Whispers of Whisk(e)y returns… Johnnie Walker The Adventurer

Today’s review, which comes after far too long a break, takes a look at another whisky: one from the Johnnie Walker Explorers’ Club Collection, a series inspired by the journeys of those who took Johnnie Walker across the world. Available via travel retail, you might have spotted these as you explored the whisky sections of Duty Free shops.

DTS and I first encountered The Adventurer before a trip to America a couple of years ago and we were a little confused at its store placement: very much apart from the other Explorers’ Club whiskies and with little information available on it. Intrigued, we bought a bottle. That was a few years (and bottles) ago.


On its own

Nose: A saline, almost briney smokiness to start, with notes of tobacco, dry wood chips, and echoes of pineapple. Lovely spiced notes build up over time.

Taste: Very soft on the tongue, but with more force of flavour on the palate afterwards. There is a pleasant smokiness, before lasting notes of dry, not tart pineapple, light wood, and chilli, then sweeter spice with more smoke on the finish. A lovely dram that, personally, I think is perfectly halfway between the Red and Black Labels.

Rob Roy

Pleasantly dry, but the Rosso comes through well. Wisps of smoke are followed by lots of complex herbal notes. The finish remains lovely and dry, with notes of dark liquorice and a hint of berries. Finally, there is a clean, light, and woody smokiness.

Old Fashioned

The Adventurer makes an unusually sharp, almost bitter Old Fashioned that makes a wonderful aperitif. Subdued honey notes are followed by the smoke and spice. Like the Rob Roy, its finish is very dry, but full of smoky flavours, along with a little lime and vanilla.

Whisky Soda

Exceptionally dry, this is a refreshing, grown up drink. The soda water lengthens the whisky well, without masking any of its flavours. To start, there is dry vanilla, before a flash of sweeter smoke, then more charred notes that linger on a refreshing, woody finish.

Whisky Ginger

Again, this works well, but produces a much sweeter drink than the others. It is creamy, too, with lots of vanilla and just a dash of smokiness – more than you’d get with the Red Label, but not as much as with the Black Label. The finish is long, with solid notes from both the ginger and the whisky’s oak notes.


It is worth noting that the Explorers’ Club Collection covers a broad price range, but The Adventurer is the cheapest, at around £32 for a litre in Duty Free. It can be found for around £40-45 in the UK. Given the combination of price point and the international theme of the collection, we decided to try a few additional, unusual long drinks alongside our normal line-up.

with Coconut Water

This is an unexpectedly brilliant, refreshing drink. The coconut water adds the extra sweetness and creaminess that The Adventurer holds back on, resulting in smooth notes of pineapple and light coconut that fade into smoke, dry apple, and oak on the finish. Exceptionally easy to drink, especially in warmer weather.

with Ting

These flavours, again, go surprisingly well together – there is bright, vibrant, citrus (lemon and grapefruit) that flows seamlessly into the light smokiness of the whisky. The finish has notes of vanilla and pineapple, and a continued stream of smokiness.

with Fentiman’s Curiosity Cola

Intrigued at how well some of these combinations were turning out, we decided to try The Adventurer up against one of my favourite (and most flavourful) soft drinks: Fentiman’s Curiosity Cola. The result? A tasty drink with great structure and body. Not too sweet, there’s a dry woodiness to start, that is quickly swept up in the complex, herbal flavours from the cola. The Adventurer’s smokiness appears on the finish – soft to start, but gradually increasing – and works very well with the more medicinal notes of the mixer.

In Conclusion

The Adventurer is a great addition to the Johnnie Walker line-up. With its light texture, but combination of distinct smokiness, dry pineapple, and spiced notes, it makes for a whisky that is both easy to sip – sitting midway between the Red and Black Labels in taste – and works exceptionally well in mixed drinks. A firm favourite in our household.

— Mrs. B.


Cocktails with… Ballantine’s Brasil

As I left the house this morning, a definite chill lifted the hairs on the back of my neck. As I scrambled around in my pockets for my gloves, I pondered where the recent hint of spring had gone. Well, one product that certainly calls for warmer climes is Ballantine’s Brasil.

Ballantines Brazil BOTTLE

Inspired by George Ballantine’s love of blending whisky, the company wanted to make a spirit designed to be used in mixed drinks. After some initial experimentation, further inspiration came from Brasil, where drinkers regularly drink their whisky with lime.

Brasil starts life as a specially designed Ballantine’s whisky, which is then flavoured in the cask with Brasilian lime peels, before being combined with some vanilla extract (the real thing, none of that artificial flavouring), and just a dash of sugar syrup. The combination of strong flavours and its destined use for mixing means that Brasil is bottled at 35% ABV, making it a “spirit drink” or flavoured whisky, akin to those produced by a variety of American whiskey companies, like Jim Beam’s Black Cherry.

The rather lovely Ballantine Brazil press pack - note the sugar cane shaped glass and the pocket for the lime.

The rather lovely Ballantine Brasil press pack – note the sugar cane shaped glass and the pocket for the lime.

