Tasting in the time of COVID

To say it has been a while would be an understatement.
The MaltGeeks crew have not met in person for more then 3 years (granted, since COVID-19 erupted around the globe it became impossible) and that of course impacted our ability to share drinks and upload reviews on new expressions.
We hope to be able to make a partial meeting in the next #burnsnight and maybe taste some of the new bottles that joined the collection, but the way that the Delta variant is spreading, it would be a good guess that we may not be able to.
There are those that have contracted the virus (Thankfully non of us), and they lost both the sense of smell and taste, which got me wondering, What would be the sensation or the experience of drinking Whisky without being able to taste or smell it ? As the COVID impacts older members harder, I shudder to think of a long time drinker/ collector that loses those senses, or a master blender.
The former would cry over the loss of a horded collection while the other will most likely lose his livelihood, and the Whiskey community the flavor that he brought to the world.
Let’s stay safe so we can enjoy the full experience of this wonderful drink.

Long over due

It has been awhile since the crew of MaltGeeks have met and sampled some drams, life can do that to people, but not all is lost, we are planning a meeting in the following weeks and with luck we will open a bottle or two to sample and report on.

In my latest trip to Edinburgh I have purchased 3 new bottles and they are sitting in my cabinet waiting just for such a gathering:

  • Benrinnes 15 year Flora and Fauna
  • Gren Deveron 20 year old
  • Mannochmore 12 year Flora and Fauna
  • All are new to us and would be interesting to sample.

    Oban 14 year old

    For a long while it was suggested to me that I should try the Oban, but the opportunity never came, though several friends offered, it was never the “right time”.
    Yesterday I went to a tasting in a liquor store hosted by a Diageo Ambassador and the Oban was part of the collection offered to sample (Along with Cardhu, Singelton and Talisker).

    As this was the only one I did not know, I was curios about it and took some notes:

    The Distillery
    Oban distillery is owned by Diageo. It has only two pot stills, making it one of the smallest in Scotland, producing a whisky that has been described as having a “West Highland” flavour that falls between the dry, smoky style of the Scottish islands and the lighter, sweeter malts of the Highlands.

    ColourLight golden yellow,clear with short legs.

    Nose:The aroma contained traces of Pines, Pineapple Light smoke and sea breeze.
    The scents them self come out slowly and are not overpowering, rather having to be coaxed out slowly.

    Palate:The flavours that come out of the dram leave traces of Peppers, Vanilla, Apples and Citrus.
    Slow release of a light after burn, and goes down smoothly, lingering burn at the mouth not too strong.

    Water Adding the water turned the Nose to a strong one that was unpleasant and the coloring stayed the same, the Palate developed an aggressive lingering burn but no change on the After burn.

    Conclusion: A nice simple dram that stands on it’s own and does not need water, good as a slow drink, and will be well paired with a fish meal. 3 out of 5

    Chasing the Black Barrel

    Jameson Black Barrel
    I have been trying to get a bottle of this Jameson ever since I sampled it (see entry [Whisky Live Tel Aviv 2015 ), and have been foiled by suppliers on several occasions.

    Last week I have been to the UK and hoped to obtain it while there but the Duty free shops (carrying it past security is not an option) do not stock this expression, so I came back empty handed.

    In one place I inquired the wanted almost 4 times the retail price, of course I did not buy it there, but then I went in to a store that I know has a nice stock, and which have a Tomintoul 21 (which has been discontinued) for £100 – that I intend on buying in my next visit – and there was the Black Barrel, the last one on the shelf and in a cost of £5 more then the retail price in the UK.

    Now this bottle is in my whiskey collection and waiting a proper time to be savored, once we can gather as many of the MaltGeeks group, we will post other opinions about this Dram.

    Impressions from Whisky Live Tel Aviv 2015

    I will start by saying that living in the UK has made me spoiled rotten when it comes to whisky events, that being said the I will now give my review on the event and the whiskies I have sampled during Whisky Live Tel Aviv 2015.

    To start of the entrance funnel was also the exit, which made coming in or going out very difficult as you had to push your way past the masses going the other way (which ever it might be in that particular moment in time).

    Once you made it in there wasn’t any flow to the positions of the presentations and placement of booths, I suspect that this is due to the variety of importers and the amount each was willing to pay for their position.

    The options for sampling, considering the heritage of the name “Whisky Live” was rather limited and catered to the more well-known expressions from the distillers and parent companies, with some exceptions to the rule. Some Brand ambassadors and members of the industry were present, but not in a ratio that gave the feel that the companies they represent don’t care much about the local market.

