Glenmorangie Bacalta

Distillery: Glenmorangie
Cask: 
Ex-Bourbon + heavily toasted Madeira wine casks
Bottled: 2017
ABV: 
46%
More Info:
WhiskyBase

Another release in Glenmorangie’s Private Edition Series. I did enjoy the Milsean from earlier in the series so let’s see how this “sun-baked” member of the range lives up to expectation.

Nose: Sweet and lively. Apple sponge cake and fresh vanilla custard. Tart cider apples, Madeira wine (yes, that sticky, dark flavour is very distinct), and a whiff of tinned peaches.

Palate: More vanilla custard and soft fruit: pears, apples, peaches. Cinnamon and white pepper develop through the mid palate with a touch of dry white wine and pouring cream.

Finish: Quite short with drying vanilla oak.

This is a very pleasant dram, though not astonishing. I enjoy the fruitiness of the nose very much but the palate’s rather too cask-led for me with predictable vanilla and cake notes. I’d be pleased with this for £40 a bottle, but not £80.

Another marketing-driven whisky, alas.

Thanks very much to Andy at Malt Box for sharing this with me. If you’re interested in trying it, there are still bottles available on Master of Malt for £77.95.

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Gordon & MacPhail Rare Vintage

screen-shot-2016-11-19-at-20-46-08

Time to bring out The Good Stuff. Gordon & Macphail have kindly released a set of five samples from their superb Rare Vintage range just for us lucky Tweet Tasters to tuck into.

Gordon & Macphail have been bottling whisky in Speyside for over a hundred years. A proud family-run business, their back catalog of casks is mind-boggling. More than most bottlers, they’re really able to produce some exceptionally unusual vintages that give us mere mortals the chance to taste whisky from distilleries we know and love but in a much different, older form.

We’ll be starting in 1985 and winding the time machine back through the decades, all the way to 1954. What a treat this is. We begin our journey in the Highlands…

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Balblair 1985

Casks: Two bourbon refills
Age: 30 years old
Distilled: 14th January 1985
Bottled: 27th January 2015
ABV: 43%

We start off with the youngest of the five, a mere whippersnapper at 30 years old. Fun fact – I was in-utero when this was distilled.

Balblair distillery is in Edderton and has been running since 1895. The distillery and production methods have changed very little over the years.

This bottling is the marriage of two bourbon casks, #245 and #246.

Nose: Dusty fruity sherbet powder. Creamy. Waxy green apples, limes, a strawberry fool. Grilled pineapple. Lots of sweet vanilla oak. Honeysuckle blossom. Wet peppermint leaves, and a touch of fresh basil. Very classy – clean, floral, and fruity.
Palate: Wafts of honey with an undertone of muscavado sugar and caramel. There’s a rising tingle of baking spices and a tang of pineapple juice with nutmeg and cream. Overall it’s very round and soft. Gentle.
Finish: Gingerbread and black pepper with fresh hazelnuts.

An absolute belter, this. I love old bourbon matured whisky and this has all the hallmarks with a sweet vanilla creaminess and some gorgeous fruit notes.

This is available for a very reasonable £192 from The Whisky Exchange. Cracking price for a 30 year old whisky of this quality.


screen-shot-2016-11-19-at-19-46-08Smith’s Glenlivet 1974

Cask: Bourbon and Sherry refills
Age: 33 years old
Distilled: 1974
Bottled: 18th February 2008
ABV: 43%

Our second whisky is Smith’s own “The Glenlivet”. This distillery came to typify Speyside so much that other distilleries added “Glenlivet” to their names for many years.

Nose: Dried apricots, sticky prunes, sandalwood, paprika. A completely different beast to the Balblair with a noticeable (but not overstated) sherry influence.
Palate: A lovely fruit progression: Freshly squeezed orange becoming soft mango, then revealing stewed plums that evolve into tart blackberries. Wow! Blackberry jelly with black pepper – very dark. Oily and custard-like on the tongue.
Finish: Dry tobacco, dark chocolate, and blueberries.

Poised and gracefully balanced. The sherry here really enhances the spirit, adding a lot of dark fruit notes to what seems to be a light and citrusy core spirit. Loverly stuff.