On its own
Somewhat intrigued by the use of natural flavourings throughout, I did sample some of the spirit on its own. The lime and vanilla come through, fresh and bold, on the nose, reminding me a little of a Whisky Ginger with a lime wedge. The same flavours came through on the palate; the citrus making for a very “bright” flavour, and the vanilla neatly balancing it out. The finish was refreshingly tart and dry.

Highland Samba
[50ml Ballantine’s Brasil, 150ml lemonade (or lemon-lime soda) – pour into a long glass with ice – garnish with a lime wedge.]
A delightfully simple drink to make, but one that allows you to enjoy the spirit in a long, thirst-quenching drink. The lemon flavours of the soda work well with the lime tang of the spirit, as well as the fresh lime garnish. Whisky and lemonade may not be a usual combination, but, in this case it really works. On the finish there are some light spice notes, including cinnamon and vanilla, which sign the flavours off nicely and adds a pleasant and unexpected complexity.

Highland Samba

Highland Samba

In a similar style to the above drink, this also works well with Champagne Ginger Ale (e.g. Canada Dry or Fevertree), providing a lighter and more accessible version of the Whisky Ginger. Even without a fruit garnish, the lime sings through.

Glen Rio
[50ml Ballantine’s Brasil, 150ml Apple Juice – pour into a long glass with ice – garnish with apple slices]
A smooth drink with tart apple upfront and then the warmth of the spirit, as well as some spicy woodiness, then vanilla and lime. I think this is improved with a dash of bitters (Angostura is fine). It also has some potential for a toddy-like hot drink, which would work well with a cinnamon stick garnish.

Flower O’Brasil
[50ml Ballantine’s Brasil, 25ml Elderflower Cordial, Squeeze of one lime wedge – STIR]
Lime and vanilla are, again, centre-stage in this cocktail, but it’s initially a little sweeter than some of the other drinks. About halfway through, the floral notes from the cordial really make themselves known; the sweetness also tones down a tad, before a lovely, dry finish of elderflower. This could easily have been dominated by any of its flavours, but it’s perfectly balanced – a brilliantly engineered cocktail.

Ballantines Brazil FRUITCUP

Ballantine’s Brasil Fruit Cup

Ballantine Brasil Fruit Cup
[50ml Ballantine’s Brasil, 30ml Red Vermouth, 10ml Orange Liqueur]
A tasty and refreshing drink. The vermouth adds a pleasant, herbal complexity, whilst still allowing the underlying flavours of the Ballantine’s to come through. The fresh lime adds a nice, tart finish, creating a very refreshing drink.

Girl from Ipanema
[50ml Ballantine’s Brasil, 25ml Red Vermouth, Orange Bitters – SHAKE ]
Another simple drink inspired by the classic Brasilian cocktail Rabo de Galo (although this uses cachaca and red vermouth), but despite the simple recipe, the result is a drink that is full of a whole array of flavours: some woody spice, the tart lime that goes well with the bitter herbs of the vermouth and then some sweetness, too. The orange bitters add depth and stop it from being too confectionery.

Girl from Ipanema

Girl from Ipanema

In Conclusion
Brasil isn’t a whisky and isn’t designed to be drunk like one; it’s a refreshing cocktail ingredient, made using natural ingredients and just the right amount of sugar. It makes a whole array of tasty concoctions, which all seem to taste like more than the sum of their parts. It should maybe be avoided if you don’t like lime or vanilla, but otherwise, I’d recommend giving it a try – it feels more like sunshine’s just around the corner with one of these cocktails in your hand! My personal favourite was the Flower O’Brasil.

– Mrs. B.

New Whisky from Paul John – Brilliance and Edited

Back in October of last year, I was honoured to attend a launch party for Paul John Single Cask Whisky from India. With positive reviews abound, the company set about continuing their plans to introduce the international markets to new whisky; the evidence being in the newest additions to their range: two single malts, entitled Brilliance and Edited. These two whiskies are set to be permanent bottlings for the Paul John Distillery.

Both are distilled in Goa using copper-pot stills, are aged in ex-Bourbon barrels, and are bottled at 46% ABV. The primary difference between the two is that Brilliance is made from unpeated malted barley, whereas Edited is made from a combination of unpeated and peated malted barley. All of the barley is also from India and this, combined with the extreme climate (temperatures can reach over 40°C), makes these whiskies distinctive in more ways than one. Here’s what I thought.

Brilliance  WHITE C

Paul John Brilliance (46% ABV)

Nose: Soft and sweet, but there’s also something unusually refreshing and “bright” about this, reminding me strongly of a Mint Julep made with fresh mint and a really good Bourbon. There’s smooth vanilla and light wood, plus a hint of cocoa paste, a little coconut, papaya and pineapple, like you’d find in muesli (these notes are similar to some of those in the Single Cask).

