The Last Barrels

Unfortunately this year we haven’t managed a trip to Canada (next year hopefully….) and to be honest i’ve missed it , One thing i have really missed , apart from the wonderful country and our good friends , is picking up a few Canadian Whiskies to bring home as there is a slight lack of them available in the UK ! Only Canadian Club is available here on a regular basis , although a well known UK online shop does carry a selection of USA Canadian releases the good ones tend to be at an inflated price . A few months ago – about the time we’d regularly visited Toronto in the previous two years –  a new release from Wisers was announced as an LCBO exclusive . This release was interesting in a few ways…….

last_barrelsIt was the Final Distillation by Distiller Jim Stanski before he moved up into Management at Hiram Walker * and it was made Bourbon style in the mash , In Canadian whisky the grains are distilled individually then blended later where as with this one the grains were blended before mashing them (  80% corn grist, 11% rye and 9% barley malt ) * .

Luckily for me our good friend Paul ( @MarkhamWhisky ) kindly offered to purchase and send over a bottle to my good self , you are a top man Paul ! So What’s it like……

Matured in used Bourbon Barrels for 14 years , the colour is of Olde Orange Marmalade , the nose is exquisite , a cross between a well aged Bourbon and Rye . To me there is still a strong presence of Rye . Bags of vanilla , freshly cut sawdust , wood spices and a Butterscotch sweetness , A joy on the nasal passages ! It is definite more bourbonesque on the palate , Again loads of vanilla and wood spices , not over-powering but very pleasant , the finish is long and spicy .

A Beautifully Different Canadian Whisky ! I just wish Wiser’s and several other Canadian Drams were more available this side of the pond , i’m sure they’d go down a storm….. Well i love them anyway ! 

* Additional info from Davin’s Wonderful CanadianWhisky.org Site

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Bunnahabhain Margadale Cask 9000070

This is the 4th cask i’ve been involved in the bottling of (details of the other 3 can be found HERE ) , This one was bought via Raymond Armstrong while he was at Bladnoch and was sold to shareholders who frequented the Bladnoch Forum . Some of us knew each other which would turn out to be a bonus the way future events unfolded…….

Basically with just under a year of the 10 year maturation left the company that owned Bladnoch was taken into Voluntary Liquidation , We all thought that the Distillery would have been sold by the time we bottled but it wasn’t ! So after talking with the Shareholder i knew we decided to track down the remaining members with the help of the Worldwide Internet and Raymonds new Forum . Eventually on the 11th February 2015 we got the cask released to Martin (Raymond’s son) for his company , Whiskybroker.co.uk , to bottle….. later that same day !

Margadale

The Margadale is the peated spirit distilled by Bunnahabhain and called Moine by the Company , the peating level is believed to be 38 ppm (just a smidge below Lagavulin’s and Caol Ila’s level ) but Bunnahabhain has been known to peat at a lower level .

The Margadale was distilled on the 26th January 2005 during John Maclellan’s management , filled into an ex-Bourbon Barrel – by the outturn of 243 bottles it may have been a fresh one or very tight 2nd refill – it came out at 59.2% ABV .

Margadale-Bottles

And now the nitty-gritty bit….. How does it taste ?

Pale straw in colour . It is incredibly smoky on the nose , and i mean SMOKY ! Very seashore , the proverbial ‘Bonfire on the beach’ , It has a slight sweetness to the nose and a creaminess , very reminiscent of a South Shore Islay starting with ‘A’ , then a damp peatiness . A very fiery palate , lots of white pepper ,  a fierce peatiness along with smoke , there’s a hint of the Bunnahabhain sweetness but not much , a touch of barley and there is a slight chewiness to it  . The finish long , peppery hot and peaty . It can take quite a bit of water which enhances the creaminess  and the seashore qualities and doesn’t affect the smoke . The empty glass smells wonderful even after only a few minutes .