You can pick this up for £408 on The Whisky Exchange.


screen-shot-2016-11-19-at-19-48-29Glen Grant 1966

Cask: Four refill bourbon casks, 1 first-fill sherry
Age: 45 years old
Distilled: 1966
Bottled: 16th July 2012
ABV: 40%

Here’s a whisky that came off the still in 1966, the year The Beatles released “Strawberry Fields”, “When I’m Sixty Four” and “Penny Lane” and I believe also some important English sporting victory…

Nose: Loads of fresh fruit here. Fresh melon slices, kiwi, Golden Delicious apples. Lychee and fizzy oak. Car air freshener. A touch of celery in there, oddly.
Palate: This is insanely good. Like an oak-aged can of Lilt. Pineapple fritters, bon-bons, lemon sherbets, green tea, candied oranges and a ton of soft, creamy oak.
Finish: It lasts, and lasts. Fruit creams, white chocolate, brown sugar. Drying, ashy oak.

This is like an unpeated Port Ellen. Wow, wow, and wow. Easily, easily, the best whisky of the line-up for my money with some incredible tropical fruit notes and it’s oh-so-smooth and easy to drink. One word review: phwoar.

This is a total bargain at £585 from the Whisky Exchange, and I really mean that. You’ll not find a whisky pushing fifty years old of this quality for less.


screen-shot-2016-11-19-at-19-49-52Strathisla 1965

Cask: 1st Fill Sherry
Age: 50 years old
Distilled: 9th December 1965
Bottled: 20th January 2016
ABV: 43%

Onto the seriously elderly whiskies now with the Strathisla 1965 – a fifty year old that was filled into a single 1st-fill sherry puncheon.

You don’t see a great deal of Strathisla about – the distillery bottlings can be found in the shops but a lot of the output goes into blends, particularly Chivas Regal.

So how’s fifty years in sherry going to flavour the spirit?

Nose: Big, big sherry. Wax, chestnuts, crystallised ginger and wood polish. Supermarket cola, Medjool dates, dark rum, black liqourice, coffee beans and old waxed leather.
Palate: Raspberry syrup, herbal tea. Very, very drying indeed. Mince pies with a lot of cloves. Bitter marmalade on granary bread. Cocoa dust.
Finish: Cloves with oak and black pepper.

Great nose but bitter on the finish. Alas, I think too much time in the cask here, much as it’s a delight to taste a whisky of this vintage. It has to be the classiest and most important sherry bomb I’ve ever tasted…. yet.

Again, The Whisky Exchange comes to the rescue offering this ancient Strathisla at £658.


screen-shot-2016-11-19-at-20-03-03Mortlach 1954

Cask: 1st fill sherry butt
Age: 58 years old
Distilled: 27th January 1954
Bottled: 20th November 2012
ABV: 43%

Here’s the grand finalé – a staggering 58 year old whisky from Mortlach that was distilled in the year that rationing finally ended after the second world war.

Interestingly, the spirit is almost triple-distilled (2.81, to be precise, because the distillery’s six stills are different shapes and sizes!). I wonder how that’ll effect such an extended maturation.

Nose: Loads of sherry but very different to the Strathisla. There’s a lovely salty quality with musty damp wood. Some typical sherry dark fruits: plums, dates, figs. Honeyed ham, oil paints, cold ashes, mossy dry stone walls. Mint leaves and blackberry jam. Gosh… this is astonishing.
Palate: Oooh, yes. Dry and floral. Tobacco leaves with blackcurrant and strawberries. Sloe gin. There’s a core of violet petals lurking in there and it just jumps right out at you! A rush of barrel spice – nutmeg and sweet baked peppers.
Finish: Fruity smoke, cranberries and cured cheeses.

This isn’t a tired cask – it’s still kicking! And not your typical sherry bomb either; there’s a great earthy and savoury complexity running through the floral, fruity surroundings. Very impressive indeed.

If you feel like buying a whisky distilled when Churchill was still the Prime Minister then trot over to Whisky Online and pony up a mere £1,500 for a piece of liquid history.


Thanks!

Wow, what a journey this has been. Thanks so much to Gordon & Macphail for sharing these pieces of history with us and, as ever, thanks to Steve Rush for organising yet another triumphant tasting.