Taste: Quite powerful from the outset, with the same tropical flavours (dried pineapple, in particular) that I found on the nose coming through both on the palate and in the finish. In the middle, there are also some slightly bitter (but not in a bad way), raw wood notes that are accompanied by a strong warmth.

Finish: Light tannins, a little bit of dried banana chips and vanilla.


Paul John Edited (46% ABV)

Nose: Very light smoke and faint hints of peat, along with wood varnish and liquorice allsorts. Despite the lightness of the smoke, this is a good, strong nose. After a little warming, I also got some notes of sweet spice and sherry.

Taste: In contrast to Brilliance, this had more of a gradual, building warmth and spicy texture. It also seems sweeter and has more weight to it, with darker wood notes, liquorice and cinnamon.

Finish: Roasted banana and cream, a tiny touch of sweet spice, including a hint of nutmeg, and vanilla.

In Conclusion

Both of these whiskies have unique, but different profiles. I loved being able to taste them without any expectations, because they seem both familiar – they have many of the quality wood notes that you’d recognise from Scotch whisky – and yet, at the same time, refreshingly different. I’m a big fan, in particular, of the bright, tropical notes of Brilliance, which are perfectly balanced by the warmth behind them. Then again, the light peat and liquorice notes within Edited also drew me in. The lovely finishes of both makes it exceptionally difficult for me to choose a favourite between the two, although I think Brilliance has it, very slightly. Unless you only like heavy, smoky whiskies, I’d definitely recommend trying these if you get the chance.

– Mrs. B.

Mrs. B’s – Burn’s Night Special!

Today, 25th January, is Robert Burns Day or Burns Night, a day to celebrate the life and works of Scottish poet Robert Burns. Burns Night celebrations can be exceptionally formal affairs, but ever since our honeymoon in Edinburgh, DTS & I have held a somewhat more informal dinner on Burns Night. It involves haggis, neeps and tatties, and – without a doubt – some whisky. Rather than go in-depth into the history or ceremony behind Burns Night, I instead wanted to do a quick investigation of how a range of different whiskies (selected by the fact that they were readily available in our drinks cabinet) accompanied such a meal.

Given the number that I was trying, and the speed at which my dinner was cooling down, my notes aren’t particularly extensive, but I was able to get a good idea of which fitted this particular bill best.

Burns Night Whisky

The pepperiness and chilli kick of this whisky work incredibly well alongside the spices in haggis. The peatiness adds a little something special – another dimension to the flavours of the plate.

Grant’s Ale Cask
A general excellent all-rounder alongside the meal; the flavour is good and woody, without being harsh or contrasting with the haggis. The spice of the meal somewhat masked most hints of the ale cask, but this still tasted pretty good.

Johnnie Walker Black Label
Beautiful and full of flavour with excellent peaty notes and deliciously smooth. However, this also had more hints of sweetness that I think would go better as an after-dinner tipple than one to accompany the meal itself.

Whyte & Mackay The Partnership Blend (for Waitrose)
Sadly, I don’t think whisky is available any longer, although we found it to be a good standard Scotch – excellent value for money. When drunk alongside our Burns Night dinner, this was improved considerably by a drop or two of water, which opened it up, bringing out more subtle notes of wood and spice, allowing it to better complement the haggis.

Black & White
This had a stronger and more direct flavour than the others, which, even with water, seemed to distract a little from the meal. From personal experience, I know that this whisky works particularly well in a Whisky Ginger, so – next time – I think that would be the better way to enjoy B&W on Burns Night.

In Conclusion
My favourite whisky of those that I tried with my haggis, neeps & tatties was undoubtedly the Talisker, which had the perfect combination of power of flavour, spice and savouriness to best complement the meal.

A couple of postscripts…

(i) Dessert

After dinner, DTS made me the following cocktail – a take on a Rusty Nail – was recommended to us by Jamie Stephenson, Drambuie Global Brand Ambassador.

Burns DrambuieCocktail

Rusty Robbie Burns
15ml Drambuie
30ml Blended Scotch (e.g. Johnnie Walker Red)
15ml Sweet Vermouth
2 dashes Angostura Bitters
Method: Stir well with ice and strain into a cocktail glass
Garnish: Shortbread

Nose: Bright and refreshing, with strong notes of orange fondant.
Taste: Lighter and more refreshing than Drambuie on its own in a Rusty Nail; this is drier, thinner, but still with a distinctive flavour. A delicious drink, especially if you generally find Drambuie a bit sweet on its own. If you fancy a little extra sweetness, a piece of shortbread goes particularly well with this.

(ii) For those who prefer more gin in their cocktails (a postscript by DTS)

For those who fancy some gin to celebrate Burns Night with, I can recommend the Argyll Station Chief, which is a variation on the Berlin Station Chief*.

Argyll Station Chief
60ml Old Raj Blue**
15ml Lagavulin 16 Year Old Scotch
Pour Scotch into an ice-filled cocktail shaker.
After coating the ice with the whisky, strain the remainder into a small glass (to drink later, or give to your wife).
Add the gin, shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Strong gin flavours upfront: juniper, citrus and some herbal-floral notes, all followed by the dry, long, smoky finish of the whisky. This is strong (the gin is 50%ABV), but a good drink to have before you sit down to your Burns Night supper.

