Tag Archive: Gordon and MacPhail


Connoisseurs Choice: Glenlochy 1974 (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 40% ABV)

Visual: Deep gold. Fast, thick streaks come from the spirit.

Nose: Honey. Thick. Menthol to peppermint. Pencil shavings. Pear drops. Oak. Honeycomb. Water adds varnish and more noticeable alcohol.

Body: Treacle. Warming alcohol. Oaken. Some liquorice. Malt drinks. Pear drops. Light varnish feel. Water adds sticky toffee pudding. Raisins. Vanilla. More water adds apricot and toffee.

Finish: Dry oak and tannins. Charred. Varnish air. Water makes slightly waxy. Raisins. Peppery. Slight smoke.

Conclusion: This is a thick one, especially considering that it comes it at exactly the 40% abv cut off line for being considered whisky. It is very thick, and with it very treacly. The initial honey notes in the aroma quickly becoming those heavy treacle notes as you sip.

Despite its thickness there are lighter fruit notes backing it up, though they do come across in an artificial pear drop kind of way. That then leads out into a lightly waxy, almost varnish touched air and feel. It is a very unusual mouthfeel, and the strange varnish like air heads out into the finish. Despite how it may sound it is not unpleasant, that’s just the best way I could find to describe the odd feel – a feel that is very clingy.

Water helps smooth off some of the edges, bringing out more gentle fruit and sweet notes. As it leads out into the finish it tends to get a bit tannins and oak heavy. Basically the finish is not the best part of the experience is what I am saying.

Overall it is fairly solid. It feels quite youthful, but not painfully so. Good weight to it, some decent flavour and some very different mouthfeel. If it was a not too expensive single malt I would find it a solid experience and one to keep around.

However, it is a dead distillery. A very expensive dead distillery. So, in its time it would have been a heavy but balanced sweet to fruity thick dram. Now, it is sub optimal for the money to say the least.

Like many dead distilleries, not worth the cost it goes for these days, interesting though it may be.

Background: Second and final mini I picked up from Hard To Find Whisky, and as of such another dead distillery I have not tried before. After the previous mini worked out ok I was much less nervous going into trying this one – being confident now that they are selling legitimate old whisky. Speaking of old, no idea of the age statement of this one – the Connoisseurs Choice miniatures don’t seem to have the bottled date, unlike their 70cl cousins, so could be any of the many 1974 distilled bottlings. At a guess I would say at the younger end of the scale though. Anyway, after many, many people recommended the new album to me I went with Tool: Fear Incoulum. OK, what the heck even is this album? Going to have to take a few more listens to get my head around it. Expect it to turn up in the background of more tasting notes.

Gordon and MacPhail: Glen Mhor: 8 Year 100% Proof (Scotland Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 8 Year: 50% ABV)

Visual: Very dark bronzed gold. Fast, medium thickness streaks come from the spirit. Some visible sediment.

Nose: Thick. Strong alcohol aroma. Golden syrup to honey. Stewed apricot. Light menthol. Brown bread. Malt drinks. Nutty. Water makes smoother.

Body: Honey. Warming. Thick. Golden syrup. Ovaltine. Treacle. Fatty notes. Water adds dry sherry. Vanilla. Tannins. Toffee. Cherry notes very occasionally.

Finish: Honey. Brown bread. Malt drinks. Ovaltine. Treacle. Water adds massive dry sherry. Sultanas. More alcoholic air for a while. Tannins. Nutty. Lime touch.

Conclusion: OK, damn, I don’t think I have actually seen whisky with sediment like this in it before. It is part of a whole, well, old look to the thing. Sediment, dusty glass bottle – it has only spent 8 years in the oak, but looks every inch of the years it has spent out of it.

Still despite that it shows its …ahem …youth when you actually get into the whisky itself. Strong alcohol character when taken neat. A thick and syrupy style that pushes sweet but robust notes – emphasising thick flavours like honey, treacle and golden syrup.

I tried this both with and without sediment in the glass – if you keep the sediment in it adds more fatty character, vanilla notes and a thick mouthfeel. I decided not to put these in the main notes, but felt they were still worth pointing out in case people wanted to know if they should try with or without.

As a whisky it is bloody robust, even with water it is thick, clinging and strong. You can, thankfully, tone the alcohol down with water though. However it is still fatty, thick with a malt drink to nutty comparatively neutral backing against a solidly sweet, but dry and not sickly base.

It is a pretty simple whisky – seriously – I think it would be one that is best as part of a blended malt whisky, rather than as the whole thing as a single malt. It doesn’t give enough that I would list it as a must try, especially considering its cost these days. So, yeah this is a young expression, so maybe aged up the distillery gains its legs – however even young its distinctive punch and thick character would be a godsend to many a blended malt.

