Friday, November 30, 2007

Malt Mission 2007 #205

Amrut Cask Strength
Indian Single Malt Whisky
63.8% abv (Dec 2006 bottling)


It's been an unusual week, and while it may have started on a sour (tasting) note, it has ended on a sweeter one (although that Safari was sickly sweet). Most of us don't think India when we think whisky, or vice versa, but India consumes bucket-loads of whisky. They drink almost 6 million litres of Scotch whisky a year, but that is nothing compared to the total 570-million they down in total. The SWA would argue that most of the 'whisky' consumed in India is not whisky at all.

So when is whisky not whisky? When it is made from molasses and not grain, say the SWA and the EU. They also believe that India has protectionist domestic tariffs that create fiscal discrimination against Scotch whisky, the major obstacle to Scotch whisky reaching its sales potential in the country of 1Billion people. By contrast, Indian spirits have free access to EU markets... so long as they don't call their molasses-based spirits 'whisky'. It has created a slight trade war in recent years that has been quite exciting to follow. I have no more time to write about it this morning, so read up on it yourselves (if you are interested) HERE, HERE, and wherever else you would like to look.

We had the regular Amrut yesterday. Amrut Cask Strength was launched in 2006 and has already sold out of three batches. Love him or hate him, Jim Murray scored Amrut Cask Strength (1st ed., 62.8%) a 94/100.


Oily and sweet, but somehow dry, full of booze and good news. Vanilla, coffee cake. Some forest floor, like mushrooms and leaves, with lots of oak, too.

!*#£*&%! Hot and exciting. Sweet and sour, dry and chewy. Malted barley, oat cakes, honey, sugar coated breakfast cereals, and a firm handshake of oak.


Big. Big oak, big malt, from a big country. Flavours delivered in burly handshakes and firm fistfuls but balanced and very-well structured. Surprising, and delightfully so.

Malt Mission #201
Malt Mission #202
Malt Mission #203
Malt Mission #204

Malt Mission HOME

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Malt Mission 2007 #204

Amrut Indian Single Malt Whisky
Indian Single Malt Whisky

40% abv


*Most Under-rated whisky
Vote HERE (before Mar 6, 2009)

According to Indian mythology, when the Gods and the Rakshas/Demons churned out the oceans, a golden pot emerged containing the Elixir of Life, Amrut. Quite appropriately then, Amrut Distilleries produced aqua vitae, uisge beatha, the water of life.

Amrut is a proudly Indian product that has made an impression on the world stage. Made from barley grown in the frontier states of Punjab and Rajasthan in the Northwest of India, malted in Delhi and Jaipur, and distilled in Bangalore, Amrut whisky is young by necessity. The temperatures that the oak-maturing whisky is exposed to are tropical. Additionally, the maturation site in the city of Bangalore is 3000 feet above sea level. Between the altitude and the climate the spirit matures at an accelerated rate AND evaporates frighteningly fast. It is reported that after 3 years, half of the original filling has vanished as "angel's share". Happy, happy Indian angels.

Amrut chooses not to chill-filter their whiskies and have recently released a cask-strength expression in Europe as well. We will try that tomorrow. Bursting onto the whisky scene in Glasgow in 2004, Amrut has been well-received by many drinkers and critics. A friend who works in whisky retail loves to dispense Amrut blind to unsuspecting customers and ALWAYS gets a positive reaction. Let's see how it fares this morning.

* - yes, you can get this at the LCBO.


Big, vibrant and full of oak and malt. Spice, coca-cola, marzipan, fresh stone fruits, and a dairy element as well.

Fruity and spicy, then sweet and sour with a very pleasant mouthfeel. Oak, some coal, and malt. Paprika, black pepper, honey and almond butter in the finish.


Powerful with lots of character it isn't shy to show off. Not elegant but fun and tasty. Its great price and worthiness as a conversation-piece earn it a place on your shelves. Absolutely recommended trying at least once. You can make your own decisions after that.

Malt Mission #201
Malt Mission #202
Malt Mission #203
Malt Mission #205

Malt Mission HOME

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Malt Mission 2007 #203

Hunter's Choice Finest
Blended Whisky*
40% abv

KES (£3.95)

No, not that Hunter... at least, I don't think so.

Today we will be trying a third Kenyan 'whisky'. A classy way to start the third century of Malt Missions. Monday and Tuesday's drops were from the London Distillers Group and this one is from KWAL.

I put the word whisky in inverted commas because the producers of this spirit call it "whisky" even though it probably has more in common with rum. I am of the belief that whisky should only refer to spirits made from grains, and I am not the only one. The SWA(Scotch Whisky Association) has gone to great lengths to protect the terms surrounding Scotch Whisky, especially in foreign markets, and they continue to do so.

As the top earner in the food and beverage sector of the UK economy and an enormous tax revenue for the state, the governement takes the issue of protecting the product quite seriously (see THIS or THIS). This whisky protection is welcomed by the industry and the SWA. The next frontier is to get international community to agree on similar legal definitions, but producers of molasses-based spirits sold as 'whisky'
in countries in the middle east, China, and
may not be so keen to play along. Keep your eyes on news HERE.

Tomorrow we will venture into the world of a genuine single malt whisky from India. For now, let's get this over with...


Definite grain whisky presence, which I guess is a good sign. Raw sweet potato, tea, baking soda, medicine gelcaps, electronics packaging, airport washrooms.

Toasty with a vegetal element mixed with the bready sweetness of malted granary loaves. Quite grainy with fried plantains, and a bit of apple cider.


By far the best... or most whisky-like... of the bunch. Could use a touch of the synthetic sweetness that overloaded the Safari (Malt Mission #201). Whatever game he was after, the Hunter made a reasonably good Choice. Still, worth avoiding if you can afford to, but safe to accept if dining with friends or colleagues in Nairobi.