A Tasting of Tomatin Scotch


Once again, it’s that wonderful time of year when shops may have leftover Christmas stock in the form of whisky miniatures – a fantastic way to explore different whiskies without spending a fortune.

One of the sets that I received as a gift over the holidays was one containing three whiskies from the Tomatin Distillery, which is based on the edge of the Monadhliath Mountains, near Inverness, Scotland. The distillery site has history dating back to the 15th Century, but was formally set up in 1897.


The gift set contains a 50ml bottle of each of their 12, 15 and 18 Year Old whiskies (which is quite a recent line-up, as the 15 Year Old was only introduced in 2009).


#1) Tomatin 12 Year Old (40%ABV)

This whisky was introduced in 2003 and has been aged in 1st or 2nd fill American Oak casks, before being finished in sherry butts (for a minimum of six months).

Nose: Bread, yeast and oat cakes, with a little sea air and sherry, too. Mainly a surprisingly pleasant combination dough and oat cakes, though.

Taste: Strong, savoury flavours from the outset; whilst its very smooth, even if you hold it in your mouth for a while, the flavours are potent and there’s a good warmth to it. The main flavours are of light wood and oat cakes, but there’s an intriguing, slightly bitter finish which is more vegetal.






#2) Tomatin 15 Year Old (43%ABV)

Introduced in 2009, the 15 Year Old has been aged in refill American Oak casks.

Nose: Light and distinctly creamy (just a touch of salted caramel or toffee), with malt, barley and wisps of smoke. There’s a breadiness to the creaminess, but nothing heavy.

Taste: Again, wisps of smoke amongst a backdrop of clean, white wood and light citrus (mainly orange, but with hints of lemon). The flavour is quite “raw” at points, but there’s no burn. The finish is quite heavy on notes of hops and malt, with hints of chocolate.






#3) Tomatin 18 Year Old (46%ABV)

Introduced in 2006, this whisky is non-chill filtered and aged in refill American Oak casks, before being finished in Spanish Oloroso sherry butts.

Nose: Lighter, softer and sweeter, but also stronger on the alcohol. Again, I get notes of faint sea air and the kind of fresh, slightly tart, dry fruitiness that you would get from a dry sherry. It finishes with notes of oats.

Taste: Savoury and fresh, with a toffee-like mouthfeel that follows an initial burst of savoury notes. This has a surprisingly short flavour, which is predominantly made up of tart, dry sherry notes, and a lighter, sweet woodiness with highlights of dried fruit towards the end.


In Conclusion
Whilst none of these whiskies were to my own personal tastes, I’m glad that I’ve tried the range and think that my Dad will be quite partial to the 15 Year Old, which was also my favourite of the three. This little gift set is an excellent, good-value way to try them (you can purchase it from The Whisky Exchange for around £17.25).

– Mrs. B.

Macallan Scotch Tasting (5 varieties) – Just like James Bond!

When DTS & I went to see the latest Bond film, Skyfall, I was pleased to see a strong whisky presence, in particular from The Macallan (this was especially nice, given some of the scenery). Most visibly, it was seen alongside and on the drinks’ tray or desk of Dame Judi Dench’s M – praise, indeed.

As we left the cinema, we immediately started formulating plans for a tasting of Macallan whiskies. A few weeks later, a surprise birthday present arrived for me…

In the box were the 10 and 12 Year Olds for both the Fine Oak and Sherry Oak varieties, plus something new and a little different: Macallan Gold, which is one of the distillery’s new range of whiskies classified by colour rather than age. Although this selection of miniatures would make for a perfect compare-and-contrast tasting, I knew immediately that I wanted to have one of our blind tastings so that I could more easily establish which I liked best. DTS very kindly helped with this and here’s what I thought.

#1) Fine Oak 10 Year Old
First of all, we have a whisky that makes a very sneaky appearance in Skyfall, when Bond is at a beach bar. It has been matured in a mixture of fine bourbon and sherry oak casks.

Nose: Light, but sweet; a smooth transition from vanilla cream, to creamy coffee, subtle marzipan, before finishing with a light, vanilla woodiness and faint, fruity sherry and fruit cake. Light, but delicious, with lots to delve into and explore and no harshness whatsoever.
Taste: Smooth, but with a warmth building at the back of the throat from the outset. Exceptionally balanced, it nonetheless has lots of delicate notes of leather, barley and fresh, dry, white wood and a clean dry, almost bitter, finish.

#2) Fine Oak 12 Year Old
Next, we have the slightly older Fine Oak 12 Year Old. Unlike it’s slightly younger “sibling”, it has been “triple cask matured”, using a mix of European and American oak casks seasoned with sherry and American oak casks seasoned with bourbon.

