Showing posts with label vatted. Show all posts
Showing posts with label vatted. Show all posts

Friday, December 09, 2011

Malt Mission 2011 #404

The Silver Grouse
Blended Malt Whisky

Honestly? I have no information about this bottle to share except for what the label told me:

It is a blended malt and is chill-filtered at -8 degrees Celsius, a proposition that seems familiar to the brilliant commercial failure of J&B -6. The label explains that this whisky was specially designed to celebrate Famous Grouse's 25 years as Scotland's number 1 blended whisky. 

I took a sample off a bar in an office in Taipei and I am afraid neither the internet nor my shelves of books offer me much else by way of background. Sorry! Do you know this whisky?

For more info on the Famous Grouse family of blends and to see all tasted so far on the mission, click HERE.


Wildly pleasant and easy-going nose. Creamy and sweet with dates and honey. Slight salty or briney note in there, too.

More dates, raisins and an oaty gristiness, drying with dusty oak and pleasant sherry.


Classic Grouse style, easy to drink and a joy all the while. Now who knows where the hell this thing is available?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Malt Mission 2009 #335

Crazy Glen 1976
Highland (Blended) Malt Scotch Whisky
43% abv


The bottle has a fantastic image of a wild-eyed horse and proudly states "Over 5 Years Old". Ah, what a surefire promise of quality.

Crazy Glen was featured in our crazy whisky bar at our crazy Canadian Norwegian Jewish Scottish Burns Night Wedding in London last month and was one of the few bottles completely drained (and, from what I understand, dumped into a trashcan in Hyde Park) by the end of the night. There can be no better whisky review than that, really. Nonetheless...


Waxy and full of apricot sweetness, and some leather. Clementines and shortbread, vanilla, apples, and still some leathery element. Shockingly complex and very pleasant.

Big wave of vanilla and lemons, buttery oak and a touch of smoke. Finish offers the first hints that the bottle might have been sitting around for over nearly 30 years with plastic or a dusty wrapping-paper drawer smell. Still, very full-flavoured and satisfying.


Overall, a crazy surprise that I am only too glad I managed to win at almost two years ago. An old-school, highland style whisky rarely found these days, especially at such a ripe young age. Perhaps whisky DOES mature in the bottle as a recent article in Malt Advocate First Quarter 2009 suggests...

Malt Mission #331
Malt Mission #332
Malt Mission #333
Malt Mission #334

Malt Mission HOME

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Malt Mission 2008 #274

Hedonism Maximus
Compass Box Whisky Comany

pour La Maison du Whisky

Grain Whisky


Today we'll try another whisky to be effected by the new terms being put forth by the SWA to protect scotch whisky on the global market. Kevin Erskine and The Scotch Blog have been addressing this story in recent days (see yesterday's post HERE) and Dr. Whisky had a few things to say at the beginning of this "week" on the Malt Mission (HERE).

This is whisky that may have once been referred to as a
vatted grain whisky, ie. a whisky that is made up of grain whisky (whisky made in column/coffey/continuous stills out of wheat and/or maize and/or barley) from more than one distillery, in this case a 1965 Invergordon(42yo) and a 1979 Cameron Bridge(29yo). This type of whisky will be called BLENDED GRAIN WHISKY (as opposed to SINGLE GRAIN WHISKY) in the future.

Created for the 2007 Whisky LIVE Paris, this whisky is made up of two cracking old grain whiskies from first-fill bourbon barrels. The label is easily one of the most beautiful the whisky world has seen since 1853 when its inspiration, Ushers Old Vatted Glenlivet(see pic to the right), became the very first 'brand' in the world of Scotch whisky. Stunning, I think. Here's hoping the appearance matches the flavour.


Very fresh, toasty and tropical, orange fruits and synthetic orange(TANG, SunnyD, etc.). Lightly mentholic, some cinnamon spice and vanilla. Some middle eastern sweets too, honey, pastry, dates and nuts. Terribly appetising... if you're into this sort of thing.

Gorgeous oaky creaminess, soft and fruity. Grains and oak in great balance. Very rich with raisins and cloves with a long finish that is sweet but juicy and less oaky than might be expected after so much time in cask. Rum-esque. Sexy, sophisticated and succulent.


A 42 year old Invergordon and a 29yo Carsebridge make this 31 year old very happy... and then sad to remember that (I think) all 300ish bottles of the stuff have been sold out. An absolute stunner from a company that for years has been singing the praises of grain whisky as more than just buffer to malts in blended whiskies. Sure it's not for everyone, but those who like it will like it a lot. Find one and buy two.

Malt Mission #271
Malt Mission #272
Malt Mission #273
Malt Mission #275

Malt Mission HOME

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Malt Mission 2008 #273

Juveniles 20th Anniversary
Compass Box Whisky

Malt Scotch Whisky*

53.9% abv


Back in 2003/4 Compass Box created a few vattings called Juveniles that were successful but discontinued due to the drying up of a certain constituent malt.
Created to celebrate 20 years of Juveniles, Tim Johnston's restaurant in Paris, this whisky from Compass Box joins the Cantos Cask range in its method of creation.

* This is a vatted malt, or what the SWA would like us to refer to as a BLENDED MALT whisky, ie. a mixture of different single malt whiskies without the addition of grain whisky. We have been talking about this in the past two posts (Malt Mission #271 and Malt Mission #272) and I will continue to taste vatted or blended malts and single and vatted grain whiskies over the next few Malt Missions.

