small but perfectly formed bottle arrived yesterday and being that the weekend has finally arrived and my soul is in some serious need of a restorative, I put them to the test...

Master Of Malt - Cask Aged Whisky Bitters - 1st Edition. 46.2%
'Contains Fruits, spices, 8 year old bourbon, overproof dark rum and vodka, matured in a cask which previously contained a 38 year old Glen Grant'

Nose: Oh my, what a heady elixir. Huge vanilla notes take the lead, followed by cardamon, cloves, cinnamon bark, zesty orange and warming spices.

Palate: A small drop on the tongue reveals, pepper, more cloves and cardamon, rich tobacco notes, dried fruits and a hint of aromatic, like star anise or licorice root.

Finish: The cloves linger and i'm left with a tingling sensation, akin to eating a really good, aged christmas pudding and smoking a Don Ramos Epicure no. 19 (a big ring gauged Honduran cigar, perfect for festive post-prandial relaxing)

I have just used this in my first Manhattan of the evening, using this, my favourite recipe:

50ml Pikesville White Label Straight Rye Whiskey
20ml Capano Antica Formula sweet vermouth
10ml Noilly Prat dry vermouth
5ml of Maraschino liqueur

3-4 dashes of MOM Cask-Aged Whisky bitters.

Stirred over ice in a boston shaker glass and served in a chilled coupette glass, with a twist of orange zest (expressed) and a Griottine marinated cherry as a garnish.

Words can only describe how this drink lifts the senses, explores the soul and comes out triumphantly shouting 'YOU ROCK!!'

I feel lighter, the weight of the world seemingly less crushing. I know what you're thinking, 'yeah right... all this from a Manhattan and some funky bitters'. Well try it. As a combination of flavours, this drink raises my spirits. Let it do the same for you. The bitters add another dimension, call it the 'seasoning'. Hats off Master Of Malt.

I shall wrap this post up now, before I try a whisky sour, the recipe of which you can read here.

As a postscript, Bobby has started eating and drinking again, seems a little less in pain and I would like to take the opportunity to ask each and every one of you to raise whatever glass you have in your hand this evening and say a few kind words for him. I know he would appreciate it, and so would I.

Thank you.

Monday 22 November 2010

Brighton Rock (s)

As winter wraps its chilling cloak around us, a trip to the seaside probably isn't up there on everyone's to do lists. However last week, we were invited to Brighton's Hotel Du Vin, home to the south east's Scotch Malt Whisky Society rooms to sample several of their new bottlings.

The trip from London to Brighton was a fairly tortuous affair, with trees on the line, the wrong leaves, farting businessmen and the overpoweringly twee sound of Justin Bieber, piped loudly from a teenage iPod next to me. It's at times like this that my inner Basil Fawlty rises up. Like David Banner trying to resist the transition into the Hulk, I furiously fought back the urges to snip the offending iPod cable discreetly with nail scissors. Fortunately, We had a hot meal and several fabulous drams to look forward to, so Basil was banished and we soon pulled into a crisp and bracing Brighton night.

The hotel has been superbly renovated and features an immaculate bar, behind which, you'll find a plethora of great whiskies. But for SMWS members, the hotel features a private room for tastings and it was here that our fun began.

London SMWS Manager Joe McGirr was on hand with 5 new bottlings from their extensive range, including an absolutely divine Clynelish and a downright bizarre Penderyn...
Here's our pick from the current outturn:

26.68 - SMWS single cask bottling- 'Morph and Minty' - 18 years old- 52.9% - 150 bottles

Nose: Butterscotch, wax jackets, Refreshers sweets, a hit of blue cheese and musty church books. Yes- a heady but superb mix of extremely diverse aromas.

Palate: Perfumed and floral notes mix with cereals, some waxy honey, mint humbugs, lavender and creamy homemade fudge. Wonderfully fruity and rich.

Finish: A hint of saltiness creeps in at the end, but the floral notes and a classic waxiness develops and you're left with a very satisfied set of senses.

Overall: Another choice cask from a consistently brilliant highland distillery.

Next up... Is it a Cognac? An Armagnac? Calvados? No... it's Welsh...