Nose: Notes of marzipan, light coconut and freshly shaved pencils are accompanied by hints of creamy, tropical citrus (pineapple and lemon) that remind me somewhat of jelly and ice-cream.
Taste: This is thick and silky, almost chewy; it also seems a lot sweeter than the 10 Year Old. The flavour starts out woody, with hints of wood ash and smoke, before moving to a creamy sweetness with measured notes of vanilla, reminding me of a very good quality bourbon. The finish has lots of dryer wood notes, but nowhere near the bitterness of the previous whisky.

Macallan Fine Oak 12 Year Old has now been discontinued, with the 10 Year Old due to follow imminently, to be replaced with a new range of whiskies that move away from age statements.

#3) Macallan Gold
Macallan Gold was released in 2012 as a part of this range of new, colour-themed bottlings. It has been matured in both first fill and refill sherry casks and is said to sit between the Fine Oak 10 Year Old and Sherry Oak 10 Year Old.

Nose: Rich, slightly bitter fruit cake that’s been soaked in brandy. Also, sweet, creamy notes, like a custard that was heavy on both the sugar and the milk, or custard flavoured boiled sweets.
Taste: Rich and sweet to start, with a dash of marigold, floral soapiness at the beginning, followed by sweet wood and a more dry, but still distinctly woody, finish with hints of coconut. This seemed generally less warm, but more flavourful, than the previous two whiskies.

#4) Sherry Oak 10 Year Old
Returning to Macallan’s age-statemented whiskies, we turn to another 10 Year Old; this one having been matured in oak casks that have been filled with sherry in Spain.

Nose: Sweet wood, accompanied by caramel and light notes of banana. These are followed by more traditional, dryer sherry notes.
Taste: Dry, but warming, with the sherry coming through more towards the end. The finish is decidedly dry. Although this is pleasant enough to drink and contains very genuine, solid notes of oak and sherry, there wasn’t anything about it that really “stood out” to me.


#5) 12 Year Old Sherry Oak
Finally, we have another whisky that appears in Skyfall; this time a 12 Year Old matured in Spanish sherry oak casks that sits centre-stage on M’s desk. Fortunately, my tasting was blind, otherwise I might have had raised expectations!

Nose: Fresh and fruity, with lots of peach and apricot. Sweet and soft, there’s also some sultana (it’s similar, but not quite as heavy as, raisin).
Taste: Silky, but both more flavourful and warmer than the 10 Year Old and the Gold, this is full of dark, sweet wood, spiced raisins, and slightly tarter notes of sherry. There was also a lot of rich, genuine, warm wood on the finish, plus a little of the dryness of liquorice root. All in all, this has everything that I hope to get from a good Scotch – lovely!

In Conclusion
I love that so many of The Macallan whiskies are available as miniatures (and at very reasonable rates of postage on their website), making them perfect for a tasting such as this. My favourite was, without a doubt, the 12 Year Old Sherry Oak – I can see why M keeps a bottle on her desk!

– Mrs. B

Macallan 10 Year Old Sherry Oak is available online for around £29 for 70cl from The Whisky Exchange

Macallan  12 Year Old Sherry Oak is available online for around £41 for 70cl from The Whisky Exchange

Macallan 10 Year Old Fine Oak is still available online for around £28 for 70cl from The Whisky Exchange and Master of Malt

Macallan Gold is available online for around £36 for 70cl from The Whisky Exchange and Master of Malt.

Experimenting with Whisky & Ginger

Phew! It’s warm today. During the previous week-of-Summer that we experienced back in June, I frequently found myself drawn to a whisky & ginger ale, mixed in a lovely, tall glass filled with ice. Deliciously cooling and refreshing, often with a lively kick of ginger, they’re perfect for a particularly warm day. But which ginger ale to use?

Canada Dry, Fevertree and Fentiman's Ginger Ales

Slightly bewildered at the choice available in the fridge, I decided to, in the style of DTS, explore a few different variations of the Whisky & Ginger in a blind tasting. Given the dramatic extent to which whiskies can differ from one another, I thought it best to try three different whiskies alongside each of my three ginger ales.

Each drink was mixed in a 2:1 (Ginger:Whisky) ratio. My notes can be found in the table below, in which – due to limitations of space – ‘N’ stands for “Nose” and ‘T’ stands for “Taste”.