Tasted with Chris at TWE.


Rich and fruity with age apparent through oaky tones. A baked sweetness with spice and grain, barley and corn. Soft at bottling strength, but fruitier with water.

Oranges and vermouth, very toasty and sweet like muffin tops. Doughy and crispy, somehow.


Rich nose, but soft. Big palate, but restrained. A nice chewy malt whisky that can handle a good deal of water but is perfectly drinkable at cask strength. A very Compass Box-style whisky with much in common with Oak Cross and the Cantos range.

Malt Mission #271
Malt Mission #272
Malt Mission #274
Malt Mission #275

Malt Mission HOME

Friday, April 04, 2008

Malt Mission 2008 #272

Corriemhor Whisky
Corriemhor Cigar Reserve
Malt Whisky
40% abv

This is a whisky that falls into the new category "blended malt", a designation of Scotch whisky discussed yesterday. It is not a single malt but is a mixture of single malts from more than one distillery, the artist formerly known as "pure" or "vatted" malt.

This is an unusual malt whisky from the blending nose of Richard Paterson of Whyte and Mackay and was, I think, a German exclusive. To see all whiskies marketed as cogar malts, that we've had on the mission, click HERE.

Tasted (at an Edinburgh pub that gets enough promotion and deserves far less) with MH and MS.


Milky coffee, Tim Hortons, upholstery, "grandad's Chevy Caprice." -MH. Sulphury and sweaty, licorice and ham.

Soft as anything can be, bordering on flat. Sweet and smoky. Nutty and gently spicy. Iron like a fireplace cooker, hickory smoke.


"It's good" -MS
Loud flavours but flat, almost lazy, it's weird. Very thick brushstrokes of very thin water colours. Could easily neck the stuff from the bottle, not that that should be easy.

Malt Mission #271
Malt Mission #273
Malt Mission #274
Malt Mission #275

Malt Mission HOME

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Malt Mission 2008 #222

Compass Box Canto Cask 6
Blended/Vatted Malt Scotch Whisky

53.1% abv


As this is effectively the first week in the second year (!) of Malt Missions, I think we will commemorate with an interest of mine: we will celebrate the craft of the whisky blender. This will be a week of blended whiskies (and blended malt whiskies), the whiskies that get such a bad rap from "discerning amateurs" and are rarely given the credit they are due. Never forget that if it were not for the popularity of blends worldwide we would have lost many more Rosebanks, Broras, Port Ellens, Glenglassaughs, Lochsides, Carsebridges, etc., over the years. Bullocks to Blends?

This is the UK release (exclusive to Britain) from the Canto Cask series of whiskies from Compass Box, a series that has been nominated for one of Kevin Erskine's (The Scotch Blog) 2007 Drammies. Go vote for John... and if you feel like it, support Dr. Whisky in the Best New Product (non-whisky) category as well!

We tasted Canto Cask 46 (for the US market) back at Malt Mission #207 where you can find more info about the idea and composition behind the range. This canto is from French oak to a level-7 toast. With the 46, I made comparisons between John Glaser's Cantos and those of Ezra Pound. Without spending too much time, let's see if we can find any resonance between the three Canto 6s in Dante's Divine Comedy and Compass Box's Canto 6.

Critics have attributed Dante's appreciation of symmetry to the thematic alignment of Canto 6 in Inferno, Puragtrio, and Paradiso. They can all be read as political commentaries touching on Roman and regional Italian (1300s) political situations, addressing characters who are just among those who are corrupt, and calling for justice and civic renewal. Okay, it works in a poem, but can whisky EVER be political? Is whisky ALWAYS political? Some would say the the suppression of the production of this spirit, an economic and ecological way to use up excess or inedible grains, in Scotland and America over the past centuries makes it a powerful symbol of freedom in modern times. Some would say, "bullshit! Tear that stillhouse down!"

In Inferno, we have a very Scottish scene: gluttons lying in mud under cold rain and hail. That pretty much summarizes my years in Edinburgh... or at least most of the late Friday nights. Anyways, enough. I am having fun but it must be a bore to read. Moving on, then...

All proceeds from the sale of this whisky are being donated to Cancer Research UK. Please see Compass Box for more whisky stuff. Please see the excellent DanteWorlds(really amazing resource) at The University of Texas for more poetry stuff.


Immediately varnished, slightly medicinal and pharmaceutical, "and deeper plagues their deadly stores disclose"(C.6, Inferno). Sweet, with some Egg Nog and spice, but "foul steams arise and fill the troubled sphere,"(C.6, Inferno) with loads of a processed earthiness: cardboard, coal, and mosquito repellant. Needless to say the higher abv% initially speaks with the loudest voice, but with time, that alcoholic impression gives way to a sumptous balance of creamy sweetness (peach Campinos) and oaky dryness.

Soft, then hot and sweet, like teething a freshly charred marshmallow off a stick at a campfire. Carmelised shallots, crisy bits of steak fat. Sweet and meaty. Toasty and kind of sherried. Organic black licorice. Very drying with impressions of a wet wood kitchen cutting board. Long and oaky.