Tweet Tasting: The Dram Team

dramteam

Another Tweet Tasting is upon us, and this time it’s the inaugural tasting pack from The Dram Team.

Each tasting pack produced will contain six drams sent by post and you can buy them one-off or subscribe to one per month. The first pack is a tasting tour of the six whisky regions of Scotland.

Up first, the contender for The Highlands…

 


Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 09.08.43Inchmurrin 18 Year Old

Distillery: Loch Lomond
Age: 18
ABV: 46%
Cask: Bourbon 1st fill, refill, and re-charred
More Info: WhiskyBase

Nose: Toffee, heather honey and cereal with green bananas and Ester-rich pear drops. Rum-soaked raisins and a malty beeriness. There’s a lot of funky notes incongruous with the style: pickled onions, soy sauce, Manzanilla, sulphur, and fermenting fruit.

Palate: Sour cider apples and green peppercorns. Beery malt and hops. Sourdough bread and grappa. Very young and new-make-ish for an 18 year old.

Finish: Short and chalky.

Frankly, for eighty pounds a bottle I know plenty of other 18 year old expressions I’d prefer to buy. This is a flawed whisky, full of new-make character and off notes. I’m a fan of unusual flavours (in fact I prefer whiskies that surprise me) but this isn’t the kind of surprise I enjoy…

Next up, the Lowlander…

Auchentoshan Three Wood

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 09.17.30Distillery: Auchentoshan
Age: NAS
ABV: 43%
Cask: Bourbon, Oloroso and PX
More Info: WhiskyBase

Nose: Oloroso sherry notes, nutty and sweet. Hot cross buns. Cough mixture and cola cubes.

Palate: Looks viscous in the glass but it’s lighter on the tongue. Gentle barley sugar sweets, old fashioned cough mixture, and a rising pepper spice. Dusty sherry.

Finish: Oaky vanilla and rum raisin ice cream.

This isn’t bad, though it is somewhat over engineered. I prefer Auchentoshan as it comes out of the cask, without watering down, chill filtering, or caramel. This just tastes like whisky-flavoured whisky.

From Campbeltown now…

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 15.11.17Glen Scotia Double Cask

Distillery: Glen Scotia
Age: NAS
ABV: 46%
Cask: 1st Fill Bourbon and PX
More Info: WhiskyBase

Nose: Soft cotton, like sheets out of the dryer. Freshly sliced banana. Dark sugar and cracked black pepper.

Palate: Thick and resinous. Bourbon barrel spice with vanilla, cinder toffee, and caramel sauce. Sweet and tasty.

Finish: Lipsmacking with gingerbread.

Amazing nose! Really impressed all round, for an affordable NAS this is eminently quaffable.

I’m definitely getting a bottle of this on pay day!

And weighing in from Islay, we have…

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Bowmore Darkest

Distillery: Bowmore
Age: 15
ABV: 43%
Cask: Oloroso Sherry
More Info: WhiskyBase

Nose: Leathery and coastal, like a wax jacket on a clifftop walk. Dark chocolate with prunes and dates. A little marzipan with tangy marmalade.

Palate: Sumptuous sherry with juicy raisins and figs giving way to that signature Bowmore floral peat.

Finish: Dry oak and flower petals.

A classic! One of the better sherried peaty whiskies on the market. If you like this, I also recommend a bottle of its cask strength cousin, Laimrig.

Up next, the Speyside candidate…

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 15.11.57Glenfarclas 105

Distillery: Glenfarclas
Age: NAS
ABV: 60%
Cask: Oloroso Sherry
More Info: WhiskyBase

Nose: Fierce! That ABV packs a punch. A drop of water reveals ripe apple flesh, and soft toffee. Really dark bitter cocoa and burnt treacle with a touch of rubber plimsol.

Palate: Café mocha with dark berries and orange peel. Creamy and spicy, like nutmeg in rice pudding.

Finish: Warm oaky chocolate.

Great value for the ABV. This is in the same league as A’Bunadh, a sherry bomb fresh from the barrel. Both need water in my opnion, so they’re almost like a whisky cordial. The ‘farclas is a more subtle and complex beast though, some great dark low notes in it.

