Sep 032018

Gordon & MacPhail have revamped their bottlings, and consolidated some of the many “mini brands” into only five very clear lines of products. Connoisseurs Choice is at the heart of the range. It includes both cask strength and reduced strength whisky, always carrying a vintage statement on the label. These are single casks or a few casks vatted together.

Photo Credit: Gordon & MacPhail

The other Gordon & MacPhail ranges are: the Discovery range – the range caters to newcomers to the G&M portfolio, color coded into “smoky” “bourbon” and “sherry” designations; Distillery Labels is the “unofficial official bottling” program the company held for decades for distilleries like Mortlach, Strathisla, Pulteney, Ardmore, Scapa, Glentauchers and Linkwood.

Gordon & MacPhail will reveal the Private Collection and Generations ranges revamped design sometime in the fall of 2018.

Obviously, the bottles may have changed, but the liquid inside hasn’t. You know what you’re getting with every purchase, and you know it will be a quality product.

This is a bottle of Clynelish from a single sherry butt, but with a very gentle sherry influence.  I got to enjoy it with great friends on a small island in the Finnish archipelago, in what is probably the best setting for a dram in the whole wide world.

Photo Credit:

Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs Choice Cask Strength Clynelish 2005, Refill Sherry Butt 18/012, Yielded 518 Bottles (55.1% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Amber, Viscous with quite a bit of residue on the glass.

Nose: Starts out closed hinting at honey and spice. There’s a touch of fresh stone fruit and more honey, with hints of sweet wood spices and some orange.

Palate: Honey and lots of wax, with allspice and some cinnamon.
Water adds spice, with a touch of cardamom and helps the wax stand out.

Linger: Waxy, citrusy, and peppery staying long on the tongue. After water, the pepper stays even longer on the tongue.


It’s good, but I would expect that a few months in the open bottle will take it to a whole new level. There’s a lot of potential in this one, especially if it loses some of the heat in the finish.

A wonderfully fun whisky for a sunny evening on a Finnish island….Skål!

Mar 262016

Another quick tasting note, of a whisky I rather enjoyed tasting. I’ve written about the Whisky Broker in the past (see here), and am always happy to taste their expressions.

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:


Clynelish 17 Year Old – Whiskybroker, Refill Hogshead 12380, Distilled 29.10.1997, Bottled 11.03.2015, 302 Bottles (54.5% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Straw, very thin legs dripping off a sturdy necklace.

Nose: Waxy honey, with vanilla and oak with honey brittle cookies.

Palate: Wow, mead like with hints of bitterness and some herb there, maybe sage or lavender. Sweet, full bodied and some spice come through with a hint of sourness.

Linger: Long and interesting, with spice and a herbal oakyness, and a waxy dryness on the palate and in the mouth, with the sage remaining for a long time.


That herbal note on the palate was pretty intense, and this is a really a fascinating, albeit not overly textbookish Clynelish.

Oct 282015

Compass Box’s fifth incarnation of the Flaming Heart is out, in conjunction with the 15th anniversary of the company. One of the really nice things about Compass Box is that quality is king. Expressions will be discontinued if the right whisky can’t be sourced, as is clearly evidenced by the company’s list of limited releases over the years, often citing sourcing challenges as the reasons for discontinuation of expressions (see here). Flaming Heart, however, is a blend of really old and some really young Highland and Islay malts, the idea of which is to marry younger malt finished in Compass Box’s signature French oak hybrid with a body of Islay (Caol Ila) and Highland (Clynelish) malts, to create a complex whisky. The formula of the fifth release is fully disclosed:

Compass Box Whisky

Compass Box Whisky


Caol Ila makes up 65.6% of the blend (27.1% from 30 year old refill hogsheads and 38.5% from 14 year old refill hogsheads), 24.1% Clynelish aged 20 years, and 10.3% of the highly active new French oak hybrid barrels which aged a blend of five year young Highland whisky from Clynelish, Dailuaine and Teanninch for another two years.

This whisky is far more traditional, and far peatier than ‘This is Not a Luxury Whisky’, released with it to commemorate the 15th anniversary.

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

Compass Box Flaming Heart, 15th Anniversary Edition, 12,060 bottles (48.9% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Amber, legs form rather quickly with thick droplets and a lot of residue on the glass.

Nose: The Caol Ila is definitely in control of this blend. Indeed, Islay is here with salty peat as the dominant aroma on the nose but the wood spice is right there with a hint of waxiness. There’s a sweetness (honey?), with some fruity notes. The peat is really interesting, salty but not overly maritime. A drop of water brings out honey and touches of vanilla with more wax.

