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The name “Craigellachie” resonates through whisky circles mainly due to the iconic Quaich bar at the hotel. A Craigellachie dram…is a rare find…

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

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With some Zen mastery, two magnificent Nikka malts and one dear departed Ginko entered the fusuma, landed on the tatami as I was resting on my futon..

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
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I’m back in black and do solemnly swear that this is the real McCoy…..

Between 1919 and 1933 the National Prohibition Act was an accepted facet of American life, whereby no sales of any spirits was permitted.
Paradoxically, during Prohibition, Scotch whisky sales increased rather than diminished!
In 1925, Berry Bros & Rudd, owners of Cutty Sark had an agent in the States by the name of Captain William McCoy. He was a well-known smuggler or “bootlegger” and gained an excellent reputation for providing this pale blend with the exceptional taste that was so well received that Cutty Sark became known as “the real McCoy” meaning “the genuine article”.
Wow!! A summer orchard of cranberries, strawberries, cherries and wafting across from one corner, a compost of burning leaves with melting red iced lollies to cool the summer heat. The fruit picked from the rustling trees and vines is now a stewed mix doused in Oloroso sherry.
Soft, sherried and smooth on the tongue, the rich marinated fruit salad is now overwhelmed by the peat smoke leaving a long lingering, charred and smoked Spanish cask.
Water will bring out toffee and just adds to the splendour! 91

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Fettercairn’s furore over Fior……..more like Wild About Whisky’s frenzy over Fior…

Fettercairn Distillery
Established in 1824 Fettercairn has a unique still system of cascading waterfalls down their necks, which increases the reflux thereby creating a much lighter spirit, typical of the Fettercairn character, so a bottling like Fior was unexpected…..
Fettercairn 1991 13yo Single Malt Refill Hogshead 50% OMC
With the use of a refill hoggy, this is a muted version of the 1824 12yo with light honey and the grassy notes combining with the background barley.
However the palate ups the ante with the sweet vanillas and spice dominating, then the chillis, hotter now with a nutty finish and a slight hint of rubber.
A dash of aqua will boost the sweetness and tame the chilli a tad but this dram suffers from a lack of balance. 81
Fettercairn 1824 12yo Single Malt 40%
Good, strong malted barley with an icing sugar coating of vanilla.
A classic vanilla ‘n malt whisky, honey ‘n barley in shiel loads.
This is a simple but well made 12 year old, light but balanced with the palate reflecting the nose, a mid-palate of sweet chilli and walnuts on the finish.
Water sweetens the honey pot and there is a suggestion of peat. 84

Fettercairn Fior Single Malt 42%
Firstly, the colour is astonishing – hot liquid amber!
The nose is a mixed berry fruit salad with bite-size chunks of milk chocolate swimming in the sweetest rose’ marinade, then whiffs of peat smoke wafting through the fruit-juiced barley.
With all that sweet juicy-fruit on the nose the palate does reflect a soft tender rose’ initially, then a surprising hot spicy pepper drying to a lingering, smoky, vinous finish.
This dram is far from done…..a dash of water brings out more of the florally, fruity peat style reminiscent of Bowmore on the nose with the ever sweet berry cornucopia on the palate and a liquorice lingering finish. Romance in a bottle. 92
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A stunning Glenfiddich resurrection……….

As a Glenfiddich spokesman describes it:

“Glenfiddich Snow Phoenix commemorates a moment of drama in the long history of the Glenfiddich Distillery! It all began in December 2009 when it started to snow – it kept snowing for several months. After weeks of record low temperatures and alternate freezing and thawing there were four feet of densely compacted snow on the distillery roofs.

On the evening of Thursday 7th January 2010, in the most remote part of the snow covered distillery, some of our warehouse roofs collapsed, ripped open by the sheer weight of snow, leaving maturing oak casks of Glenfiddich exposed to the winter sky. It was as if some of the distillery angels had finished their ‘share’ and had come back looking for more.

Brian Kinsman our Malt Master, selected a number of casks from the snow damaged warehouse, some of these casks had previously held Oloroso sherry and others were traditional whisky casks made of American oak.

This Glenfiddich is as we found it, a marriage of Glenfiddich single malt Scotch whiskies of different ages and finishes with the strength brought to 47.6% abv by the addition of the distillery’s Robbie Dhu spring water. It has not been chill filtered.”

Glenfiddich “Snow Phoenix” Limited Edition Single Malt 47.6%
Rich honeycomb, stewed pears, thickly dripping honey onto a bed of drying malted barley, a vanilla pod dipped into Glenfiddich liqueur, then coated with a dusting of icing sugar and peppery allspice…you get the picture…
It is thick, syrupy and liqueur-like on the tongue, impossibly sweet and a palate that reflects the nose in every nuance..
Oh Glenfiddich! Please, please can we have some more…please! 94

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A salty squall of Octomores….in ascending order….

Bruichladdich Octomore 5 yo Single Malt Edition 03:1 ppm:152 59%
Intense vanilla, medicinal, seaweed and despite the phenols the biscuity cereal notes of the barley are evident, then over ripe bananas.
The tip of the tongue immediately detects the vanillas, then cigarette ash with aloe bitterness on the finish and hot salty tar lingering.
Water accentuates the honey and brings out a Port Ellen-style new paint note reflected on the palate, softening the bitter phenols and allowing more of the sweet grilled smoke through.
A little too one dimensional for me. 91
Bruichladdich Octomore 5yo Single Malt Orpheus Edition 02:2 ppm:140 61%
Sweetly vinous and smoke laden, tarry ropes, hot wellies, butterscotch and over ripe plum.
Deliciously sweet initially then a powerpunch of hot chilli and peppery spice, warm rubber with a touch of anise on the finish. 93

Bruichladdich Octomore 5yo Single Malt Edition 02:1 ppm:140 62.5%
TCP, vanilla, salty seaweed, tar, oil rag and new paint.
Chewing this dram for a few seconds, before swallowing, releases vanilla then a fizzy concoction of tar, burning peat embers and smoked seaweed.
Water dampens the phenols but accentuates the sweetest vanillas with a long finish of sweetly smoking rubber. 95

Bruichladdich Octomore 5yo Single Malt Edition 04:1 ppm:167 62.5%
Over ripe bananas, salt ‘n vanilla seaweed, a touch of burnt rubber, hot tar in a heatwave.
Woah!! So much more vanilla on the palate in this grumbling, growling infant…THIS is what I have been looking for in an Octomore….enough intense sweetness to counteract and balance the heavy medicinal phenols that follow and the peppery sweet chilli on the finish.
Perfect! 96