I’m more than happy with this , i’d put this up against any other 10yo Peated Islay and if i had to say which it was in a blind tasting i’d go for the one at the Southern end of the A846…

And then there were 4……..

Four       

An Old Style SMWS Tasting

Back in Ye Olde Days When i was a member of the SMWS , The days when the Malts were good value , usually unsulphured and Annabel Meikle (@thewhiskybelle) was pouring , the odd Friday night was spent in some lovely spot in Newcastle sampling 5 Cask Strength drams , there was usually a small feast of cheese and biccys at some point in the night . Let’s recreate them fine evenings with 5 old drams from the Society in it’s hey day……. without the cheese !

The evening usually started with a Classic , quite often a well aged Glenfarclas so lets go with 1.101 , a 25yo from May 1997 at 52.1% and labelled as ‘ Apricots and Thinners’ . A Lovely Golden Syrup colour , the nose is quite fruity with a touch of solvent in my eyes rather than thinners but not much , yup Apricot Jam , there’s also Battenburg Cake , ripe Bananas and Strawberry Jam . Getting Almonds so that’s maybe where the Battenburg came from and a bakewell tartish smell . The palate is quite feisty so maybe it was a not very active Bourbon Hoggie , again fruity with a smidge of Vanilla and opal fruits . The finish is medium , sweet and very chewy ! Not a bad way to start the evening…..

2nd dram is a one from the Good ol’ SMWSA , 37.33 , had to look this one up as i couldn’t remember what it is , a Cragganmore apparently, a 14yo from March 1993 at 60.9% .  It’s sherried….. a nice ruby red colour , lots of Christmas cake on the nose , cola cubes but none of the ‘S’ word , Woo-Hoo ! The palate is huge on the sherry , very dry (Oloroso?) and lots of the christmas cake again , the finish is deliciously long , ooh dark chocolate cherry liqueurs !  Wow ! Hang on….. all my old American friends always used to say they used t send the crap over to the states , Maybe my definition of crap is different to theirs ? A wonderful dram !

The Middle Dram ! 99.11 , a 29yo Glenugie at 43.4% , no year unfortunately as the society had changed the labels by this time and thought it would be better to put notes on rather than bottling details but it does say ‘monstera deliciosa’ , whatever that means……. Very pale for a 29yo , Ripe Straw , My nose doesn’t get any of the notes on the label tasting notes (nothing new there…..) , slight nail varnish remover , artificial fruit smells (like in sweets) , old library books and leather . The palate is very lemon flavoured throat sweets , that medicinal bitter type , not very pleasant to me , the finish is basically the same , not the best , i seem to remember this was a disappointment at the time of purchase but in a SMWS tasting you rarely got 5 drams you really liked…..

In all my SMWS tastings when i was a member i cannot remember there ever being a Grain on a tasting (i can remember there being a Brora !) , I’ve tried a few SMWS Grains and on the whole they’ve been good , my tasting notes for a SMWS North British made it into the Distillery internal Book released every 25 years courtesy of Mr Robin Laing )  . So the Penultimate dram of this tasting is a Cambus , G8.1 , 21yo at 61.2% ‘Light , Bright and Agreeable’ . Doesn’t smell 60%+ , digestive biscuits  , honey ,  fresh grain and vanilla . The palate is Highland Toffee (the one with the Coo on ) , honey and digestives , very sweet but thoroughly enjoyable ! The finish is long and sweet . A cracking dram , should have had more on the actual tastings…..

So to the final dram of the tasting , bit of a story to this one , this is from one of the first tastings i went to , it was served to me by the aforementioned Annabel in the Trinity House Museum and it was  the dram that started a love affair with the distillery , i’d only ever tried the Flora and Fauna 15yo and wasn’t impressed , so when i tried this one it was Wham , bam , thank you mam ! Also all the SMWS tastings traditionally finished with an Islay , for obvious reasons….. So onto 53.50 , a 7yo Caol Ila from October 1993 bottled at 62.1% . Very light Chardonnay Wine in colour , very powerful Medicinal initially on the nose , ok totally on the nose ! Antiseptic , eh….. Antiseptic , wonderful Antiseptic ! The palate is pretty much….. Medicinal , maybe a touch of seashore , seaweed , iodine but with a wonderful , long , warming , medicinal finish , actually got a waft of smoke right at the end . If you don’t like Islays this ain’t for you ! Still as wonderful as that first day !!!!!