OK, so we can't really keep the identity of this one a secret, but the sheer strangeness of this, the society's first bottling from Penderyn needs to be noted. 6 years in a very fresh port cask has 'influenced' the spirit beyond all recognition...

128.1 - SMWS single cask bottling- 'A String Quartet of Flavours' - 6 years old - 55.6% - 233 bottles

Nose: Huge notes of fruity but floral Cognac, reminiscent of a very feminine VSOP. Dig past these notes and you walk headlong into buttery apple sweetness, with a distinct Calvados slant. the colour is absolutely staggering- russet red/brown.

Palate: The fruit develops, with port dominating at first, some talc notes and butterscotch.

Finish: Highly different- some lemon zest notes but again a drying finish really similar to a decent well-aged Armagnac.

Overall: It's hard to say that this is a decent whisky, as in all honestly, it isn't like any whisky we've tried for a long time. The cask has dominated the spirit to such an extent, that it is very one dimensional. But it's a dimension that displays how the use of interesting European oak can influence a whisky and because of that- this is well worth seeking out.

A heavily sherried Laphroaig reared its head (29.91) - with lots of big BBQ pork notes on the nose, coupled with a woody, slightly biting and dry palate. Also, the peaty 'chalk' to the Laphroaig's 'cheese' - a very handsome and light Ardbeg (33.96), with citrus, light peat and vanilla, mixed with cream soda and pairing very well with the Hotel du Vin's Creme Brulee.
But our attention was focused on our final pic of the night - one from Cambeltown's duo of distilleries.

27.85 - SMWS single cask bottling- 'Manly and Penetrating' - 12 years old - 58.8% - 209 bottles

Nose: Slightly musty, notes of wet wood and a slight damp warehouses. Then toffee, peanut brittle, marshmallows, and toffee apples.

Palate: Sherbet fruits, port sweetness, fruit gums, a hint of coffee and sawdust.

Finish: The fruity notes lead into slightly musty wine notes, with a little waft of west coast peat.

Overall: A highly entertaining and enjoyable dram, highlighting further that the society can root out some real gems from around the world.

As the evening drew to a close, it was clear that the SMWS continue to knock out excellent bottlings quicker than South East Rail can get you from Brighton to London. And nearly always at a reasonable price to their members. The pick of the bunch from this lot was the 26.68 and we happily took a hip flask full as preparation for the train ride home.

Sunday 21 November 2010

Let's All Meet Up In The Year 2000

Balblair is not a distillery we have reviewed before, nor is it one I am hugely familiar with. When I’ve popped in to my (very) local whisky dealer, The Whisky Exchange in Vinopolis, I’ve always marvelled at their beautiful packaging and I even sold a few bottles when helping them out in their Christmas rush last year , which seemed to go down very well with the punters. (This year I have installed a Batphone-esque help line to my flat for if their shop gets as crowded as it did last year) But my only real experience was sneaking a tipple from TWE’s sampling stock so I knew what I was flogging.

Imagine my delight when Mr Postman turns up one morning this week with a package. Too small to be a full bottle but too big to contain a sample, I tore the jiffy bag open to find what can only be described as a small metal lunchbox with a window in the lid, housing a miniature of the new Balblair 2000. A small press releases fell from what remained of the envelope informing me that this was the latest in Balblair’s Vintage Expressions.

Only a small distillery, Balblair knocks out around 1.3 million litres a year (so twice the size of Arran, but just under half the size of Glenfarclas) and only bottles in Vintages, which is a cracking idea. The other Vintages in their range are: 1979 (God’s own year...), 1989 and 1997. And all at very reasonable prices, it has to be said. (£85-odd for the 1979. You’d struggle to find an Indie bottling on anything from 1979 that cheap)

As I opened the metal box which held the miniature in place, there was a further piece of literature in side (or should I say “marketing”?), a fold out document to remind us exactly what happened in the year 2000, and I’ve scanned this in for your pleasure here:

Major points Balblair have chosen to focus on from 2000:

- The last Mini being produced at Longbridge. This was a signal of things to come for the Longbridge plant which closed in 2005, leaving more than 6,000 workers unemployed.

- The Millennium Dome opened and, as observed by the leaflet, closed a year later.

- The Queen Mum turned 100. She’s now dead.

