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Cardhu, 12yo


Cardhu is regarded as a typical Speyside single malt scotch, and is the basis of the famous Johnnie Walkers blends. In 1811, John and Helen Cumming sited their first still at Cardow Farm on Mannoch Hill, high above the River Spey. At this location, spring water, naturally softened by rising up through a layer of peat, bubbled from the ground. It is alleged that Helen Cumming distilled the first gallon of Cardhu, the only malt whisky to be pioneered by a woman.

The Cardhu I acquired, came in a orange leather purse like thing. Rather strange leaving a liquor store with an orange purse in my hand (Blackadder's YOU HAVE A WOMAN'S PURSE ! jokes aside), but luckily I kept a Talisker bottle in my other hand, to compensate somehow. I don't know, but this reminds me somehow of Chivas, where the bottle and the decorations suggests a rather feminine target audience. Same thing here with the Cardhu, as if it targets female whisky drinkers.

Cardhu is part of the Classical Malts concern, where it is presented as the Speyside classic malt whisky. Time to find out if it deserves this label.

The smell : very sweet, candy, round, some bitterness which reminds of marzipan.
The taste : round, mellow, reminds me somehow of Dalmore. Fruity, a hint of nuts. Difficult to find a specific taste in this, not because it's complex, but rather light and mellow.

Conclusion : a fine single malt, not complex and uncomplicated. Not a malt that I would give a classic label, though.

Scapa, 13yo


Scapa is a whisky made on the island Orkney; the distillery’s location was the final resting place for some of the German fleet scuttled there at the end of WWI. In 2003, it seemed that Scapa's days were numbered. It is really with gratitude to neighboring Highland Park and crew that Scapa has stocks from the years between 1994 and 2004. They used to come to the run-down distillery and fire up the stills for a few weeks each year. That way, Scapa is still available, though still difficult to find, which I experienced sadly enough. The Scapa 12yo is almost out of sale, but I obtained a 1993 edition which got bottled in 2006.

First the bad news : this whisky is expensive. The 13 yo had a price tag of 48 Euro, which I find insanely high, but I yielded because I knew Scapa is a renowned brand (and because it was so hard to find).

The good news : it is worth every penny of it. Uncorking the bottle and smelling the scent, is a real pleasure, and already indicates that this is a great whisky : soft, a hint of honey, lemon and maple sirup. Light, but sofisticated. Immediately reminds me of Glenmorangie and Tullamore Dew, though Scapa is more complex.

The taste : very fresh. If Laphroaig is something you would drink on a winter evening before the fireplace, with a snow storm raging outside, then this is something you would drink on a freshly mown lawn on a summer evening. Sweet, but not too sugary. A hint of brown sugar and some undefinable exotic fruit (maybe pineapple, but I'm not sure).

The verdict : excellent ! A classic whisky, only shame about the price.

The Dalmore, 12yo


My previous whisky adventure ended quite pleasantly in the Highlands, so why not stray there a little longer ? I acquired a bottle of 12yo Dalmore; Dalmore Distillery sits on the banks of the Cromarty Firth overlooking the rich and fertile Black Isle, the "big meadowland", from which it takes its name. The distillery was bought by the Mackenzie family in 1886, and the 'twelve pointer stag' was introduced from their clan crest - a symbol that still adorns each and every bottle of Dalmore to this day.

The nose : blueberry jam, dark chocolate
The taste : chocolate again, an explosion of caramel, lots of vanilla.

A bit too sweet to my taste, especially the strong caramel taste is too abundantly present. Quite tasty though, not very complex, a good day-to-day enjoyable whisky.

Glenmorangie, 10yo


My quest along Scotland needed another twist : I'm quite familiar already with Islay and Speysides whiskies; time to explore some other regions. The Highlands produce some of Scotland's finest whiskies, where the most famous one is Glenmorangie. The production of this handmade whisky is trusted to the 16 men of Tain. A distiller friend of Dr. Bill Lumsden (the Glenmorangie Master Distiller) told him that it should take no more than a man and a dog to run a distillery : the man to feed the dog, and the dog to make sure the man didn't press the wrong button. Glenmorangie soldiers on though with their 16, in the name of tradition and with a few of the 16 even making it a hereditary activity!

Glenmorangie's elegant swan-neck still are the tallest in the Highlands, so only the lightest and purest of vapors can ascend and condense. And this whisky is matured for ten years in selected casks of American mountain oak which allow the natural flavor of Glenmorangie to fully develop. The cast rest in low stone-built buildings with earthen floors, permeated by fresh sea-air, a gentle local climate ensuring a steady path to full maturity.

When you pour out this whisky, you might be surprised how pale it is. Adding water will almost make the color disappear !
The nose : lemon, sweetness, chocolate.
The taste : sweet, but without exaggeration. Again lemon, with a light sour aftertaste. I must say I didn't liked this sour taste at the first nip. But don't let this first impression let you down : Glenmorangie is an extremely tasty whisky, which is light (almost Irish whiskey alike) and easily drinkable.

Now I understand its popularity : Glenmorangie is a great introductionary whisky for beginners, without some of the more offensive whisky qualities that may repel some drinkers; but yet still very tasteful and sofisticated. Definitely encourages another glass...

Bruichladdich, 12yo


It was a long search after I found a piece of the Laddy, but finally I could obtain a bottle of the 12yo edition whisky. Often compared to its Islay neighbour Bowmore, it has the same characteristics as being a soft introduction into the Islay world.

Matured beside the Atlantic, the whisky is bottled in Islay’s only bottling hall - 100% naturally - free from chill-filtration, colouring, and homogenisation. Bruichladdich is known as The Sophisticated Islay, and made from an unusual marriage of manual C19 equipment, inspirational distillery design and pre-industrial distilling techniques. In fact, Bruichladdich does not use any computers or automated processes used in the production of their whisky. The original Victorian machinery, painstakingly restored over six months, is still used today. Islay water, filtered through the oldest rocks in the whisky world, is used to reduce from cask to bottling strength of 46%.

The nose : slightly sweet, toffee, is that a hint of peat ?
The taste : "I like Bowmore better" was my thought after the first sip, but that's giving Bruichladdich way too less credit. Fruity : pears and apples, but not too sweet either. Toffee again, some maltiness. Complex too.

It took me some weeks to come to a definitive tasting note, but I have come to find Bruichladdich being a great whisky. Made it to my top 3, which is a remarkable achievement.


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