Royal Brackla 1998 (bottled 2014) – Connoisseurs Choice (Gordon & MacPhail) (70cl, 46.0%)

Speyside, whisky


The Brackla distillery was built in 1812 by Captain William Fraser of Brackla House on the estate of Cawdor Castle.

The whisky produced was selected by King William IV of the United Kingdom to be his whisky for the Royal Court, which turned Brackla into the benchmark of Quality.

In 1833 Brackla Distillery became the first whisky distillery to be granted a Royal Warrant by order of King William IV of the United Kingdom. This made Royal Brackla one of only three distilleiess ever honoured to bear the name ‘Royal’, the others being Royal Lochnagar and Glenury Royal which has since been demolished.

In 1839 William Fraser & Co took over the Royal Brackla Distillery and it remained in the family until1879. The then sold distillery was reconstructed as the Brackla Distillery Co Ltd.

The 1897 Prospectus reveals that the capital of the company was £100,000, divided into 40,000 preference and 60,000 ordinary shares. The Directors of the company were James Anderson, Wine Merchant, Leith, Andrew Usher of Northfield, John Usher of Norton and Walter C. Newbigging, distiller at Brackla. The Prospectus also reported:

“Brackla’s whisky has long been known as one of the best Highland malt whiskies in the market. The demand for it has for years been much in excess of the supply, and in order to cope with this demand considerable additions have recently been made to the distillery.”

The distillery and warehouse, at this time, was on a site of over 13 acres, this was held under lease from the Earl of Cawdor.

In 1919 John Mitchel and James Leith of Aberdeen acquired the company but then sold it in 1926 to John Bisset & Co Ltd of Leith. They were taken over by the Distillers Company Ltd in 1943.

Due to restrictions on the use of barley for distilling during the Second World War a majority of Scotch Whisky distilleries closed, including the Royal Brackla Distillery from 1943 until 1945. An airfield was built beside the distillery in 1940, to provide a landing ground for operational training and air gunnery.

1964 saw the distillery close its doors again until 1966, this was due to major reconstruction and re-planning. The traditional method of coal-firing the stills by hand was changed to internal heating by steam generated from a coal-fired boiler. In 1965 an underground supply of water, created during the Second World War for an airfield, was acquired and used for cooling spirit vapour.

In 1970 the distillery was expanded by adding a second pair of stills and converting the coal-fired boiler to oil-fired. New racked warehouses were built in 1975 to replace the older traditional warehouses that were still in use at the time.

The Royal Brackla Distillery closed again in 1985. The casks of whisky remained on site in the warehouses where they continued to mature and be used for blending, as required by the owners. The distillery reopened in 1991.

The distillery’s water sources are Cawdor Burn, Cursack Springs and Airfield supply.Royal Brackla has a mash tun, 12.5 tonnes and eight wash backs with a total volume of 480,000 litres.


A light golden colour on rolling around the glass is syrupy and leaves long legs around the glass. I added a teaspoon of water and left the whisky to develop for 10 minutes.

The nose has notes of chocolate, orange, pepper and peaches. There are soft salt notes hints of confectioners sugar and pear.

The flavour is creamy with hits of citrus, pear, chocolate and spice. There are notes of boiled sweets and red berries in the background.

The finish is long lasting with a silky feeling in the mouth,

A fantastic dram!

In my view this is a more overlooked Highland distillery which is very worth seeking out as it’s one of the best drams I’ve been lucky enough to taste!

This is available from Master of Malt HERE! And the Dufftown Whisky Shop HERE!



Allt-á-Bhainne 1996 – Connoisseurs Choice (Gordon & MacPhail) (70cl, 46.0%)

Speyside, whisky


Allt-á-Bhainne distillery was built in 1975 as a distillery to supply the Chivas Brothers blends such as Chivas Regal similar to its neighbour Braeval. It is currently owned by Pernod Richrd and now goes into 100 Pipers and Chivas Regal blends.

A modern building the distillery produces 4 million litres of alcohol a year using 2 spirit and wash stills and is said to be so efficient that one man can operate the facility. Situated in Glen Rinnes it has water sources from the Scurran & Rowantree Burns The name means Burn of milk in Gaelic and is pronounced olta-VAYne. When Allt-á-Bhainne produces fresh spirit it is transported by large tanker trucks to Keith, where it is casked and stored for blending.