Malt Mission #201
Malt Mission #202
Malt Mission #204
Malt Mission #205

Malt Mission HOME

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Malt Mission 2007 #202

Top Secret
Blended Whisky*

43% abv

440 KES/- (£3.50)

Top Secret, indeed. Over the past two days I have emailed and called the UK and European offices of the London Distillers Company to ask a few questions about their "whisky" only to find that the offices do not exist. I am told by friends and colleagues that this is not suprising: "The company probably only exists on paper in UK," "probably changes hands every two months," "probably a front," and "that's the way business works in Kenya."

Kenya's agricultural production is reasonably diversified and can provide most of their domestic needs. Because most of the land is arid, only 8% of the country is used for crop and feed production while 80% of the population work in agriculture or in the processing of agricultural goods. Although Kenyan coffee might be familiar to many of us, tea is Kenyas' leading agricultural foreign exchange earner. They are the leading black tea producer in Africa and #4 in the world. But you can't make whisky from tea.

In terms of grains, Kenya produces more than 2million tonnes of corn and about 1.5million tonnes of wheat per annum. But sugarcane production more than doubles those figures. I imagine most of this spirit is neutral sugarcane spirit with a small percentage of grain spirit (corn, maize, wheat).

* - the terms 'whisky' or 'whiskey' are not defined in interntaional law, so I canot guarantee that this spirit is made from barley, or even grain, for that matter.


Rum spice, some plastic, and nailpolish. Flax seeds, vodka, nylon tents and vanilla fudge.
Sweet and slightly spicy like fennel or caraway.

Sugary, waxy, and not completely unpleasant.


More expensive than the Safari whisky enjoyed(!?) yesterday, but certainly not worth it if I was counting my Kenyan Shillings month in, month out. I imagine it's the recipe that is Top Secret and it might, although this is a very slight possibility, even contain as much as 10% grain spirit. Although neither toxic nor completely unpleasant, to be handed a glass a told it was whisky would justifiably raise reasonable doubts in the recipient.

Malt Mission #201

Malt Mission #203
Malt Mission #204
Malt Mission #205

Malt Mission HOME

Monday, November 26, 2007

Malt Mission 2007 #201

Safari Whisky
Safari Rare Premium Blend
Blended Whisky*
40% abv
399/- KES (£3)

Yeah. What the hell is this, you ask?

After the first 100 Malt Missions we had a week of 'international whiskies' (MM#101-#105 in June) and I plan to follow the 200 Malt Mission landmark in the same way. This time it may last more than one week. If this blog was a for-profit enterprise it would probably be a bad business decision to look at obscure international malts and blends in the run-up to Christmas.
But it is not, so screw it. Keeping things interesting for myself is the only way to continue doing this. Hope you continue to enjoy, too.

This is the flagship whisky from African spirits company London Distillers Limited. Their Kenyan-based distillery pumps out gin, vodka, rum, brandy and whiskies that "meet international standards of quality." Safari Rare is "a distinctive blend of high quality clear neutral spirit with natural malt whiskies aged in oak barrels to give a distinct colour, subtle and light engaging flavour."

From Kenya to my nosing glass here in England, from Mombassa to the Malt Mission, thanks to MH.

* - the terms 'whisky' or 'whiskey' are not defined in interntaional law, so I canot guarantee that this spirit is made from barley, or even grain, for that matter.


Coconut suntan oil, spent fireworks, petrol. Butterscotch, vanilla ice cream sandwiches, green olives, and styrofoam or even silicone.

Vanilla and butterscotch, maple and waxy like lip balm.


Upon first whiff I recoiled with a light gag. Not a good start. There were two streams of aromas: one synthetic butterscotch sauce and the other nailpolish, disinfectant, etc. With some time it became slightly pleasant, or at least 60% of the detectable aromas were tolerable. Taste was like a sugar syrup. Unbelievably sweet. Drinkable... although I spittoon-ed every drop.

Malt Mission #200
Malt Mission #202
Malt Mission #203
Malt Mission #204
Malt Mission #205

Malt Mission HOME

Friday, November 23, 2007

The Tops (so far...) Part II

Back in June, after the first 100 Malt Missions, I put together lists of the best whiskies consumed up to that point in different categories (HERE). I want to do the same today, so here are my top whisky picks from the first 200 Malt Missions. Please note I have changed some of the categories from last time.

It must be said that with the price jumps we have witnessed over the past 5 months and with the 10% increases promised to us by the heads of major spirits companies, the best cheap or budget whisky categories become more and more important to more and more people while malts that were in my top picks after 100 Malt Missions may have vanished from the lists below because of these price changes. In fact, the most Googled term that brought folks to the Top Picks after 100 drams was "budget whisky", or something along those lines. So big boys, while premiumisation is the key of the day, please don't forget about us little guys. We'll still be here after the Scandanavians and other Europeans grow tired of overpriced 5,6, and 7 year-old whiskies.

It is so frustrating to be able only to choose among malts I have tasted in the controlled setting of the Malt Mission. I wouldn't want anyone to believe that these are the only whiskies I have enjoyed over the past months. I try to make every malt count, but it's embarassing to be offered a drink at a friends house and ask for a pen and paper, or text notes into your phone, or to ask if you can take some home. Not that I haven't done all three of those things...

I should also add that coming to these top picks was not easy. In fact, the list could differ from day to day. This is part of why I do not score my malts in the mission. I try only to tell the stories of the distilleries, describe the flavour profiles of the whiskies, and leave the rest to you. Nonetheless, here are my choices of the best whiskies. (Note that drops tasted by guests tasters cannot be included in my top picks. Just wouldn't make sense.)

It was hard enough to settle on 3 per category.
PLEASE NOTE: this is not based on ALL whiskies, this is based on whiskies I have tried in the first 200 Malt Missions.

