The Whisky Mercenary Ledaig 8yo
Tobermory is the only distillery on the beautiful Isle of Mull. It was founded in 1798 under the name Ledaig. The distillery has been alternally called Tobermory and Ledaig throughout its history.

Its present day name is Tobermory but they use both brand names. They distill six months a year a peated spirit under the Ledaig brand and an unpeated spirit for the remainder of the year. This unpeated single malt carries the name Tobermory.

The Whisky Mercenary is the alter ego of the Belgian independent bottler Jürgen Vromans. At the end of 2014 he bottled a young Ledaig as a peaty alternative to the Islay malts that are getting harder to get hold of.

The name 'Ledaig' (to be pronounced as 'let-chick') means 'safe haven' in Gaelic.

Identity Card

  • The Whisky Mercenary Ledaig 2005
  • Tobermory Distillery, Ledaig (Isle of Mull)
  • 8yo single cask
  • 51.3% ABV
  • Distilled in 2005 - bottled in 2014
Tobermory Distillery. Picture: Undiscovered Scotland
Tobermory Distillery. Picture: Undiscovered Scotland

Tasting notes

Colour: White wine. Thin legs reveal themselves after swirling.

Nose: An aroma of vegetal peat immediately fill the room. Forget Airwick or those fancy perfumes. Just poor a dram of this Ledaig. Brine, seaweed and a wet beach. Fruit porridge for adults with vanilla and a shot of rakija. Blue grapes and stewed pears. Sweet paint. What a lovely nose!

Mixed with water you're treated to some wood stain and old pipe tobacco. It gets a bit sweeter over time. Ginger and oranges. Dried apricots and meat sauce. Pink marshmallow and a subtle hint of chlorine.

Taste: A creamy and greasy mouthfeel. Creosote, ash and smoke. A mix of roasted nuts. Very few sweet notes on the palate. Peper and first aid box. Dried black tea.

With water we're back with the sweetness. Pink marshmallows straight from the bonfire. A slightly bitter note of walnuts and coffee grounds. Dark cacao. A chocolate fondue next to a blazing fire.

Finish: The nutty character remains. A long medicinal and warm aftertaste. A shot of espresso.


The Whisky Mercenary Ledaig 2005


Price: €69  (Jurgen's Whiskyhuis)

Most of the Whisky Mercenary's picks are safe blind buys. So is this one. If you know what to expect of young Ledaig, this will not disappoint you. It ticks all the right boxes of an Islay alternative. Look hard and you still might find a bottle of it.

Pictures: The Whisky Mercenary
Douglas Laing revamps its Provenance series. The younger brother of the (Xtra) Old Particular series was first launched in 2004.

The series is a trip through Scotland and is illustrated by a compass. Each region is symbolized by a colour and a distinctive sign.

  • Lowlands: mint green and a tree.
  • Highlands (+ Islands): Purple and a deer
  • Speyside: Red and a salmon
  • Islay: Blue and the Kildalton cross.

Provenance is now part of the "Exceptional Single Casks" brand strategy of Douglas Laing (The other two brands being Old Particular and Xtra Old Particular). This is an accessible but excellent introduction in the world of single cask whiskies with an age between 7 and 14 years old.

The new Provenance series is bottled at 46% alcohol. The first new ones are:
  • Auchentoshan 13 Years Old
  • Benrinnes 11 Years Old
  • Bunnahabhain 8 Years Old
  • Talisker 7 Years Old
  • Aberlour 7 Years Old
  • Allt-a-Bhainne 7 Years Old
  • Balmenach 10 Years Old
  • Craigellachie 7 Years Old
  • Dailuaine 7 Years Old
  • Glenallachie 7 Years Old
  • Inchgower 8 Years Old
  • Macduff 8 Years Old
  • Tamdhu 8 Years Old
  • Mortlach 8 Years Old
Source: Press release Douglas Laing
At the end of 2014 a blend of Karuizawa malt and Kawasaki grain from the 1970's was discovered in a forgotten warehouse up in the cold Hokkaido. To give the spirit a last boost, they recasked the whisky in a Spanish oak ex-Karuizawa cask from the Golden Age (the 1980's). The whisky was carefully monitored so the ABV wouldn't drop below 40%.