Another oddity from Compass Box that is challenging, complex, extremely tasty, and remarkably unique. The drying finish weighs a bit too much on the oak for my tastes but this is a whisky that would appeal to those who like dry sherry-type of impressions in their malts. Would be excellent in a (posh) winter-themed cocktail. Totally drinkable straight and at strength, though, just give it a chance for the alcohol to flash-off (ie. let it sit in a glass for a bit).

Malt Mission #221
Malt Mission #223
Malt Mission #224
Malt Mission #225

Malt Mission HOME

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Malt Mission 2007 #209

Japanese Blended Malt Whisky
46% abv


Another odd whisky, this time a creation of indy whisky maverick Ichiro Akuto (Hanyu, Ichiro's Malts) from Japan. Unusual because it is made up of single malts from more than one Japanese distillery. This is odd because it is not the practice of Japanese distillers to trade casks between distilleries and distilling companies like they do in Scotland. I imagine this is a limited release (can there be enough casks to continue the supply?) although the bottle or literature offers on clues as to just how limited. Gavin D. Smith and Tom Cannavan's Whisky-Pages and the Number One Drinks Co. tells us that half of the stock is allocated to Japan and the rest is sold in specialist shops throughout the world.

On the excellent Nonjatta, Chris offers some explanation of the origins of the name 'Ginkgo'. For more Japanese whiskies enjoyed on the mission (more to come tomorrow and next week) click HERE and for more from Ichiro Akuto or Hanyu click HERE.


Slightly solvent initially, nailpolish, that opens up with floral aromas up high and sweet butter down low. Edinburgh rock. Clean and grainy with some citrus, plums, plastic bags and envelope glue. Water unleashes more breadiness and citrus, grapefruit (not pink) skin, and the harder solventy edges dissipate.

Rich, toasty, charming... with a dark side. Burnt sugar, toffeed, malty sweetness, some fruitiness in the form of apples, but generally oaky and toasty. Some smoke comes forward late in the development, especially accented by the addition of water. Minutes later there is a herbal, floral element that still lingers.


Was not crazy about the unreduced nose, although there was some fruity sweetness , it was generally hard, acetic and aldehydic. Water greatly assisted here bringing out the caramel and toasty barley sweeness. On the palate, water was also an aid in adding width to the flavour impact and opening up some dark, smoky corners.

See Nonjatta for Chris' tasting impressions.

Malt Mission #206
Malt Mission #207
Malt Mission #208
Malt Mission #210

Malt Mission HOME

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Malt Mission 2007 #207

Compass Box Canto Cask 46
Blended/Vatted Malt Scotch Whisky
53.2% abv


This is part of the Cantos Cask range from Compass Box Whisky Company. These are 16 single cask, cask strength whiskies that are, in effect, variations on a theme, or as John Glaser writes, "a canto within a poem." Using the same malt whiskies (Clynelish, Teaninich, and Dailuaine) Glaser has created 16 unique malt whiskies for different corners of the world. Each bottling has been selected by local importers and have exclusive availability within those markets (thus qualifying for my internationally-themed weeks here on the Malt Mission). This one was chosen by Park Avenue Liquor and is only available in the USA.

A 'canto' is a song or a division of a long poem used by many poets throughout our literary history. Dante uses the form in his Divine Comedy but I have spent more time with another 'infernal' canto-user, Ezra Pound. I have worked with The Cantos of Ezra Pound for years and would be hard pressed to name anything pleasurable after them. Even Pound grew to see them as a failure. They were never decisively completed, and Pound himself admitted he had 'botched' The Cantos, writing in the final 'complete' Canto (116):

Beauty is not the madness
Tho' my errors and wrecks lie about me.

And I am not a demigod,

I cannot make it cohere.


Pound uses many different 'tools' available to the poet to construct his epic: different languages, verse forms, musical and ideogram notations, etc. Without getting too ostentatious, but feeling the need to make some connection here, John Glaser has similarly used different tools of whisky-making available to him, creating new forms. For the canto range each cask held the same malt whisky, but for the last 18 months the whiskies were aged in a range of different new oaks, both French and American, toasted to variable levels. For Canto 46, the oak is French and toasted to the level '7' (the range within the Canto series is from 4-9).

Pound's Canto 46 is part of the Fifth Decad of Cantos and addresses themes of usury, banking and credit, economic obsessions of Pound's. 46 follows a well-known Canto, Pound's 'litany against usury', "With Usura":

Usura rusteth the chisel
It rusteth the craft and the craftsman
It gnaweth the thread in the loom
None learneth to weave gold in her pattern;
(45, ll. 37-40)

Enough. Let's get to the whisky and celebrate a product of Glaser's unrusted (and well-priced) craftsmanship. All Compass Box whiskies had on the mission can be viewed HERE.


Dessert at a candlelit dinner. Soft smoky atmosphere with vanilla, and Honey Nut Cheerios. Firm, hard, strong oak presence in a whisky that, in spite of the abv%, allows deep, prickle-free nosing. The inside of a Mars bar, dish-drying towel moisture and scents(sense?) of cleanliness. Lots of oak influence and a touch of cantaloupe (hehe, CANTOloupe... sorry), the seedy bit.

Big bourbony opening with the gorgeous Clynelish shining through, becoming toasty, smoky, and caramelised. Apples and honey, apples with bitter skin, or grapeskin... late flavours of licorice root and honey-sweetened fennel tea. Tingling. Oaky.