    One of the main attraction in this event was meant to be the new local distillery, and you’d think they will put them front and centre so they can be easily accessed, but they were hidden in the corner off the main hall.

    Given all that, the event gave you large serving bars in the main hall with 7 major Drams available and each had it’s industry representative (be is brand ambassador or in the event with Tomintoul – The Master Distiller), you had the chance to bottle your own bottle from a selection of small barrels (Rum, Vodka, Whisky, Bourbon) and you could participate in a blind tasting event.

    Criticism over, now I will review the whiskies I sampled:

    Jura 21 years 44% Sherry Matured

    Jura 21 years 44% Sherry Matured

    Nose: Traces of Sea weeds,citrus, peppers and cloves.
    Colour:Deep honey, smooth swirl, no legs.
    Platte:Smooth down, no after burn with a slow release of flavours, traces of Almonds, Caramel, Pines and Bannana.

    Added Water
    Nose: added traces of Peppers, the aroma is much more pungent almost obtrusive.
    Colour:No discernible change.
    Platte:Strong after burn, too over powered and a slow release.

    Overall : Nice dram, but nothing out of the ordinary from Jura.

    Tomatin 14 years 46% Portwood finish

    Tomatin 14 years 46% Portwood finish

    Tomatin 14 years 46% Portwood finish

    Nose : very subtle almost nonexistent hints of smoke and mold.
    Colour : Amber red.
    Platte : For a 46% dram the flavors are very subtle, hints of dates, honey, and peppers. A slow after burn

    Added Water
    Nose: All gone.
    Colour : No change.
    Platte : Just a Burn, but no flavors.

    Overall : Water ruin the drink, it is a good drink without it and the port finish really shows and feels in the drink.

    Jameson Black Barrel 40% NAS (Blend of Pot still + Grain whiskey)

    This is a new Jameson expression that I have not sampled before and was very curious to try. I had a nice conversation with the Brand Ambassador Aislinn O’Keeffe, which seemed to have been surprised to find an Irish Dram fan among all the Bourbon and Scot Malt enthusiasts.
    Jameson Black Barrel 40% NAS (Blend of Pot still + Grain whiskey)

    Nose :Very soft aroma coming from the glass, very faint traces of smoke, some plums and touch of honey.
    Colour : A like caramel honey, almost hazel.
    Platte : Very delicate, smooth, almost like a velvet drink – on the border to becoming too smooth, no pungent after burn, traces of Banana and Chocolate.

    I have not added water to this one – as the stand ran out of water at the time, but I very much enjoyed the Dram and the conversation while drinking it.
    Overall -I liked this expression, and would like to have another run at with with some water, For any Irish whiskey fan it will be a treat.


    Tomintoul 21 years 40%

    When approaching the stand for this bottle, I was happy to find the Master Distiller standing near the booth and talking to visitors, we had a wonderful chat and I got an invite for a tour in the distillery(generally closed to the public) when I am next time in Scotland – hopefully not to long till that happens.
    We talked about places we both know and appreciate in Speyside and he shared my excitement and wonder for the magic of the Fiddich Side Inn , then he suggested the 21 for sampling.
    Tomintoul 21 years

    Nose :Gentle, full of Pines, Honey, raisins and freshly cut grass.
    Colour : A strong tea, light golden hue.
    Platte :Chocolate,Peppers,Honey and Vanilla, a wide range of flavors come out of this dram, and it goes down smooth with no strong burn, it has a slow release once down in a good way.

    Then there is the added Water
    Nose : The Pines come out to be more dominant, but other then that no big change.
    Colour : no change.
    Platte : Again very subtle changes, the Peppers are more extenuated, and a burn is felt.

    Overall very nice dram, suitable for every day – if not for the price, it is meant to be discontinued due to stock shortage, 4/5 .


    Dalmore King Alexander 40% NAS

    Dalmore King Alexander 40% NAS

    Dalmore King Alexander 40% NAS

    Dalmore King Alexander 40% NAS
    Dalmore are considered a “exclusive brand” and hence fairly expensive, which is why I have not had the opportunity to sample them in the past, hence I was happy to pay a little bit for the cost of tasting one of the range provided.

    Nose : Soft drift of smells, Grapes,Honey,Caramel and Pines are felt.
    Colour : Honey, but it feels like there is some caramel in the coloring too.
    Platte : Strong burn in the first touch, then the flavors come out: Milk, Citrus,Banana and Peach, and then the after burn comes in with a fast release in the stomach.