I poured the whisky in to a Glencairn Glass and added a teaspoon of water and left the whisky to develop for ten minutes in the glass. The whisky is a light straw colour and is very slightly oily when rolling around the glass.

Nose Cut grass, a little spirity, cooking apples ,a little mint , digestive biscuits with a slightly oaky complexity.

The taste initally citrus zest dancing on the tip of the tongue, granny smith apples, a little spice, becoming sweet developing into Orkney fudge and vanilla.Finish Long zesty apple peel toffee coming through smooth and delicate.

This whisky is a favourite of mine with a lighter feel due to the refill sherry hogsheads, it’s fruity, very well made and really quite complex especially on the nose. Very easy to drink; and a dram that is suited to almost any occasion.

This edition would encourage anyone to investigate other bottlings of Allt-á-Bhainne an almost unknown Speysider.


Tamnavulin-Glenlivet 10 year old (40%)

Speyside, whisky


In 1966 Tamnavulin-Glenlivet Distillery Co. Ltd built the Tamnavulin distillery near Tomnavoulin Ballindalloch taking its name from the Gaelic for ‘Mill on the hill’ with the intention of suppling the increased demand from blenders such as Whyte and MacKay and Crawford. The distillery was built with eight washbacks, six stills, and a Saladin box to malt the barley. The distillery was closed in 1995. Ownership was transferred to Kyndal International in 2001, and then to the United Spirits division of United Breweries Group in 2007, operated by Whyte and Mackay Ltd. The distillery began operating once again in July 2007 after a major refurbishment with new automation and process control which was installed by Canongate Technology.


I poured the whisky in to a Glencairn Glass and added a teaspoon of water and left the whisky to develop for ten minutes in the glass. The whisky is a light straw colour and is very slightly oily when rolling around the glass.

On the nose the whisky is floral. Hints of green cut grass , oak coming through, very light but very pleasant.

The flavour is a little straightforward, gentle sweetness with a hint of smoke, very pleasant almost refreshing, then sweet and smooth .

The finish is long and drying with hints of oak and a hint of honey sweetness and a subtle herby bitterness

This whisky is quite simple but incorporates the charactoristic sweetness of a Speysider. What makes this whisky different from most others is the freshness of the whisky which I found to be almost refreshing. For someone looking for a highly complex challenging whisky this is not one for you, but for someone looking for a easy drinking good quality whisky then try this one and you wont be disappointed

Whisky Magazine’s Battle of the Blends



To give you an idea of what is going on I’ve taken an exert (for the full article click on the picture above). The following is from Master of Malt whisky blog:

The two competitors began with a 20 litre first fill American oak cask that had previously been filled with high strength neutral spirit (to take some of the initial oak hit – like falling on a quercus-grenade for the benefit of their blends). Dave and Neil then seasoned their casks themselves – the former opting for rum (naturally) and the latter using his own homemade blend of Sherries (principally Oloroso, but also Manzanilla, Palo Cortado and PX).

They then enthusiastically embarked on a process of incremental, cumulative blending within a tiny and still active cask over the course of several months. Neither are of course professional blenders, nor would professional blenders work this way, but that’s the unique task these titans of drinks writing undertook. Forget about the Rumble in the Jungle, never mind the Thrilla in Manilla, this is the Battle of the Blends! May the best man win!

The Marquis of Ridley Rules

1. The first fill will be a Highland malt, Clynelish, of equal measure (1 litre).
2. All the regions of Scotland need to be incorporated: Islands (which includes Islay), Speyside, Highlands (already accounted for), Lowlands and Campbeltown. There is no order as to when these are used, but in each issue of Whisky Magazine the details of the whisky must be revealed.
3. No bottle of whisky used must cost more than £50 RRP except for the wildcard detailed below and must be commercially available in UK.
4. There must be at least one grain whisky but there are no rules as to its origin.
5. A wildcard must be chosen – this can be anything, from anywhere. The only rule here, is that it cannot be over £150 RRP. Also it must be commercially available in UK.
6. The final blend must be under 50% abv.
7. A minimum of 15 litres of blend must be prepared.
8. There are no rules as to how much of each individual whisky category that you can add.
9. The blend must be complete by 1st September 2015, after which it will be sent out for judging. The winner will be published in Whisky Magazine issue 132, which publishes on 4th December 2015.