Single malt whisky snobs of the world, give it up; Compass Box adds (due) credibility to the art of blending and John Glaser has yet to misfire on a single creation (that he let's us taste). Great development in the mouth, engaging. Water is not necessary but unleashes more oily, waxy vanilla notes, perfumy spice like walking past LUSH, and baked elements in the nose as well as adding cumin seeds and peanuts on the palate. Not rich in a traditional sense. If 'rich' can mean a whisky that is oily, spicy, and sherried, this whisky abandons the sherry and allows a small serving (milk on porridge) creaminess, while the spice spits song. That kind of rich. Big and packing a lot of flavour into a very approachable dram. Very much an apertif style malt whisky with the fennel-y pastis flavours enhancing my appetite. But of course, I haven't had breakfast yet, so perhaps anything would rouse an appetite...

Malt Mission #206
Malt Mission #208
Malt Mission #209
Malt Mission #210

Malt Mission HOME

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

Malt Mission HOME

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Malt Mission 2007 #192

Compass Box Flaming Heart
(Vatted) Malt Scotch Whisky
Limited Release #FH16 MMVII

48.9% abv



Fireworks galore last night. In fact it has been going on for a month. Yesterday was Guy Fawkes Night and hopefully now the nightly display is over. The pop and fizzes bring to mind cracking knuckles and reminds me of an email I received from a man who wanted to know what whisky I would recommend for his arthritis-suffering sister. Before you panic, it was her doctor who endorsed the treatment, not me. I just offered recommendations of rich sipping whiskies. I then got to poking around and was amazed to find how alcohol seems to have the privilege of being the cure AND cause of almost every disease, ailment and sickness!

"Ah, beer. The cause and solution to all of life's problems."- Homer Simpson

The good news is that the current consensus seems to be that moderate intake of alcohol can both prevent against arthritis and slow the effect of rheumatoid arthritis. So enjoy every drop of the Water of Life, Adrienne, the prescription is a winner.

Right, to the whisky of the day, the daily dram, the morning malt...

This is the second release of Flaming Heart (we had the first back at Malt Mission #12) and the good news is that this time it will be available beyond Europe. Like the first release, this is made up of malt whiskies (Clynelish, Linkwood, Caol Ila) that have matured in first fill ex-bourbon casks and then undergone a secondary maturation in new toasted French oak casks. The result of peated and non-peated whisky, some of the best blended ingredients in the industry, combined with skill and exposed to new oak has created a unique array of flavours unlike anything else out there. Doesn't mean it will be to everyone's liking, but those who like it like it a lot and the whole process is yet more evidence that John Glaser is a leading innovator in the world of whisky.


Lots of vanilla, cloves, freshly baked goods. Finger paints, peat, and putty. Balloons. Some boiled pork, too.

White grapes, cinnamon, pepper, and peat smoke. Yoghurt and toasty woodiness, too. Long but gentle finish of wood, tobacco and a whiff of peat.


Quite a different mouthfeel to the first edition, so far as my memory is accurate. Great, assertive flavours excited by the abv% and amplified by the oak and careful combination of the some of the best malt whiskies in Scotland. Perhaps a bit punchy to the new whisky drinker, but wonderfully easy drinking with a drop of water and enough complexity to stimulate debate among connoisseurs.

Malt Mission #191
Malt Mission #193
Malt Mission #194
Malt Mission #195

Malt Mission HOME

Monday, September 24, 2007

Malt Mission 2007 #161

The Six Isles
Vatted/Blended Malt

43% abv


This is an unchillfiltered vatting of whiskies from the 6 isles of whisky
production, Arran, Mull, Islay, Skye, Jura, and Orkney. We used it as a warm-up dram at a tasting we held for 30 friends when we were in Toronto two weeks ago and it went down a treat. Folks really liked it. This week we will be re-living that tasting one day/dram at a time.

Discontinued at the LCBO, and only $35.35(CAD) right now if you can find a bottle near you, Jim Murray has praised this stuff calling it, "island whisky to the max!" (2003) and, "The best standard, non-deluxe blend I have foun
d in my lifetime."(2004) Like I said, it went down well with friends on a cool, late-summer, Toronto night.

All Ian Macleod products can be viewed HERE.


Laid back, peaty and earthy, with a layer of salty nuts and smoke. Chlorine. Sooty. Apricots. Custard. Cocoa dustings. All freshened with a citrus zing.

Spring. Cut grass. Lemon curd. Metallic smoke takes over and a minty, or Listerine effect lingers in the medium long, but pleasantly thin, finish.


Tobermory/Ledaig and Islay malts(Bowmore?) dominate this whisky, and blind, one might think it's a peated Speysider. Yeah, that is due to the smoke mixed with the janitor's closet smells, but also the weighty sweetness on the nose, the floral element on the palate, and the sheer drinkability. For peat freaks and the new drinkers they insist "have gotta try this..."

