Whisky debate: influences on flavour

I have just had a short twitter conversation about some of the “burnt” or toasted notes present in whiskies. Popcorn, vanilla, coconut, sulphur, and drilled/burnt tooth came up.

The question is, in what whiskies and finishes (i.e. bourbon, sherry) do you associate these flavours? And what do you think causes these flavours to show themselves in the glass?

Please comment, join the debate!

Back in black

I first tried Black Grouse nearly three years ago, and I wasn’t all that impressed.
There were however a number of reason for this. First of all, it was a blind sample after a number of particularly powerful single malts (single malts are not necessarily better than blends, it’s a matter of taste); secondly, at that time, my taste for peaty whisky was a little under-developed.

Nonetheless, whisky can be like a job interview, if you’re having a bad day and don’t make a good first impression you’re knackered, and you’ll do anything for a second chance.  Be open-minded enough give a dram a second chance, you might get a wee surprise. I did.

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Jura Whisky Festival Release – Boutique Barrel 1996 Vintage

A few weeks ago some friends and I went for a wee wander up a hill north of Glasgow called Queen’s View, and along the Wangie – a stone corridor apparently cut into the side of the hill by the Devil’s whipping tail.

The weather was very much against us, howling wind and ice-cold sideways rain (in June!) – it was great! We  didn’t have this dram with us at the time, but when I nosed it in my glass in the comfort of my warm living room it reminded me exactly of that walk.

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Aurora under an Icelandic sky

It’s not just about the dram in your glass. It’s also about where you are when you enjoy it, and with whom. Sipping rare whisky in the Icelandic wilderness while gazing up at the Northern Lights is something everybody should do. Imagine it, the most amazing light show on earth, while keeping the arctic chill at bay with a rich, and deeply warming Highland single malt.

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Mackinlay’s Rare Old Highland Malt (Shackleton) 47.3%

We’ve been hearing about it for the last four years since it was discovered in the Antarctic, and now we can finally get to taste it, well, the next best thing at least.

Richard Paterson, Whyte & Mackay’s master blender spent a painstaking eight weeks analysing the Shackleton whisky, marrying together a range of malts to create an exact replica of the 100 year old Mackinlay’s malt.

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Japanese Whisky Experience – Its Story & Taste



I had the privilege and joy of attending a talk about the whiskies produced by the Japanese distilleries owned by Suntory.

In the past I’ve seen people turn their nose up at the idea of purchasing Japanese over Scotch. My advice to them then, and now, is you really can’t judge a book by its cover. A horrible cliché but it is so true.

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Bruichladdich "The Sixteens" Cuvee A – Pauillac, Chateau Lafite



There’s some exciting stuff coming out of Bruichladdich at the moment, including “The Sixteens”, a range of 16 year old whiskies finished in first growth Bordeaux wine cask finishes.
Now, I know there are some naysayers out there who are critical of the fact thatin 2009 the distillery released 27 different expressions – some better than others, but what I’ve got here is a new one, and it’s a goodie.

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The Dalmore Rivers Collection (4/4): Tweed Dram


The final leg of The Dalmore Rivers tour takes me to the Tweed. It’s a warm peachy colour (the whisky, not the river) and the now familiar oily looking texture. The Tweed is an up-front dram, and like the others in the series, delivering loads of flavours that come at you in waves rather than a big lump that unfolds, so you see a progression in the glass as you take your time with it.

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The Dalmore Rivers Collection (3/4): Tay Dram


The third leg of my delightful river trip is the Tay.This is an instant sipper. It doesn’t need time to breathe or open-up before you get into it. That being said, it’s got good length, and like all whiskies, it deteriorates in the glass, but does so very slowly.

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