Thursday, 21 August 2014

Jura - Prophecy

When I first got into the world of whisky I used to look upon other enthusiasts with a little playful envy as social media feeds were often updated with the latest "whisky fairy" delivery of a sample unknown, or some new release previously unseen, and frequently I found myself thinking "will I ever have a mass of samples to look upon?"  

Fast forward about 3 years and now, here I am, slowly amassing my own little collection of sample bottles, and as my whisky blogging continues to grow I hope the collection shall grow with it and then also, in turn, diminish as I send them off to other grateful recipients and so the cycle will continue.

So, what better way to move the blog onward by dipping into one of these samples that I have gratefully received.  As I made my way over to the bookcase, where my collection rests, I simply reached out to the nearest bottle and as I picked it up I was quietly excited to read the label "Jura - Prophecy - 46%"

Jura "Prophecy"
Jura is a distillery I've had some previous experience of, and like most island whiskies I'm rarely disappointed, but the "Prophecy" expression is not one I had encountered before (hence the quiet excitement).  Made from a selection of "old and rare" Jura whiskies this expression is "heavily peated" and matured in Limousin French Oak.  As I've already stated it's bottled at 46% and without chill filtration but I do believe, from various research, that colour has been added.

Like the rest of the core range, this Jura is reasonably easy to get hold of and can sometimes be picked up at a very good price, around Christmas and father's day, so keep your eyes peeled because I think, after having a good taste, that this is a bottle worth getting.  

And on that note, onto my tasting:

Nose - Starts off with little touches of white fruit but that quickly makes way and the peat influence takes over.  This isn't as earthy as most Islay whiskies but more dry fire smoke, specifically peat + wood fire.  Toasted oats and tropical fruit come through with emphasis on banana and pineapple and after about 5 minutes or so the smoke balances out with the fruit almost perfectly.  With a little drop of water the smoke eases and allows a tangy, citrus, perfumed lemon note to appear and after some time a strange sense of creamed rice also shows itself.  That is a new one on me.

Palate - Steady sweet arrival that builds into a heady mix of smoke and peppery spice.  On a second taste the arrival has little nuances of green apple and honey along with other fresh fruits but when the smoke appears it's heavy, intoxicating and very good.  The smoke effect is still most definitely dry smoke and not earthy in the slightest.  The pepper, and now some chilli, remain throughout but never dominate in the slightest and are certainly not harsh.

Finish - In fairness it's a tad lacking in depth but is of good length with more green apple, this time sour, and more smoke.

Jura distillery
Overall this is a impressive whisky that has enjoyed the addition of peat whilst still retaining it's original island character.  It's also extremely well balanced and I would have no hesitation in recommending this to anyone.  With that in mind though, if I had to find any fault then the "Prophecy" could maybe do with another layer or two of depth and complexity but I say this in the knowledge that I really am being overly picky.  This truly is a very good whisky.

Well there you go, another fine whisky sampled and another review posted.  

In the coming weeks I hope to push myself on and jazz things up a bit by heading out into the wider world to bring you all a few updates with the focus on some excellent Irish whiskey destinations, but I shall also be keeping things ticking over by continuing through my army of samples, so stay tuned.

All that's left to say is a massive thank you to Jamie for the awesome sample.  The favour shall be returned.

Until next time,



Monday, 18 August 2014

Linkwood - 18 year old -

Well hello there!!

Those of you who follow my posts regularly will have no doubt noticed that the updates have been a little bit few and far between recently, and for that I do apologise, but powers beyond my control have had me a touch busy over the last 6 weeks or so.

Not to worry though, time is back on my side again and I'm firmly back on the whisky trail, exploring my way through this dramtastic world and bringing it all to you in true Whiskey_Belfast blog update style.

To kick things off I'm heading back to an area visited a couple of months ago and as you have obviously noticed, from the title, I'm back at a bottling.  For those of you not familiar with this website please take a look at the previous update by clicking here and this should get you all up to speed.

This time around I shall be enjoying the delights of Linkwood Distillery.

Based in Elgin, Speyside, and built in 1821, this distillery has enjoyed a rather unnoticed history.  A few closures and even fewer official releases have resigned this dram to the long list of "blend fillers" and this could be where it gathers the majority of any fame it has, as it's most noticeably used in the make up of Johnnie Walker.