Top Three Whiskies I Would Reach For RIGHT NOW
Old Pulteney 12
Clynelish 1972, 34yo Single Malts of Scotland
Glenlivet XXV

Best Budget/Cheap Single Malt Whisky (£20-30)
Talisker 10
Old Pulteney 12
Laphroaig Quarter Cask

Best Budget/Cheap Vatted, Blended, or Undisclosed Malt (£15-25)
The Six Isles
Jon, Mark, Robbo (any)
Sheep Dip

Best Budget/Cheap Blends (£10-20)
Black Bottle
Whyte&Mackay 12 Premium Reserve

Best Value Overall
Glenlivet 30 Single Malts of Scotland
Talisker 18
Old Pulteney 12

Best Blended Whiskies
Johnnie Walker Black Label
Dewar's 18
Cutty Sark 25

Best Blended/Vatted Malt or Grain
Compass Box Oak Cross
Compass Box Hedonism (older bottling)
Ardbeg Serendipity

Best Standard Bottling Overall (current releases; ie. no single casks, discontinued, etc.)

Old Pulteney 12
Lagavulin 16
Glengoyne 17

Best Single Cask or Limited Release Bottling
Highland Park 16yo, Single Malts of Scotland
Bunnahabhain 33, 1971, Royal Mile Whiskies
Caol Ila 16yo, Single Malts of Scotland

The Three Most Missed (ie. dearly departed, no longer available/being produced, etc.)

Balblair 16
Bowmore 17
Jon, Mark Robbo (any)

Best Overall (irrespective of price, availability, or pride/shame)

Glenfarclas 30
Glengoyne 17
Talisker 18

Hot damn, that was difficult. I feel like I have left out many faves over the past 10 months... oh well. Just reminds me how huge the whisky world is. 200 whiskies? That's nothing! Here's to another 200...

MM200 Celebrations
MM100 Celebrations

Malt Mission HOME


My Christmas Whisky wish?

How about the new Glenfiddich 1976? My vintage!

Although I would feel terrible if someone I knew actually spent that money on me.

How about a sample?

(See my prayers answered HERE)

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Christmas Picks 2007

Still taking a break from the daily Malt Mission in commemoration of hitting the 200 dram landmark, but looking forward to resuming the journey next week.

Today, at the suggestion of friends and a few readers, I am going to try and make a list of Dr. Whisky's Christmas whisky recommendations.

The last two months of the year are the most important for Scotch whisky. November and December account for 40% of annual malt sales and about a third of blended whisky sales. As a result, this is the sweetest
time of year for whisky lovers whether shopping for others or for themselves. All the major supermarkets, off-licenses, and specialist whisky shops in the UK have an abundance of money-off deals. Apologies, but this list will have a focus on the UK... cuz i live here... but I will include two of the absolute best mail-order whisky companies as well. Additionally, none of the below is a sales pitch, I am just making recommendations as an independent whisky nerd from the shops, distilleries, and writers I like best.

Additional apologies to those of you in countries, provinces, or states with liquor control boards or in countries where discounting liquor is illegal. You might want to look away now.

Best Christmas Whisky Offers and Sales

(subject to change, but they are accurate as of right now)

The Whisky Exchange (website HERE)
Glenfarclas 25yo £75 (from £84)
Glendronach 33yo £150 (from £185)
Laphroaig Quarter Cask £21 (from £26)
Dewar's 18yo £47.50 (from £54)
Dewar's Signature £120 (from £149)

Royal Mile Whiskies (website HERE)
Auchentoshan Three Wood £30 (from £34)
Macallan Speymalt 1996 Gordon & Macphail £17.50 (from £20.50)
Dalmore 12 £22 (from £26)
Cragganmore 12 £23 (from £27)
Glenfarclas 25 £74 (from £85)
and last chance(?) to buy Longmorn 15 £30 (from £33)


Johnnie Walker Black £17.50 (from £20.50)
Aberlour Abunad'h £25 (from £30)
Glenlivet 18yo £27 (from £35)
Clynelish 14yo £23 (from £29)
Highland Park 12yo £20 (from £26)

Teachers £9.60 (from £12)
Chivas Regal 12yo £17 (from £20)
Glenfiddich 15yo £24 (from £30)

and if you like Rusty Nails as much as we do, Drambuie is £15.75 (from £19.69). Try your rusty nail with Talisker 10... de-ca-dent.

Aberlour 10yo £16.98 (from £21.98)
Dalwhinnie 15yo £20.78 (from £26.99)
Talisker 10yo £20 (from £25.97)

Bailie Nichol Jarvie £12.97 (from £14.97)
Old Pulteney 12yo £18.50 (from £22.50)
Laphroaig 10yo £20.96 (from £ 25)

Readable Christmas Whisky Gifts

The Malt Whisky Yearbook 2008 (£2 off!): recent release of the annual must-have from Ingvar Ronde (with contributions from Charles Maclean, Ian Buxton, David Stirk and others). This is part magazine, part book, part distillery guide, part industry report... Amazing reading with brilliant new additions every year.

Robin Laing's The Whisky River (or HERE):
Laing's well-written guide to Willie Nelson... just kidding. This is an intentionally and incidentally poetic guide to the distilleries of Speyside told in a way only Laing can, with song and spirit on every page. A delight to read.

Charlie Maclean's Whisky Tales or Maclean's Miscellany of Whisky (hardback and softcover available): Two books from one of the world's greatest whisky scholars that are absolute fun to read cover to cover. Unique books in the world of whisky lit: no tasting notes or chronological histories... just the best stories and factual tidbits told by a brilliant writer with an obvious passion for his topic.

and, of course, for the real fact nut

Misako Udo's The Scottish Malt Whisky Distilleries(hardback also available): The life, times, still size and phenolic content of every (legal?) malt distillery to have existed in Scotland. Amazing attention to detail with the new addition of brief distillery summaries.

Drinkable Christmas Whisky Gifts
The malts above are all well-suited for Xmas and are just a selection of the various offers at each outlet made by yours truly with Christmas in mind.

