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Dalwhinnie, 15yo


The Dalwhinnie distillery lies on an altitude of 600 meter in the heart of the Scottisch Highlands. The location in a stunning and 'dram'atic environment made journalist Andrew Jefford exclaim that the only pollution risc at Dalwhinnie was the one by heath pollen. The name itself also implies a history of whisky trading as Dailchuinnidh (roughly pronounced 'Dalwhinnie') means 'the plain of meetings'; the area was the junction of three cattle droving roads.

The smell : Aromatic, spicy and sweet
The taste : oily, going with your fingers in a jar of honey, and licking them off. Sweet vanilla, sucking a caramel bar. Fruity and honey again all over the place. Some pepper in the aftertaste.

Very sweet, and quite straightforward for a Highlander. Gentle and easy to drink. Too much like candy though for my taste.

Caol Ila, 12yo


Caol Ila (pronounced Kull-Eela) was a rather unknown Islay whisky to me, but apparently it is the largest distillery on Islay and one of the largest that Diageo owns. The bulk of its output goes to blends and since 1999, they have produced whisky with unpeated barley for a few months each year, until recently used exclusively for blending.

Color : pale yellow
Smell : A light smell of smoke & peat, followed rapidly by a blast of fruity sweetness.
Taste : Fruity, lots of apples, with a smokey aftertaste. Oily, reminds me of Bowmore, but less peaty and more sweet. Some complexity hidden deep inside the clash between fruit and smoke, with an undefineable taste (enveloppe glue ?).

Surprisingly strong, but if you like a sweet punch in the face, this could be your favorite dram.

The Black Grouse


It's been a long time since I reviewed some whisky. You might wonder if I had gone up the wrong path : converted by the H2O brigade, having replaced my daily dram by a hot coco at the evening fireplace ? No my friends, the truth is that I have been low indeed on booze, and reached back to my usual medicines : I received a special edition of the Tullamore Dew, bottled into a ceramic crock, and I spent some care on Scapa & Highland Park, the usual stuff.

But recently I decided to give some of my attention to The Black Grouse, a product from the Famous Grouse - the number #1 selling blend in Scotland... and in Sweden (which has a pretty sophisticated whisky market, apparently). The Black Grouse is a Scotch blend derived from the Famous Grouse, with some of the finest Islay malt whiskies.

Color : dark gold
The nose : malty, some bonfire smoke and a little peat.
The taste : malty again, quite some peat, medicinal, surprisingly sour, with lots of hints of fruitiness. In the aftertaste again some smoke.

The verdict : I allways say "Better a brilliant blend than a mediocre malt". And the Black Grouse is brilliant. I must admit I don't like the sour taste, but blended in water or coke, this makes a magic drink.

Laphroaig, 10yo


It is a wide and wonderful whisky world out there and the only way to explore it is one dram at a time. It took me a while to get to Laphroaig (the name means "the beautiful hollow by the broad bay"), a pure monument in the whisky world, and Lagavulin is to blame for this. Lagavulin was my first real peaty whisky, which at that time I found it quite too salty, and I assumed Laphroaig had the same kind of taste. Quite wrong, it seems.

This is the stuff that can polarize whisky drinkers. There are tastings where both men and women absolutely LOVE the stuff, whether new to malt whisky or not. I have also met folks who spend thousands of pounds a year on whisky and swear they would never touch this stuff. Amazing. Interesting. Crazy.

The bottle came with a small booklet, which contained information about the Friends of Laphroaig. There, you can claim your own piece of land (a square foot large) at the distillery, which you can let for the yearly price of a dram of Laphroaig, to be claimed at the distillery.

The smell : smoke, peat a hint of medicine, and pretty much nothing else. For one or other weird reason, my wife finds the smell absolutely revolting.
The taste : as complex as a one-dimensional line. Brutal, and as soft as a punch in the stomach. Smoke and peat all over the place. Oily, a little salt, but quite within the limits. Licorice root, sand, walking along a beach on a misty and rainy November afternoon. Surprisingly elegant, rounded and balanced.

Big, brutal, and excellent. A must-have in every whisky lover's liquor cabinet.

PS : at the shop, I got the chance to taste a 19 yo Laphroaig. Impressive, very sharp and spicy. Quite heavy with its 56% and its 93 euro price tag. But absolutely worth every dime of it.

Clynelish, 14yo


The name and the history of Clynelish are indissociable from the neighbour distillery, Brora. The Brora distillery has been named Clynelish for decades before closing in 1983. The Clynelish distillery faces the old one. Settled in a rural setting with a still house with great windows looking to the sea, the distillery is the exact replica of the modern Islay distillery, Caol Ila. Just 1% of the production is marketed as single malt, the remaining part being used in Johnnie Walker Gold Label blend.

Smell : malty, great spread of aromas from rich honey and malted barley. Floral and spicy. Highland Park, anyone ?

Taste : screams of malt. Lots of caramel and candy taste. Again floral, but with a sharp peppery aftertaste. Complex and challenging without ever losing its whisky character.

Oh yeah, before I forget : Clynelish is part of the Classic Malts concern of Diageo. If you're interested in whisky, I strongly advise you to subscribe to the Friends of the Classic Malts. You will receive a three monthly magazine called 'The Quaich', filled with well-written stories about your favorite (Diageo based) malts.


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