- People had Millennium parties worldwide. I know of not one person who really, thoroughly enjoyed themselves that night. And technically they were celebrating in 1999.

- The Tate Modern Opened. Yes, now we’re flying! A true, stick-on positive from the year 2000.

All of this just leaves me wanting Balblair to release a 1939 bottling, with a leaflet featuring such highlights as:

- The outbreak of World War 2.

- Albert Einstein writing to President Roosevelt about developing the Atomic Bomb.

- Marvin Gaye was born.

Balbliar – 2000 – 1st release – 43%

Ex-Bourbon Oak Cask, £31.50 RRP, very pale in colour

Nose: Vanilla, green apple, pear drops and some lemon and lime notes. This is creamy and very indicative of 100% American oak barrels. A little weak and slightly too sweet for me.

Palate: Honey, heather and delicate white flowers; this gives sweetly to the palate like a dusted boiled sweet. The sweetness dissipates quickly to leave the juicy notes of pineapple juice and freshly squeezed apple juice behind.

Finish: a touch of honeysuckle, some more vanilla and custard notes, this time with lavender. White chocolate. Short.

Overall: I didn’t think I was going to like this as from the nose I thought it would be a little insipid and too weak in flavour, but it has a lot of positives to make this a decent whisky at a decent price. It’ll get hammered by those who love their sherried whisky, but it holds a good place if you like a sweet, vanilla and honey tone to your dram as it comes across much more like a delicate Lowland than a Highland beast. It wouldn’t make it into my top 5 whiskies under £35, but it might make it in to the top 15.

I think Inverhouse (who also own Old Pultney, anCnoc and Speyburn) should be applauded for the direction they are taking Balblair in. Vintage-only is a great way to platform this brand as a Premium Single Malt, but with price tags that certainly are not. I hope that this continues as the brand grows and that the quality of the liquid inside their bottles matches the high standards they have set themselves for image.

Tuesday 16 November 2010

As Good As Gold?

As many eagle eyed regulars on here will remember, we're pretty big fans of Johnnie Walker's Gold Label blend. It ticks almost every box- finesse, price, versatility and all-round, solid blending. However, we've had mixed feelings about its more expensive brother, the Blue Label. In some areas, it often felt like it was missing something, that extra sparkle that one would expect for a whisky in its price bracket. I first encountered Blue Label at a restaurant in Cape Town- for the surprisingly generous sum of £7 for a dram. Needless to say, I enjoyed it, but still my mind returned to the half drunk bottle of Gold, sitting in my cabinet at home.

So it is with great intrigue that I recently had the opportunity to try the Blue Label again, but this time in the company of its 2 older and much more prestigious brothers- the King George V and newly released, 'The John Walker' bottling.

The John Walker now occupies the role as flagship of the Blue Label range and has been aimed at the increasing number of High End Cognac drinkers across the globe. Made in batches of 330 bottles from 9 casks (3 of which we're told include Cardhu, the discontinued Glen Albyn and Talisker) this is certainly going to have a story to tell. The blend is married for around 4 months in oak before being encased in individually numbered Baccarat crystal decanters and housed in hand crafted Chinese pine cases, which apparently take around 60 hours to turn out. And it shows. The case does look superb.

So where does this leave the whisky? Could this turn into the story of the man, who spent so much on the exterior of his house that he couldn't afford to furnish the inside? I sincerely hope not. Mind you, if I was small enough I think I would be quite happy taking up residence in one of these...
Johnnie Walker Blue Label - The John Walker - Blended Whisky - 43%

Nose: Reserved, but stirring. give this time and it really begins to open up. Vanilla notes, leading into aromas of malty, freshly baked loaves, lemon zest, seville oranges and heather honey. Scented wax notes also develop. Brilliantly balanced.

Palate: Quite a big surprise here. Whereas, we have found the Blue Label to lack some depth, this is a surprisingly bold palate, with a distinct note of briney peat, leading into milky, sweetened coffee, turkish delight more honey and mint chocolate notes. All this is wrapped up in a viscous, oily mouth feel.

Finish: An oaky dryness develops, with the coffee notes lingering and a return of the vanilla from the nose.