Oh i do miss them days but as they say , all good things…… Made some good friends through the Society , Annabel , Stephen Marshall and Georgie Crawford to name a few but the Society was a different beast back then……  

The [Whisky] Odyssey – Chapter 2

Chapter Two

The Quiet Years…..

After the excitement of the first Camping trip to Scotland we returned a few weeks later to participate in the Longbenton DHSS Motorcycle Clubs weekend trip to St Marys Loch in the great area of  Roxburgh , Selkirk and Peebles ! This was a great Campsite in the field between the Tibbie Shiels Inn and the Loch , they did stop camping there at one point due to ‘troubles’ (not us i hasten to add ) but later on they did start it again in a smaller way for walkers , in the Inns Garden , because Myself and the Gorgeous Melanie actually stayed there in the 90’s on one of our numerous camping trips to Bonnie Scotland .

The Fran eh Flag Raising Ceremony

The Fran eh Flag Raising Ceremony

The Aftermath of Tea !

The Aftermath of Tea !

Much Merriment was had , including a ride to Peebles where we encountered a car rally coming the ‘Other’ way along the narrow roads ! Even though i had a bike at that time (a Honda Twin 125 due to been a learner) i didn’t take it up there , i did however get to have a (slightly illegal) go of a Moto Guzzi 500 with no Front breaks and a dodgy speedo and to ride on the back of a Classic Triumph 650 Bonnie , possible the best Bike i’ve ever been on .

The General Mayhem with the Bonnie to the left....

The General Mayhem with the Bonnie to the left….

The aforementioned Moto Guzzi !

The aforementioned Moto Guzzi !

Couldn’t decide which group photo to post……

Group_1 Group_2

Now in 1984 having got the taste for the Uisge Beathe  it was actually quite hard to buy the stuff in the Toon (That’s Newcastle to you) , Aye you could pick up the Blends in all the Offies (Off- Licenses) but Single Malts ? you had to go to the Department store in the City , Fenwicks , they had a cracking “Wine Department” that sold some of Scotlands finest that was available at the time . Macallan 10yo was a regular purchase and shortly after a strange brew called La- froy-ageeee soon followed it . Now no matter what anyone says , 1980’s 10yo Laphroaig was a different kettle of fish to what it became in the noughties , quite often at parties in the Bedsit i frequented in late 1984 / early1985 cries of “WTF is that smell !” were heard and if friends dared to taste it…..  their faces were always a picture !  Not much experimentation happened in this period , probably due to a lack of expressions but personally i blame Thatcher…..

Myself and Dave did head back for another tour of the Highlands in 1986 along with my then Girlfriend Liz and a mate Peter . We pretty much covered the same places but one of the highlights was staying in Uig on Skye , Great campsite which was sadly gone on our last visit there , within easy staggering distance of the pub , we had a great night there , somehow we were the only people that knew all words to ‘My Old Mans a Dustman’  in the place and the singer managed to guess that we were from Newcastle ( Nowt to do with all the Empty Broon Ale Bottles on the table…..) . One highlight was a trip into Smoo Caves , a guide actually took us in a dinghy further into the caverns . 

Ullapool From the Stornoway Ferry

Ullapool From the Stornoway Ferry

Liz at the Summit of Bealach Na Ba

Liz at the Summit of Bealach Na Ba

Inside Smoo Cave

Inside Smoo Cave

The 80’s basically just chugged along , went to The Mayfair , went to see concerts – The highlight of which was favourites of mine , Aerosmith , actually touring the UK , have to say them drifting into ‘Seasons of Wither’ at the City Hall was the highlight of the 3 concerts i went to on that tour  – going to the local beers festivals and buying the occasional bottle of malt from Fenwicks , oh and there were a couple of Tall Ships races . But things were going to change for ever soon…..

