Free Stuff – Dalmore

The Dalmore

Here’s the question…

The head of a stag appears on every bottle of The Dalmore. Which Scottish king gave the Mackenzie family the right to display the stag head?

UPDATE: Rebecca & David both had the right answer, but Rebecca didn’t want the hat. So David is the proud owner of the Dalmore hat. They both answered:

King Alexander III 

Remember the rules:

  • Be the first person to email me the answer to the question.
  • You can only win if you have not won "Free Stuff" before.
  • Include your Postal/Zip Code.
  • I will notify the winner and let you know the shipping cost.
  • I will NOT notify you if you did not win.
  • The winner must respond with payment within 48 hours, or the offer goes to the next person who responded.
  • Payment is by PayPal only.
  • No hat substitutions.

Omaha Nebraska event

Apparently, a whisky bar in Omaha Nebraska has the largest selection of single malts in the U.S. At least that’s what Monique Huston, the general manager of Dundee Dell tells me via email.

I am the General Manager of a wonderful single malt bar in Omaha, NE. We boast the largest selection of open bottles in the country (530 and counting!).

We offer at least two single malt tastings per month (first Sunday of each month at 4:00 PM and the following Thursday at 7:00 PM). In July, the tastings are July 2 and 6, featuring independent distilleries.

I would like to extend an invitation to you and your readers to attend any and all.

Our annual Mega Tasting is Sunday, August 6th at 3:00 PM and features Bowmore Black, Glenfarclas 1961, Bruichladdich Valinch, and the Glenmorangie Claretwood (to name a few). The event is $100 per person

Monique Huston

If you live in the Omaha, Nebraska vicinity, please check out Dundee Dell and report back. If you run into Warren Buffett tell him I said "hi".

Dundee Dell
5007 Underwood Avenue
Omaha, NE

Balvenie Single Barrel

Reader Alan Lazerow had some questions about Balvenie Single Barrel:

What is the bottling process for a "single barrel" Scotch (ie, the Balvenie 15)? Obviously, since it’s not cask strength, they can’t just pop a tap into the barrel…correct?

I’m assuming that they run it through the dilution and filtration process by itself (ie with no other casks)….sounds expensive.

Why the decision to bottle at at a higher ABV as opposed to the more standard 40-46%? I just assumed that they only bottled at higher % than 46% when doing a cask strength….

Finally – why call it a single barrel, and not single cask? I thought single barrel was mainly used for bourbons…

Ian Millar, Chief Brand Ambassador for Balvenie & Glenfiddich, gives us the following answers:

The bottling process is simple, the barrel is removed from warehouse and transferred up to the bottling line, where it is decanted into a break tank using a small a pump.

In the break tank it is reduced to about 48% ABV. One barrel is too little in volume to chill filter – for chill filtration you would need a minimum of 12 barrels to make it worth your while – the equipment requires at least 4 barrels just to fill it up. The whisky is then pumped through two carbon in-line filters into the bottling filler heads – I told you it was simple.

We reduce to 48% as below 46% it would be cloudy. 48% also offers us the best starting point for tasting this whisky – but allows the buyer to add further water to meet personal tastes.

A cask can be an: American Oak Barrel at 185 litres, a Hogshead at 250 litres or a European Oak Butt at 500 litres. A Hogshead is used more often than not for our Single Barrel – and always American Oak, hence the slightly different taste from the usual Balvenie.

Why "Barrel"? The word cask covers all types of maturation wood and therefore fairly generic, "Single Barrel" is more appropriate and is less confusing with Cask Finish.

If you have any questions about Glenfiddich or Balvenie you can ask Ian directly at the Glenfiddich Blog, co-written with Global Brand Ambassador Ludo Ducrocq.

New York

I’ll be leaving for New York in a few hours (unless these East Coast storms put a stop to travel plans).

If you happen to be in New York, you may want to stop by The Brandy Library for tonight’s Spirit School which will feature an “Introduction to Scotch” seminar. The school is run by Ethan Kelley, BL’s very knowledgable Spirit Sommelier.

Eight Scotch Whiskies will be poured, paired with canapés.

Please call us to reserve – 212-226-5545. Seminars run for $80 per person, $40 for members.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006 starting at 6:30 p.m.
The Brandy Library
25 N Moore Street
New York, New York 10013

I’ll likely run by Brandy Library sometime tonight, so if you are around, say "hi" and have a drink with me.


New graphic?

You may have noticed that the old The Scotch Blog graphic was reminiscent of a Balvenie label. It had always been my plan to occasionally swap out the graphic with other whisky labels. This weekend was the first chance I actually set aside some time to get around to it.