This is no ordinary blended whisky but one that has been finished in a single cask from the legendary Karuizawa. 282 bottles of this Time Slip were released on the market yesterday and sold out already.

  • Benromach 35
  • Benromach Distillery, Forres (Speyside)
  • 35 years old
  • 43 % ABV

Benromach launches a 35 year old single malt today. They describe it as "A most satisfying Speysider with cinnamon spice hints and beeswax polish, stewed pear and a delicate charred oak edge."

This rare whisky, dating back to a time before Benromach was restored in the ‘90s, exudes the heritage of the Speyside distillery. Created under the watchful eye of Donald MacDonald, former Distillery Manager, the casks this whisky was matured in have long been a part of the Benromach history. Willie McArthur, former malt man and warehouseman, was one of the workers responsible for protecting the precious casks remaining in the bonded warehouses.

The gorgeous decanter protecting the 35yo whisky comes with a wooden presentation box, reflecting the various elements which have gone into making the whisky; the copper stills, the dark, grained wood of the original washbacks, and the white of the limewashed distillery walls.

The Speyside distillery is one of the most popular among the geek population of the whisky world. Their 10 and 15 years old expressions are much applauded.

Benromach 35

Benromach 35
Back label of the Benromach 35

Tasting notes from Benromach

Colour: Golden amber

Nose: Rich sherry influences with orange marmalade, kiwi and grapefruit aromas, complemented by gorgeous cinnamon spice.

Mixed with water you get sherry influences with honey, blackcurrant and beeswax polish aromas, complemented by a subtle hint of cloves.

Taste: Initially, it is sweet on the palate with honey, fruitcake, ripe banana and melon flavours. Watch out for the smooth white chocolate edge as it develops, combined with a soft menthol note, giving a full body and long and smooth fruity finish.

With water it becomes fabulous combination of white pepper followed by dried tobacco, dewy stewed pear, raisin and zesty orange peel flavours, heightened by a delicate edge of charred oak… the result of lingering for over three decades in oak casks.

Benromach Distillery


Benromach 35 Years Old is available to purchase at specialist whisky retailers with an RRP in the United Kingdom of £425 / €560.

Source and pictures: TTB Online & Benromach
Gordon & Macphail Glen Elgin for Maltclan
The Belgian whisky club Maltclan has national fame for two things: the first is their their annual whisky fest is one of the best in town. A low entry price and high quality official and independent bottlings with knowledgeable people behind the counters.

Second: Their club bottling (from Gordon & Macphail) is always a good VFM whisky. The people at Maltclan usually pick a fruity Speyside cask. This one was already bottled in 2014 and held back to be released in January.

The distillery was designed by Charles Doig, architect of over 50 distilleries and was finished in 1898. Modernisation was introduced very slowly. Until the 1950's they still had an employee to light all the parafine lights. Glen Elgin is one of the main components of the White Horse blend. The other two being Lagavulin and Craigellachie. Glen Elgin was part of the giant DCL that bought White Horse Distillers in 1927.

The only official bottling is a 12 year old single malt that has been rather well received amongst whisky geeks.
Glen Elgin Distillery
The six worm tubs at Glen Elgin distillery. Picture: Scotchwhisky.net
It seems like Highland Park is working on a new whisky called Ice Edition. It is a single malt bottled at cask strength and will be released in a limited edition of 30.000 bottles (maybe not so limited but at least the people at Highland Park give us the numbers.).

And there's something else worth noting: the whisky will have an age statement. It's 17 years old so I'm guessing the price level will be around €110 - €125. But I may be way of the mark with that guess. Only time will tell.
Rock Oyster Cask Strength
25 januari is not only Burn's Night but also national Irish Coffee Day.