Malt Mission #160
Malt Mission #162
Malt Mission #163
Malt Mission #164
Malt Mission #165

Malt Mission HOME

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Malt Mission 2007 #112

Monkey Shoulder
"Triple Malt Scotch Whisky"
Vatted Malt

40% abv


While last week had a Diageo bent, this week we'll look at a series of whiskies from William Grant and Sons (All WG&Sons tasted in the Malt Mission can be found HERE)

Created by David Stewart, Master Blender of Monkey Shoulder and Malt Master of Glenfiddich and Balvenie, "whose reputation for discovering fantastic objects of desire is world renowned," Monkey Shoulder is a "genuine modern classic." (quotes from the website). Monkey Shoulder is a vatting of different re-charred bourbon cask-aged whiskies from Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Kininvie. All three distilleries are located on the same large piece of land in Dufftown, Scotland. While you may have heard of the first two distilleries, it is unlikely that the third is familiar to many of you because it is not released as a single malt and is exclusively (?) used for Grant's blended whiskies, Gordon Highlanders, and Monkey Shoulder.

Clearly marketed as one for the style bars, Monkey Shoulder has done a masterful j
ob of capturing the attention of men and women across Britain and America with nifty packaging and clever advertising. They have held a marketing campaign fostering associations with NME, Casinos/Poker events, fashion, and rock concert venues to address a "new generation of whisky drinkers." But does it work and is it good for whisky as a whole?

The goal of the marketing behind Monkey Shoulder has been to bring new drinkers to the category. According to MS Brand Manager Rob Curteis, "we first need to change people's perception of Scotch whisky." Now, I am not sure at what point the between emphasis on traditional floor maltings and the presence of ice and cocktail shakers William Grant and Sons thought they were changing anything but the perception of bartending. In a video readily viewable at the Monkey Shoulder website, we learn in a very effective and clear fashion how whisky is made, with cocktail interruptions to cater to the short attention span of this new
generation of whisky drinksters. Between the New Orleans bitters, raspberry eau de vie, and lemon sugar, I am not clear what percetions of whisky were being changed. In fact, there seem to be more terminology and jingoisms to learn than any whisky stereotype out there. Triple Malt? Wort? Batch matured? SWA? Grain whisky? Oh, cocktails, there is a language I understand... duh!

The labelling is not just confusing with terminology, but is clearly trying to cash in with deception. Batch 27? Triple Malt? Both terms on the bottle to confuse the customer about age and superiority (oh, it is even BETTER than a single malt.. it is triple action!!!)

This is, at best, a campaign addressed at bartenders. By appreciating their craft, suggesting ways to use Monkey Shoulder in cocktails, sending them merch and taking them on trips and tasting tours, Monkey marketers are working to become a standard behind the bar. A tough sell, but it would be cool if it worked. But still, what about the customer who will have to ORDER this Banaynay Figtastic Monkeytini?

Dr. Whisky is more about diagnosis than commentary,
and I am running out of time and patience, but I hope you can see what is wrong with each of the following taglines that are tossed around in Monkey marketing.

"Old school malt categorization is not what Monkey Shoulder is about"
"Matured to perfection"
"No grain whisky in monkey"
"Not the original whisky. More original than that"

Can the whisky just speak for itself without being a misleading monkey with a superiority complex, drowned in sugar and bitters, struggling to be "hip" and trendy, or degrading the integrity of scotch whisky traditions? Let's see what it has to say for itself.


Soft malt and vanilla sweet. Has that Glenfiddich pear, that Balvenie orange and honey, with some slight saltiness, green strawberries, bananas, licorice, and oak.

Creamy and sensuous in the mouth, baked, toasted and roasted, approaching smoky. Honey, spice, banana mash.


Balvenie tastes like the core of this flavourwise, with honey, spices, orange and beeswax, but the light estery features of young Glenfiddich (and Kininvie?) are perfectly used as the decoration. Well designed for new whisky drinkers and thoroughly enjoyable for the already initiated.

*** According to the website, Monkey Shoulder is ideal for mixing but is best savoured in a Brass Monkey: with ice and water. Now, as far as I am concerned that constitutes mixing, but lets try it this way and see what goes on...


More cardboard and root vegetables emerge with ice. Scotch broth, barley, and shortbread. Dead and drying nose.

Soft, vanilla, pastry. Unoffensive, but uninteresting.


The dusty storage room features are much stronger with ice both in the nose and on the palate. The delicate charm is all lost and the sexy mouthfeel is sacrificed to the cold ice. Extremely tasty at 40% without ice or ginger ale or fig brandy or ... As I said above, very well made whisky that deserves to be consumed straight out of the bottle and enjoyed by whisky drinkers new and old.

Malt Mission #111
Malt Mission #113
Malt Mission #114
Malt Mission #115

Malt Mission HOME

Monday, June 18, 2007

Malt Mission 2007 #101

Nikka 'Red' Pure Malt
Vatted Whisky

43% abv

£24 (50cl)

This week we will try something new on the Malt Mission and look at a few international malts. This is a good starter as it is quite literally 'international', in that it is sourced from different countries.

After working for Kotobukiya (Suntory) for over 10 years, Masataka Taketsuru, arguably the grandfather of Japanese malt whisky, started The Great Japan Juice Company in 1934. The company did indeed produce juice, and by 1952 came to be known as Nikka Whisky Distilling Co.