There’s a story that goes along with the new graphic.

A few months ago, I told John Glaser (Compass Box Whisky) that he should name his next whisky "Coelacanth".

"Why?" said John.

"Because" I told him "Most people can’t pronounce the name of your whiskies as it is – and this would just fit in."

What did I mean by that?

  • Eleuthera (pronounced Eh-loo-thuh-rah)
  • Asyla (It’s Uh-sy-lah, though I’ve heard it called Ah-see-la)
  • Hedonism The word is pronounced He-donism [with a long ‘e’], though I’ve heard some people pronounce it Head-onism)
  • Orangerie (Is it pronounced with a faux french accent as Au-ron-ger-ee or the more straight-forward Orange-er-ie?)

While I don’t think John will ever use the name Coelacanth for one of his whiskies, if he does you’ll know where the idea came from :). In the meantime, I mocked up what I thought a Coelacanth whisky label by Compass Box might look like. And that’s the story.

By the way, a Coelacanth (pronounced "see-lah-canth") is a species of fish believed to have been extinct since the end of the Cretaceous period — until a live specimen turned up off
the east coast of South Africa in 1938. Today they can be found in the Comoros, Sulawesi (Indonesia), Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Madagascar and the St. Lucia Marine Protected Area in South Africa.

Getting a free year’s worth

A few months back, I told you that the majority of available Bruichladdich 10 year old is actually 12 years old.

Well, it turns out that Macallan 17 year old Fine Oak is actually an 18 year old. Rumor has it that it was believed that having two 18 year olds old on the market might cause some confusion. Calling it a 17 year old apparently alleviates the fear of confusion. I should also note that in Europe, it is marketed as an 18 year old.


Another Malt Whisky t-shirt siting

Laager and Limehouse, is an online comic book. The characters in the comic book are usually rendered wearing t-shirts gathered from around the Internet.

It was pointed out to me that in one issue Bell, one of the main characters, was "wearing" one of the sold-out "Malt Whisky" t-shirts which I had produced to promote The Scotch Blog. The author of the comic sent me this "photo" of Bell.

Mine, All Mine

On Friday June 22, 2006 Bruichladdich released the following press release

Mined over Matter

The Royal Navy’s bomb disposal team have delivered a mine to a west coast distillery.

Some months ago Lieutenant Commander John Law and his elite Northern Diving Group were called out to deal with the small matter of a World War II mine found on a beach close to Bruichladdich distillery on the Isle of   Islay.

Once the mine had been safely detonated, the team was invited by Bruichladdich Distillery Manager Duncan MacGillivray, a member of the Coastguard team in attendance, for a dram to ‘steady the nerves’. 

“After the CIA, the Yellow Submarine – the Bomb Squad turning up at the distillery was all we needed”  recalls Managing Director Mark Reynier, on seeing the Bomb Disposal convoy pull in to the  courtyard.

“When I realised there was no danger of imminent disaster, I asked if we could have our very own mine in the distillery’s courtyard  for fundraising –  and the Northern Diving Group were only too happy to help us out.”

The giant Mk 17 World War II buoyant mine – provided by the mine team at the Defence Munitions Centre in Crombie – stands more than six feet tall including it’s sinker, weighs one tonne and is topped with some rather noticeable orange paint – making it really stand out from the crowd.

It has a collection box attached to the front to raise money for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution – a charity at the heart of the community of Islay, which is home to one of the west coast’s largest and busiest lifeboats.

Lieutenant Commander John  Law, Warrant Officer Steve Strange and Australian Navy exchange diver Brad Eames attended the Bruichladdich Open Day during the 2006 Islay festival to deliver and formally present  the mine.

“It’s actually great to be able to do something like this,” said John. “The RNLI is a most worthwhile cause, with its volunteer men and women risking their lives at sea around our coasts.

“The Northern Diving Group has been delighted to supply this mine which will hopefully raise loads of cash for the charity. We were made to feel incredibly welcome and will, no doubt, pop in next time we’re over on an emergency call out.”

Last year the distillery had a run-in with the Ministry of Defence over a special bottling “Bruichladdich’s Yellow Submarine”, an on-going reminder of the embarrassing incident concerning the loss of a mine-clearing submarine.

Some claim this mine, donated by the M.O.D, may not be disarmed after all…

Interestingly, I was at Bruichladdich when the mine was delivered (the day before Bruichladdich day) – I got to enjoy a celebratory dram with Mark Reynier, Simon Coughlin, Jim McEwan, Andrew Gray and the members of the bomb squad. I was also the first person to use the mine to make a donation to the RNLI. Pictures below.

