The Abbey Whisky Bar Edinburgh, March Whisky Tasting

This week featured the regular monthly whisky tasting at the Abbey. This month presented by Graham McKay from the Independent Bottlers Carn Mor [Morrison and McKay]. When you consider the Independent Bottling business certain points are important.

Their bottlings can be as small as one large cask or barrels purchased from several distilleries. They need very good contacts at distilleries in order to identify when a distillery has surplus whisky and is prepared to sell this at an advantageous price to the Independent Bottler. They also need excellent blenders to make the most of the whisky available to them.

The tasting

Graham greeted the group and the session got underway at 7.30 p.m. An enthusiastic and knowledgeable speaker we sensed that we were in for an enjoyable evening. This proved to be true. A capacity crowd of about 30 people filled the area. Indeed so busy was it that many had to stand.

The first whisky was “Riverflow.” This is a light whisky with an alcoholic content of 43%. It is a Speyside whisky and mostly comes from the Auchroisk distillery in Banffshire. This is a modern distillery the first production dates to 1974. Most of the distillery output goes for blending although a ten-year-old malt can be obtained. Riverflow has a fruity citrus taste which is overlaid with a light smokiness. Matured in Bourbon casks the whisky contains no artificial colouring. It retails for about £35 a bottle. I enjoyed this dram. It would make an ideal morning whisky.

The second whisky was an Old Perth “Sherry Cask” aged in each of the three main sherry casks – Butts, Puncheons and Hogsheads. ABV 43%. Aged about six or seven years. It has the darker colour associated with sherry casks. To my nose, there was almost a hint of ice cream. Tasting I could detect a hint of smoke together with fruitiness. Not surprising as the majority malt is from the outstanding Glenfarclas distillery. The rest coming from Glenrothes. This is a very impressive whisky and one which would suit most whisky palates. A bargain at £33 retail.

Next, we sampled the Carn Mor “Strictly Limited”six-year-old Speyside malt. This whisky has an ABV of 46% but tastes stronger. Matured in sherry casks. This is a single malt and is not chill filtered. Again coming from the Auchroisk Distillery owned by Bacardi. There is the familiar citrus and smoke flavours together with a caramel overlay. This bottling is limited to 875 bottles and retails for about £55. Another whisky which deserves to be tasted on a cold winters evening. Recommended.

Our fourth whisky was from the Fettercairn distillery situated in Kincardineshire. This distillery is the sole survivor on the southern slopes of the Grampian hills. Currently owned by Whyte and Mackay. Again this was a “strictly limited” bottling. The whisky is quite light in colour. Matured in rejuvenated casks. This is a complex whisky with a number of flavours, smokey sherry, toffee even chocolate. This distillery deserves to have its malt much more widely appreciated in my opinion.

Our fifth dram was a special treat! From the “Celebration of the Cask” range. This was a bottling from a single Hogshead cask {number 9954} distilled in 1988 from the Blair Athol distillery in Pitlochry. Most of the output of this distillery goes for blending except for the occasional 12-year-old malt. The cask strength is 50.1%. This whisky was bottled in 2014 so the contents are 26 years old. This is a warming dram with a lot of flavours. Ideal for warming up on a freezing Highland night. Various spices can be detected together with sugar-soaked fruit. Also a residue of smoke.

Talking about “smoke” our last whisky was the Old Perth “Peaty.” I have a bottle of this myself and love its taste. Not as overwhelming as might be thought. The whisky is like a liquid distillation of the well known Scottish Arbroath Smokie! The whisky contains the output from two distilleries – Mull and Isla. Matured in sherry casks and sold with an alcohol content of 43%. The whisky much better behaves when you drink it than to the nose. We have also used it to make a superb whisky Seville Orange marmalade!

An excellent evening that left us eager for the next whisky tasting!

Written by Greg Dunn (Instagram)

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