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CHIVAS REGAL Strathisla Distillery is, without question, the prettiest distillery in Scotland and is the heart and home of Chivas Regal. Set in the picturesque medieval town of Keith, on the banks of the River Isla and with its distinctive twin pagodas, water wheel and gabled granite buildings, Strathisla is well worth visiting. To safeguard the critically important component of the Chivas blends, Strathisla single malt, Chivas Brothers bought the distillery in 1950 and in 2001 The Chivas Group was bought by the French multi-national Pernod Ricard, who have maintained Chivas Regal as one of the top five bestselling blends in the world. CHIVAS REGAL 12 YEARS OLD BLENDED WHISKY 43% On the nose a mixed fruit cornucopia of dark berries, toffee apple swirling with caramel and toffee custard, with some Islay peat misting in the background. Velvety sweet on the tongue initially, then hot peppered spice drying to a woody charcoal finish. Water mutes the stunning nose and does nothing for the mediocre palate. Best neat or straight on ice. 82

CHIVAS REGAL 18 YEARS OLD BLENDED WHISKY 43%

Rich vanilla with loads of sweet spice, cardamom and toffee on the nose. The palate is silky smooth with a hint of the vanilla, then a rush of spicy pepper, finishing with a bitter, short, dry aftertaste of old sherried oak. 80

CHIVAS ROYAL SALUTE 21 YEARS OLD BLENDED WHISKY 40% Almonds, Oloroso sherry, a hint of mint, dark toffee and a touch of anise, richly spiced stewed dark fruits with a hazy trail of smoke…what an astonishing nose! Sweetly oily and viscous, coating the tongue with sweet toffee essence, light pepper ‘n spice with sherried wood on the finish. Despite the gorgeous, moreish nose on all three expressions the palate always disappointed, unbalanced with short finishes that went nowhere, which leads me to think that this Chivas range is highly over-rated. 83

December saw the launch of a new online fly fishing magazine: “Fly Fishing Tails” at www.flyfishingtails.co.za, exquisite layout and a whisky article by Wild about Whisky. http://www.reachdigireader.co.za/reader/index.php?issueid=3110/16 GLEN GRANT Solid and baronial, Glen Grant Distillery on Speyside, was built in 1840 from red sandstone and boasts a pair of pepperpot turrets and although the distillery has been substantially extended, many of the original buildings remain, clustered around the Grants’ nineteenth- century house with its turrets, gables and courtyard. In 2008, reconstruction took place with Major Grant’s Coachmans House being converted into the new visitor centre. Interestingly, in the late 1970’s, an Italian visitor persuaded the then owners, Seagrams, to sell him some cases of Glen Grant 5 year-old, which went on to become Italy’s biggest-selling brand of Scotch. It is no coincindence that the current owners are the Italian Campari drinks group and that Glen Grant is now one of the top five best-selling malts in the world. GLEN GRANT THE MAJOR’S RESERVE SINGLE MALT 43% This single malt is aged for around 7 years. On the nose this dram is all vanilla and barley. The palate offers, icing sugar, vanilla and then pepper and spice with a distinct Chardonnay finish. Spend time with this young dram, a genuine value-for-money whisky. Add a dash of water, leave for ten minutes and then relish the vanilla development to toffee and butterscotch. Sip this whisky with a mature cheddar…this combination will rock anybody’s world! 81

GLEN GRANT 10YEARS OLD SINGLE MALT 40% Icing-coated barley with stewed pears drizzled with honey on the nose. Vanilla hits the tongue first, then powerful cereal notes, biscuity with a maritime twist of salt, drying quickly on the finish. Pairs beautifully with a creme brulee. 82

GLEN GRANT 16 YEARS OLD SINGLE MALT 43% Mmmmm, yummy!…Granny Smith’s apple crumble, lemon sorbet and a vanilla dusting makes for a dessert nose that is astonishingly moreish. Vanilla and lemon initially on the palate, then the salt and the quick, dry finish. An impressive Glen Grant that would go down well with a lemon sorbet or a Shautany lemon vanilla truffle. 88

A constant work in progress our coffee station and retail section of the bar has undergone a major revamp. Now that we can actually see most of the whiskies, we did a recount and came up with 950……come and check it out.

December saw the launch of a new online fly fishing magazine: “Fly Fishing Tails” at www.flyfishingtails.co.za, exquisite layout and a whisky feature by Wild About Whisky http://www.reachdigireader.co.za/reader/index.php?issueid=3110/30. Also check out my pick of the month on page 16. This month I will highlight three of the brands that feature in the new mag, starting with Bells.