Free Stuff – Macallan

The Macallan

Here’s the question…

Name this house – the "spiritual home of The Macallan"

UPDATE: Lamar H. from Atlanta Georgia was the first to answer.

The spiritual home of the Macallan Single Malt is Easter Elchies
, seen on the label of the Macallan.

But don’t fear, Macallan fans! – I have a small stack of Macallan hats, and they will be distributed over the next few months.

In case you haven’t noticed the pattern, the hat give-a-away takes place at 9:00 AM (EST) on Fridays. Come back next week (and the week after and the week after) for another chance to get a free hat.

Remember the rules:

  • Be the first person to email me the answer to the question.
  • You can only win if you have not won "Free Stuff" before.
  • Include your Postal/Zip Code.
  • I will notify the winner and let you know the shipping cost.
  • I will NOT notify you if you did not win.
  • The winner must respond with payment within 48 hours, or the offer goes to the next person who responded.
  • Payment is by PayPal only.
  • No hat substitutions.

Who doesn't love Highland Park?

…Someone who hasn’t tried it yet.

Let’s talk about Highland Park

There are currently five standard
Highland Park bottlings – a 12 ($47), 15 ($60), 18 ($100), 25 ($269) and a
30 ($350, a special limited-time price – normally $380)*

There are differences in the younger Highland Parks that transcend
the time spent in cask – both the 12 year old and the 18 year old are
the products of approximately 10% bourbon casks and 90% sherry casks, with 40-50% of the sherry casks being first fill. Both expressions have dried fruit flavors (raisins) with spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves) and the expected sweet toffee and sherry flavors. The 18 is less peaty than the 12, but you can taste the connection between the two. I prefer the 18 year old.

The recently introduced 15 year old, on the other hand, is more than
just a price point between the 12 and 18 – being the product of roughly
50% sherry cask and 50% bourbon casks. As a result the 15 is a very
different whisky than its younger and older siblings – with more
vanilla, citrus and floral flavors than the 12 and 18. Quite tasty.

The 25 year old is produced from 10% bourbon casks and 90% sherry casks, with 55% of the sherry casks being first fill. Dried fruit – more wood – and after 25 years in wood the peat has been overwhelmed by the other rich flavors in the cask. It is full bodied and surprisingly bright for something so long in the cask. 50.7% ABV.

The 30 year old, introduced just last year, has a higher percentage of bourbon cask whisky in the mix, and the result is more distinct vanilla notes than the 25, and quite a bit more mellow. – 48.1% ABV.

If you haven’t tried Highland Park, you should as soon as possible. Highland Park consistently makes the top ten list of whisky lovers
around the world, and has won numerous awards and accolades within the industry – with good reason – it is an incredible whisky.

Let’s talk about cask 3262

This past Wednesday I traveled to Washington DC to attend a dinner & tasting
to celebrate the imminent release of a very limited bottling of
Highland Park.

The tasting was led by the entertaining Caspar MacRae, brand ambassador for The Macallan – sister distillery of Highland Park – and included all of the Highland Park expressions mentioned above.

The Wine Specialist
(a Washington DC purveyor with the best
selection of Single Malts in the DC metro area) commissioned Highland
Park for a special single cask/cask strength bottling – the choice was
cask 3262 – a second fill sherry oak cask. Distilled in 1981 and bottled (very recently) in 2006, this 25 year old
yielded 84 bottles at 47.9% ABV. Very rich and intense, sweet with citrus, florals, and lots of spice. A hint of salt and a hint of smoke.

There are now only 83 bottles in existence as one bottle was ravenously devoured by the dinner guests.

Now here is the kicker – the Wine Specialist 25 year old single cask/cask strength bottling is going for $219 – not only is it less expensive than the standard 25, but in my estimation it is even better.

My sources tell me that Highland Park is seriously considering doing away with the single cask bottling program, so who knows how long you have to grab bottling like these.

Only available from The Wine Specialist – Buy one now. (Contact Information below)

Now let’s talk about food

For the "Foodies" out there: the dinner took place at Bobby Van’s Steakhouse and was absolutely fantastic. All of the course were created using single malt scotch, and each course was accompanied by one of the Highland Park expressions.

Appetizers: Smoked Salmon with Horseradish and Single Malt Jelly; Tuna & Watermelon cubes with a Honey Malt glaze; Chicken skewers with Basil and single malt rub

First Course: Scotch Eggs over a Frezzie of bacon salad with sherry vinegar single malt dressing

Second Course: Mango & Walnut single malt sorbet

Main course: Braised short ribs of beef; Stuffed tomato confit of eggplant with single malt scotch demi-glaze

Dessert: Single malt creme brulee

The Wine Specialist
2115 M St. NW
Washington DC 
Toll Free: (800) 832-0704   
Phone: 202-833-0707   
Fax: 202-833-9507   
Hours: Mon – Sat, 10 – 9

Bobby Van’s Steakhouse
1201 New York Avenue
Washington, DC
Phone: 202-589-1504

* prices from The Wine Specialist

Expensive? Worth It!