A good Christmas whisky should be pleasant to drink for both new and experienced whisky drinkers. An added bonus is if they have some rich, winter-warming spice, dried fruit, etc. (but we all know brandy or port is better at Christmas anyways, hehee...). So here are 5 recommended Christmas Whiskies, irrespective of price, but hopefully there is something for everyone's budget:

Johnnie Walker Black Label (£20... but on offer at Tesco and Waitrose for less)

Dalmore 12yo (£26... but £22 at Royal Mile Whiskies)
Glenfarclas 15yo (£34)
Chivas Regal 18yo (£40... but on offer at The Whisky Exchange £37.99, or Waitrose for £35)
Royal Salute 21yo (£80... but on offer at World Duty Free if anyone is flying soon)

Hope this post has been of use. It took me a couple of hours and the help of MH to compose. Thanks, buddy.

If you have any Christmas, whisky, Christmas whisky, or other questions, don't be shy... get in touch.

Top picks from past 200 Malt Missions coming tomorrow...

MM200 Celebrations
MM100 Celebrations

Malt Mission HOME

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Big Brother is Laughing at You

In the UK there are more CCTV (Closed Circuit Television) cameras than there are people in Birmingham, Leeds, Sheffield, Bradford, Manchester,Liverpool and Bristol COMBINED, almost 10 times as many as there are Doctors and Dentists in the NHS, and a third as many cameras as there are cows (more info?)

And don't you feel safer? Nothing bad ever happens anymore! We all live in a free and democratic society where crime is obsolete, wages just, and opportunities equal.

Of course Big Brother is watching you. Why wouldn't he? Your life is SO interesting, and with all that time free from worrying about crime, you have bought the coolest clothes!!!


So I have a traffic tracker that tells me (StatCounter) how many folks come to the blog each day. It also keeps data on how they arrived at Dr. Whisky, where in the world they are from, how long they stay, etc. While it has proven interesting to know in what country most readers are based and how many folks come each week, the best thing about having the tracker is seeing what terms folks plug into their search engine of choice before arriving at Dr. Whisky.

There are many occasions where I can see what info the reader is after but am aware that the answer will not be found on my blog. Over the past 100 malts, more and more folks have been emailing me directly with their whisky questions. Hopefully, although not necessarily, this means more of them have been answered. But the real highlight of seeing these search terms is being able to see the weird and wacky ones (unfortunately, there have also been some dirty and/or disturbing ones... my own fault for using a
pic called "naked girl"). Here are a few for your entertainment (I did this after 100 Malt Missions too, HERE) :

bassetts wine gums halal? (from Dubai)
drinkable numbing liquid
prickle stimulating balls
caramilk chocolate halal? (from Iran)
kelp cheesecake
value of G
sweaty balls cream
I want to buy a whisky still
Chuck Erlichman library (from New York)
whisky breath gum
with the sheep eyes, and the licorice, guys and dolls
drinking whisky for heart stimulate

silly doctor notes


"I don't like whisky"

Also, over the past 5 months I have noticed a great increase in searches for "Dr. Whisky" or "whiskey doctor" or "doctor whisky". I think that is cool, and I have all of you readers and those I thanked yesterday to credit for that phenomenon.

As I can also see the server name of the visitor, I have seen folks at some of the most prestigious universities and research institutions pointing and clicking around the site, hospitals, government ministries and/or military, newspapers, and all the whisky companies big and small.

So of course Big Brother is watching you. It is SO much fun!!!

Top picks from these past 200 drams and Christmas Whisky recomendations (by request) coming by the end of the week.

MM200 Celebrations
MM100 Celebrations

Malt Mission HOME

Monday, November 19, 2007

Two Hundred Thank-yous

Yeah, it's been a fun ride and I have enjoyed every moment of it, but like 100 drams ago (Malt Mission 100 celebration posts), there are a lot of folks I need to thank for helping me get to Malt Mission 200... and beyond.

So today, we say THANK YOU(and I let my liver rest):

Thanks to:
Ingvar Ronde and The Scotch Whisky Yearbook 2008
Kevin Erskine (who let me contribute in May and continues to support Dr. Whisky with links and friendly correspondence)

Mark Gillespie (who linked and mentioned Dr. Whisky in Whisky Cast episode 91)

Thanks to:
Douglas Blyde at The Daily Wine, Jysmith at A Perspective and A Jeremiad, Darren Turpin's The Genre Files, Armin Grewe (IslayBlog), Johan (WhiskyGrotto), Stephen Rowe (Food & Plastics), Inebrio,, Mattias (WhiskyBlogg), Discover Whisky, Dave and Thomas, The Avondale Evening Mail, Home of Whisky, Whiskymagazin, The World According to Patrick, Chris Taylor (Taylor & Company) Red Hare (Eclectic Elephant), Will (Nose Palate Finish), Chris Bunting (Nonjatta), Colin Ligertwood (For
Peat Sake), Colin Campbell (Whisky Blog), Sku of Sku's Recent Eats, Jay Williams' Aphoristic Subplot, all you nuts at EUWOLS, Naresh at Sound of the Cinema, and any more I am forgetting(sorry), who have all linked to Dr. Whisky.

Thanks to:
EVERYONE who has forwarded links to friends and colleagues via email, etc.