Overall: The nose and palate are sensational and certainly demonstrate just how blended whisky can beguile and give us hours of enjoyment. The finish perhaps doesn't deliver quite as many superlatives, but this is still no doubt, a class act. In comparison to the original Blue Label this shows a far greater elegance, which one would expect with the kind of whiskies used in its creation. It also highlights a different style of blending to the King George V bottling, which is much heavier on the dried fruit notes.

The best experience i've had with Blue Label? Certainly. But discount the other blends in the JW portfolio at your peril.

Friday 12 November 2010

The Power and Efficacy of Indulgences

What is Northern Ireland's most famous export?

Is it the uber-talented but "haunted by demons" footballer-par-excellence George Best, whose name now graces Belfast’s City Airport?

Or perhaps it is the DeLorean? The car made famous in the Back-To-The-Future trilogy, now derided for its utter uselessness and total inability to do anything, let alone take us back in time, or indeed to deliver us back, to the future.

Or maybe its good old, simple terrorism. Can't find a bin to put your chewing gum in on the tube? These were removed in the 1980’s due to the ease with which bombs could be hidden in them. Ah, the days when terrorists would phone ahead. Now-a-days the 'phone is used to set off the bomb, not to warn against it. How times have changed.

It could well be Bushmills whiskey. Known worldwide, it even made its way in to the popular American TV drama The Wire, where McNulty accuses Bushmills of being "Protestant whiskey". Classically ill-educated, this comment seemed to capture a time when the American culture, under the misguidance of George W Bush, not only used religion to degrade, but insisted on giving inanimate objects religious affectation. It's just whiskey, people. Try enjoying it for its taste and flavour, not for where it is made. Go, figure...

But if Bushmills is to be Protestant, then Master Distiller Colum Egan is their Martin Luther, drawing a new path for his whiskey in a market where ever-increasingly expensive bottles equates to column inches for whichever distillery is next in the line with their "indulgence"... £100,000 Dalmore Trinitas for absolution, anyone? I'll take two. One for now, one for my future sins.

Back in September, I had the pleasure of jumping on the 159 bus to an event hosted by Bowmore, where Islay was "recreated" in the National Geographic Store on Regent Street, taking all the stress (and most of the fun) out of travelling to Islay.

Well, someone is at it again. This time it was the turn of Bushmills, probably the most famous export from Northern Ireland, to try and bring a little piece of their country to The Big Smoke. And what better venue, than an Irish bar in Soho.

This is a far cry from mid-August, when I had the distinct pleasure of visiting Bushmills for a couple of days work. I was there as one of three judges, under the guise of running a whisky blog and as a contributor to Whisky Magazine, on their Make It At Bushmills project: a master-stroke in PR which invited people from around the world to win a vote to represent their nation on a three-day final at Bushmills. The ultimate prize was £5000 spending money, a months work experience at the distillery and, best of all, the chance to make and bottle their own blend under the guidance of the Master Blender Helen Mulholland.

The three days were amazing; a brief Indian summer before the winds and rain that we have today. Sitting on the first day at the Giants Causeway, gazing out towards the Isle of Islay, in bright sunshine with my fellow judges, Irish Singer Songwriter Foy Vance and Rugby legend Keith Wood, surrounded by people passionate about whiskey of all kinds, was a total pleasure.

The winner, Ivan, was from Bulgaria and after his month of training, I wouldn't be surprised to see a triple distilled whisky falling on my doormat from Bulgaria in 3 or 4 years time!

Yet here we are back in rainy London. And this time the people of Bushmills came to visit us!

Helen was our host in London last week, showcasing her new bottling of the Bushmills 21 Year Old. Released in batches of just 6000 bottles each year and retailing at around £120, the triple distilled whiskey is matured for 19 Years in a mix of sherry and bourbon casks, then spending 2 years maturing in ex-Madeira casks. This is the top of the regular Bushmills range in both age and price.

Bushmills – 21 Year Old – 2010 release – 40% - Bottle number 0001

Nose: A fresher nose than expected from a 21 Year Old, with hints of oak and apricot jam, the nose develops with time to raisins soaked in sherry, a touch of fresh mint, some green tea and fresh green herbs. All round refreshing for an older whisky.