Cimg0539 There are many great distillery tours in Scotland (and a few not so great) but if you only have time for one (or if your companion needs to get a crash course in the whisky-making process), then you need only go on one tour; the tour of The Balvenie Distillery.

Though it is likely the most expensive tour (£20) you will ever go on, it’s also the most complete – Balvenie is the only distillery (that I’m aware of) with both it’s own maltings and working cooperage.

What you DO get to see is worth the fee. It’s an exclusive tour – reservations are required; and limited to 8 participants. As such, you are likely – though not guaranteed – to be on the tour with more seasoned folks – and less likely to be dragged down by a bus load of octogenarians asking for a glass of wine at the conclusion.

We had the good fortune to have Deborah Stewart show us around on her last day doing tour duty. Deb was fantastic. It’s obvious that she knows her stuff and has not simply memorized the tour guides’ script. Plus, she was just plain fun.

The Tour
You start out at the Glenfiddich visitor center (in case you were not aware, Balvenie and Glenfiddich are both owned by William Grant, and lie on adjacent properties) and await the arrival of your guide. You also get to feel superior – while the common-folk are herded into the a theater for the start of the Glenfiddich tour, you suit up in a lovely yellow vest  – showing that you are one of the privileged few.

After a quick walk over to the original Balvenie distillery manager’s office, you are seated in a comfortable sitting room and offered your choice of coffee or tea – as you chat with the tour guide, and hear about your fellow tourees. (Ours were members of a whisky club in Dundee and included their local MP*.) Here, you can relax and compose yourself before setting off on the tour. The distillery manager’s house was recently refurbished and includes beautiful custom wood furniture – the rooms have the feel of a well-appointed, small, yet cozy hunting lodge (minus the animal heads).

After a bit you head off to start the tour.

You begin the tour in the working malting house, where you can see the grain stores, steeping tanks Cimg0498(in our case filled with steeping barley), and the malting floor.

But it doesn’t stop there. We were taken into the kiln house and then then right up into the smoking room – where, fortuitously, a batch of malting barley was in the midst of being dried.

That’s right. Our group got to stand on top of a foot of drying barley as the smoke swirled around us. That’s a unique treat.

Cimg0512 Then we were off to the mill, mash and still rooms. (I’ll skip descriptions of these rooms, since they are standard parts of any tour). I will mention that Ginger,the distillery cat, decided to join us in the Still room. Sadly, Ginger is 18 years old, and, following the recent trend at distilleries, will be the last Balvenie distillery mouser.

We toured one of the more traditional dunnage warehouses, where I was treated to nosing a cask from the year of my birth. Let’s just say that it’s a year which Scottish football fans do not hold in high regard.

We then headed down to the cooperage to see the coopers do their thing – I’m not aware of any other distilleries which have a full working cooperage on-site.

After that, it was back to the distillery manager’s house for a tutored tasting which included Balvenie Founder’s (10), Double Wood (12), Single Barrel (15), PortWood (21), and the 30. To top it all off as a parting gift you receive a 30 ml bottle of the 30.

All in all the tour was almost 3 hours. Not a bit of it boring.

Balvenie also shares an on-site bottling facility with sister distillery Glenfiddich, though unfortunately you won’t get to see that. The only minor gripe I have is that Balvenie merchandise is relegated to a corner of the existing Glenfiddich shop. Fortunately, that is due to be rectified with a planned new shop on the Balvenie Distillery grounds.

Again, at £20, you may think it is expensive. But I’d like to compare it to a free, but wholly disappointing tour experience – the Macallan.

  • It was the one tour that I was not allowed to take any pictures in any of the buildings.
  • We didn’t visit the Mill house as we were told it is a dangerous place (I’ve been in many Mill rooms with no more danger than the occassional sneeze.)
  • The guide, while well-versed in the tour script, had obviously never been to another distillery or exposed to any way of making whisky other than Macallan’s. She told us that people always fall into the traditional wooden washbacks and drown, so this was the reason Macallan used enclosed stainless steel.
  • We did not get to visit any warehouses as we were told that visitors are not allowed in them (we were told that this is a UK law – un-true).
  • The guide had no knowledge of the Macallan product line. I asked her about the Macallan 17 year old Fine Oak – she told me it did not exist – there was only an 18. (the 18 year old is available in the UK and the 17 is available in the US – if you are a tour guide and take many nationalities on tours, shouldn’t you know the product line?)
  • At the end, we were herded back to the shop. She disappeared for a moment into a back room, came back and handed us drams in the middle of the visitor center shop. And then she walked away.
  • The entire tour was on the order of 35 minutes – most of it spent walking.