Thanks to:
Morwenna White for putting together and distributing a Dr. Whisky press release for Canadian publications
Kris Gilmartin (author of the article on Dr. Whisky that appeared in the Scottish Sunday Post in June)
Neil Berrie and Arthur Motley at Royal Mile Whiskies
Friends and folks who have helped me taste drams over the past 10 months
Dominic Roskrow, Misako Udo, Ian Buxton, Serge Valentin, Gavin D. Smith, Charlie Maclean, Robin Laing, Annabel Meikle, and Sukhinder and Raj Singh for being so constistently supportive and forthcoming with

Those who have sent me/helped me source whiskies:
The Whisky Exchange

Royal Mile Whiskies (London and Edinburgh crews)
Alex and Jane at The Spencerfireld Spirit Co.
Lincoln Whisky Shop
Andy Forrester (formerly ofJon, Mark, and Robbo, and Cellar Trends)

Barry and Barry at Premium Bottlers
Robert Ransom and George Grant at Glenfarclas
Iain Baxter and Derek Sinclair at Inver House
Neil Macdonald at Chivas Brothers
Billy and Alistair Walker at BenRiach
Ashok Chokalingham at Amrut
William Grant and Sons
Andrew Torrance at Morrison Bowmore
Katy Windsor at The Famous Grouse
Alex Bruce at Adelphi
Lizzie James, Deanna Killackey and Wendy Krone at Beam Global
Richard Paterson, Dave Robertson, and Margaret Nichol at Whyte & Mackay
Iain Weir and Alison Spowart at Glengoyne/Ian Macleod Distillers
John, Gregg, and Robbie at Compass Box Whisky
Nick Tilt, etc. at Speciality Drinks
Marcie Hume who helped me make this video (go watch it! Help us get to 10,000 views!)
Anne Knudsen for finding interesting bottles in her travels in the Far East, Espen Knudsen for challenging me to start this mission and Kristin Knudsen for putting up with it.

and if I have forgotten you or if you feel you deserve a thank you, then THANK YOU.

I would also like to use this space to ask those major(Edrington, Suntory, Diageo, etc.) and independent (Gordon & Macphail, Bruichladdich, Douglas Laing, Arran, etc.) companies that lurk on Dr. Whisky, searching these pages each week (I can SEE you), step up and help this blog by sharing or continuing to share press info, samples, etc. As the stats above right indicate (more data available upon request), tens of thousands of people are using this web resource and your products are getting 'free' exposure. I am delighted to continue so long as I can, so please, play a part (contact info). Cheers.

MM100 Celebrations

Malt Mission HOME

Friday, November 16, 2007

Malt Mission 2007 #200

Johnnie Walker Black Label 12yo (1970s)
Blended Scotch Whisky
43% abv


Here we are... finally. Sorry for the delay in posting, I swear it was not some ploy to build suspense or something stupid like that. I appreciate all your texts and emails and comments on the blog in anticipation. Especially those that were (playfully?) rude. I simply haven't had much time in front of my computer since Wednesday. Long days and nights. But it's the weekend and it's Malt Mission #200... WOO HOO!!!!! Thanks for reading. We will take a week off from the daily mission in celebration with posts on other topics, top whisky picks, whisky choices for Xmas, complaints and rants, questions answered, etc. Then we'll get right back to it. Lots of treats still on the shelf.
Thanks to everyone for their support.

So Johnnie Walker Black. This mission started back in January with a contemporary bottling of Johnnie Walker Black Label (Malt Mission #1). We have been through 3 bottles since. Yup. We likey. This version is from the 1970s, when the words 'black label' first appeared on a bottle of Johnnie Walker. But we're getting ahead of ourselves. First, I really must explain why this drop ended up being Malt Mission #200. It was going to be a 40yo Balblair which was well suited for the cigar theme of the week (and has just had its price jacked by £100) until Tuesday night...

As readers of this blog will know, over the past few days I had a mate visiting from Finland. The poor guy recently had his heart broken so it must be said that we spent many hours putting it back together in anyway we know how. It involved a lot of talking, a lot of walking, and, naturally, some beer and whisky.

After a whisky tasting I hosted at The Scotch Malt Whisky Society (where we, a few malts) Tommi and I headed to the Auld Shillelagh, a gem of an Irish pub in Stoke Newington where they pour the best pint of Guinness in North London. After a few pints and much good conversation with the barman and surrounding folks we noticed an old bottle of Buchanan's Black & White blended whisky behind the bar. "Where did you get that?" He said he had inherited several old malts from a friend who's father (? grandfather?) had passed away. Turns out he had an old JWBlack hidden behind the bar too. We had to have some. And we did. We were happy chappys. It was fantastic... and he charged us 2.50 per dram. Wikkid. Upon closing, he was civilised enough to send us home with a small water bottle filled with enough spirit to taste under more controlled circumstances for Malt Mission #200. And here we are.

In 1870 Alexander Walker introduced the trademark square bottle with a label at an angle. This is easily on of the most recognisable bottles in the world. 1870! This is 24 years before Coca Cola created theirs. The coloured labels were introduced in 1909 changing the names of
Old Highland to White label, Special Old Highland to Red Label, and Extra Special Old Highland to Black Label. Johnnie Walker White Label was dropped during WWI but the other two have survived until today (and have been joined by a few other colour classes, Swings, etc.)

For other Johnnie Walkers had on the mission and more JW info click HERE. "Tell them that 5 bottles of Johnnie Walker are sold every second," begs Kristin...

* price based on recent auctions and THIS


Rich and weighty, with a pleasant sherry influence. Deep and wonderfully complex. Shoe polish, leather. Rotting vegetables in the fridge drawer, decomposition. Slightly sour with cream cheese, custard, Clearasil, cake/bakery with a good smokiness and some pepper in there, too. Toffee and croissants. Sweet and rich, with some signs that a) we were a bit drunk last night and b) this may have been open a while.

Toasty and creamy with heavily honeyed sherried tones. Apple pie, ice cream, caramel, toffee, blueberries, vanilla or milk and honey-scented hand soap. Smoke and sherry intermingle in the finish that grows a bit stale and watery.


It must be acknowledged that some of the flavours detected could be the result of an old bottle being open for an unknown period of time."There are some things that when you smell makes you think its not a good one, but when you taste it, it's a different story," said Tommi. But no matter how much oxidation has occurred, this stuff is very delicious and smells completely different than any whisky I have ever had. I have had old JWBlacks before and the core of this was the same, although some of the pieces had decomposed, so to speak. Lacks the grainy vanilla notes that the contemporary JWBlack has, but the grain makes its presence known, especially on the nose, with margarine and corny-type aromas. Again, in the finish, aged grain can be detected. It is a deep-filled sandwich of a whisky, a wonderful mix of flavours with a great mouthfeel and chewy finish. To think that this stuff was available for + or - £15 makes me want to give up buying new whiskies, esp the overpriced juvenile malts that are becoming more prominent today, and start an apple juice tasting blog.