So on to the exciting bit, a nice delivery man appeared at the door with a parcel for me.

After tearing at the packaging with child like excitement I was met with a simple but well presented box.


Inside I was greeted by an envelope containing instructions on how to submit my verdict and things to consider while judging the blends.


Under the envelope lay the main event, the two blends. Encased in two 30ml taster bottles marked “Blend A 42.1%” and “Blend B 43.5%”.


I tasted the whiskies in order.

Starting with Blend A. The whisky is a darker golden colour and on rolling around the glass has a syrupy look to it with long legs remaining. I added one teaspoon of water and left the whisky to develop in the glass for ten minutes.

Initially on the nose there are notes of peat and honey sweetness coming forward, followed by notes of candied fruit, oak, vanilla and soft wafts of salt coming forward. At the end of the aroma there are hints of fresh cut grass and citrus. Over all the nose balances out into a heather, Highland glen nose which is very impressive.

The flavour is softly smokey with notes of fudge, citrus and sweet grain coming forward. There are notes of grape, sultana and darker dried fruits. There is a hint of vanilla and lapsang souchong tea. The finish is well rounded with hints of fudge and sherry which even each other out.

The finish is long lasting with hints of coffee and sea salt.

Blend B:

A lighter more golden barley colour, on rolling around the glass the whisky has a slightly oily look to it with long legs remaining for a short time. I added one teaspoon of water and left the whisky to develop in the glass for ten minutes.

The nose is sweet and floral, with hints of almond and lemon sherbet. This is followed by salt and sweet grain. This whisky also has hits of chocolate and sugar and again is extremely well balanced on the nose. The aroma is rounded of by notes of mint and has an almost sea air quality to it.

The flavour is much more subtle with notes of pear and apple coming through straight away. There are hints of grain and a following sweetness. The flavour has notes of mint and candy sugar. The finish of the flavour has notes of strawberry and pineapple.

The finish is long with a prickle of ginger at the very end.

Through the balance, delicate flavours and the freshness of the whisky “Blend B” takes it for me!

For more information on the Battle of the Blends and how to become a judge, CLICK HERE! 


Dailuaine 8 year old Hepburn’s Choice (46%)

Speyside, whisky


Dailuaine was founded by William Mackenzie founded 1852 and derives from the Scottish Gaelic ‘An dail uaine’ meaning ‘green valley’, named after the valleys of the Spey in which the Dailuaine whisky distillery lies. William had been a farmer who worked in the Carron area (Just south of Aberlour). Following his passing in 1865, William’s wife rented out the distillery to a banker from Aberlour called James Fleming, who along with William’s son, formed Mackenzie and Company in 1879.

Five years later extensive renovations were undertaken, leaving the distillery as one of Scotland’s largest. Another five years on and Charles Doig built Scotland’s first pagoda roof, which graced the distillery until it collapsed in 1917.

In 1898, Dailuaine-Talisker Distilleries Ltd was formed, the group included an Aberdeen based grain distillery, fellow Speysider Imperial, Dailuaine distillery and the Skye-based Talisker.

In 1925, Distillers Company Limited acquired the company, latterly amalgamating with Diageo. Dailuaine also operates a dark grains plant, whose principal job being to convert draff in to cattle feed.The plant currently processes around 900 tonnes weekly.

The bulk of single malt produced at the distillery is used for blending in Johnnie Walker. The spirit is filled at Cambus and then transported to Blackrange for maturation in the Diageo-owned warehouses. Single malt bottlings from Dailuaine are few and far between; there have been few independent bottlings and but a handful of official releases.


I poured the whisky in to a Glencairn glass and added a teaspoon of water. I left the whisky to develop in the glass for ten minutes. The whisky is a light golden colour and is quite thin on rolling around the glass and is maybe just slightly syrupy.

Sherbet, citrus and icing sugar burst forward on the nose. There are notes of fudge, coconut and almond follow. There are floral hints along with notes of chocolate and fresh coffee in the background. Theres also a slight salt (mineral) note right at the end of the nose.