Palate: Initial hit of dark chocolate but a low coco content version with develops in to strong toffee notes and eventually ends up as Dandelion & Burdock with an over tone of Wurthers Originals. Sweet but rounded off with good wood spices which are subtle and delicate.

Finish: Coffee notes which come through with quite a bitter edge. Roasted hazelnuts and pickled walnuts with oatcakes and plum chutney. Some cloves and spices.

Overall: This is a solid Irish whisky which is not as sweet as other Madeira finished whisk(e)y that I have had in the past. The nose is wonderful and the palate is well constructed, but for me the finish is lacking the poise and character of the other two sections. It would also have been nice to see this whisky at 43% or even 45% ABV. I’ll stick my neck out and say that the 16 Year Old is their best and most consistent whiskey, but the 21 is not far behind.

All in, I can not fault the Bushmills experience. Part of their raison d'etre is to go from grain to glass at the distillery, with malting, distillation and bottling side-by-side. Having visited and seen some of the guys again in London last week, they not only manage to get the grain into the glass, but the spirit of the distillery too.

Protestant? This stuff is positively Evangelical.

I Could Be So Good To You

Just a quick reminder that entries for the limited space tasting of some interesting whiskies from The Glenlivet, on November 30th at Boisdale of Belgravia at 6pm, is still open until midnight tonight (12 November 2010).

There are only 15 spaces available so if you'd like to come along, drop us an email to with the following phrase:

"“Me, please. I’d like to come along and drink some Glenlivet with you.”

along with your age (you must be over 18) and we'll stick your name in the hat. Winners will be notified on Saturday 13th November 2010.

Further details here.

Wednesday 10 November 2010

What's In A Name?

What’s the most difficult thing about being in a band?

Is it learning to play your instrument?


Is it writing some hit songs?


Maybe it is your image. Working a natural style that no one has had before. Iconic yet easy. Surely, that must be it?


The hardest thing about being in a band is, of course, finding a band name.

You can pour for hours over a copy of The Racing Post, mixing horses’ names with greyhounds. Today alone you could form a band called “Somewhere In Atlanta” or “Big Man Little Man”. Both names, I’m sure you will agree, of bands destined to stay playing in their local pub for the rest of eternity.

Another option is to use a website such as Random Band Name Generator. A genius idea for the ultra-lazy creative, the site gives you an option for a key word and away you go.

Our first effort yielded the following results:

Serious Of The Colony / Dart Verbal / Earl Of The Effect / Lovely Fetus / Ruthless Storm / Chafing Transport And The Wood / Pivotal Candle / Introduction Of The Lipstick / Bending Uranium And The Misspent Spoon / Dumpy Of The Fetal

Honestly. This is all true.

Now, transpose this problem to producing and marketing your own blend.

What is the hardest thing about putting together a blend?

Is the hardest thing getting hold of interesting, quality casks of good single malts?


Is it working out, drop by drop, which of the subtle flavours to mix together to produce the ideal blend?


Clearly, the hardest thing to do is to choose a great name for your blend. A task made even harder if you're not Scottish (no traditional Celtic imagery to call upon) or if your Great-Great-Great-Great Granddaddy didn’t own a grocers in Kilmarnock...

Well, step up to the plate Compass Box and take a bow for your wonderfully named blends:

Flaming Heart / The Peat Monster / Hedonism / Asyla / Lady Luck / Double Single.

All wonderful names, with fantastic bottles and lovely artwork (esp Lady Luck)

But we’re not here to talk about the quality of the packaging. I’ll leave that to other blogs. Let’s take a look at their whisky to see if it is equally as wonderful:

Double Single – Compass Box 10th Anniversary Bottling – 53.3% - 876 Bottles only

Seriously, though. Check out that bottle shot. Beautiful.

This whisky has been brought out to celebrate 10 Years of Compass Box; two single casks, one malt, one grain. The malt is 18 Year Old Glen Elgin (which makes up 76% of the bottling) from a refill American Oak Hogshead and the grain is 21 Year Old Port Dundas from a First Fill American Oak Hogshead. Openness and honesty about your blend? That’s surely the way forward. Keeping it all hidden just makes us feel Blue.