Palate: Sour peatiness, the mouth feel is like a mint candy with sharpness and sweetness on the tongue. Pepper appears after a few seconds. A few drops of water strengthen the spice and bring out the waxiness on the palate.

Linger: Very smoky on the roof of the mouth, and peat with spice down the gullet. You’ll get hints of sweetness on the tongue. The smoke is very dominant in the finish, but there’s a bitterness under it. The finish is mouth drying, with the whole finish made spicier with a few drops of water.


If you like peat and if you like the Clynelish waxy notes, you’ll love this expression! Needless to say that it shouts quality, it wouldn’t be out there with the Compass Box label had it not been, but this is really a beautiful whisky. Well done, John!

Jan 152015

I’m long overdue on this next series, looking at some of the basic expressions out there on the market. Coming off a series of independent Clynelish bottlings, it’s fitting to start the ‘back to basics’ series with the Clynelish official bottling.

In 1991, United Distillers (later the heart of Diageo) released a series of entry level malts of distilleries not sporting an official bottling, which came to be known as the Flora and Fauna series due to the pictures of plants and animals on the label. Among the 22 distilleries bottled in that first series, was also a 14 year old Clynelish bottling, bearing the Clynelish/Brora Scottish wildcat. In 1997, a vintage 1982 Flora and Fauna cask strength limited edition was released at 57.7% ABV.

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

Besides the Flora and Fauna bottlings, seven expressions were bottled under the Rare Malts Selection label between 1995 and 1998, all between 22 and 24 years of age.

The Flora and Fauna bottling proved so popular, that in 2004 Diageo released an official 14 year old bottling, and later added a Distiller’s Edition, finished in Oloroso Seco casks. Additionally, in 2009 Diageo released a one-off Friends of the Classic Malts 12 year old edition, fully matured in sherry casks.

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

Clynelish 14 (46% ABV)

Appearance: Gold, rather quick legs but a ring remains sending a leg down the glass every so often.

Nose: Waxy lemon, like car wax, honey, clove, baked bread. The waxiness strengthens with time in the glass and some dusty spice appear with notes of honeysuckle.

Palate: Citrus and light spices with pepper, allspice and a light sourness in a full bodied liquid.

Linger: Honey sweetness on the tongue, waxy dryness in the mouth and spice tingles in the throat in a medium and pleasant linger.


To me this is a staple malt in any whisky drinking collection and a basic every day dram. It won’t blow you off your chair, but it will also never disappoint you.





Jan 132015

One of the really fun things about regularly exchanging whisky samples with friends, is the ability to get to some bottlings deep in their collections, those that are no longer available on the market, one-off single casks. In case you snoozed while that very limited supply was sold, it’s gone.

A curious Clynelish bottled in 2001 came in the last exchange with my friend Torben. This is a 12 year old Clynelish matured in a South African sherry butt. Not having heard of whisky in South African sherry butts (or of South African sherry), I was intrigued!

Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

It turns out that South Africa has a serious fortified wine industry (which would make sense, as they have a serious wine industry), and Signatory sourced several casks of which I now know of four bottlings (at 43%, 56%, 58.7% and 59.9% – the one I have here to review), and there have also been bottlings of Mannochmore by signatory in similar casks.

This one is really interesting. This isn’t Oloroso or PX style sherry, rather more of a Fino style cask with the full body of the spirit not only waxy, but oily. There’s also American oak there at work…


Photo Credit:

Photo Credit:

Signatory Clynelish 1989, Distilled 17.5.1989, Matured in a South African Sherry Butt #3240 and Bottled on 24.11.2001, Yield 672 Bottles (58.9% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Gold, very slow rolling small droplets.

Nose: Dusty and balsamic, Fino sherry like. Waxy and oily, heavy spirit on the nose, very coastal without being salty. A layer of honey and dried fruit reveals itself in a combination not in the “regular” profile of a sherry butt. Water brings out more of the sour-ish sherry and makes the honey a lot more pronounced.

Palate: Citrus and sultanas soaked in water, sharp cinnamon (like the concentrate you find in fireball) and pepper with honey. Water reveals a lot of the pepper making it extremely spicy.

Linger: Spices in the back of the throat, some citrus tangyness on the tongue in a medium finish.


This is an interesting dram, and I’d be really happy to try it after a glass of that South African sherry. The oily note is interesting as it usually gets lost in sherry casks. All in all, this is a fun dram. I wonder what it would be like with another 6 years on it….

Thanks Torben, for having such interesting stuff and for sharing!