Linkwood Distillery
In 2008, current owners, Diageo allowed some scope by releasing some aged stock but it remains to be seen what the future holds for this distillery.

Taking all that into consideration don't be fooled into thinking that this whisky is anything less than decent.  In fairness I have no experience of this dram but was pleasantly surprised by what I found when sampling this offering bottled by  

As with all bottlings this has had only basic filtration to remove large lumps of cask and there's obviously no colour added.  This particular bottling was distilled in 1995 and bottled in 2013 at a strength of 51.2%.

Nose - Not your typical sherried Speysider.  White fruit, green apple, grapefruit, lemon drops, grainy biscuit.  Can sense the 51.2% with peppery heat.  A slight green / herbal note appears to give the whole experience a great freshness to it.  Just hiding, in the background, is a old wood note but it's so subtle that you could easily miss it.  With water the biscuit and grain becomes more obvious.

Palate - WOW!!  That is hot!!  Fighting through the heat an intense zing comes through.  As the alcohol settles the fruit comes back.  More lemon, nice dusty aged notes hiding within green apple.  Sour apple sweets, sweet malt, very juicy and not drying.  With water this dram becomes unbelievably balanced working it's way between age, fruit and malt.

Finish - Good length and still fruity.

Overall this is one highly enjoyable glass of whisky and one that you could spend an age with.  As with each bottling I've tried there is always a string alcoholic nip that undoubtedly comes from the presentation but when you allow them to settle and give them time and respect the whisky experience is utterly rewarding.

Well that's me back and stayed tuned as the updates shall be coming thick and fast....I've certainly plenty of drams to keep me busy.

All that's left is for me to give a HUGE shout of thanks to @MashtunandMeow who kindly supplied me with this fine sample.  If you happen to be on Twitter then I highly recommend you check them out for some excellent views on food, beer and fine spirits....with an occasional cat thrown in for good measure!!  Cheers guys!!

Until next time, 



Friday, 4 July 2014

Four Arran Whiskies (and 1 New Make) - Tweet Tasting Review

Those of you who follow me at @Whisky_Belfast will have no doubt noticed, on Monday evening past, my involvement in the latest fantastic tweet tasting to be hosted by Steve Rush from

This was the second tweet tasting to have been held in conjunction with Arran Distillery and having followed the first with envious eyes and salivating taste buds I was eagerly anticipating getting stuck into the 4 generous samples that were kindly provided by Arran themselves.

The moment the samples arrived at my door I was even more excited to see that they were accompanied by a small hessian bag that contained some malted barley, grist and........NEW MAKE!!!!!!!  A real treat indeed.

As I had admitted before, on a review of the Robert Burns Single Malt which can be found by clicking here, I have had very little experience of this distillery but at the same time I felt that the Robert Burns gave a good insight into the potential character of the distillery, hinting at a great spirit being aided by excellent casks.  Surely I wasn't to be disappointed on this evening?  Not a chance.

I shall quickly preview each sample before moving onto tasting notes for each:

Arran - New Make spirit

What else can I say other than this is, obviously, newly distilled spirit which comes in at a whopping 68% ABV.

Nose - Clove rock sweets, sweet malty raisins, rich and sumptuous, some stewed berries and with a little water a more cereal note comes through.

Palate - For the strength on show it is incredibly smooth and rich.  Dark dried fruits and more clove rock sweets dominate.

Finish - Evaporates at light speed off the tongue but is very tasty with sweet red apples.

Arran - 10 year old

Bottled at 46% ABV, without colour and non-chill filtered this is the latest release of their core bottling and is made with a mix of 80% bourbon barrels and 20% sherry hogsheads.

Nose - Lemon biscuits, fresh grassy note, light honey, buttery with mint / menthol through the background. More clove rock sweets that were found on the new make and with this the spirit style is evident here.

Palate - Sweet arrival, vanilla, more zingy lemon and now some orange. Initial warmth dissipates quickly to show some red fruit and red apples. With water the experience becomes sweeter.

Finish - Nice length, fruity, juicy and moreish.

This is a lovely light, fresh, summery whisky and obviously similar to the Robert Burns malt.