The Irish Coffee got its name on a cold winter night in 1943. The pilot of a night flight from Foynes to Newfoundland decided to return to Shannon Int. Airport in southwest Ireland due to severe weather conditions. The airport personnel was called back and chef Joseph 'Joe' Sheridan had to prepare something to warm the weary travellers.

To cheer his guests up, he served them hot coffee with a dash of whiskey and topped it with whipped cream. When one of the guests wanted to thank him and asked if this was Brazilian coffee, Sheridan responded with a joke: "No, this is Irish coffee".

Joseph Sheridan on the the original recipe:
Cream as rich as an Irish brogue; coffee as strong as a friendly hand; sugar as sweet as the tongue of a rogue; and whiskey as smooth as the wit of the land.

Shannon Airport
Shannon Airport received quite some famous people who helped to spread the word.
Celebrities like Marilyn Monroe were often photographed nipping of an Irish Coffee. 

Irish Coffee crossed the Atlantic  to the U.S. with travel writer Stanton Delaplane in 1952. The journalist allegedly introduced the coffee at the Buena Vista Cafe in San Francisco. The bar still exists and served more then 32 million Irish Coffees.

The original Irish Coffee

Ingredients

Serves 1 person. Preparation time: 5 min.

  • 3cl Irish whiskey
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 cup of fresh brewed strong coffee
  • Whipped cream

Preparation

Pre-heat a stemmed glass with hot water. Get rid of the water and add 2 teaspoons of brown sugar. Add the hot strong coffee and stir. Once the sugar is dissolved add a generous tasty dram (4 to 6 teaspoons) of Irish whiskey. Stir again.

Pour (gently!) the whipped cream over the back of a warm tablespoon. Use the tablespoon you used to stir the coffee. That spoon should be warm by now. A perfect Irish Coffee has to resemble another famous drink: Guinness. The cream should neither be too stiff, nor too liquid.

One last thing: Never stir your Irish Coffee. The coffee should be enjoyed as you sip the warm brew through the rich cream.

Everything you need for an Irish Coffee

The two most important ingredients

And done!





Source: nationalirishcoffeeday.com

Peter De Decker, shopkeeper of the Belgian whisky store Anverness laid his hands on a young Islay whisky from Highland Laird last year. This so-called Williamson (Ok, it's a Laphroaig but you didn't get that from me) distilled in 2006 was to become the festival bottling of the annual Antwerp Whisky Festival. Peter is one of the driving forces behind the whisky festal.

The name Williamson is a clear hint to the legendary Elizabeth Leitch "Bessie" Williamson. While on holiday on Islay in the 1930's she responded to an advertisement for shorthand typist at Laphroaig Distillery. She got the position and what started as a temporary stay on the island turned out to be a lifetime. In 1954, after the death of Ian Hunter, she became Distillery Manager and a spokeswoman to the Scottish Whisky Association (SWA).

Bessie Williamson watching the spirit safe with the stillman.
picture: The Making of Scotch Whisky

  • Octomore 7.4
  • Bruichladdich Distillery, Loch Indaal (Islay)
  • 2008 - 7 years old
  • 61.2% ABV
  • Virgin oak casks | 12.000 bottles
Bruichladdich added another chapter to the Octomore range. Edition 7.4 is a virgin oak experiment that was laid down in the Port Charlotte warehouses seven years ago.

The heavily peated spirit from Bruichladdich (a.k.a. Octomore) has a phenol level of 167ppm. Bruichladdich described it as a "what if" project that only a few lucky distillery visitors had been able to taste before today.

What would the combination of smoke-rich Octomore and sweet, honeyed vanilla derived from the great French oak forests of Allier produce?

Octomore has been distilled from Scottish malting barley, peated to the highest levels in the industry and matured in fresh (virgin) oak casks. The new head distiller Adam Hannett already supervised the experiment.

Bruichladdich released 12.000 fancy black bottles at a whopping 61.2% ABV.

Available at the online Laddieshop (They ship to the EU).

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