Vat 69
A blend of over 40 malt and grain whiskies. Smooth, but full of flavour (40% ABV).
Grant’s Ale Cask
Grant’s whisky finished in barrels that had previously held Edinburgh Ale for 30 days. Malty and creamy (40% ABV).
Islay Mist
A wonderfully peaty blend of Laphroaig and Speyside malts (40% ABV).
Fevertree N: Generally sweet, with warm ginger and a hint of sea air at the end.
T: Not overly fizzy. Slight hint of peat, followed by a light, syrupy sweetness that – fortunately – never gets too sugary. Slightly dry towards the end. Soft, but flavourful.
[][][][][][][][] 8
N: Sweet, ginger like gingerbread, with a treacle-like sweetness. Hints of the sweeter notes of the whisky, with vanilla and sweet spice.
T: A good balance, with an interesting battle between the some sweeter and dryer notes; the taste switch between the two. There’s a pleasant warmth on the finish, but it’s quite short.
[][][][][][][ 6.5
N: A dry nose with lots of ginger and lovely notes of peat. The two notes go together very well; it alternates between moderate ginger and moderate peat.
T: Vigorous ginger, especially on the finish. Like the nose, there are strong notes of both the whisky and the ginger that go together remarkably well. The finish is warm and felt in the stomach, and there are interesting hints of pistachio and toasted almonds. Delicious and vibrant – my favourite!
[][][][][][][][][] 9
Canada Dry N: Peat and sea air, with more raw ginger root or powder than sweet ginger.
T: Far more fizzy, with a much more dominant flavour of the ginger ale. The whisky, which was stronger on the nose, comes through less on the tongue, which is covered with a creaminess from the ginger ale and an unpleasant artificial sweetness.
[][][][][] 5
N: Straw, wood, vanilla and sweet ginger.
T: Very fizzy, followed by wood notes from the whisky and sweetness. Then the palate clears and there’s an ever so slightly sour, bitter edge to the finish, which isn’t very pleasant.
[][][][][] 5
N: Mainly Islay peat, with a hint of spicy ginger at the end. Whisky is notably more dominant than in the other drinks.
T: Mainly whisky notes, with lots of peat and an almost “seaside” flavour: a salty, savoury hint that is strong on the edge of the tongue. After a moment, this fades into a woody sweetness, before faint ginger appears on the finish.
[][][][][][][] 7
Fentimans N: Very little on the nose, almost like the two ingredients cancel one another out. Faint wisps of whisky.
T: Quite fierce bubbles, but less than with the Canada Dry. The ginger notes fade into a lovely finish on the tongue and there’s substantial warmth in the stomach. Less sweet and a good balance of spirit and ginger, but some of the whisky notes are lost.
[][][][][][] 6
N: Dryer, with more warm, spicy ginger on the nose. Not much whisky.
T: Very spicy, indeed, with reasonably aggressive bubbles. An immediate burst of spicy ginger on the tongue is nicely supported by the warmth of the whisky. Although any deeper whisky flavours don’t manage to fight their way through the ginger ale, this still makes for a spicy and enjoyable drink, with a “just right” level of sweetness.
[][][][][][][] 7
N: Dryer nose, with fainter peat and no strong ginger notes, but rather a lighter, more citrusy “ginger ale” note.
T: Fresher and more fruity, followed by quite vigorous, hot ginger*. The peat of the whisky battles a little with the ginger, but there’s less harmony between the two flavours than in the previous two drinks; the ginger is just too strong.
[][][][][] 5

In Conclusion

This was a wonderful experiment that I’d definitely recommend to others now that the sunshine is back! I’d like to try a few more ginger ales in further tastings, but conclude that my favourite ginger ale of those that I tried was the Fevertree: I liked how it seemed to get the balance just right between adding some fiery ginger and still letting the whisky shine through – I shall have to try it with some other whiskies over the coming weeks.

– Mrs. B

* Although I do appreciate that this was my nineth Whisky & Ginger by this point, so, despite breaks between rounds, the ginger notes from previous drinks may have built up on my palate.

The Famous Jubilee – Grouse Whisky Special Edition

Whilst wandering the aisles of our local Waitrose on Monday, DTS & I scanned the whisky section for new and interesting additions. There weren’t too many new faces, but one of the exceptions – and rather appropriately timed, given last week’s post – was The Famous Jubilee.

It was sitting in its Jubilee celebration themed box, but was both next and nearly identically priced to The Famous Grouse, so both of us initially assumed that it was simply a special packaging. Fortunately for me, DTS is naturally curious about such things and took a closer look, after which we realised that it was actually a special blend.

Matthew Gloag & Son, the company behind the Grouse brand, have the Royal Warrant to HM the Queen for blended Scotch, so it’s understandable that they have created a blend especially to celebrate Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee this month. The Famous Jubilee is a blend of malt and grain whiskies, including some from Highland Park and Macallan. It’s available exclusively via Waitrose and, should you want to get yourself a bottle, be aware that Sainsbury’s are selling The Famous Grouse in a special Jubilee box that looks very much like the one for The Famous Jubilee, but without the new blend inside; make sure you’re buying the one you’re after!

Without further ado, here are my notes on this new, celebratory whisky and a few cocktails that DTS & I thought would be particularly fitting.

On its own
Nose: A distinctive, golden syrupy sweetness introduces you to this lovely nose. Before it gets too sickly, this fades into oats, then drier grain, before finishing with an incredibly light smokiness. Compared to the nose of The Famous Grouse, this is a lot sweeter, more mellow, and less nutty, making it both more accessible and warmer than the standard blend.
Taste: Good, strong, savoury flavours: hints of malt dominate on the tongue, whilst drier grain notes were more evident at the back of the mouth. A savoury whisky, indeed; somewhat reminiscent of The Naked Grouse, but richer and warmer.

