Category: Julian Drinks

Ardnahoe Whisky Distillery

Ardnahoe Whisky Distillery

With all the clamour about gin over the last many years many people’s focus has been juniper-led, however the whisky industry has continued in an upward curve and is enjoying great success. Some of the gin we’re all seeing is often the result of a new whisky distillery bedding itself in and creating cash flow with a product which can come to market much quicker than maturing whisky.

Back to whisky though, and recently Julian has paid his bi-annual visit to the Hebridean island of Islay which now boasts 9 active whisky distilleries. Considering the island has a population of just over 3,000 people (with many more sheep and midges), this concentration of distilleries is quite amazing. Even more so if you consider the globally-known names such as Laphroaig, Ardbeg, Lagavulin and Bowmore who call the island home.

Very much ‘family time’, Julian still found some time to visit Islay’s newest distillery, Ardnahoe. Sitting on the east side of the island in-between Bunnahabhain and Caol Ila, Ardnahoe also boasts amazing views over the sound of Islay across to the Paps of Jura.

Founded by the Laing family (Stewart, Andrew and Scott), ground was broken in 2016 and distillation commenced in 2018. Whilst not having the history which it’s neighbours do, the Laing family carries much whisky heritage, so it’s no surprise the distillery was up and running so quickly.

Being a modern distillery, the tour doesn’t take you on twists and turns which are usually borne from expansion over decades. It’s a straight forward set-up, with some additionally points of interest such as their 100-yo Boby Mill which, unconfirmed comments suggest it *may* have originated in Fettercairn…

The mash-tun gleams, and the washbacks are Oregon Pine as you’d expect. But then the next little twist is the tall and elegant copper stills which overlook Jura. Much debate may be given to the type of whisky they will produce due to their shape, but what caught our eye was the incredible length of the lyne arms – if I remember correctly – 4m in length. This is of course to maximise the contact of the condensed / condensing spirit with copper.

Another point of interest in the process was the exterior worm tubs (with handily-placed mirrors for you to look inside). As well as taking advantage of the climate (although gloriously sunny on our visit), they create another point of difference on the island, as well as visual appeal too.

Now it’s too early to comment on the whisky, as it’s not yet matured and although we were given samples which *may* indicate a direction for the distillery, we’d much rather comment on the real thing. Ardnahoe is, as expected, a ‘polished’ environment and experience (the food is really good as is the service and engagement from the staff) – and over time (as with ALL young distilleries) we’ll get to see more personality and unique character come from this.

In conclusion, a great start to a new distillery which – let’s be honest – has picked some heavyweight neighbours to compete with. But as Kilchoman showed, there’s still room on this little island and Ardnahoe has made itself at home. However, with the legendary Port Ellen under refurbishment which will make 10 working distilleries – is there room for the much-rumoured 11th and 12th…!? Watch this space..


Tullibardine Highland Whisky

Another Thursday night in Skipton, and another Whisky Tasting. (As much as we’d like to, we don’t do them EVERY Thursday by the way..)

Representing Tullibardine was honorary Yorkshireman Stephen Reah – International Sales Manager of Terroirs Distillers – the privately-held French subsidiary of Picard Vins & Spiritueux. Under the Terroir Distillers marque comes Louis Royer Cognac (which was bought from Suntory Holdings), Highland Queen blended Scotch and Muirhead’s blend – as well as Tullibardine of course.

Tullibardine, sitting in the lowland part of the Highlands is often seen and often passed – as it sits on the side of the A19 between Stirling and Perth. After this tasting however, I’m sure it will be getting some new visitors calling in.

Sovereign  – 43% abv

Their signature single malt is just five years old, however (as with the rest at this age) gives off an aroma and flavour profile which would suggest it has been matured beyond it’s young years.

Light golden in colour, this has been matured in first fill ex-bourbon barrels – something that forms the basis for the the distillery’s ‘wood finishes’. You’ll see.

It’s a floral, slightly creamy, smooth and light whisky with hints of vanilla and a slight touch of spice. A great intro to the distillery.

225 Sauternes Cask Finish – 43% abv

Take the basis of Sovereign, then finish in 225 litre Sauterness (sweet white wine) casks.

This takes up the complexity volume a touch – starting with a deeper colour, a sweeter nose and then a more tropical palate – pineapple, citrus and zesty notes too.

This is an extremely accessible whisky. I noted it as a potential new ‘every day’ dram..!

228 Burgundy Cask finish – 43% abv

Again, take the Sovereign, mature for five years in first-fill ex-bourbon then finish in 228 litre barriques which had formally held Chateau de Chassagne Montrachet Pinot Noir.

As expected, this held a deeper colour with a hint of red which threw a few people towards the Port finish direction.

However, the palate gave away a certain bitterness from the red wine tannins, with dark chocolate and red cherry flavours coming through.

The finish has the dryness and tannins again, but is warming with slight spice too.

500 Sherry Cask finish – 43% abv

Ok, so you get how it goes from now. This time, finishing took place in 500 litre Spanish sherry butts. Between these first four – there’s really something for every palate and a great set of whiskies for newbies to discover their flavour.

Unsuprisingly (but nevertheless, welcome) were the richness and spice you get from sherry. This has a distinctive nutty profile – which made sense when it was confirmed that the previous occupant of these casks was Olorosso.

Rich dried fruits (raisins), molasses, toffee. Lovely. This one got two ticks.

20 Year Old – 43% abv

This forms the part of Tullibardine’s “Fine Aged Collection” where, you guessed it, each whisky has an age statement.

The 20 yo has spent a minimum of 20 years (more like 25 we’re told) in first-fill ex-bourbon, so this is like Sovereign – and then some!

Deep gold in colour with a nose that surprisingly remains fresh after quarter of a century in oak.