Sgt20b I did learn that the Macallan stills appear on the back of the Bank of Scotland 10 Pound note.

Of course no one could complain about a free dram of the delicious Macallan 12, but The Macallan, for many, is the Mecca of malt distilleries – so perhaps I expected something more.

On the up side, I did pick up a limited edition 14 year old Easter Elchies – a cask strength bottling; one of only 570; and according to the barman at the Highlander Inn a "real cracker".

The Balvenie Tour

The Balvenie Distillery
Balvenie Maltings
Dufftown, Scotland
AB55 4BB
Telephone: +44 (0) 1340 820 373
   Until Early December
   Monday – Thursday 10am & 2pm
   Friday – 10am only
   Weekends – Closed

Cost: £20

The Macallan Tour
The Macallan Distillers Ltd.,
Easter Elchies, Craigellachie,
Scotland, AB38 9RX
Telephone: +44 (0) 1340 872 280
   Easter – October
      Monday – Saturday 9.30am till 5pm
November – Easter
      Monday – Friday 9.30am till 5pm
      (Last guided tour 3.30pm)

Cost: Free
*That’s Member of Parliament to the non-UK people out there.

Spring Potpourri

Bruichladdich Distillery Academy Dates
I’ve selected Monday September 18th – 21st 2006 for the dates I’ll be attending. The Islay Jazz Festival is taking place the weekend before (September 15-17).

The cost for staying at the Academy house over the weekend is just an additional £35 per person per night and includes breakfast, but you’ll have to find your own evening meal.

For more information:
Bruichladdich Academy Site
Book your spot
Going to the Academy…
(The Scotch Blog story)
Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible
Elsa_whisky_bible Jim Murray’s 2006 Whisky Bible is finally getting easier to find in the US. Except for in my house. After a search for my copy turned up nothing, it turned out that Elsa had claimed it for herself. (I swear this was NOT a posed picture).

For your own copy, purchase through DoceonPress.
The Science & Technologies of Whiskies
Speaking of books on the subject of whisky, Dr. John Piggott (University of Strathclyde) let me know that The Science & Technologies of Whiskies is available once again through after being out-of-print for some time. £53.69

World-wide contributors describe the whisky process in principal industrial practices where they were sufficiently widespread to be of general rather than purely national interest in order to provide an overview of the whisky industry around the world. The chapters cover the science and technology of whiskies from materials to the finished bottle ready for delivery to the consumer. Other secions deal with the cereals in common use, the process of malting and the operations for transforming the malted or unmalted cereal grains into a fermentable extract. Fermentation, distillation, techniques of process control in the distillery, maturation, practices of blending and bottling and it is here, in the blending stage that the differences between whisky processes around the world become most apparent. The final two chapters deal with issues of economic importance to the industry – energy management and by-product treatment and disposal.

Tormore & The French Flag
I noticed that Tormore was proudly flying the Scottish national flag, along with a Pernod-Ricard logo flag. However, I was a little surprised to also see a French flag. I don’t have a problem with this, but it seemed a little strange to me.  Apart from considerations for the "Auld Alliance" does corporate nationalism really have a place in Scotch whisky?

I also wondered what the staff tells curious tourists.

I asked Neil Macdonald, the brand Director for Single Malts for Chivas Bros:

The flags are at all Pernod Ricard sites.  Pernod Ricard is a long term supporter of Scotch whisky since 1974 and France is the world’s biggest whisky market. Pernod Ricard has significantly grown its stake in Scotch both organically by dramatically increasing sales of brands like Aberlour, Clan Campbell, Chivas Regal and by acquisition and subsequent investment. Ultimately we fly the flags because we are proud of our French Parent Company and are delighted to tell visitors about it!


A few months back I set up a new forum called Whisky101 for people to discuss whisky in a friendly open format.

Unfortunately the free software and hosting I was utilizing wasn’t the best, and as a result the forum was unreliable.

Since I still own the Whisky101 URL, I decided to give it another shot. The forum is still available, but now will take you to a list of excellent resources to "Learn More" about whisky – there’s also a link to the forum – in case people are interested in getting it up and running again.

Right now the links are to Tony Dirksn’s Radio Whisky and Mark Gillespie’s WhiskyCast. recommendations for new links are welcome…