    Sadly no water was available for comparison.
    Overall – Nice Dram , but not something I would keep in my stock.

    Another way Malt can contribute to better the world

    The Scotch industry is very environmentally aware and many of the side products of making the whisky are making its way for other uses and being used to benefit businesses and facilities surrounding the distilleries.

    Now a new company has come with a new approach for increasing the ways the distillation by products cen be used to help our Eco system :
    Company produces world’s first biofuel made from whisky waste

    Personally – and I would make a bold statement on behalf of all the MaltGeeks members, if this was a Kickstarter project looking for funding, We would all be backing it up.

    I Wish they succeed and become a major player in the renewable energy market.

    Travel Samples

    During a recent flight to the UK I have had the chance to sample to Drams, one was a “Travel Retail” only and over priced in my opinion, the GlenFiddich 19 year old Rum finish
    It has a nice nose, but it also has a very powerful burn that is usually present in younger or potent drams, beside the burn the after taste left more peppers then anything else, so I did not find it appeasing.

    The other was a 10 year Glen Deveron, which left me unimpressed to say the least, it was smooth, almost to a fault and with not discernible after taste, a dash of water did bring out some mild after-burn but all in all it was a very dull dram.

    Suffice to say I did not purchase any of the above ones, I did however procured two other expressions:
    * Linkwood 12 Years
    * Arran Malt Robert Burns Single Malt

    The Arran will be opened in the up-coming tasting (as we missed Burns night) and then I can update the space with the actual tasting notes.

    Watch this space.

    An old friend “sent off”

    There are not many whiskies that all of us in MaltGeeks agree on and love.

    There are two that are the exception to that statement and sadly both are now no longer available, both have been covered on this site The Imperial Octave and the now discontinoued Mortlach 16 Year Old – Flora and Fauna.

    We first encountered this bottle on a hiking trip following the Distillary rich A941 from Elgin to Dufftown.
    We stopped for the night at a B&B in Craigellachie and the owner sent of to a lovely place called The Fiddichside Inn and told us to tell the owner he sent us and to ask for “his usuall”, We did and recieved 2 shots of the Mortlach 16. It was love at first sip, the next morning we bought 2 bottles, and carryed them with us for the rest of the hike (not a trivial task when you also carry your tent and other bottles).

    After reading Oliver Kilmek’s Mortlach Blues article on what will happen with the beloved Mortlach, I sent a “Rallying call” to the MaltGeeks crew and we decided to horde as many bottles of this fine dram as we can.

    Scouring many Whisky retailers in the UK started to become a fool’s erand as most of them were out of stock for this bottling, but at last I managed to talk to a retalier that said he has a number of bottles on the shelf, Well come tomorrow that shelf will be empty as we bought the lot.

    I already have a nearly full bottle at home, but the thought that it will one day end adn will never be replaced depresses me.

    St.Magdalane 28 years old

    A while back a member of the MaltGeeks received a bottle of St. Magdalne for his son’s birth with the caveat that he is not allowed to open it alone.

    Just before X-mass we met and opened the bottle to finally sample this long dead distilery.
    St Magdalane 28 years old
    The Bottle’s details are as follows :
    Douglas & laing Bottling, 28 Years old, Refill Butt, 50% acl, one of 439 bottles made.

    Colour:Light Hay, Golden light yellow.

    Nose: Strong spirit aroma bursting out of the glass in the initial whiff, once the vapours dissapte a bit the smell of pines, bananas,choclate, almonds and carobs. Very slow release and gentle.

    Palate:Very Smooth, almost feels as if it was a triple distilled whisky, nice slow burn coming in the end of the dram. Traces of Dates, coal, Grapes, anc Citrus.

    Sadly since we did this as a tasting – we had to add water- though we knew it will not bode well for such a fine dram.

    With the water, we saw no change in the colour, although the nose sufferd badly with all of the afor mentioned aromas gone and the nose is just bland. The most profound change is in the palate: the dram becomes corase and stale fast viloent burn in the stomach but not “feel” in it.

    Summery: water on this dram is a shame and a ruin for a wonderfull drink, as a stand alone it is fine dram and a pleasure to drink, same there are not many more of this fine distillary.

    Tobermory 10years

    Tobermory 10 years

    We got ourselves a sample bottle of the Tobermory 10 years old , nice little thing like you get on a flight , for a tasting for two people it was a good quantity and as we were in a very relaxed place more would have been a waste .