Taketsuru learned his skills in distilling spirits studying at Glasgow University in Scotland in 1918. he followed this with further hands-on study at Hazelburn (Campbeltown), Lagavulin (Islay) and Longmorn (Speyside). He then worked at the company that is known today as Suntory, helping them build their first distillery in 1923 (Yamazaki). When he left Suntory to start his own company, he built Yoichi distillery on Japan's most northern major island, Hokkaido. Although inconveniently located, it was perfectly situated fro whisky production, according to Taketsuru (Nonjatta has a great piece on Taketsuru HERE). Surrounded by mountains on three sides and having pure a water source that comes from underground springs that rise through peat bogs, Yoichi is a very traditional-style distillery that still direct-fires its stills with coal (this once-common practice is a piece of history in Scotland, partly because of EU standards on coal emissions).

In 1969, Nikka built Miyagikyou/Sendai distillery on Honshu, Japan's main island. Teh site was picked after Masataka Taketsuru made a mizuwari using the water source of the prospective distillery and proclaimed, "This water is excellent. I've decided, this is the place!" The company produces the bulk of its malt for blending here using steam-heated stills. The distillery is also capable of producing grain whisky with its Coffey still.

The Pure Malt format was, at one time, the most common sort of whisky produced in Japan, and this is just one of Nikka's colours series (others are 'black' and 'white'). This one is a 'pure malt', or vatting of Japanese single malt whisky from Miyagikyo/Sendai Distillery (using the Coffey still) blended with Scottish single malt whiskies.

Notes in quotes can be attributed to Kristin.


Bright and fruity. Candied peanuts. Tahini. Peaches and cream. "Still, trapped air, like going into a tent, or a cottage or shack that has been locked up for a few seasons." Time allows some herbaceous (grass, parsley) elements to emerge and water softens the brightness and brings out a touch of peat, roasted aubergine/eggplant or soil. "Becomes outdoorsy"

Again, bright and fruity, butterscotch. Sugary black tea. Fresh and lively. Fills out with some earth and peat, but remains confection-ary. Slightly smoky in the toastiness at the end. Water really exaggerates the earthiness and it becomes a surprisingly chewy whisky.


Perfectly clean, fresh, summery malt. I loved the oscillation between candied orange and earthy smokiness. Wholly unique, but to offer some points of reference, Kristin finds it comparable with a features of Bell's blended whisky while I find it shares features with Rosebank, unpeated BenRiach and young Talisker. Love the packaging, too.

"Spirity. Woody. Sweet. That's about it. Blend-ish. Did they pour caramel into this?"

To each their own.

Malt Mission #100
Malt Mission #102
Malt Mission #103

Malt Mission #104
Malt Mission #105

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Monday, June 04, 2007

Malt Mission 2007 #96

Compass Box Hedonism
Limited Release #H25 MMVI
43% abv

What an amazing weekend! Good weather, good friends, great times, Sens beat the Ducks, and while I was ignored in Whisky Magazine's piece on blogs (issue 64, p.30), Dr. Whisky was featured in the Sunday Post(Scotland).

So I am very exited to announce week TWENTY of this Malt Mission. I wonder if I will ever stop celebrating the start of each new week... I guess it is just that I had no idea that this would last beyond around 30 whiskies. To celebrate I will be tasting whiskies I love (that we haven't already had), or at least ones from distilleries/producers that I hold close to my heart.

We will start with a new(ish) release from Compass Box. This is part of the limited release series they launched in late 2006, the idea being to release special or unique small-batch or single cask bottlings on a theme, most of which cannot be repeated or produced on a large scale. Sweet new look, too.

Hedonism is a 100% grain whisky, like the first whisky of the same name, introduced by Compass Box back in 2000. Because of the nature of the rarity of the component parts that make up Hedonism, it has become a part of this limited release range as sourcing the aged grains happens on a very small scale. The coding for the Limited Release # works for all in the range, with the first letter being the first letter of the expression ("H" in this case), the number being the age of the oldest whisky in the batch (unusual, but cool, and in this case "25"), and the Roman numerals indicate the bottling year ("MMVI", 2006)

I tasted an older Hedonism release at Malt Mission #74, and all Compass Box appearances in this Malt Mission can be found HERE.


With faint whiffs, this is full of Oil of Olay-type face creams. With deeper nosing there is vanilla, jojoba suncreams, some herbal liquor elements, and green strawberries. delve too deep and the nose prickles.

Sexy, silky entry in the mouth, with bourbon creaminess, sweet toffee and cocoa cake batter, pistachio and stracciatella gelati, with a slightly peppery, even smoky(?) finish.


Surprisingly quite different to the old(er) Hedonism expression. While I would personally spend the few quid more for the old Hedonism(if I can still find it!), the prospect of subtle variations on a theme (100% grain) within this limited release series demands a loyal following. Lead the way.

Malt Mission #95
Malt Mission #97
Malt Mission #98
Malt Mission #99
Malt Mission #100

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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Malt Mission 2007 #88

Jon, Mark and Robbo's
The Smoky, Peaty One
Vatted Malt Whisky
40% abv

A good malt to follow yesterday's Peat Monster post.

The last of the Easy Drinking Whisky Co. releases that I have not yet had in this Malt Mission, this breakfast malt blog, what a friend yesterday called 'Dr. Whisky's Casebook'. And now that Jon, Mark and Robbo are officially done in all markets save the US (as I reported in Malt Mission 76 and on The Scotch Blog), I can say with some certainty that it will be the last JMR product to appear in these pages.

Boo hoo indeed. And I mean it. I was defending their stuff over a dram of Rich Spicy at the Rake in Borough Market just two nights ago in front of three lovely but opinionated whisky industry folks.