When I drink something like this I cannot help but be concerned that the changes in whisky production over the past 30 years have had a negative impact on the flavour of Scottish whisky available today. What will it hold for the future? I know many whisky writers have been vocal about this trend, especially Charlie Maclean who has had his nose in glasses of whisky since long before my folks ever met, let alone thought of making a little Sammy, and I assure you it is not just nostalgia for the way things were. It is a reality. That being said, in many ways we are entering a new era of whisky with new grains and barley strains, maturation techniques and casks, new yeasts, and new markets. So please, raise a glass with me: Here is to the future of full-flavoured and affordable scotch whisky. And, of course, here's to 200 more Malt Missions. Have a good weekend.

Malt Mission #196
Malt Mission #197
Malt Mission #198
Malt Mission #199

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Malt Mission 2007 #199

Glenlivet XXV (25yo)
Single Malt Scotch Whisky
43% abv


The new jewel in the Glenlivet range, this 25 year old was introduced over this past year with the determined aim to help push Glenlivet into the #1 spot in the world of premium Scotch whiskies... and to blow drinkers' socks off, flavour-wise.
This will become a permanent fixture in the Glenlivet range.

Some have complained about the packaging: folks (especially retailers) have taken issue the weight of the box and others have asked whether or not is is really necessary to use stone and wood to transport malt whisky, but the accompanying booklet is informative, intimate, and generally interesting. Is it what's inside that counts... ?

This is a bottling of whiskies filled to cask in 1980 that spent the last 2 years of their lives maturing in ex-Oloroso sherry casks. Neil Macdonald, told me, "I was originally inspired by a Berry Bros 1975 bottling of The Glenlivet which was a real sherried dream and it was clear that this style could work well with the Glenlivet." Without a doubt, 25 full years of Oloroso maturation would have killed the signature nutty, floral and honeyed notes of The Glenlivet. The secondary maturation adds (strong) overtones without sacrificing or harming the core malt. I will taste it today for the mission, but it must be said that I have dipped into this a few times already... and loved every second of if. Delicious. I have shared milliliters with other whisky lovers and everyone has been left singing its praises, if not speechless.

All Glenlivets had on the mission can be found HERE. This whisky was tasted with visiting whisky-loving Finnish friend TS. His notes appear in quotes.


Sweet and jammy with lots of depth. Very oak influenced. Chocolate covered nuts and raisins with incredible indications of age in the background. "You can smell that it's old. It's so big." Damp, mysterious basement that a child is both afraid of and determined to explore.

First dry, grippy and oaky then opens up to apples, cinnamon, vanilla and toffee. "Not too big in the mouth but a lots of flavour, Glenlivet style. Very smooth." Toffee, mint, orange marmalade, jam. Absolutely sumptuous and smooth. Long, gentle, silky finish with lingering fudge, sweet tobacco, and oak.


Not a morning malt. This beauty is for evening comforts. Tommi even thought it would be nice in the afternoon because it is so easy and pleasant. The tea-leaf element would make me agree with him. It is even energetic, not at all tired by 25 years in oak. But this is a slow conversation whisky... best suited for conversations of silence. "This is one of those whiskies where the taste of alchohol is in the background and all the other flavours are laid on top. It just continues and continues." The 43% abv is a good choice, the impact is so large that it really doesn't need a higher abv%. And while it takes water well, it certainly doesn't need it. Wonderful craftsmanship for the new pinnacle of the Glenlivet range.

Malt Mission #196
Malt Mission #197
Malt Mission #198
Malt Mission #200

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Malt Mission 2007 #198

Chieftain's Robusto Cigar Malt
Single Malt Scotch Whisky
55.1% abv

This is the third cigar malt from Chieftain's 2007 releases that I have had this week and I still haven't sparked a cigar. In fact, these whiskies have all been quite outstanding on their own, without filling my mouth (and flat) with smoke. I encourage any feedback from readers who have enjoyed any of these malts (or others) with cigars (or pipes, for that matter).

I have nothing much to say. I suppose some might be wondering why the prices for these malts are so high considering the oldest is 13 years old. Unfortunately, beyond explaining the general quality of the taste of these whiskies, I have no explanation. I can assume, however, that the casks selected to be Cigar Malts 2007 were maturing stocks from well known and perhaps ever rare distilleries. No, not Brora or Port Ellen, but perhaps these whiskies are single cask selections from big names like Macallan or Ardbeg? Ian Macleod Distillers have kept that a secret, but it is the only explanation I can think of for the high price tag for 10-13 year old whiskies. Any other ideas?

This is from a hogshead that yielded 270 bottles. It is intended to go well with a full-bodied cigar. All Chieftain's had on the mission can be viewed HERE.


Croissants, buttery with an appealing sourness, custard, etc., but the real key here is bonfire, tires, and peat. Orange sweetness, like vitamin C or Fanta. Some dehydrated strawberry and cereal notes, too.

Tar and leaf fires, salt, smoke and oak that eventually gives way to sweet apple and rhubarb pie, some vanilla, and returns to the smoke before finishing on a malt and peat balance.


Great nose that balances appealing sweetness against rugged peaty Islay characteristics. A really excellent whisky in its own right, cigars or not. Again, as with the other cigar malts had this week, this one doesnt need water but does exhibit more when a drop is added. A great smoky treat.

Malt Mission #196
Malt Mission #197
Malt Mission #199
Malt Mission #200

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Malt Mission 2007 #197

Chieftain's Cigar Malt Mild
Single Malt Scotch Whisky
54.9% abv


Another whisky from the fifth batch of Chieftain's Cigar Malts. We had the new Classic yesterday and will have the Mild and Robusto today and tomorrow.