With a drop of water…
Nose: It’s amazing how much of a difference a drop of water can make! The nose is now much busier, with warm spices making that initial sweetness more interesting.
Taste: Much sweeter, but still with a dry, savoury finish, this was generally less harsh, with a slowly building, comforting warmth. Occasionally I got odd hints of dry cocoa and charred wood on the finish.

Jubilee Whisky Royale

Jubilee Whisky Royale
Add a serving of Famous Jubilee and a good dash of apple juice to a glass of ice, then top up with ginger ale. Garnish with a slice of green apple or a fresh raspberry.
Although there’s not much going on the nose of this drink, it’s absolutely delicious to sip: the splash of apple juice instantly sweetens and lifts the savoury whisky and dry ginger ale, but without covering up the malt and grain of the whisky. Perfect to serve at a Jubilee celebration.

Rob Roy
Take equal parts of the whisky and red vermouth (using any appropriately-sized measure) and shake or stir briskly with ice. Fine strain into your glass.
The red vermouth dominated the nose, with lots of rich, spicy notes. This came through strongly on the taste, too, producing a rich, flavourful drink with lots to spice to start, followed by a more bitter finish. This won’t be for everyone, but, if you like rich, bitter drinks, it could be the one for you.

60 Year Cocktail

60 Year Cocktail
[50ml Famous Jubilee 25ml King’s Ginger liqueur 150ml Soda Water]
The nose is distinctly of sherbet lemons, but any fears that this drink would be overly sweet were quicky debunked; this drink is refreshing and savoury, taking the dryer elements of the whisky and the ginger, freshening everything up with some bitter lemon notes, and throwing the very faintest hint of sweetness right before the finish kicks in. The whisky also adds a comforting, but not excessive, warmth to the end of this cocktail. A lovely, refreshing long drink for those less fond of sweet cocktails, and/or who like the grain notes in the whisky.

In Conclusion…
I was impressed by The Famous Jubilee, which I found to be both accessible for those who don’t normally drink Scotch and interesting for those who do. Smooth and spicy malt to taste, with a sweet nose and a dry, grain finish, I thought that it was at its best on its own in a glass (maybe with a drop or two of water) and left to warm up for a few minutes, but it also worked well in an array of cocktails; my favourite of these was the bubbly Whisky Royale.

Although Famous Jubilee, exclusively available from Waitrose, has a reasonable RRP at £24.99, we found The Jubilee Grouse currently on offer for £20.99.

– Mrs. B

Bowmore Coastal Tasting

My quest to explore more Scotch Whisky, beyond liqueurs, has recently led me to Bowmore. I know different people have different thoughts on the best tasting method but I really like trying whiskys of the same range together to get an idea of what a distillery is about.*

Bowmore is situated on the Isle of Islay and was established in 1779. Much of the barley for the Whisky is grown on the Isle of Islay but as supply is insufficient some barley has to be shipped in.** Given the connection with Bowmore and the sea we decided to take a little walk down to a secluded coastal spot for the tasting.

Bowmore 12 Year Old
The nose was fresh and salty, matching the sea air. A slight sweetness came in at the end, but, otherwise, the nose was straightforward and revitalising.
My initial response upon taking a sip was to say, “Ooh, lovely!” (diligently recorded in DBS’s tasting notes). A salty start, probably boosted by the salt on my lips from the sea breeze, was followed by a very smooth, progression from heavy, dark wood notes to lighter ones. The lightest hint of peat appeared on the finish. The comforting, mellow collection of raw, woody notes reminded me strongly of woodland walks during my childhood.
Bowmore 15 Year Old
The nose of the second whisky was a lot more prominent, in my opinion, although – again – there was lots of wood. On top of this, though, there were some more harsh, varnish-like notes.
Tasting much stronger, the wood notes to this one also had a more substantial and lasting finish of toasted or burnt sugar that had a bitterness to it. I found it considerably less easy-to-drink; as such, it seemed more grown-up; the older brother of the 12 Year Old.
Despite the strength, this was definitely better uncut; even a few drops of water seemed to unbalance it and make it watery.
Bowmore 18 Year Old
This nose was more like the first than the second, being lighter and fresher, without any notes of varnish. Indeed, there was a rather pleasant hint of burnt toffee.
Like the nose, the taste of this one returns to the style of the first that we tried, only it had a softer mouth-feel, like soft water. Alongside the prominent wood notes were those of oatcakes, reminding DBS of Burns Night – drinking whisky with a plate of haggis, tatties and neeps – prompting him to describe it as “Scotland in a glass.”; a conclusion with which I thoroughly agree. Delicious, and easily my favourite of the three.
In Conclusion

Although I’m sure some people would disagree with having a whisky tasting so exposed to the elements, no doubt stripping away any more delicate notes or flavours, I thought that our surroundings brought a lot more than they took from our tasting; especially as Bowmore is made by the sea. More than that, it reminded me why I really enjoy whisky; it was great to share and explore both a glass and good conversation whilst winding down, made all the easier by the fresh air.