For other JMR info, please see past posts...(HERE)

To achieve the smoky peaty effect, this bottling includes Islay malts Caol Ila, Bunnahabhain and Laphroaig, Ledaig(leh-chek) from Mull, and Highland Park from Orkney.


Some maple, sour milk, raisin bran, bag of mixed nuts and dried fruits. Lots of rich maltiness with some peat, but not very smoky.

Soft, with some sherry toastiness, late development of a tiny touch of smoke and more peat, but extremely well integrated; really more like the background music to the rich malt and Spanish oak. Again peat taste, but not very much smoke.


Good Gord that is drinkable stuff. So gentle while holding a lot of rich characteristics. Nothing out of place, except prehaps for a bit of 'fun'. Safe, satisfying whisky at a great price. Too bad finding it is only going to get more and more difficult...

Malt Mission #86
Malt Mission #87

Malt Mission #89
Malt Mission #90

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Malt Mission 2007 #87

Compass Box Peat Monster
Malt Scotch Whisky

46% abv



Essentially equal parts Caol Ila and peated Ardmore, The Peat Monster is one of Compass Box's most widely available and best selling expressions.

Except for Asyla, it is the last one of their standard releases that I have not yet tried in this malt mission (others HERE). I got a chance to try it at a tasting event last night with John Glaser and Gregg Glass at the Whisky Exchange in Vinopolis.


Cigarette smoking through a meal of scrambled eggs, scallops, and strawberry cheescake. Pears, a bag of marijuana, cinnamon.
Sea salt, kelp, lemon cheesecake, a cloud of peat, peaches or nectarines, firesmoke.


Amazing balance from start to finish. Peat and iodine to fruit baskets then burning leaves or wood outdoors. Distinct compartments of flavour that harmonise masterfully, if all a bit too consonant, major thirds and fifths. Monstrous? Cookie monster, maybe.

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Friday, May 04, 2007

Malt Mission 2007 #75

Compass Box Spice Tree
Vatted Malt Scotch Whisky
46% abv


Happy 75th! Will we make it to 100 in this Malt Mission? Can't stop now...

Released in a limited run of 4150 bottles back in 2005, Compass Box's Spice Tree was welcomed with some due praise and a flurry of controversy.

The whisky is/was made up of 4 malt whiskies aged at least 10 years in first-fill bourbon or rejuvenated/recharred casks: Clynelish, Dailuaine, Glen Elgin and Teaninich. A portion of this whisky was put through a secondary maturation, and here is where the Scotch Whisky Association starts to get in a huff.

John Glaser was researching fancy oak from a particular cooperage in Vosges, France. He found a mill that makes oak for cooperage from slow-growth, 195 year-old French Sessile Oak trees, air dried outdoors for two years, for wine producers.

The secondary maturation take space in a cask with specially inserted and specifically toasted staves of this Sessile oak. A second release in April 2006 used several different toast levels on the Sessile oak, but either way, the SWA demanded Compass Box cease producing this product immediately.

The issue is in the way the SWA interprets the law regarding traditional practice in the production of spirits in European Union countries. The SWA does not like Compass Box's technique of using barrel inserts (made of the highest quality cooperage oak you can buy) in the casks they use for secondary maturation. While John and Compass Box disagree with their interpretation, they decided the legal fight wasn't worth the time or money. They are, after all, small guys in the industry (even though they are doing HUGE things).

In John's words, "I tried to explain to them that we had studied the law and believed that what we were doing was well within it, not to mention a positive quality step forward for the industry. 'Quality,' I was told by the SWA, 'is completely irrelevant.'"

With quality being irrelevant (!?), all of the first run (4150 bottles) of the Spice Tree sold out in months, and the second (smaller) batch was all pre-sold for export before it was even bottled. Compass Box has ceased production of this whisky using the inner stave technique but has created the Oak Cross since, and continues to negotiate with the SWA in the hopes of not only bringing back the Spice Tree, but opening up a new avenue for Scotch whisky maturation.


Tight package. Closed nose and quite tough to unpack. Nutmeg, tea leaves, cloves, dates, oats. Lots of woodiness. Vanilla and caramel.

Spicy and lively. Ginger. Dives deep to a series of great burnt sugar flavours.
Boozy brioche. Creme brullée. Rich and spicy. Chewy. Long, oak dominant finish.


Certainly seems to accomplish what John set out to do; it showcases an oak new to Scotch Whisky maturation and yields new, spicy flavours.

Could be worrying for some readers to learn that 200 year old trees are being slain for whisky maturation and, as much as someone may be supporting Compass Box's ingenuity, make it difficult to hope that the whisky industry at large adopts such techniques.

For me, while the malt does stand up to the powerful oakiness, the finish is a touch too tannic. That being said, it is well suited to accompany food... or a pint. It came, it saw, let it go. John Glaser and Compass Box have many other brilliant ideas up their sleeves. Show us the magic...

* - price listed is likely no longer applicable. As this product is no longer in production, the few thousand bottles that are out there will likely be sold for more than this number.

Malt Mission #71
Malt Mission #72
Malt Mission #73
Malt Mission #74

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Thursday, May 03, 2007

Malt Mission 2007 #74

Compass Box Hedonism
Vatted Grain Scotch Whisky
43% abv

This is the first release Compass Box unleashed on the world back in 2000. In his experience at Johnnie Walker, John Glaser learned that grain whiskies had an unfair stigma about them and he was determined to remedy that unfair situation.