The palate was rich and almost chocolatey with the hints of vanilla which you’d expect from bourbon casks.

The finish wasn’t quite as long as expected, however it was rewarding – and each visit to the glass gave something different in this respect. Lovely.

25 yo – 43% abv

An absolute minimum of 25 years in ex-sherry hogsheads – straight after a 20 yo matured in bourbon. We are spoilt.

Confusingly, my notes state 5 years in sherry and 25 in bourbon – however, the night was getting on at this point.

Much richer nose than the 20 with a rich and lively palate. What was surprising about this, and the 20, was how delicate they were considering their maturity.

The Murray – 46% abv

The Murray comes from another range – the Marquess Collection.

This one, from 2006 (other Murray’s exist from 2004, 2005 or are finished with Marsala Casks, Chateauneuf0fu-Pape barriques..) has a slight pink tinge to it with an oaky nose with spicy aromas which suggested fortified wine…-  which it gets due to its finishing in the aforementioned Marsala casks.

This is a rich whisky and gives a fuller mouthfeel than some of the previous drams.

Glencadam Highland Whisky

Our latest whisky tasting took place on Thursday 21st Feb, where Global Brand Ambassador (!) for Angus Dundee Distillers, Iain Forteath, came along to take us on a journey of Glencadam. (Angus Dundee Distillers also own Tomintoul and the Old Ballantruan brand.)

For those of you who’ve not yet joined us for a tasting, the evening consists of between 50-60 people who get a selection of seven whiskies each. The distillery representative, i.e.; Iain, then talks us through the production process, the distillery history and his tips and advice on how to test the whisky. Finished off with a supper, it’s always a lively event with lots of passionate whisky enthusiasts, experts and novices too.

Iain held court very well on the evening, his knowledge and passion shining through. It’s clear that this isn’t ‘just a job’ for him – he clearly loves the product, and also doesn’t shy away from mentioning other brands he admires.

Glencadam is one of the quietest distilleries – in the fact that they don’t shout about themselves very much. They aren’t open to visitors and they don’t produce anything like the quantity that the larger distilleries produce. Due to that, they are not a brand you’ll readily see on supermarket shelves with 20% off and so on. 

However, search them out (we proudly stock them of course) as they really are a hidden gem.

Here’s what we tasted;

Glencadam 10 yo – 46% abv

A pale straw colour and very fresh nose; green apples, vanilla and citrus. Made using 50% first fill bourbon (hence the vanilla) this is a great starting whisky, or as Iain put it – a Sauvignon Blanc. Recommended as an aperitif and also a good pairing to smoked salmon and oily seafood but to the ‘clean’ and ‘fresh’ nature of it.
The finish is quite dry with more citrus.

Glencadam 13 yo  – 46% abv

AKA, The Re-Awakening, the additional years give this a ‘thicker’ profile. The colour is a deeper gold hue, and it certainly carries more spice on the palate.

The mouthfeel is oily and creamier than the 10 yo with someone likening the taste to a Caramac bar. (!)

What ‘ The Re-Awakening”? Because in 2000 the distillery fell silent and this represents re-awakening three years later.

Glencadam 17 yo Portwood – 46% abv

This is where it got really interesting for me, impressive as the first two were. 12yrs in bourbon then 5yrs in Ruby port. The Ruby is chosen over Tawny, as it handles longer maturations better, and imparts red fruit and tannins.

This is a lovely whisky – sweet yet dry on the palette and a lovely rich, cinnamon nose which precedes the taste. It was just wonderful to taste.

Glencadam 18yo – 46% abv

Again, this has a fairly pale colour profile (they don’t use colouring). Another reason for this is the use of bourbon casks which imparts less colour than it’s sherry counterpart.

After tasting the Portwood finish, the nose on the 18 offers less – but it’s been created as a more delicate whisky. There’s the fruity profile again, but not as prevalent as others with their rich raisins and fruit-cake flavours. There’s also the underlying spice and bitterness too.

Glencadam 19 yo Oloroso Cask Finish – 46% abv

13yrs in bourbon and 6 in Oloroso casks, Iain tells us of the difference with European Oak – offering more spice for a starter.

This dram doesn’t disappoint – with cedar, sultanas and christmas cake on the nose and a wonderfully rich and creamy palate. This finish goes on and on and, well, I really really liked this. A lot.

Glencadam 21 yo – 46% abv

Described as an ‘old school whisky’, this is all bourbon and from a batch of just 6,000. Just hone i thought the one before was good. Wow.

This has more of a woody profile, with oak on the nose and a full, powerful mouthfeel. All these whiskies are the same above, so it’s interesting to note the differences and different impressions of alcohol level they give.

It’s a lovely, sweet whisky – but certainly not sickly-sweet. My scribbled notes gave it extra ticks for being simply wonderful.

Glencadam 25 yo – 46% abv

Just to be clear – this is 1/4 of a century old. Wow. 25 long years in a deep slumber in Scotland.

It comes in a fancy box and all that, probably with a price point to represent it’s age too. It it worth it? Well that’s only what the individual can decide. It’s a wonderfully rounded and balanced which, with a full palate and flavour. It rightly came at the end of the tasting, however, 6 whiskies in – could my palate do justice to the intricacies and nuances of such an aged whisky? Probably not.

I head back to the 21 year old, but am pleased I was able to try this piece of Glencadam history.

Discover more at

Julian Drinks… Irish Whiskey

With St. Patrick’s day done and dusted for the year, we pick up some scribbled notes from Julian’s desk to see how he celebrated. Not being a Guinness drinker, we suspected Whiskey, firmly with an ‘e’, had been order of the day…

Although it’s a shame this was’t done before St. Patricks day, he was at least getting into the spirit (ahem) of things.

Continue reading “Julian Drinks… Irish Whiskey”