Finally, we go to the Islands for the sixth dram of the night…

Highland Park 21 Year Old

Screen Shot 2016-06-08 at 15.12.14Distillery: Highland Park
Age: 21
ABV: 47.5%
More Info: WhiskyBase

Nose: Calm and gentle, soft and delicate. Chamois leather with a hint of clifftop sea breeze petrichor. Fresh blossoms. There’s an ice cream van in the distance.

Palate: Divinely balanced. Smoky grilled pineapple with black pepper. Vanilla cream and condensed milk with a handful of baking spices and waxy fruit skin.

Finish: Peat smoke reveals itself with gentle wafts that stay with you long after your last sip.

Oh, wow. I love old Highland Park and this does not disappoint. Classy, balanced, delicious. Absolute heaven.

Glenmorangie Milsean

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 20.39.46Distillery: Glenmorangie
Cask: 
Ex-Bourbon + retoasted wine casks
Bottles: 30,000
ABV: 
46%
More Info:
WhiskyBase

Glenmorangie recently released this limited edition “Milsean” bottling amid a mild furore of whether or not their re-toasted wine casks constituted as “added flavouring” (banned by the SWA as it contravenes the definition of a Scotch).

Allegedly the wood was still wet with wine and the toasting caramelised the remnants, hence the sweet shop profile and old-fashioned ice cream parlour decor of the bottle and box. Given that the industry allows caramel colouring, I think it’s more than a little hypocritical to lay these accusations at Bill Lumsden’s feet!

Regardless, they didn’t uphold their misgivings and it got the green light to be released. It’s not age statemented, but it is non chill filtered and bottled at 46% (without E150 colouring too).

Nose: Takes a while to open up but it evolves well in the glass. Very clean. As predicted, lots of fruity candy notes: Orange pith, dusty sherbet, hard candy, pear skin, lemon drops, wine gums, apple peel, peach gums. Suddenly there’s coconut ice cream! Very nice.

Palate: Vanilla bean, chilled bananas, and malt sugar with a prominent oakiness developing. Some barrel spice: white pepper and liquorice. Watered down white wine (like ice cubes have melted in it, but in a nice way).

Finish: That oaky wood note really lasts and lasts with double cream and tingly pepper.

I like the nose a lot! The palate is a little unbalanced but I like that; Glenmorangie is usually very mellow and predictable so a few rough edges gives it an appeal that I enjoy. It’s a bit too woody, if I’m honest, but it’s definitely drinkable.

However, at £90 a bottle I think the marketing has overtaken the liquid. You can get really, really good Highland malts (like Pulteney 21) for less.

Allied Glass Tweet Tasting

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Another Tweet Tasting from The Whisky Wire!

This time it’s put together with a selection of drams from Allied Glass and it’s really looking like an eclectic mix of whiskies.

We’ve got a mix of young, middle-aged, peated and unpeated with some old favourites and some new kids on the block.

Let’s dive in!


Raasay “While We Wait”

Distillery: Unknown (Raasay isn’t operational yet)
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Bottler: R&B Distillers
ABV: 46%
Cask: Bourbon with finishing period in Tuscan red wine
More Info: WhiskyBase

First up from R&B Distillers is the “While We Wait” expression, released in anticipation of the distillery on the Isle of Raasay in the Hebrides.

This expression is a lightly peated Highland malt from an undisclosed distillery finished in Tuscan red wine casks.

Nose: Waxy paper, redcurrants, cracked black pepper in butter, peach and apricot skin, roses.

Palate: Peaches and pineapples, orange peel and ripe pear with fizzy peat – a lot like the bubble burn you get with sparkling wine. There’s a smoked rosé thing going on for sure.

Finish: Dry, slightly spicy.

You can’t tell from the picture but this is actually a pink whisky! The flavour profile fits with rosé with fresh red and tropical fruit notes. It tastes young but it’s not a bad dram at all – reminiscent of sitting on a sun terrace with a glass of wine and a cigarette.

As for actual Raasay spirit, who knows how that’ll taste when it eventually ends up being bottled. Just as long as it’s better than Abhainn Dearg…

You can pick this up for £55.34 on Master of Malt.


 

Benriach 16

Screen Shot 2015-11-27 at 14.22.38Distillery: Benriach
ABV: 43%
Age: 16 years
Cask: Bourbon
More Info: WhiskyBase

Here’s one of Benriach’s core lineup – the 16 year old. I’ve had a fair bit of Benriach in my time but this is the first time I’ve tried the sixteen year old.