Nose: Sweet kiwi fruit, a hint of banana, some pineapple and a touch of butter scotch. Light and well balanced.

Palate: Lots of hazelnuts and butter, with a hint of vanilla and grapefruit juice at full strength. With water the gentle pineapple notes are pushed through with wood / oak notes coming much more to the fore.

Finish: Crème Brulee and grapefruit juice neat, with water the finish is more pronounced vanilla pods and oak spices with hint of ginger

Overall: A very delicate, very easy to drink blend that used the Port Dundas grain to provide a launch pad for the refill Hoggy Glen Elgin to show off it’s butterscotch and grapefruit identity.

Now on to the second whisky we have from Compass Box, also to celebrate their 10th Anniversary.

Flaming Heart – Compass Box 10th Anniversary Bottling – 48.9% - 4,186 bottles

Again, look at the label. If I drank a whole bottle of this on my own, I’d fall into a tattooist and get this label as a tat on my arm. It is simply stunning.

7 single malt whiskies from the Highlands and Islands, including something from near Brora, something from near Caol Ila and something from the Isle of Mull...!

Nose: This whisky gives a real kick of smoke but backed with a richness and wisdom to not kick you in the teeth completely; kinda like Marianne Faithful, this whisky has seen a lot but has ultimately come out the other end richer for the experience with a real story to tell. There is everything going on in this nose. Smoke, walnuts, some juicy fruit chewing gum, baked potato, rich Christmas cake. It’s really very complex without screaming at you.

Palate: Earthy and salty gives way to an amazing rich brandy butter palate which dances around your palate with exciting verve and vigour grabbing cinnamon and cloves as it moves. A wonderfully rich mouth feel. Sweet and rounded with good hit of peat. Lovely, yet totally different to anything I’ve had in a while.

Finish: Red apples, peat and, yup more peat. Once the fire dies down there is some salt and red grapes. Long and warming.

Overall: This is how a blend should be: full of lots of different personalities. Too many blends are like a Mondrian painting for me, just blocks of different colours. This is a Jackson Pollock. Vibrant and unusual, yet somehow beautiful and structured.

There we have it. Compass Box deliver once more. Two very different blends, but suited to very different occasions. For me the pick of the two is Flaming Heart, a bottling which such a small company delivers with amazing consistency. The Double Single is light and delicate and the perfect pre-dinner whisky, but for the full impact of flavours and to totally confuse your senses, grab yourself a bottle of the Flaming Heart 10th Anniversary while you can!

As for me... I’m off to get a tattoo.

Friday 5 November 2010

The Glenlivet Tasting Competition

Whisky in 3D? surely not??

So far, we've only seen one movie in the "new 3D" format at the cinema: Toy Story 3.

Proclaimed by Mark Kermode as "the greatest film trilogy of all time", it really did come to life and brought a whole new dimension to cinematic story-telling.

Never ones to be left behind by technology, here at, we're finally entering the 3D world!

Well sort of. Instead of just the regular 2D 'here's-our-thoughts-on-a-whisky' posts, we've decided to launch our first official 'in-the-flesh' Caskstrength tasting.... and we want you to come along....

On St Andrews Day, (Tuesday 30th November) we will be hosting a fabulous tasting in London with some of the good folk from The Glenlivet. The venue will be:

Boisdale Of Belgravia,

15 Eccleston Street,

Belgravia, SW1W 9LX

Along with The Glenlivet's Brand Ambassador Phil Huckle, We'll be going through some excellent examples from The 'livet catalogue for your delectation and delight... and something really very interesting and slightly mysterious too...

There are 15 places up for grabs here- If you’d like to join us, it couldn't be simpler.

Send us an email to saying:

“Me, please. I’d like to come along and drink some Glenlivet with you.”

And it gets better. If you can't make it into London, Fear not. Our friends at Edinburgh Whisky Blog will be hosting a similar Glenlivet tasting up in their home town, on the same night!!

A few house rules first, however:

1.You must be over the age of 18 Years and state your Date Of Birth in the email. (pretty obvious this one)

2.You must be able to get to the venue for 6pm on 30th November. We will be starting promptly!

3. This is a free event and we'll be drawing 15 names from a hat next Friday 12th November, so get emailing now...!


Neil + Joel