Notes of almond, citrus, grain, dried fruit, and soft sugar come forward to start. This is followed by soft hits of chocolate, soft prickles of ginger and a light floral almost herbal note. The end of the taste has notes of toffee.

The finish has notes of spice and is medium long.

This whisky is complex and well flavoured and at the price point is really good value!

I purchased this whisky from The Dufftown Whisky Shop.


Benrinnes 15 Year Old – Flora and Fauna (70cl, 43.0%)

Speyside, whisky


Benrinnes distillery is based near Aberlour (Central Morayshire) and founded in 1826. It is not in its original position as the first distillery was destroyed in 1829 and a new one was built on the slopes of the mountain that the whisky has been named after. Until 2007 this distillery used a triple distilation method where so-called ‘feints and low wines’ produced in the second distillation (in the first spirit still) are distilled again in the second spirit still. The later offerings use a more common configuration of two wash stills and four spirit stills. After many changes of ownership John Dewar and sons acquired Benrinnes in 1922. In 1925 the John Dewar & Sons company merged with DCL(Distillery Company Limited, now part of UDV / Diageo).

The distillery mainly produces whisky for blends which include J and B rare and Johnnie Walker, Official bottlings of Benrinnes are a rare treat with only a 1991 15yo in evidence despite the long history of the distillery. However there are independent bottlings available through bottlers such as Gordon and MacPhail, Càrn Mòr and A.D. Rattery. There is also Stronnachie which is produced as a recreated whisky at Benrinnes. I hope to review this one later in the year

The distillery’s water comes from the fed streams Scurran Burn and Rowantree Burn on Ben Rinnes. The whisky uses lightly peated malts. Benrinnes is one of the few distilleries in Scotland that still uses so-called ‘worm tubs’ to cool the vapors and condense the spirit from the running stills. Only one of 13 distilleries in Scotland still to do so.

I poured the whisky in to a Glencairn Glass and added a teaspoon of water and left the whisky to develop for ten minutes in the glass. The whisky is an amber colour and is very slightly syrupy when rolling around the glass.

On the nose the whisky is floral. Hints of smoke, toffee, Grandmothers pie dough and good quality sherry coming through.

The flavour has a complex sweetness ,hints of smoke and more sweetness again almost like a high grade Oloroso, then drying and smooth.

The finish is long and drying with hints of oak and a citrus influence.

This whisky is quite simply wonderful having all the elements of a classic speysider. Whilst I would be presumptuous to tell Diageo on how to run their business perhaps they should consider another official bottling of this excellent creation!

This whisky is available from Master of Malt HERE!!


Glenallachie 17 Year Old 1996 (43%) (casks 5238+5239) (Signator

Speyside, whisky


Glenallachie distillery is based in Aberlour (Central Morayshire) and founded in 1967. The distillery is owned by Chivas Brothers, which is itself part of Pernod-Ricard.

The distillery mainly produces whisky for blends (Mackinlay bends), and it also releases 2 official bottlings at cask strength, one of 16 and one of 18 years old.

The distillery’s water comes from the spring and snow melt fed streams on Ben Rinnes. It uses lightly peated malts. The distillery uses a semi-lauter mash tun, and six stainless steel washbacks. It uses two lantern shaped wash stills, and two onion shaped spirit stills for distillation.


I poured the whisky in to a Glencairn Glass and added a teaspoon of water and left the whisky to develop for ten minutes in the glass. The whisky is a light yellow colour and is slightly syrupy when rolling around the glass.

On the nose the whisky is floral, with notes of apple up front. Hints of smoke, stewed cherries and lemon follow. This is rounded off by notes of butter candy, confectioner sugar and light salty note on the finish.

The flavour is much more peaty than I expected, with notes of rasin and green apple. This is followed by notes of sweeter citrus, pepper and a mineral note. The end of the taste has hints of cherry, ginger and a slightly sea weed hint at the end.

The finish has a prickle of alcohol and a lingering sweetness which is long lasting!

This is a whisky which I wouldn’t normally have picked up but it’s complex flavourful and very easy drinking!

I bought this from Master of Malt and you can too! HERE!!