Tall Ships on the Tyne

Tall Ships on the Tyne

 

Two things happened that changed Malt drinking at the end of that decade , Supermarkets started selling Decent Malt Whisky and a new shop appeared on the streets of Newcastle and Gosforth , Oddbins ! (own up , who thought i was going to say that’s when i met Melanie ? It’s coming…..)

I remember going into Tescos (and this will shock some people ) and buying a bottle of Springbank (you what!) 18 or 21yo for a ridiculous price (can’t remember which one but £35 seems to ring a bell ) mind you it was rightly cheap as it was in a pretty garish red and silver box . That was the only bottle of whisky i ever had something peculiar happen to , Little flakes of silvery white stuff appeared in it . Oddbins had a greater selection and with the assistance of the well trained and helpful staff they had at that time ( This was before Eddie Ludlow became a member of staff there !) i was trying all kinds of weird and wonderful stuff .

Things were really going to get better in the Nineties !  

Me outside someones gaff.....

Me outside someones gaff…..

The [Whisky] Odyssey – Chapter 1

After the renaming of my blog i thought it was about time i put my own [Whisky] Odyssey down in words….. I suppose a bit of a background about myself is needed first , Born and Bred is the Great City of Newcastle Upon Tyne in the United Kingdom , My main interests had been Music and going out socialising , usually the two intermixed , spending most of the time seeing bands at the Local City Hall and the Famous Mayfair Ballroom . By the early 80’s i’d seen several of the Legendary Lindisfarne Christmas Shows and the likes of AC/DC , Van Halen , Motorhead , Ted Nugent , Genesis , Mike Oldfield and The Police at the aforementioned venues . My taste in drink had journeyed through most of the local brews (Amber , Exhibition , Brown Ale) , various lagers and was at the time mainly on discovering ‘Real Ale’ in the pubs where possible and suffering Snake Bite at The Mayfair (it was the only way to drink their beer…..) . On the Spirit front the only one i went near was Rum , But that was about to change……  

Chapter One

In the Beginning…..

The early summer of 1984 was a strange time , i’d just come out of a long term relationship and didn’t actually know where things were going to go . A discussion one night in a pub with my good mate Dave Embleton would end up having a profound effect on my life , a few pints the conversation got around to holidays , we both had a bit of leave to take – i actually had mine booked for the start of August – so we decided to do something , i had a tent and various bits of camping equipment , he had a motor so why not head off somewhere ? Scotland seemed like a good idea ! A few of our other friends gave us a few pointers as to where to stay , so one August Sunday morning we set off from Daves in his Bright Yellow Vauxhall Magnum for a camping holiday in the Highlands !

(Click on Photo to see large Version)

Clachaig_Inn

 

Our first destination was Glencoe , The Clachaig Inn to be more precise , This was the Clachaig Inn before it went all Swiss Chaletish , when you could actually camp outside it in the fields (fields being a loose term….) , it took some getting up there at that time , there wasn’t the nice wide road there is now up past Lomond , it was all narrow ‘hugging the Lochside’ type , it seemed to take us an eternity behind various Caravans . After pitching our accommodation , we hit the Clachaig , it was a great little pub with a pool table and something we weren’t used to….. McEwans Export on Draught ! McEwans Export was only available in bottles and cans in Newcastle , Which was strange as it was actually brewed at the old (now departed) Tyne Brewery opposite St James Park ! It was a delightful beer , went down really well (too well a little later in the Hols….) . After a few Dave asked if i fancied a dram , i said no , when he asked if i’d ever had a whisky i said i had , forced on me by well meaning parents in the shape of a Hot Toddy when ill and i hated it ! “I bet it was a blend , Bells , Teachers or something , i’m on about a Single Malt “. Not having a Clue what a Single Malt was Dave proceeded to educate me about them , after about 10 minutes i gave in and said yes .