Arran - 17 year old

This is the last release in a trilogy counting down to the launch of the 18 year old in 2015.  The oldest official bottling from the distillery at the time of release, this was matured exclusively in ex-sherry hogsheads, bottled at 46% ABV and non-chill filtered with no colour added.

Nose - Tropical, banana on toast, orange, some more grassy elements but now accompanied with some perfume / floral notes.  Honey and mint with gentle pineapple.  The sherry cask has worked wonders with this and with some water an old woodiness appears.

Palate - Sweet red berries, red apple, warming spices, stem ginger, all spice, dark chocolate and stewed orange.  Fruit cake with lashings of butter and with water the spice reduces and the dark dried fruit influence increases.

Finish - Long, lingering, juicy and rich.

Fantastic dram with great range of flavours going on.  The balance between spirit and cask is near perfect.  Here's to the 18 year old when it arrives.

Arran - The Devil's Punchbowl III

In short the Devil's Punchbowl Series is a trilogy which started in summer 2012 and will conclude in 2014.  It is a blend of some of the finest Arran casks with this one having no peat influence but some influence of French barriques.  Bottled at 53.4% ABV, without colour or chill filtration this, last concluding bottle of the trilogy, shall be available very soon.  For a greater insight into this I shall add a link below.

Nose - Earthy and vegetal before sherry notes take over.  Xmas cake, mixed spice, creme brûlée, sweet orange marmalade.  Still tropical with banana and coconut.  Salted caramel and sweet & salted popcorn also make an appearance.

Palate - Intense spice, sweet malt and red fruit.  With water a more exotic waxy feel arrives with peppermint, clove and pepper.

Finish - Long and lip smacking.

To be honest, while this is again an extremely well made whisky, it's not quite my cup of tea.  A wee bit rough around the edges and a touchy spicy but as with all whiskies this may simply be a dram that you need to take your time with as you can still see certain qualities within.

Arran - Miss Black  

Bottled at 51.6% ABV this, distillery only bottling, is now completely sold out with your only chance of getting your hands on this awesome whisky being a constant trawl through the various auction sites out there.  This cask was specially selected by the Arran Distillery visitor centre manager Faye to celebrate her wedding.  Bottled at cask strength this sherry hogshead is just under 17 years old.

Nose - Rich, cocoa, coffee, stewed orange, banana, spicy coffee cake, brown sugar syrup, pineapple chilli jam, slight rubbery note (but not bad at all).  Moves effortlessly into rich red fruits, sweet tobacco / cigar, loads of dried fruit and with water it becomes more exotic with dark chocolate coffee creams......FANTASTIC STUFF!!!!

Palate - Sweet, rich and very, very smooth.  Dusty leather, dark chocolate, woody coffee, dried fruit and red fruit.  Stewed orange, chocolate orange and an amazing balance of sweet fruit and spice.  ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS!!  

Finish - To be honest this one is a little short compared to the others but I simply do not care.

This is easily one of the best whiskies I have ever tried.  Amazing complexity and balance throughout and one which delivers on nearly every level.  Such a terrible shame it's no more.  I for one shall be keeping an eye on the auction sites.

Well, there you go, that is me now well and truly acquainted with Arran and I have to say, I've been missing out.

Once again a huge thanks to Steve Rush at where anyone can apply to join in the fun of the tweet tastings.  It's a truly great way to experience fantastic whiskies and meet fantastic people.  A huge thanks also to Arran distillery for producing fantastic whisky and being generous enough to share it with us all.

As with all of my updates further, relevant links can be found below.

Until next time,



The Whisky Wire -

The Whisky Wire Twitter -

Arran Whisky - The Devil's Punchbowl -

Friday, 27 June 2014

Midleton - Very Rare 2014

Since taking over from Barry Crockett in March 2013, as master distiller of Midleton Distillery in Country Cork, I'm sure Brian Nation has already experienced many a high but I'm also quite sure that overseeing the upcoming release of his first bottling of the iconic Midleton Very Rare will be a moment that he treasures for years to come.

Launched in 1984 the Midleton Very Rare is a yearly release of 50 exceptional casks that have been handpicked by the master distiller and blended together to showcase all that the distillery has to offer.  This exclusivity and personal touch ensured that, from the first release, the Midleton Very Rare was to be revered and cherished.  An iconic status soon followed and now these bottles are sought out all over the world to be placed as a star asset in many a whiskey drinker's collection.  