Ok as is, simple, not worth the cost it goes for these days, but feels like a vital component for a blender.

Background: Ohh, another distillery I have not tried before. For good reason on this one, it is another dead distillery so can get a bit costly. So I was intrigued when I found “Hard To Find Whisky” online and saw they had some minis of comparatively young spirit going for not too silly price. Was a tad wary, as I know old and rare whisky can be a scammers market, but they seemed to have a good reputation online so I gave them a try. Both minis I got where a bit below full fills, which I’m guessing is due to the screw caps not quite sealing it so losing some to evaporation over the years. Also noticed some sediment (as mentioned in the notes), which I did not expect – a quick google suggested this is common for heavily sherried whisky that has spent a long time in the bottle, which reassured me and seemed a reasonable sign that this was not just Bells in an old bottle. I did pour carefully from one glass to another, leaving some spirit with the sediment in the first glass so I could try with and without sediment. Went with Jack Off Jill – Sexless Demons and Scars for music. Still genuinely gutted I missed a chance to see them live when they did a one off reunion tour a few years back.

the-macphail-collection-balblair-10-year

The Macphail Collection: Balblair: 10 Year (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 10 Year: 43% ABV)

Visual: Pale greened grain.

Viscosity: Quite fast thick streaks.

Nose: Husked grain. Smooth. Lime. Vanilla. Water changes little.

Body: Light alcohol touch. Slightly empty. Murky water. Water adds vanilla, white chocolate and vanilla toffee. Lime touch. Honey. More water adds raisins and spiced red wine.

Finish: Oak. Malt chocolate. Alcohol sheen. Murky water. Water adds white chocolate. Honey. Gin air and juniper berries. More water adds spiced red wine.

Conclusion: This seems extremely non distinctive for a whisky, especially for a Balblair. I’ve only had a couple of run ins with the distillery, but every one has stood out, and also stood on their own two feet. This – less so.

Without water it actually feels pretty empty. Alcohol touched but not heavily so, with just a kind of murky taste. If you take your time to let it open up then you do manage to get some hints of what I presume is the bourbon side of the ageing – white chocolate comes out and such like. However it is still indistinct and pretty bad as a whisky, let alone a Balblair whisky.

So let’s jump straight on to after we have added that often game changer – water! That makes it better, right? Yes. Yes it does. That makes it worth drinking, right? No. No it really doesn’t.

It brings out what feels like some sherry barrel influence – as opposed to the slight burbon influence that showed up neat. There is slight spiced red wine and raisins – nothing too unusual and far less distinct than in nearly every other sherry touched whisky I have tried. More water brings out a tad more of this, but also makes everything else even less distinct.

It isn’t actually painful (unlike, say Isawa whiskey) but it is bad. Probably duller than the Tamdhus I have encountered. I generally like Balblair, but this does nothing for me.

A let down and a bad whisky.

Background: Saw this miniature at Corks Of Cotham when I was up there recently – lovely wee place. You don’t see many miniatures of independent bottlings, nor of Balblair, so fished it out and grabbed it. Put some The Kominas – Wild Nights In Guantanamo Bay on while drinking. That album is 8 years old now – Wish a lot of the themes in it about anti Islam sentiment weren’t still as relevant today as they were back then.

Connoisseurs Choice Tomatin 1997
Connoisseurs Choice: Tomatin: 1997 (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 17 Year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Thick grain to light gold.

Viscosity: Very many thin, very slow streaks.

Nose: Caramel. Stewed fruit. Thick alcohol. Wheat husks. Oatmeal. Water brings feathers, but more water adds tropical fruit and pineapple.

Body: Soft vanilla. Noticeable alcohol. Salted fudge. Water adds custard and white chocolate. Still warming in the alcohol. Sugared almonds. More water removes heat, adds pineapple and more white chocolate.

Finish: Honey. Stewed apricot. Fudge and white chocolate. Water makes honey nut cornflakes. Lightly salty. Tropical fruit tins and lightly oily. More water makes more white chocolate, grapes and a hint of raisins.

Conclusion: Tomatin always seem surprisingly wide ranging in the notes it hits – it comes in first with a simple, easily catchable hook up front, but it you pay attention you find much more going on behind the scenes.

Initially big on caramel sweetness and stewed fruit it plays on the sweetness heavily. Water helps bring out the aforementioned range – the whisky has been very evidently influenced by the bourbon ageing – lots of tropical fruit and white chocolate, all very fresh and bright. The only thing that could fool me into thinking this was a sherry barrel is slight subtle raisins notes in the finish. Everything else shouts bourbon. However, while this is good, we have seen many whiskies that are good at showing the barrel ageing, what interests me here are the more subtle notes.