Nose: Very clean. Green apples and felt marker pens. Lots of flowers and nectar with honey and macaroons. A hint of Malibu rum, and undoubtedly the smell of honeysuckle blossom. Wow.

Palate: Strawberries with gingerbread ice cream and strüdel. Very well balanced between sweetness and spice.

Finish: A whisp of salty, tangy peat and then creamy oak.

Mmm, sublime! The nose is light and floral and the palate is perfectly balance between sweet fruit and barrel spices. This is a solid whisky and by far the standout dram of the tasting for me. I will almost certainly get a bottle on the shelf this Christmas.

Benriach 16 is on Whisky Exchange for £41.95. In my opinion, an absolute bargain.


 

Loch Lomond Original

Screen Shot 2015-11-27 at 14.56.29Distillery: Loch Lomond
ABV: 40%
Age: Unknown
Cask: Bourbon
More Info: WhiskyBase

Here’s the standard release from the Loch Lomond distillery. Loch Lomond Group are well known as the owners of the remaining stock of Littlemill, the infamous (and sadly closed) lowlands distillery.

I don’t often see bottlings of Loch Lomond, but they tend to be quite young and affordably priced as a result.

Nose: Salty bread dough on the nose. Olives, too. Are we making focaccia bread?? Grassy and honeyed. Vanilla cream, salt and pepper. 

Palate: Very sugary and slightly chalky, like love hearts that’ve been ground into a paste and poured onto vanilla ice cream. Bit of new-make/Grappa going on in there. Reminds me of a crystallised grape juice confectionary we have in Cyprus.

Finish: Short and chalky.

Young and punchy. Not bad for the price, but I fear it’s bottom of the league in this particular lineup. I do like the nose on it, though.

The Loch Lomond Original is available on Master of Malt for a very reasonable £26.14.


 

Tomatin Legacy

Screen Shot 2015-11-27 at 15.09.07Distillery: Tomatin
ABV: 43%
Age: Unknown
Cask: Bourbon and Virgin Oak
More Info: WhiskyBase

Here’s another young and affordable dram, the Tomatin Legacy.

In homage to the traditions of the distillery and its role in the Highlands community, this release has picked up a fair few awards and got a nod from Jim Murray this year with 94.5/100.

Whether you’re a fan of “the ewok from Surrey” or not, it’s definitely proving popular amid a trend of sweeter virgin oak releases we’ve seen over recent years.

Nose: Very sweet! Barley sugar sweets and freshly sanded wood. Shoe polish and brushed suede. Pear cider and cinnamon. Green tea.

Palate: You can really taste the virgin cask in this! Vanilla oak with pear drops and spicy cloves.

Finish: Creamy and warming.

It’s not complex, but if you like the sweet vanilla flavour of oak (“ice cream in a glass”) then you’ll definitely enjoy this one. I’d certainly recommend it to people who are starting to explore Scotch as it’s very accessible, a bit unusual compared with supermarket whisky, and certainly well-priced.

You can pick up a bottle for a very affordable £25.84 on Master of Malt.


 

Old Pulteney 12

Screen Shot 2015-11-27 at 15.24.18Distillery: Old Pulteney
ABV: 40%
Age: 12 years old
Cask: Bourbon and sherry
More Info: WhiskyBase

Mainland Britain’s most Northerly distillery, you see their twelve year old in most of the big UK supermarkets and often at a fantastic discount (I tend to see it around £20 per bottle).

Nose: It’s like eating honey by the sea washed down with strong malty beer. A complete classic.

Palate: Sweet and rich with sea salt and toffee. More beer barley, some boiled sweets and sweet oak. Milky coffee and a touch of citrus. Some baking spices towards the end.

Finish: Smooth and lip smacking.

Probably my favourite ever Highland distillery, this one’s an old friend for me and one of the first drams I had that really turned me on to Scotch whisky in my early twenties.

Definitely a landmark dram and one I’d recommend to anybody. If you’ve never tried it, I suggest you put that right!

You can pick it up on Amazon with free delivery for £24 – can’t say fairer than that!