All vintages are still available out there but be ready to pay a hefty price for the early releases with the Celtic Whiskey Shop, in Dublin City, offering the first release for a wallet beating €899.99.  Incidentally the very same shop can offer all of the 30 releases that have ever been released....up to this date.

And it is with this statement that I shall move onto the, soon to be released, 31st vintage - Midleton Very Rare 2014.

A good few weeks ago I arrived home to find yet another Dublin post stamped parcel lying in my hallway and upon seeing this amongst the other nonsense, that had been posted that day, I instantly became utterly excited as I knew that this little package of joy contained yet another sample from "The Celtic Whiskey Club".  Needless to say I was over the moon when I opened it to find a sample of the latest Midleton Very Rare neatly hiding within. 

For a little more insight into the whiskey itself it's worth pointing out that all Midleton Very Rare releases are a blend of the many styles of pot still whiskey made at Midleton Distillery along with some older grain whiskey.  The whiskey is matured in 1st fill bourbon casks which allows this to be regarded as one of the smoothest Irish whiskeys available.  With regards to age many age ranges are used, starting from around 12 years old all the way up to just under 30 years old.  

This particular bottling is bottled at 40% ABV.

As with all "Celtic Whiskey Club" samples a date and time is set aside for all lucky members to come together, via Twitter, for a "tweet tasting" and this particular tasting took place on Wednesday 25th June.  If you're quick you can still check out the tweets from the night via the hashtag #midleton14.

Here's my tasting notes:

Nose - Tropical with banana, mild orange and a nice underlying sweetness.  Unmistakably Irish and unmistakable pot still notes.  Initially the wood is understated but towards the end a distinct wood sap note appears which also gives a slight green / herbal feel to the whiskey.  Toffee and creme brûlée come through with the sweetness yet at the same time a lovely peppery spice sits in the background.  There's a great balance here between fruit, spice and sweetness.

Palate - Sweet, brown sugar, arrival.  Very, very smooth.  Pepper and ginger take over then give way to a green herbal note which feels more vegetal.  The fruit then starts to show with more banana, orange and now lemon juice.  Then after a few tastes the vegetal note turns back to the distinct wood sap that was found on the nose.  Very nice indeed.

Finish - Decent length with more fresh fruit and a tingling of ginger and clove all over the mouth.

Overall this is an impressive dram and an excellent start to the Brian Nation era of Midleton Very Rare.  The whiskey is balanced perfectly and the casks used have been particularly excellent with clearly a fair amount of life in them to deliver a wood sap note I've only ever experienced before in virgin oak matured whiskey.  

Long may his reign continue.

Thanks, once again, to the Celtic Whiskey Club and the Celtic Whiskey Shop for sourcing such a wonderful sample to enjoy.  I for one shall be renewing my membership when the time comes.

As always you can find some relevant links below.

Until next time,



Celtic Whiskey Shop -

Celtic Whiskey Club - Facebook Page -

Celtic Whiskey Club - Twitter Page -

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Belfast City Airport - Duty Free

On a recent trip to England I had the delightful pleasure of flying out of the George Best - Belfast City Airport and had an opportunity to browse through the whisky selection within duty free.

Now any of you who have flown out of this airport will know that it is not exactly up there with Heathrow in terms of size, choice of shops or facilities but as far as a lowly Northern Ireland airport goes the whisky selection is not too bad at all.

As you edge through duty free, towards the magical shelves, the first thing that strikes your eye is a "2 for £70" offer on selected bottles.  At the time of writing this the bottles in this offer included - 

Aberlour 12yr 
Ardmore - Traditional Cask
Auchentoshan - Springwood
Benromach 10yr
Chivas Brother's Blend
Drambuie 15yr
Glen Garioch - Founder's Reserve
Glenrothes - Robur Reserve
Highland Park - Einar
Jura - Superstition
Old Pulteney - Noss Head
Woodford Reserve

In addition they have a "2 for £60" offer on Johnnie Walker - Double Black.