One of the subtleties is the light saltiness. Neat it comes across as salted fudge or caramel – adding an interesting aspect to a sweet whisky. The other noteworthy subtlety is a slight oiliness. A sheen that keeps the whisky clinging and the flavours delivering for a very long time.

When I tried the partially virgin oak aged Tomatin I took the heavy white chocolate influence to be from the fresh oak – however here is still shines through. Guess it must be more how the natural spirit acts when influenced by the bourbon cask.

On the downside neat it is, while not harsh, still very obviously alcohol influenced – though water deals with that easily enough. So, overall, while not overly surprising, it is a very tasty, smooth (with water) whisky with just those slight oddities that manage to make it stand on its own two legs. A subtle twist on a good example of bourbon ageing.

Background: Bottled 2014, which by my estimation puts this at 17 years, though may be off a tad depending on exact dates. Grabbed from Independent Spirit, this gives me a chance to expand my exposure to Tomatin in miniature format. Gordon and MacPhail’s Connoisseurs Choice have always been a great independent bottler, so I trusted that I would get something worthwhile here. Drunk while listening to some Sabaton – I saw them live recently, awesome as always, so have been kicking back with some of their albums.

Connoisseurs Choice Inchgower 1993

Connoisseurs Choice: Inchgower 1993 (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 18 year: 43% ABV)

Visual: Toffee touched grain.

Viscosity: Many medium sized streaks.

Nose: Very oaken. Heather. Slightly dusty. Pepper seeds. Empty tea cups. Water makes peppery and other dry spice.

Body: Light lemon front, rapidly becoming oaken. Tingling alcohol. Salty dryness. Light sweet syrup. Water smoothes a little, peppery rather than oaken.

Finish: Dusty. Oaken. Toffee touch. Dry and drying. Water makes peppery and lime notes come out.

Conclusion: It is rare to find a bad whisky, there are whiskies that aren’t as good as other whiskies, and there are some that are a slight let down, but very few are genuinely bad. Outside of the worst of the cheapest blends that is.

This one isn’t genuinely bad, but it comes a hell of a lot closer than most do. It is just so dry and oaken, like all the interesting elements seeped into the oak and just got oaken notes in response. After making up my thoughts for what I was going to write for these notes I took a look in a few whisky books to see if this was an intended character – mostly listed astringent and slightly salty as deliberate house character – so, while I did not like it, it looks like this is what they are aiming for. Still doesn’t taste good to me.

It feels drying and kind of empty, with a general spirit character. Water turns from oaken to peppery, and while this is an improvement, when something tastes like a condiment that should be added to meal rather than the actual dish itself then it is a bad sign. Then again, it could be good for soaking meat in overnight – albeit in a kind of expensive way of doing that. There are probably cheaper ways.

There are some softer notes there, lemon and lime backing, but they are mostly lost in the fray. Maybe it has its place, and probably its fans, but it tastes like just salt and peppered fish skin to me – which can be great as part of a range, as many Islay whisky have show – but here it is pretty much the only element. So, not a fan.

Background: Miniatures experimentation time! Yep, Inchgower is yet another Distillery I had not tried before. I am really racking through them at the moment. This one was bottled in 2011 and grabbed from The Whisky Exchange as part of a set I had grabbed a while back.

Connoisseurs Choice Glendullan 1997

Connoisseurs Choice: Glendullan 1997 (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 14 Year: 43% ABV)

Visual: Pleasant light gold.

Viscosity: A mix of very slow and very fast thin streaks.

Nose: Thick. Slight sulphur. Alcohol tingle. Nutty and lightly oily. Undertone of sweet chilli chocolate and nougat. Water makes somewhat floral.

Body: Thick and oily. Warming and tingling alcohol. Chilli seeds. Nut oil. vanilla custard. Praline. Light orange liqueur. Water smoothes, dropping the initial burn. Brings out nut oil and chocolate.

Finish: Malt drink. Oak. Chilli. Praline. Chestnuts. Chocolate. toffee. Water makes smoother and nuttier.

Conclusion: This is a bit of a hidden gem it seems. Hidden both in that you don’t see many bottlings around, and also that it takes a bit of time and water to get it to open up nicely.

Initially there is a bit of alcohol burn and an almost chilli tingle, noticeably oily and thick, but in general hard to get a good grasp on. Time is the first thing to aid it, a short wait brings out a light nuttiness which this the first thing to breach through, along with a malt chocolate character. It is a still a bit over warming, but builds to a praline, nut and vanilla combination. Not entirely unlike a sweeter Strathisla if you need a rough comparison.