Glenlivet Founders Reserve (40%)

Speyside, whisky


Our local inn put this on the top shelf a couple of months ago, replacing the highly underrated Glenlivet 12 year old which was a popular choice of their customers. It is said Glenlivet are to sit this whisky alongside the 12 year old as an entry level to their excellent range although I find them quite different.

I tried the Glenlivet Founders Reserve using the following methodology.

I received the whisky in a narrow necked glass and left it covered for 10 minutes, The whisky is an amber colour and on rolling around the glass appeared very slightly syrupy.

The nose was sharp with a plum or apricot jam note. Coming through is an orange zest, raisin and perhaps milk chocolate. However pear drops and boiled fruit candy appear with a floral flourish.

The palate was fruity almost sweet bordering on Highland toffee, warmth going back to mixed fruit and milk chocolate

The finish was Highland toffee, a little oak but back to mixed fruit pie.

Overall I found it very palatable if a touch sweet and with the pear drops on the nose I wonder how old it is, but overall a very complimentary addition to the Glenlivet 12 year old. I think it should be noted that it is proving very popular with the local customers.

This whisky is available via Master of Malt HERE!!!


Ilegal Joven Mezcal (40%)



This is my first Mezcal, ever! This also is my first Monthly international spirit review! I will be reviewing a range of spirits from Vodka to Shochu and Aquavit to Cachaça.

Traditionally, mezcal is handcrafted by small-scale producers. A village can contain dozens of production houses, called fábricas or palenques, each using methods that have been passed down from generation to generation, some using the same techniques practiced 200 years ago

Mezcal is a Mexican alcoholic beverage made from the maguey plant (Agave). The maguey grows in many parts of Mexico, though most mezcal is made in Oaxaca, Southern Mexico.

Ilegal Joven was founded in 2004 and is an unaged mezcal from Ilegal, originally produced for the Café no Sé in Guatemala.


I poured the mezcal in to a Glencairn glass and left covered for ten minutes. The spirit pours clear and has a light syrupy look as it’s rolled around the glass.

On nosing the spirit has an instantly smokey note emanating from the glass, followed by notes of lemon, lime and a slightly salty tinge. There are softer tropical fruit and a slight pepper in the background. The nose is rich with hints of bitter chocolate and vanilla.

The flavour is rich smokey and complex almost like an Islay whisky in flavour. There are hints of roasted tropical fruit, lemon and a slight salt and pepper note through the middle of the taste. There are notes of apple, chocolate and dried chili towards the end of the taste.

The finish is dry with a lingering peppery flavour but the smoke dies out quite quickly.

Contrary to what I’ve heard mezcal is a very rich in flavour and something I can’t wait to try more of!

I purchased this bottle from Master of Malt and it’s really worth looking out for! Click HERE for the link!


Eagle Rare 10 year old (45%)



Eagle Rare was originally a 101-proof ten-year-old Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey (not single-barrel) created by master distiller Charles L. Beam. Introduced in 1970’s. Eagle Rare was among the last new bourbon brands introduced prior to the current era of ‘small-batch bourbons’.

The Sazerac Company, an American family owned producer and importer based in New Orleans, Louisiana, and the parent company of five distilleries, acquired Eagle Rare in March 1989. Sazerac’s Kentucky distillery was then known as the George T. Stagg Distillery. Today the distillery is known as the Buffalo Trace Distillery.

The original 101-proof ten-year-old non-single-barrel bourbon has been discontinued in 2005


The whisky pours a dark copper colour and is thick and almost syrupy in the glass. I added a teaspoon of water and left the whisky to develop in the glass for ten minutes.

This gave me a little more time to enjoy the very, very late showing of summer we are having this year. But sunshine is sunshine so I can’t complain too much.

On nosing the whisky is very sweet with notes of fudge and toffee jumping out of the glass straight of the bat. This is followed by notes of dry wood and cinnamon through the middle of the aroma. The nose is finished off by hints of cumin, sweet malt and banana.

On tasting there are again sweet notes of toffee, fudge and almond but this is balanced out hits of alcohol. Through the middle the softer spice notes become more prominent with hits of cinnamon and cardamom flooding the middle of the taste. The taste finishes with notes of wood, pine and a bitter almost herbal note.

The finish is long with a lingering sweetness and a soft alcoholic note.

Truly complex and fantastically well balanced this is an American whiskey worth looking out for!