With each bottle being 1 litre in size I'm sure you'll all agree that £35 a bottle for any of these (or £30 a bottle of Double Black) is good value indeed.  I am of course saying this in the knowledge and recognition that the majority of these are NAS whiskies but when you are hindered by a small number of quality whisky shops, in Belfast, I feel these represent good value to try something a little different.

Looking elsewhere along the shelves you will find more duty free exclusives from distilleries such as Talisker, Glenfiddich, Bowmore, Glenlivet amongst others.

For those of you wishing to sample a dram from a little closer to where you are flying from they have a decent selection of Irish whiskies with Bushmills and Jameson represented well alongside standard bottlings of Tyrconnell, Connemara, Greenore, Kilbeggan and Tullamore Dew.  The only real exclusive of note amongst these was a Jameson Signature Reserve.

Lastly I'll also make mention of the service that is provided for those of you who wish to avail of these offers but are flying away on a short trip and don't want to have to carry a couple of bottles of whisky around with you on your trip.  If this is a worry then you can buy as much as you like and allow the airport to securely store these for you where you can collect them upon your return to Belfast. 

All in all I feel, that amongst a limited market, the duty free at Belfast City Airport is an extra outlet that can sometimes be overlooked and should maybe be considered more often for a chance to expand your whisky collection.

Until next time,



"World of Whiskies" website with more info on bottles and offers -

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Caperdonich - 17 year old -

After the fun of reviewing the Big Peat tweet tasting last week I thought it was time to start working my way back through my collection and with this I decided it was time to get into two specific bottles that I had bought a while back from

Set up by Martin Armstrong, is a company that was set up to source and sell casks of whisky to enthusiasts and clubs wishing to purchase larger quantities of whisky at cheaper prices per bottle.  In addition they also bottle a few more mature whiskies for anyone only wanting a bottle or two.

Obviously being only a lowly individual blogger I'm more suited to purchasing from, and commenting on, the individual bottles they have for sale.

A quick scan down through the online shop will show that they have a fine range range of whiskies available.  Most regions are covered with an excellent selection of ages and all bottled at very good prices.  Most are bottled at natural cask strength with all having no added colour and only lightly filtration to remove large particles of wood sediment.

Last year I made my first purchases from this site, treating myself to two types of whiskies I had yet to enjoy owning, a bottle from a closed / demolished distillery and a bottle of a decent age.  It is the first of these bottles that I shall be reviewing today.

First built in 1898, Caperdonich was originally known as Glen Grant #2 after being opened by the founders of Glen Grant distillery.  In it's initial form it only managed to last 4 years before being closed until 1965.  When re-opened it's name was changed to Caperdonich and in 1967 two steam heated pot stills were added to the distillery.  

Pernod Ricard bought the distillery in 2001 before closing it in 2002 and in 2010 the distillery was demolished for good.  

In it's heyday it was a component of some of the blends manufactured by Chivas Regal and in 2005 it's only official bottling was released which was a cask strength sixteen year-old.

The bottle I obtained from was, as stated, a 17 year old that was distilled on 13th May 1995 before being bottled on 14th February 2013.  It is a single cask bottling that has been bottled at 55.0% ABV and the further information states that this is a third release of 220 bottles coming from hogshead number 95068.

Onto my notes:

First thing I would like to say about this whisky is that it took a good 6 months and half a bottle to allow this whisky to settle down.  When first opened this was unbelievably feisty and struggled to show it's true character but it has now managed to relax itself down enough for me to get to grips with it.

Nose - When first poured this whisky coats the glass beautifully.  If without an ABV you would be in doubt that this was very strong in alcohol due to the liquid being thick and syrupy.  With a little time in a glass we start to get properly into the flavours.  Orange, clove, coconut, wood vanilla, menthol and bags of butter dominate.  There's some serious, sugary, sweetness going on, presumably from the malt, along with some mashed banana and red apple.  This is a real fruity number when given time.  With a good blast of water the nose becomes even more buttery with perfume and a strange zing that I can't quite put my finger on, maybe sherbet.  

Palate - Chokingly hot!!! Chewing through the alcohol drys the mouth out to extreme levels but if you work with it the fruit on the nose eventually shows through.  More orange and apple with hints of pear.  Still very sweet and creamy but hard to pin any other flavours down due to the intense alcohol.  With water the dram does become softer and in fact it can take a serious amount of water which does allow the fruitiness to take over.