I have got to tell you that Googling around for pictures to accompany my posts led me to a few, um, potent images. I was pretty shocked at the volume of erotic and downright dirty photography featuring women (and men, but mostly women) with cigars. And smoking them was only one activity portrayed... use your imagination.

This is an 11 year old whisky finished in madeira casks and is one of 372 bottles. For all "cigar malts" had on the mission click HERE. Tasted with my visiting whisky-loving Finnish friend, TS. His notes appear in quotes.


Plums, oak, and some dried basil. Lemon thyme? Mint maybe, too. Light and fragrant, fresh with youth, "or maybe that is because it is cask strength, you can't feel all the flavours because the alcohol is on top of all the flavours," oaky spice. Gets creamier, more dairy aromas with time, some added spice when water is added. With water, it's a little mouldy, like wet wood, too.

Here comes some flavours that make me think "cigar malt": oily sweetness, wood, varnish, stewed fruits, spice and lingering oakiness. Pleasant and nothing too hamfisted or over the top. Creamy again, without too much grip.


A mild, gentle, and friendly drop that is bittersweet and quite engaging for a "lighter" dram. After work rather than after dinner or nite cap; after all it is the MILD version of their cigar malt. For opinions of others who know something about cigars, see THIS. Fancy a pipe? Go for it.

Malt Mission #196
Malt Mission #198
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Malt Mission #200

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Malt Mission 2007 #196

Chieftain's Cigar Malt Classic (2007)
Single Malt Scotch Whisky
54.4% abv


Yeah, baby. Light 'em up, smoke 'em if you got 'em, etc.

This week we'll be hitting Malt Mission #200 and to mark the occasion we'll be looking at whiskies well suited to accompany cigars... not that I smoke, but it seems that many people smoke when they celebrate and I have a few appropriate malts on the shelf so I figured it was as good a theme as any.

The truth is, I am not very fond of cigars and find the concept of matching something that impairs your taste/fills your mouth with smoke and tar with something best enjoyed with an attentive palate a bit puzzling. That being said, many folks love this combination and it must be acknowledged that "unwinding" with a cigar and a whisky is a common practice; it is a classic image we have of whisky drinkers, especially older male whisky drinkers, whether or not it be accurate. I have been told by many respected whisky folks that the combination of whisky and cigars can be very complimentary, but when I have tried to combine them I've found that the cigar spoiled my enjoyment of my whisky. Only the most pronounced characteristics could be detected and thus all the charm and subtlety I love about enjoying whisky was lost... on me. I do love the smell of tobacco and used to enjoy visiting Royal Mile Whiskies and The Cigar Box in Edinburgh for the smells if nothing else. Burning the stuff is a different story, but to each their own.

Chieftain's is brand within Ian Macleod Distillers group and the Cigar Malt range has been through 4 previous editions. Early this year, with the smoking bans in Scotland well in place and the ban in England imminent, Ian Macleod Distillers invited whisky and cigar writers and retailers to Berwick, just south of the Scottish border, for the chance to smoke and taste their way through cask samples with the aim of selecting the best drops for release as Chieftains Cigar Malts in 2007. We will be tasting the trio over the next 3 days.

This is a 13-year-old limited release of 618 bottles and has been finished in ex-Chateau La Nerthe casks. Chateau La Nerthe is one of the oldest estates in Chateauneuf de Pape. It should be noted that I will NOT be tasting these with cigars. I might do so this weekend and will let you know if I have any further observations. Otherwise, I will leave the cigar-and-whisky commentary to the experts.


I often avoid describing colour, but in this case it is worth noting a new-copper tint, slightly pink. Very creamy, butter, jam, crumpets; trés Anglais. Butterscotch or toffee, soft-serve vanilla ice cream, and some corn. Water really sweetens this up and brings out more grassy-type of aromas. Hay, cinnamon and lemongrass.

Mmm, sweet and sour with a pleasant mouth-coating quality. Hot and exciting, under-ripe fruits, hard kiwis, green bananas. With water the creaminess in both texture and flavour becomes enhanced.


Big and sumptuous with sweet and sour extremes keeping an enjoyable, and balanced, flavour experience. With time, the nose get more and more sour (lactic sour, not crabapple sour) and I really enjoyed that. The taste remained fruity and chewy. The grip is extremely pleasing to my drinking experience, and I imagine it would be a positive feature for cigar-matching.

Malt Mission #195
Malt Mission #197
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Malt Mission #200

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Friday, November 09, 2007

Malt Mission 2007 #195

Clynelish 1972, 34 yo
The Single Malts of Scotland

Highland Single Malt Whisky

50.5% abv


Another week of whisky down and we are 5 drams away from Malt Mission #200. Crazy. Exciting. Dangerous? Looking forward. Thanks for reading.

Clynelish. (Calvin) KLEIN - (dog) LEASH. Depending my mood this distillery is often my answer to the unavoidable question, "What is your favourite whisky?" If in a less decisive mood I might say, "Distilleries north of Inverness: Glenmorangie, Dalmore, Balblair, Pulteney, Clynelish and Brora, etc." And if I am being difficult I will answer, "What day is it today?"

Built in 1819 and suffering a stop-start syndrome many distilleries underwent due to financial constraints, in 1931 the economic recession forced Clynelish to close. Production restarted in September 1938, only to shut down from May 1941 until November 1945 because of restrictions on the supply of barley to distillers during the Second World War.

In the 1960's Clynelish was modernised when electricity was installed and stills which had been direct-heated by coal furnaces were converted to internal steam coil heating. Clynelish was replaced by a new distillery built on an adjacent site in 1967-68. The six stills in the new distillery were run on the most up to date lines, while retaining the traditional still and the original water source (the Clynemilton Burn) ensured that the quality of Clynelish whisky remained unchanged. The "old-Clynelish" was renamed Brora when it began producing a peated style in 1969 to provide that character profile to Johnnie Walker blends. It was finally closed in 1983 and is much sought after by (wealthy) whisky lovers. Believe me, I would participate if I could... the stuff was DE-LI-CIOUS. At £85-£200 a pop, I will have to choose a roof over my head instead.