Blair Athol Distillery BELL’S “Several fine whiskies blended together please the palates of a greater number of people than one whisky unmixed,” so wrote Arthur Bell in 1863. In fact Bell’s is a blend of 47 single malt and grain whiskies, the heart of which is Blair Athol single malt. Blair Athol Distillery, situated in the picturesque village of Pitlochry, is the spiritual home of Bell’s and is one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland, founded in 1798. Arthur Bell & Sons acquired the distillery in 1933 and today the company is owned by Diageo which has consolidated Bell’s as the N0.1 blended Scotch, not only in the UK but also South Africa. BELL’S EXTRA SPECIAL BLENDED WHISKY 43% Whiskies aged between 3 and 5 years. On the nose there is vanilla and fruit with the grain thumping in the background. The palate initially pretty much reflects the nose but then spiced chilli hits the mid-palate and then a delightful pervading smokiness that lingers on the finish with a hint of walnuts. 82 Enjoy this with a dash of water (10mls), poured over ice or if you have a sweet tooth mix it with ginger ale. Pairs well with cheese snacks. BELL’S SPECIAL RESERVE BLENDED MALT 43% The single malts aged for a minimum of 8 years. The nose has rich fruits embalmed with a splash of Oloroso sherry, smoke weaving its tendrils through the dark fruit concoction. Oily and smooth on the palate, the rich honeyed fruits are almost overwhelmed by the peppery spice and peat smoke but by any measure this is a beautifully balanced blended malt. 85 This dram is best enjoyed with just a splash of water. This whisky nicely pairs with red meat dishes and milk chocolate fudge truffles.
Craigellachie Hotel, Aberlour, Banffshire. The Quaich Bar with over 700 malt whiskies wrapped around the walls. Craigellachie Distillery. The Craigellachie Distillery and the surrounding picturesque village, takes its name from the huge cliff that dominates the landscape and actually means “rocky hill”. Built in 1891, it is now, along with John Dewar & Son and Aberfeldy, owned by Bacardi Martini. Due to the size of the stills, some of the biggest in the industry and the use of traditional worm tubs, the spirit vapours are exposed to far less copper than in most Speyside distilleries, resulting in a unusually robust whisky with barrel loads of character. Unfortunately most of the Craigellachie malt production goes into the Dewar’s blends, so there is very little out there………. Craigellachie 1999 11yo Single Malt Duncan Taylor’s “The Octave” Cask No:752330 54.8% Rumtopf ‘n toffee ‘n all that spice. Eventually the cereal rears its peppery head and as the abv evaporates, volumes of vanilla assail the nostrils. Profoundly and deliciously sweet on the palate, molten toffee, then hot sweet chilli, leaving the barley to play fisticuffs with the sherry oak, drying and lingering on the finish. 90 I’m always concerned about adding water to cask-strength whiskies dampening the fizz and the buzz but this time the dram opens up with sweet lemon on the nose and injects the vanilla with steroids. Simply stunning. 93
Nikka Yoichi 10yo Single Malt Batch:014J14C 45% Woah! Sweet and peat, unexpected, as the vanilla and fruit layers perfectly onto a bed of reeking peat. Silky smooth, velvety vanilla and loads of peat. This is so beautifully balanced and so simple on a Zen level….Japanese craft at its finest. A dash of aqua underlines all of the above and makes this dram one of the very best Japanese that I have had the pleasure of tasting. 92

Nikka Taketsuru 17yo Blended Malt Batch:012A12B 43%

Sour fruit gums, over-ripe bananas, icing-smothered marzipan, candied peel and mandarin oranges. Silky soft and smooth on the tongue, rich sweet fruits, cardamom and peppery spice on the mid-palate, leaving the fruit, barley and oak jostling during the long finish. Drink this one neat. 90

This “Dearly Departed” whisky is a rare discontinued bottling, created by the iconic master blender and distiller Ichiru Akuto. A release of only 6000 bottles ensured cult status with Ginkgo receiving an award for one of 2007’s best whiskies of the year. Ginkgo Blended Malt 46% Lyle’s golden syrup, peach schnapps, then jasmine. This intense sweetness dominates the spiced barley with a distant musty and dusty note in the background. The palate initially reflects the nose, then a tsunami of warm chilli that explodes across the tongue, leaving a dry woody finish. Beat neat. 85