John believes that grain whiskies (matured in the right casks) are some of the most delicious whiskies in world. To prove his point to two doubters, John gave me and Kristin a 25yo Carsebridge, and zowie! Touchée!

What he created was completely original, unlike anything else on the market, a vatted whisky made up entirely of whiskies from grain distilleries(ie. Vatted Grain), and Compass Box has not yet ceased to be utterly innovative. The distilleries used for Hedonism include Cambus, closed since 1990, and Cameronbridge.

This is no longer an easy-to-find bottling. The current release, and all future releases, of Hedonism will be smaller, limited edition runs because, naturally, sourcing the style or quality of whisky John needs is not always easy nor guaranteed. The first of these can be seen at Malt Mission #96

Other Compass Box whiskies tried in this Malt Mission HERE.


Warming grain whisky characteristics; vanilla, cream, rum and raisin. Bubblegum. Glossy paper. Meringue. Envelope seals. Some fruits, kiwi, lemon or etrog. Firm in delivery and sweetens beautifully with time in the glass. Mouthwatering, in the right mood.

Sexy, chewy and lively with flavours on the sweeter side of life. Light, even minty, calm then calamitous, then freshness followed by echoes of quality vanilla ice cream... Brown sugar and butter, coffee, carob, corn on the cob, Skor/Daim bars. Rum balls. What a ride, but certainly not for everyone. I know many people pursue salt, ash, sulphur, and peat in every dram. Well, brother, you're looking in the wrong place.


Beautifully constructed whisky, you can actually feel and taste the different ages at work with each sip. Hedonistic indeed. John Stuart Mill would be delighted at this simple pleasure.

Malt Mission #71
Malt Mission #72
Malt Mission #73
Malt Mission #75

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Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Malt Mission 2007 #73

Compass Box Oak Cross
(Vatted) Malt Scotch Whisky
43% abv

Tried 3 Compass Box products in succession back in January, and might just do the same to round off this week.

The Oak Cross was born out of the flames (literally?)
of The Spice Tree. The Spice Tree was a whisky created by John Glaser that became quite controversial because of his 'inner stave' method (more on this when I taste Spice Tree in the next few days. If you just must know more, read this for info or this for juice)

The Oak Cross casks are made with American white oak bodies and Sessile French oak heads. The idea is that Sessile oak yields specific flavours John wants in his whiskies, but also, it gives him the ability to toast the wood to a variant level and, as it wont be bent into a cask shape like the rest of the oak in the cask, he can char/toast the crap out of the stuff(if desired).
The whiskies used are Clynelish, Teaninich, and Dailuaine. The result is brilliant and, once again, John shows us all how he is taking the art of blending to a new level. For the 3rd time, John was voted Innovator of the Year by Whisky Magazine, and we all wait for what he has in store for us next...


Light but bold, confident aromas; clay, flowers, some spice, and suntan lotion, jojoba or coconut. Peanut oil and oak.

Luscious mouth feel, geitost, heather honey sweetness that turns to spicy excitement. Oaky finish, butter and toast, with a tingling, pins and needles effect.


Makes me think of musicians, Damien Rice, Mark Shwaber, Leslie Feist... Confident and accessible while being charming, innovative, and interesting. Great value for the craftsmanship and complexity. Could easily enjoy this all night. The world waits for these guys to screw up... Not bloody likely.

Malt Mission #71
Malt Mission #72
Malt Mission #74
Malt Mission #75

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Monday, April 30, 2007

Malt Mission 2007 #71

Sheep Dip
Blended Malt/Vatted Malt/Pure Malt Scotch Whisky
The Spencerfield Spirit Company
40% abv


The term 'sheep dip' refers to a insecticide and fungicide that farmers use to protect their sheep from infestation. It was also a nickname for bootlegged whisky that, when discovered by customs and excisemen, the farmers would say is sheep dip and thus avoid penalty. A real case of pulling the wool over the taxman's eyes.

Richard Paterson currently of Whyte and Mackay and The Dalmore, created the Sheep Dip “vatting” by marrying together several single malt whiskies. The whiskies are aged between eight and twelve years.


Delicate and sweet. Grain alcohol. Coal? Woody from the get-go, but outdoorsy. Good sherry character. Fresh fruits, green grapes, cantaloupe. Some raw almond or pecan. Farmy. Hay. Soil. Fresh lick of paint on the paddock fence.

Soft entry in the mouth, then fudge and pecan pie. Butter and sugar. Vanilla and Toffee. Takes an oaky turn with some pepper and smoke towards the end, but mainly rich with buttery baked goods and toffee.


Don't be put off by the package, it doesnt say Sheep Shit. This is actually very pleasant dramming whisky. For those of us who can't/don't like spending too much for our whisky, you will find this great value (and the LCBO actually has a pretty good price on it.) I will say that it is a touch sweet with toffee and such, so if that is not your thing, be warned. But I find it nowhere near as bad as this guy does. While I personally prefer the old label, I can completely understand why they would feel the need to modernise the image a touch.


Malt Mission #70
Malt Mission #72
Malt Mission #73
Malt Mission #74
Malt Mission #75

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