Water takes it the next step, dousing the alcohol burn but not that chilli feel below, leading to a warming chilli chocolate style under a very smooth interpretation of the praline and nut character. Here, with a bare dribbling of water, it is luxurious, balancing warming and luxury class chocolate. It feels like a night cap drink, yet with that wake up call chilli tingle, relaxing yet invigorating.

Frankly it is…wait for it.. Frankly it is…

Not a dull-an

HAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHHA..hahahah…ha…

Oh, forget it.

Background: Bottled 2011. Connoisseurs Choice have been a very reliable go to for independent bottlings, and do a nice range of miniatures as well. This is another distillery that is new to me, so tried in the mini range. Drunk whilst chilling to little Godspeed You! Black Emperor. Lovely haunting stuff, and great for kicking back with a whisky. This was grabbed at the same time that I ordered a whisky from The Whisky Exchange.

Connoisseurs Choice Auchroisk 1996

Gordon and Macphail: Connoisseurs Choice: Auchroisk 1996 (Scottish Highland Single Malt Whisky: 18 Year: 46% ABV)

Visual: Pale grain gold.

Viscosity: Thin slow puckering.

Nose: Heather. Vanilla toffee. Gooseberry. Quite thick. With water becomes lighter with apple notes.

Body: Vanilla custard. Mandarin orange. Gooseberry. White grapes. Thick feel. Apples. Toffee. Slight muskiness. Sweeter with water, bringing out caramel and honey.

Finish: Gooseberry. Soft vanilla. Dry oak. Cake sponge. Apples. Water enhances the green fruit and adds honey. Also yellow raspberries, greenery and sulphur touch.

Conclusion: This is a very green fruit whisky, and half manages to deceive you into thinking it is a gentle one. Ok, deceive is not quite the right word, brings negative connotations with it, let me explain.

This is smooth, no alcohol burn evident and only a gentle warming feel to show the alcohol presence. The flavours are smooth, green fruit and toffee, so you can see how you would think that everything is pushing towards a soft gentle whisky.

However, it feels thick, with musky notes and that mouthfeel, similar to what you get from the hairs on freshly picked raspberries. I can’t quite work out if it works overall, if it benefits or weakens the whisky, but it is definitely distinctive.

It seems to result in the flavours feeling more melded and less individually sharp, but with water the gooseberry still pokes through, so it doesn’t hide the flavours. I would say over time a clearer spirit would probably have made it easier to drink, but less unique.

Overall a pleasant, and slightly odd take on the green fruit whisky, but one that feels slightly muted by its weight. Not bad and a bit different.

Background: Bottled 2014. Grabbed from The Whisky Exchange as, well, I was buying a standard size bottle so thought I may as well grab a bunch of minis from distilleries I had not tried at the same time. By the way, Canada beer reviews will return, but I thought I would put up a whisky review so whisky fans are not left out. Drunk while listening to Lada Laika: Dream Machine, because I enjoy listening to the fun chiptune style stuff online.

Connoisseurs Choice Ledaig 1998

Connoisseurs Choice: Ledaig 1998 (Scotland Island Single Malt Whisky: 16 Years: 46% ABV)

Visual: Light grain gold.

Viscosity: Very slow moderate sized streaks.

Nose: Peat smoke and beef broth. Radishes. Smoked fish skin. Light salt and medicinal. Cinder toffee. Water makes more grassy.

Body: Peach and peat. Light alcohol burn. Lime notes. Melted chocolate. Smooth texture. Dried apricot. Vanilla custard notes. Water makes grassier, with more peat. Sea weed.

Finish: Oily fish skins. Dry beef. Peat and smoke. Light alcohol tingle. Water adds salt and rocks.

Conclusion: Ledaig – always good to return to this, one of those in the unusual set of a smooth ,fruity, peated whisky. Peach and peat is not exactly a tasting note I expected to ever need, but there it is, clear as day.

It doesn’t open up that way, the aroma is all peat smoke and beef broth – but as soon as you get to the main body those fruity Tobermory notes are there – evident as can be. They work easily with rather than against the peat, creating the impression of a wonderfully fruity sauce layered over thin cut smoked beer. Very nice.

I always find it odd to have a whisky where the water actually makes the whisky harsher – however it does that here. Though it doesn’t make it harsher in the alcohol rising, but in that the flavours tend to wards the harsher end of the spectrum. It becomes more grassy, and the peat becomes much more evident. The grassy character that comes out makes me think of some of the Springbank expressions that exist – Overall I’d say take it easy with the water – it works much better as a peat touched fruity whisk than as a sub optimal more heavily peat touched whisky with water.