Finish - Numbing with final finishes of fresh fruit.

Overall this is a great experience.  In my opinion this distillery had some amazing flavours within it's spirit which appear to have been outdone, in this instance, by a bad cut of alcohol / a poor cask being used.  I think the way this has been bottled is completely perfect as it allows you to see, naturally, the good and bad points of this distillery.  Without doubt I'm enjoying working my way through this whisky and it's certainly not one you can taste once and drink through quickly.  It takes time and patience to allow it to gradually open up along with a bit of experimentation with water to see how to best to extract all those flavours hidden deep within.

As far as my opinion of goes it is easily my favourite site to purchase whisky from due to its excellent range, style of bottling and fantastic prices.  Where else would I get a 17 year old demolished distillery and a 29 year old single malt for a little over £100.

In case you all fancy getting yourselves over to pick up a special bottle or two I've included a few links to below.

Until next time,



Whiskybroker main site -

Whiskybroker Twitter -

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Ardbeg - 23 year old - Director's Cut - Douglas Laing

Well here we are, the final update from the Big Peat tweet tasting that has taken over a good chunk of the whisky blogging world over the course of the last week.  As the previous four updates have shown Douglas Laing treated all those taking part to some absolutely stunning drams and the last one was no exception.

For the final sample of the evening we were privileged to have in our hand an unreleased single malt from none other than Ardbeg, arguably the most popular distillery on Islay.

Coming from Douglas Laing's "Director's Cut" range this was a 23 (YES 23!!) year old Ardbeg which was bottled at 53.1% ABV.  Other information provided stated that this was from a single cask which yielded 114 bottles and that the spirit was distilled in 1991 before being bottled in 2014.

Seeing as all whiskies were revealed after we had tasted them we all were absolutely stunned to learn that this was from Ardbeg.  Usually known for it's big peaty notes this Ardbeg just blew us away with it's stunning flavours and deep complexity.  As I nosed the whisky  the peat didn't arrive and as a result it reminded me a lot of the new Balblair '90 vintage which I previously reviewed here.

Onto the notes:

Nose - Tropical beyond belief. Banana, pineapple, coconut deep orange, bubblegum, banana on toast.  Banoffee pie and slight touches of blackcurrant cordial.  With time the age begins to show itself with distinct notes of sweet tobacco and leather dustiness.  Truly amazing.

Palate - Sweet, fruity with huge blackcurrant, strawberry, raspberry and in fact all berries seem to be present.  More tropical banana with definitely more of the old dustiness hiding within the whisky.  The strength is perfect, not too much at all and allows the spirit to completely open up in the mouth.

Finish - Long, lingering and completely fantastic!! Old and rich fruit combine with great wood spice complexity.  Totally moreish.  

Overall this is simply out of this world.  In my opinion this is very un-Islay like but still breathtakingly brilliant.  The fruitiness from the spirit has combined so perfectly with the cask to produce one of the finest drams I've ever had the pleasure to sample.  The fact that this comes from Ardbeg just impressed me even more.   It just goes to show that they don't always need to mess around with fancy, sometimes gimmicky, releases and instead they should treat us all to these utterly gorgeous whiskies that are lying dormant around their warehouses.  If they don't then thank goodness we have Douglas Laing who will.

Incidentally, if you wish to get your hands on this whisky you had best save up and keep your eyes on "Master of Malt".  With the price still to be confirmed I can only imagine this will cost a pretty but believe me it's worth it.

As with the last four updates, all relevant links can be found below.

Well that is that.  All five drams sampled and reviewed and I'm sure you can all agree what a set of whiskies they were.  

All I shall finish with is to once again thank Douglas Laing, "Big Peat himself" and of course Steve Rush at @TheWhiskyWire for this amazing opportunity.  I can highly recommend to any new whisky fans, or experienced connoisseurs, to get themselves onto Twitter and check out @TheWhiskyWire.  The tastings that Steve Rush manages to set up are nothing short of fantastic.  Thanks to social media, @TheWhiskyWire allows us all, experienced or not, to get involved in the world of whisky while making new friends, expanding our knowledge and trying some of the best drams around.  Can't argue with that.

Until next time,



The Whisky Wire -

The Whisky Wire Twitter -