My favourite, when tasted outdoors, was – without a doubt – the 18 Year Old, with its fresh, but sweet nose, mellow softness, and warm wood and oatcake notes. It is the best whisky that I’ve tried in a good while and one that I look forward to revisiting in the comfort of a cosy armchair.

– Mrs. B.

*Also known as a vertical tasting.

**  Interestingly the waste heat from the distillery is used to heat a public swmming pool in the MacTaggart Leisure centre.

Cocktails with… Makers Mark

Cocktails with…  



Maker’s Mark Bourbon Whisky


Occasionally, people very kindly and generously donate whisky (or whiskey) for me to try, for which I am immensely grateful. The world of whisky is, without a doubt, a vast one and so any recommendations and/or suggestions are always gratefully appreciated. I’ve been focusing on Scotch whisky recently, so was intrigued to try Maker’s Mark when a bottle arrived in the mail (dramatically sealed with their distinctive red wax seal).Maker’s Mark is a bourbon that is handmade using corn, malted barley and red winter wheat (added instead of rye) in small batches at their distillery near Loretto, Kentucky. It’s aged in new, charred oak barrels that are routinely moved around during the aging process, so that the effects of different temperatures at different heights of the warehouse are evened out.  It’s not-worth that “Whisky” in their title is spelt with out an “e” which is unlike most American whiskies, I’ve not yet found an authoritative reason as to why, yet.Given that this is handmade, DBS was inspired to try it in a homemade whiskey liqueur recipe and a premixed mint julep. Here are my notes on these, along with those on the whisky itself.

Maker’s Mark

The nose is light and syrupy sweet – like golden syrup, rather than honey – but nonetheless has some evident strong alcohol behind it. There are also hints of corn and oak and, after ten minutes or so, the nose developed so that it was sweeter, with hints of spiced honey.

It was strong on the tongue, too, with a definite tingle from the outset that was followed by a warm, woody note. Given the nose, I was pleased to find that it wasn’t overly
sweet; any sweetness was quickly and neatly balanced by a woody dryness. The most significant aspect of this drink neat, for me, was the wonderful, lasting warmth.

Bourbon and Branch Water

OK so I didn’t actually use branch water but my supply is of the finest quality. The water seemed to accentuate the sweetness on the nose, but also made the drink itself an awful lot smoother. It also opened up the wood notes, introducing something that was almost smoky, but stopped just short of it as a weet, damp, slightly charred woodiness. As much as I preferred it with a few drops of water, I found it all too easy to put too much in, so add only a few drops at a time to avoid weakening your bourbon too much.

Home-made Maker's Mark Liqueur

Maker’s Mark Liqueur (Homemade)

The nose was distinctly sweet, with only faint hints of the original bourbon coming through, to be replaced with a more general nose of fresh, sweet alcohol.

The first iteration of this liqueur was rather bizarre with an oddly “disjointed” flavour: there were two very different flavours, one at the front of the mouth and one at the back. At the front, the sweet alcohol from the nose played alongside a fruitiness, reminding me slightly of sweet medicines from my childhood. At the back and along the top of the mouth, meanwhile, there was a duller, drier flavour.

Obviously, this recipe wasn’t working, so DBS adapted it slightly, adding some water and simple syrup. These straightforward ingredients brought out a strong peach note on both the nose and palate, and generally bridged the “gap” in the middle of the tongue. Definitely an interesting tipple – given the strange combination of sweet and dry at different points – and worth experimenting with.

Premixed Mint Julep (Homemade)

Some days, you just don’t have the time or equipment to mix yourself a mint julep. Inspired by a bottle of Maker’s Mark’s own pre-mixed mint julep, this was the second experiment that DBS set up for me to try. It was, essentially, a mint infusion of the whisky, that had been left for roughly a week.

The very start of the nose reminded me of a fresh mint julep, with the wood mingling with the mint, before it faded into a sweet, slightly vinegary note that reminded me of homemade mint sauce.

Smooth and light, the flavour was fresh and neither sweet, nor dry; I wouldn’t sweeten it at all, personally, because I think it takes away from the freshness. The charred wood is there again and I thought I got the slightest hint of coffee at the end. The mint, following on from the nose, again reminds me of mint sauce and so, whilst I don’t think this would ever replace a mixed julep (especially not a DBS deluxe julep, with at least three shots of bourbon), I thought this was very drinkable nonetheless and an interesting twist on a more traditional julep.

In conclusion…

What I really enjoyed about this tasting was its experimental nature and how we were inspired to try a couple of different ways of drinking bourbon. The liqueur, once tweaked, was lovely, and I look forward to trying a similar recipe with other bourbons. However, the premixed mint julep – which we will definitely be making another batch of – was definitely my favourite and worked particularly well with the Maker’s Mark, because its was so smooth and full of fresh, light flavours.

– Mrs. B