Glencoe

Our Camping Spot in Glencoe , Yes that’s Dave!

 

So he came back with two small glasses containing an Amber Liquid , “Try that….” , i did…. To say that i was slightly shocked was an understatement , it was a Eureka moment , it didn’t burn , smooth as a babies bum , quite sherried  wow ! Eventually he told me it was a Macallan 10yo , a few more were consumed before we headed back to the tent…..

Glencoe , for the uninitiated , is a beautiful place , a fantastic valley where in the summer the sun doesn’t vanish till yon time at night , it is also very spooky due to a clan massacre that happened there ! So full of Beer and Single Malt we sat outside the tent watching the sun set over the valley top , Pink Floyd playing on the tape machine and a bottle of Mackinlays being passed back and forth – the reason for the Mackinlays was due to one of Daves relatives being in the drinks business and he got some off him . It was a very Spiritual first night camping in Scotland , for every reason !

Cool_Cat

All the ‘Cool Cats’ used to camp at the Clachaig….

 

After a good nights sleep we resumed our travels , i can’t remember the exact route but we did take in Applecross via Bealach na Bà  , Ullapool , Durness and Portree on Skye and all points in between . Applecross was interesting , not only for the hairy drive up the pass and all the midges but it was where i really let go of the earlier mentioned relationship and set a personal best for Alcohol consumed . The village is fairly small , the campsite is above it , there is two ways to get to the village from the campsite , the long way following the road or down the steep grassy bank , the first way is best recommended on the way back from the pub…… In the Village there was a row of Cottages , A shop / post office and the pub – The Inn – a good name as it was THE Inn , i believe it’s been renamed since , it looked a lot different to when we were in it when it was featured on the TV series Monty Halls’ Great Escape – Beachcomber Cottage in the late Noughties .

Bealach_Na_Ba

The view from Bealach-Na-Ba

 

We consumed a great amount of drink that night , we knew we were doing well when the Bar maid kept asking if she could have some glasses back . We had hit 8 pints with whisky chasers at one point , I’d never drunk that amount before or since ! I blamed the McEwans Export myself……. I do remember sometime after 12am asking the Bar maid if she wasn’t worried about trouble with the local police and the late drinking and her replying “No , that’s him over there…..”

Skye

Two happy campers on Skye

 

According to Dave on our way back i’d insisted the campsite was straight up the road and not on the right when we approached it , that would have been some walk up Bealach na Bà ! He also said as soon as i put my head down on the pillow i was out like a light till the next morning , Can’t figure out why ? Ullapool was a great stay over , excellent campsite , great pubs and a superb fish and chip shop at the Ferry landing  !  It was the first place i ever seen anyone ask if they could smell a whisky bottle – Dave in The Arch – and the first time i ever seen anyone turn into a jibbering wreck over Single Malt . We spent a great deal of the evening in the Ferry Boat Inn , it had a good selection of Ales and a very nice set of Malts , on one of Dave’s rounds he came back with two drams and all i could get out of him was “they had two , they had two , Bottles!” I eventually got out of him what had happened at the Bar , he spotted a bottle of Macallan 18 and decided to treat us to a dram, The Barman got the bottle and said “there’s only enough for one dram in this one….” Straight away Dave thought “Well that’s mine….” but then the barman added , “i’ll just go and get the other bottle !” , apparently at that time there wasn’t a lot of the 18 around and it was rare to get 2 in the same place , the shop where Dave bought his annual treat from only got a very limited supply . Amazing what Single Malts does to people…….

No_Bridge

Look….. Nae Bridge !

 

We had a great time on this trip , went on our first Calmac Ferries over to Skye and back , this was pre-bridge days and you still had the ferries from Lochalsh , saw some fantastic scenery , drank some great beers and i got introduced to the Water of Life ! Cheers Dave , It’s all his fault !!!!