This is another release from the Single Malts of Scotland who were awarded with a few medals in this month's Independent Bottlers Challenge in Whisky Magazine. This is one of 409 bottles from a small batch vatting of two "complimentary casks". For all Single Malts of Scotland tasted on the mission click HERE, and for more info and/or other Clynelish tasted on the mission click HERE.


I cannot hold back my delight, old (any?) Clynelish gets my heart racing. Apples, peaches, apricots, vanilla, and smoked paprika. Creamy features so common in Clynelish: marshmallows, Cool Whip, etc. Aromas of baked goods, more fruits, spice, and smoke.

Hot, buttery, woody and peppery with a fruity surge, Brylcreem, coriander seeds, spicy like English mustard (but not hot), honey, cereal, sourdough, oak... And oak. Resiny. Honeycomb. Finish is sweetened with toffee but oak drives it, though not in an unpleasant or overpowering way. I don't want this to end. Refill...


As objective as I tried to be, I think my feelings were made clear above. Perfect abv% for drinking, absolutely luscious flavours delivered in a slightly edgy style, honeyed and spiced and very Clynelish. Someone please put this on my Christmas wish list?

Malt Mission #191
Malt Mission #192
Malt Mission #193
Malt Mission #194

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Malt Mission 2007 #194

Talisker 1982, 25yo
Island Single Malt Whisky

58.1% abv


During the late 1980s, DIAGEO introduced what would become the benchmark expressions of single malt whiskies from six single malt distilleries under the CLASSIC MALTS name. Without doubt, and giving credit where credit is due, this played a part in fostering the growing interest in malt whiskies during this period. One product of this surge of interest was the introduction of DIAGEO's RARE MALTS range, a series of rarer whiskies begun in 1995 but discontinued in 2005 as stocks declined, after all, RARE MALTS are by definition an exhaustible resource.

The interest in unusual, distinctive, older and unrepeatable cask strength bottling also saw a rise in the 21st century and to satisfy this demand and move some of the stocks from warehouses across Scotland, DIAGEO's SPECIAL RELEASES was born. The first of these was a 28yo Talisker in 2001, initially priced at £495 and now, if you can find the stuff, fetching at least 3 times that amount. Obviously, it was decided that these SPECIAL RELEASES were a good idea. A Port Ellen 22yo (now in it's 7th release and aged 28yo) and a Talisker 25 followed and both also sold out quickly. The demand was obviously present and the special releases have continued annually ever since. There are a total of 59 bottlings in this elite range to date. So demand is certainly present, the challenge has been to maintain supply, and the quality of that supply. By all accounts, Nick Morgan and DIAGEO have done brilliant job at this.

This 25yo Talisker is the ninth offering from the only distiller on the Isle of Skye in the Special Releases range and is one of 6,894 bottles. For more distillery info and for past expressions from Talisker had on the mission, click HERE.

Guest-tasted today by TF (cuz I wanted post on this baby and wasn't invited to the launch or get drops through the post. Oh well). Thanks, mate. With only a laugh and more clarity intended, I will translate of few of his 'local' descriptors.


Rich, sweet. Golden syrup, brown sugar, sticky home-made gingerbread, with sweet oak lurking in the background. Peat, white pepper. Clearly a few top-quality sherry casks in the mix.

All the flavours from the nose, but with an extra smack of coal and dry peat, rounded by a fabulously delicate honeysuckle. Full and rich, silky smooth but packing a great chewy, peppery punch. The spices are perfect. Finish is long, strong and somehow manages to be both brash and graceful at the same time, like a ballerina with a Mohican (British term for the hairstyle that some/most call a mowhawk). The spices and the sherry are perfectly complemented by the succulent peat.


Wow. Just stunning. Phwoarr!! (another Briticism, the kind of term you see printed across the bottom of a picture of a topless footballer/soccer player or actor from LOST, etc.). Gorgeous nose, even better on the palate! This is sumptuous stuff.

Malt Mission #191
Malt Mission #192
Malt Mission #193
Malt Mission #195

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Malt Mission 2007 #193

Compass Box Morpheus
(Vatted) Malt Scotch Whisky
46% abv

Computer software, fictional captain of the Nebuchadnezzar in "The Matrix", and now a limited release from Compass Box, the Greek god of dreams continues to be an inspiration to creative minds around the world. Morphine also finds its roots in the Greek god, and perhaps this whisky will have dream-inducing power...

John Glaser has created Morpheus as a limited release for Jeroboams Group/Milroy's of Soho. Like Flaming Heart (had yesterday and back at Malt Mission #12), and most of the Compass Box range for that matter, the combination of flavours could only have existed in the dreams of whisky drinkers until realised by the Compass Box crew. There are only 900 bottles in this release and Morpheus is very likely a one-off. Perhaps Phobetor and Phantasos will follow?

Whiskies in this creation include the usual suspects for Compass Box: Ardmore(peated style), Clynelish, Teaninich, and Dalhuaine.


Dynamic nose, cinematic. You can (safely, ie. no nose prickle) zoom in, smelling deeper and closer and will find new flavours at each level.
Fruity, brown sugar, pie crust. Flan. Some smoke, smoke cheese, too. Earth and peat at the deepest level. Quite complex.

Salty, caramel, black licorice. Oats. Cinnamon and honey. Carrot muffins with orange zest. Finish combines Jelly Babies and mango juice with a final note of peat smoke.


Elegant and with great development of flavours, Compass Box has done it again. Slightly unusual in the CB range in that this malt has a very lengthy finish; most of their whiskies are big and short, encouraging another sip and earning the "easy drinking" description. This is a nightcap malt that speaks slowly, softly, and rocks you to sleep.

Malt Mission #191
Malt Mission #192
Malt Mission #194
Malt Mission #195

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