Millburn 1969 (Rare Malts)

Distillery: Millburn
Bottled: 2005, Distilled: 1969
Age: 35 years old
Series: Diageo Rare Malts
ABV: 51.2%
More Info: WhiskyBase

Millburn, you say? Never heard of it. Yeah, I hadn’t either.

There’s some extremely well-known whiskies from closed distilleries. Everyone knows Port Ellen, Rosebank, Brora etc. So why isn’t Millburn regularly counted alongside them?

I suspect the reason  is simply because there’s very little of it around left to sell. No annual Special Release bottlings for this old distillery to generate the hype. In many ways, for me, that makes it even more intriguing.

So what do we know about Millburn?

The Distillery

It started life in 1807 as “The Inverness Distillery” and had various owners through the years. For a while it was used purely as a mill, before being turned back into a distillery again in 1876. It kept running on and off through the 20th century until it became another casualty of the eighties slump in whisky demand.

The distillery was closed in 1985 and eventually dismantled in 1988. It’s not clear how much stock Diageo still have, if any, but nothing has appeared since this 2005 Rare Malts release.

A sad story, for sure. I dare say the best way to honour a closed distillery is to taste what it had to offer. You don’t often get chance to taste 35-year-old whisky, much less any whisky from the sixties. If you think about it, it’s probably the closest you can get to time travelling…

Tasting Notes

Nose: Fruity, perfumed and elegant. Ripe (maybe even mouldy, but in a good way) fruit. Nectarines and peaches with wet rose petals, rolling tobacco, wax jacket, and sweet resin. Lots of bakery notes, too – wedding cake, lemon tart, treacle toffee, and home-made strawberry jam. A little dusty, ashy, cigarette smoke too.

Palate: Fizzy peaches with orange, limes, and grapefruit marmalade. It’s very clean and refreshing. Spices come through the fruit – cloves, black pepper, aniseed, liquorice root. Some mellow toasted oak around the edges.

Finish: Herbal peppermint tea with a slight chalky mineral quality. More lingering oakiness with just a touch of black pepper.

Scene: You’re in a wedding marquee after the ceremony. It’s raining, but everybody’s in good spirits. You’ve finished the main course and dessert’s being served. There’s fresh fruit and flowers on the table. Contented, you’re tucking into a slice of wedding cake and enjoying another glass of bubbly while a friend hand-rolls a cigarette beside you.

Verdict

Wow, it’s bursting with fruit on the nose and the palate! The 35 years in the cask hasn’t dulled the distillate, or made it overpoweringly woody. That fizzing edge to it makes the fruit very zesty and pleasant on the tongue.

This is absolutely lovely – the longer I nose it, the more character comes through. If I had a bottle of this, I’d share it with friends and family on a very special occasion.

Seize the chance to try this.

You can pick up bottles of this Millburn on auction sites and on the WhiskyBase marketplace. You can try a sample from WhiskySample.nl €39.50.

Ben Nevis 18 (Old Particular)

Distillery: Ben Nevis
Bottled: 2014, Distilled: 1996
Age: 18 years old
Cask #: 10415
Bottler: Douglas Laing
ABV: 48.4%
Cask: Refill Hogshead
More Info: WhiskyBase

Here’s the first in a set of three Old Particular whiskies from one of the great indy distillers, Douglas Laing. Each bottling of the series is from a single cask so number of bottles available are quite limited.

Ben Nevis is a distillery I don’t often come across on my travels. I love the area, particularly following the A82 up past Ben Nevis and through Glencoe. I can’t really imagine a more picturesque place for distilling (or drinking) whisky.

Let’s see what the liquid’s like…

Nose: Boiled sweets and dessert apples with mint leaves. There’s a faint whiff of rubber, chalk, and menthol cigarettes. Takes me right back to my school days…

Palate: Pear juice and plums in custard with a rising taste of Cayenne pepper and ash.

Finish: Bitter grapefruit and a touch more menthol.

Great nose on this, but the finish spoils the experience a bit. It starts well and then falls flat into a wall of bitterness on the tongue.

Hey ho. This is part of the thrill of drinking single-cask whisky! Next in the series is the Bowmore 16…

You can get samples (and bottles) of the Old Particular range from www.MasterOfMalt.com.