Taken as that it is a lovely whisky, smooth, balanced – forceful and fruity. This continues to expand my respect for both Ledaig and Gordon and Macphail.

Background: Another chance to grab miniatures to try a wider range of whiskies. This one from Gordon and Macphails excellent Connoisseurs Choice range. Ledaig is the peated version of Tobermory. This was bottled in 2014. Ok, I think that about covers it.

Connoisseurs Choice Aultmore 1995

(UPDATE: As was pointed out to me in the comments. This is a Speyside. I have no idea why I thought it was Highland. The bottle should have been a give away. Let’s just pretend I was doing some clever dada anti-art piece and be done with it)

Connoisseurs Choice: Aultmore 1995 (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 12 Years: 43% ABV)

Visual: Pale grain.

Viscosity: Quite fast medium thickness streaks.

Nose: Pencil shavings. Alcohol. Heather. Water adds rice cakes.

Body: Lime and kiwi. Toffee. Tangerine. Soft custard. Lightly oily. Water smoothes but keeps the same general character for the most part. Adds apples, nut oils and nut chocolate.

Finish: Malt chocolate. Orange and tangerine. Nut oils. Water makes more sharp orange, but generally similar.

Conclusion: This seems to be the first Highland whisky I could have mistaken for a Speyside. To my memory at least. While it has that robust sweetness I see a lot in Highland whisky, I was more drawn towards the fruity notes that seemed at the forefront. If this had been a Speyside whisky I would have called it prototypical for the area, as it is, I’m now just puzzled.

It’s all in the main body, as the aroma did little to amuse me – the main body however, especially with water, though that is not required – is rock solid.

There is a soft but solid toffee backing, and a mix of soft green and fresh orange fruit all tied up in a nut oil bow. It’s hardly pushing the envelope, but it is a letter sent straight to “get the job done street”.

This is, therefore, the job done, not a masterpiece, but, ya know, done. Admittedly it seems like Speyside rather than Highland job, but if the job is done I don’t complain.

My metaphors may be getting a tad hard to follow again…

All in all a solid dram, and one that will win your enjoyment, but not awards.

Background: Yay for tiny bottles, yay for Connoisseurs Choice. Or in other words, more exploring distilleries I haven’t tried before. The 12 year age is based on some googling, which indicates it was bottled 2007, as the miniatures don’t tend to list bottling dates. This was picked up from the Whisky Exchange as part of a batch of miniatures for sampling new distilleries. Drunk while listening to the History Of Guns’ EP Disconnect.

Glentauchers 1991

Gordon and MacPhail: Glentauchers: 1991 (Scottish Speyside Single Malt Whisky: 16 Years: 43% Abv)

Visual: Yellowed grain.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Floral. Pencil shavings. Heather. Vanilla. Toffee. Water adds sulphur.

Body: Toffee and custard. Some oak. Very noticeable alcohol. Grain. Water lightens adding red fruit and cinnamon. Apple strudel and raisins. Spotted dick.

Finish: Alcohol. Uncooked rice. Oak. Heather. Again water soothes. Some toffee cinnamon, apples and raisins. Sugared almonds. Nutmeg.

Conclusion: Water. The clear lifeblood of the planet. We don’t appreciate you anywhere near as much as we should.

Ok, most you will probably have guessed where this is going already.

Neat this is a bit shit. That is a technical term by the way. I seriously couldn’t believe it was a sixteen year old whisky, there was noticeable alcohol, quite simple flavours and an overly oaken expression. So, I was disappointed, and not really looking forwards to the rest of the whisky as I started adding that clear lifeblood of the planet.

Boom. Headshot. Whisky changed.

A kind of stodgy spotted dick rises to form a new base, and comes out with a lot of sherry influence. There’s lots of red fruit, spice and raisins. It is half way between a bread and butter pudding and a high class strudel. In case you are wondering, I mean that as a good thing.

So, do I like it overall? Presuming I have access to water I say yes, very much so. I know my description probably made it sound very sweet, and does have a mass of sweet notes, but the spice gives it a lot more depth than that, making it a far more balanced whisky than I have indicated so far.

So very stodgy, solid and sherry influenced whisky, with a strong base to back. All it needs it water. So use water. It deserves it.

Background: Bottled 2007, or so my web research tells me. they never put these details on the miniatures it seems. Part of my ongoing attempt to try whisky from the distilleries I have yet to try, I’ve grabbed a few minis and I am working my way through them. Drunk while listening to Arch Enemy: War Eternal – the new singer is stepping into the shoes nicely.

%d bloggers like this: