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“Because you can't buy happiness... but you can buy whisky and that's pretty much the same thing”

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Laphroaig: Salty peated single malt pleasure

By Miguel in Tasting , Featured , Laphroaig

Tasting in honor of Laphroaig Live 2012, five proposed whiskies. I have all of them but Ardmore so I will taste three Laphroaigs and Connemara.


I missed the online event for a matter of hours so I sorted the whiskies as I though it could be best. I think that the drams has been sorted slightly different on the online tasting with Connemara and Ardmore being tasted in last place.

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Smokehead and other Islay mystery malts

By Miguel in Tasting , Featured , Smokehead

I have been around three weeks without much whisky. First, I got holidays and I have been doing some repairs at home and then I have been out at beach. So no whisky for me during the last 23 days.


That’s quite a record. And also the fact that I have done while on holidays mojitos using gin because all the rum ran out.

By the way, here is a photo of the beach. A must-visit one at Conil de la Frontera.

I wanted to return with something nice and special! So I grabbed my box of samples and voila! I wrongly took the Islay box :) Who of you can say no to a nice peat punch?

So let’s taste the stuff. I just grabbed five drams for my first tasting: three Smokehead single malts and two secret distillery from Islay. One of them with a very nice score from Malt Maniacs.

Smokehead Extra Rare 1L

“Just nosing it you can't get an idea of the peat explosion that is coming to your palate”

Smokehead Extra Rare 1l

This dram has a white wine-like color.

Nose (89): more than average. smoke, honey, citrus, wood.

Palate (90): oily. peat, earth, honey, citrus, chocolate.

Finish (89): longer than average. peat, honey, wood.

So based on other whiskies I have already tasted I rate this Smokehead Extra Rare 1l with 89 points over 100.


“Nice secret single malt whisky, almost sure it is a Caol Ila with some bold spices notes.”

A un-named single malt from Ian Macleod Distillers, with a big South Islay style. "Its like a cannonball!" say the producers. We like it very much, some of our staff loving it. Great value, attractively packaged, and with all that muscly brawn of a young Islay malt.

This dram has a fino-like color.

Nose (89): more than average. smoke, honey, wood, spices, citrus.

Palate (89): powerful, oily. peat, honey, citrus, wood, spices.

Finish (90): longer than average. peat, spices.

So based on other whiskies I have already tasted I rate this Smokehead with 89 points over 100.

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Smokehead 18 years old Extra Rare

“Looks definitively older than the other two expressions of Smokehead and older than 18 years old. A nice old Islay malt for a fair price.”

Smokehead 18 year Extra Black
A longer-aged edition of Smokehead, the popular mystery Islay Single Malt bottled by Ian McLeod Distillers. This Extra Black expression is 18 years old.

This dram has a gold-like color.

Nose (90): average. honey, floral, candies, peat, wood.

Palate (90): oily. peat, honey, citrus, wood, spices, cocoa.

Finish (89): average. peat, candies.

So based on other whiskies I have already tasted I rate this Smokehead 18 year Extra Black with 90 points over 100.

Buy this bottle at

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Islay Storm

“Lovely nose with tons of toffee and vanilla aromas. Can I be wrong if I say this is a Caol Ila?”

Islay Storm
An Islay single malt from a secret distillery, Islay Storm has loads of peaty character.

This dram has a gold-like color.

Nose (91): more than average. honey, peat, toffee, citrus, spices, vanilla.

Palate (89): oily. peat, honey, citrus, wood, spices, pepper.

Finish (90): longer than average. peat, honey, wood, floral.

So based on other whiskies I have already tasted I rate this Islay Storm with 90 points over 100.

Buy this bottle at

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Breath of Islay 12 years old 1999

“Superb delicious stuff! Looks like an old sherried peated Bunnahabhain.”

Breath of Islay 12 Year Old 1999 (Adelphi)
This Breath of Islay was distilled at a secret Islay distillery in 1999.

It was aged for 12 years in cask 5877 and was bottled by Adelphi in 2011.
A lovely whisky with an out-turn of 329 bottles.

This dram has a cooper-like color.

Nose (90): more than average. nuts, peat, honey, citrus, wood. This sherry aged whisky smells like some of the best Bunna I have had.

Palate (92): powerful, oily. peat, nuts, honey, wood, smoke, spices. Oh my! The cask strength really does the work.

Finish (91): longer than average. peat, honey, nuts.

So based on other whiskies I have already tasted I rate this Breath of Islay 12 Year Old 1999 (Adelphi) with 91 points over 100.

Yep, definitively Malt Maniacs know about whisky. Breath of Islay is by far the most solid dram of this flight and a very good whisky on itself,

This the beginning

On the following months I plan to start writing about my tasting sessions instead of just isolated bottles. I think it is more fun for both of us. And it is possible because I finally sorted and classified my samples library. :)

I would love to read what you have been drinking this summer.

Whisky Tasting Session 2012-05: Blind fun!

By Miguel in Tasting , News , Featured , The Macallan , Bunnahabhain , Aberlour , Macduff

I have joined Jean-Marie Putz of whisky-distilleries.info and twenty other whisky zealots in the fifth blind tasting session of this year.


The principle is that whisky producers supply whisky they select themselves, according to their marketing goals. The sent whisky bottles are sampled and sent to about 20 tasters who write their impressions about every whisky. Their impressions and their quotation are published in Whisky distilleries blog.

The Whisky Tasting sessions are a flight of six whiskies tasted blind. Usually bottles are from independent bottlers that are really strong sellers in central Europe.

The samples arrived a few weeks ago in a supercool box. Each samples was 2.5cl and bottled in a small flask. Work has been been delaying me on tasting the six samples but finally this Thursday I had a few spare hours to taste them.


Usually I try to short the samples as explained in the how to taste whisky article, but this time I just decided to enjoy and go ahead. Mainly because if I sort the samples I will lack of time to taste them properly.

Sample N 1

“Unpromising nose but then a really delicious taste. Maybe Redbreast?”

Macduff 1980 Malts of Scotland
Impressive whisky from Macduff distillery bottled by Malts of Scotland from the 1980 vintage.

This single cask malt has been matured in a bourbon hogshead and bottled at cask strength at a whopping 54,1% abv.

This dram has a gold-like color.

Nose (87): more than average. floral, honey, spices, vanilla, citrus. Very irish style.

Palate (90): powerful. floral, honey, spices, citrus, vanilla, peaches, wood.

Finish (90): longer than average. floral, spices, citrus, honey.

So based on other whiskies I have already tasted I rate this Macduff 1980 Malts of Scotland with 89 points over 100.

Sample N 2

“Nicely floral... maybe a highlander? finished in sherry cask?”

Aberlour 17 years Anam Na H-Alba
A 17 years old cask strength single malt whisky from Aberlour distillery.
Bottled by Anam Na H-Alba at an incredible 60,6% abv.

This dram has a fino-like color.

Nose (88): more than average. honey, vanilla, citrus, toffee. Powerful toffee aroma. Like a Cadbury box

Palate (89): . honey, floral, spices, citrus, wood, chocolate.

Finish (88): average. toffee, spices, vanilla.

So based on other whiskies I have already tasted I rate this Aberlour 17 years Anam Na H-Alba with 88 points over 100.

Sample N 3

“Very nice sherried whisky. I think I have already tasted this one...”

Macallan 1989 Whiskies of Scotland
A single malt whisky distilled in the Macallan distillery.

This whisky has been bottled at 47.1% abv from the 1989 vintage by Whiskies of Scotland

This dram has a fino-like color.

Nose (89): more than average. toffee, floral, vanilla, peaches. Very closed nose but really nice.

Palate (90): smooth, powerful, oily. honey, wood, vanilla, citrus, spices, cinnamon, tobacco. I am sure I have tasted this one before... umm... no clue right now.

Finish (89): average. honey, tobacco, vanilla, wood.

So based on other whiskies I have already tasted I rate this Macallan 1989 Whiskies of Scotland with 89 points over 100.

Sample N 4

“Superb nose! I am almost sure this one is An Cnoc single malt”

Blended Malt batch 116 Dailuaine 1999 & Linkwood 1998
This vatted whisky, or blended malt whisky as the Scotch Whisky Association prefers, is the result of blending together a Dailuaine 1999 with a Linkwood 1998.

Bottled by Jean Boyer - Le Puits Whisky at 43%. This bottled belongs to batch 116.

This dram has a fino-like color.

Nose (91): more than average. toffee, vanilla, citrus. An Cnoc! It must be an Cnoc! Delicious!

Palate (90): smooth, oily. honey, vanilla, floral, citrus, wood, spices, anise, cinnamon.

Finish (89): longer than average. toffee, vanilla, citrus.

So based on other whiskies I have already tasted I rate this Blended Malt batch 116 Dailuaine 1999 & Linkwood 1998 with 90 points over 100.

Sample N 5

“Superb stuff! Peat and sherry marvel!”

Bunnahabhain 20 years old Wilson & Morgan
An awesome Bunnahabhain 20 years old bottled by Wilson & Morgan.

This incredible Islay single malt whisky has been bottled at cask strength at a very interesting 48.5 abv. A real crack whisky.

This dram has a tawny-like color.

Nose (90): more than average. honey, sulphur, peat, citrus, nuts. Old sherried japanese single malt style whisky.

Palate (92): powerful, oily. honey, peat, wood, citrus, spices, cinnmon. Very nice.

Finish (91): longer than average. peat, honey, spices, maritime.

So based on other whiskies I have already tasted I rate this Bunnahabhain 20 years old Wilson & Morgan with 91 points over 100.

Sample N 6

“Another sherry crack with a lovely nose”

Macallan 1990 Fino Sherry Hogshead Malts of Scotland
An interesting Macallan single malt whisky from 1990 vintage matured fully in a Fino sherry hogshead.

This whisky has been bottled by Malts of Scotland at 51.5% abv.

This dram has a amber-like color.

Nose (90): more than average. honey, citrus, spices, cinnamon, candies, smoke. Old whisky here...

Palate (90): powerful, oily. honey, spices, pepper, floral, citrus, nuts.

Finish (89): longer than average. honey, spices, nuts.

So based on other whiskies I have already tasted I rate this Macallan 1990 Fino Sherry Hogshead Malts of Scotland with 90 points over 100.

In conclusion

It has been a very nice tasting, really fun. And I have tasted two Macallans! Tasting the first one I was really really sure that I have already tasted it. Also really impressed by a very nice Bunnahabhain with its incredible peat and sherry style.

My favorite has been the Bunnahabhain whisky, very similar in style to the impressive bottling of The Whisky Barrel for Queen’s Diamond Jubilee.

The Peat Paradise: Islay from Bunnahabhain to Port Ellen

By Miguel in Tasting , Recommended , Featured , Laphroaig , Caol Ila , Lagavulin , Port Ellen , Ardbeg , Bunnahabhain , Kilchoman , Bowmore , Bruichladdich

Islay is an island in the west of Scotland that produce a style of single malts that you either love or hate: peated whiskies.

Gregor Haslinger Islay photo
(Photo on top of one of the Jura Pups looking south overseeing the Isle of Islay by Gregor Haslinger)

You may wonder why such an small island have so many distilleries and I hope this article enlighten you and share with us the passion for peated whiskies.
I have tasted already many of the whiskies created at Islay but I really wanted to taste them all in a row so I can compare them side by side. I hate when I taste blindly a whisky and I can’t decide if it is a Caol Ila ( most are ) or an Ardbeg.

So come with me in this trip around Islay in nine drams. Oh man! I am sure you can smell the smoke from there.

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Best whiskies of March tastings

By Miguel in Tasting , News , Featured

March is now gone and I am on holidays right now. So looking back I have tasted this past month lots of interesting whiskies. There have been several whiskies above 90 points and I have tasted several interesting things as the Macallan the 1824 Collection, Buffalo Trace Vintage releases of George T Stagg, William Larue Weller, Thomas H Handy, Compass Box Last Vatted whiskies or the winner of this month and perhaps of the year…

Best whisky in March: Laphroaig 27 years old Oloroso Cask 2008

You need to know this, except some Bunnahabhains whiskies, I don’t like at all peat and sherry whiskies. So I ordered this Laphroaig not expecting anything special but willing that it was as good as the 25 years old that I tasted during Laphroaig Live 2010 when John Campbell was kind to let us try a Laphroaig 25 years old and I was greatly impressed with the whisky.

So I poured the whisky and then it just happened, there it was, with its great dark mahogany color, looking so good. Laphroaig adds caramel to Quarter Cask whisky so they may do the same to this one. But then I nosed it and I was conquered, all my walls collapsed and I was in front of one of the best whiskies I have ever had. This was like being abducted to a sherry bodega in Jerez and then being at the same time at the shore of Islay.

Almost winners

2. The Macallan 10 years old Sherry Oak Cask Strength

An old favorite here, I love Macallan and I love this cask strength whisky. I was raising my glass in memory of Michael Jackson during International Whisky Day with this outstanding Macallan. Perhaps the older ones are more sutile, with notes of candies and dried fruits, but this one at just 10 years old is a crack. It is the Ardbeg equivalent of the sherried whiskies.
And if you haven’t read the Malt Whisky Compation or Whisky both written by Michael Jackson, you should.

3. Buffalo Trace William Larue Weller 2011 Release

When I tasted George T Stagg a few years ago I was really impressed by how good and complex bourbon can be. Months later I tasted the other two special bottling from Buffalo Trace: William Larue bourbon and Thomas H Handy Rye. Now I had the chance of tasting the three in a row, and without doubts this William Larue is the best of them. Awesome bourbon even if it is really expensive at this side of the pond.

4. Amrut Fusion

This one is also a retaste, I tasted both this and Amrut 46% when I began writing in the blog and I enjoyed more the 46%. I have tasted now both of them again and this time I have appreciated more Amrut Fusion, more complex and with a delicious sherry touch. Amrut is doing a great work with their single malts.

5. Laphroaig 10 years old Original Cask Strength

And to think that I spoiled two bottles of this trying to get something closer to Laphroaig 27 years old… Awesome Laphroaig, bottled at cask strength with all the peat punch you would expect from such monster. I tasted side by side to the new batch 3 bottle and this is a better whisky in my opinion.

Special mention. Compass Box The Last Vatted Malt

I can’t quit writing without letting you know about Compass Box latest greatest whisky. To celebrate and honor vatted malt Compass Box launched a bottling, well, two in fact: Last Vatted Malt and Last Vatted Grain. They are mindblowing expensive for my standards but at least the malt version is a very good whisky with lots of old peat and sherry awesomeness.

What about you? Did you tasted any great whisky during March?
Please write about it in the comments.

How to taste whisky: Become an expert in 7 steps

By Miguel in Tasting , Featured , Whisky

Do you drink whisky? Do you enjoy single malts? Do you appreciate it? Great so you have a lot of the way already done. Tasting whiskies is mostly about finding aromas and memories inside the glass and translating them into words.

Whisky is one of the most fascinating drinks I have tried and with these seven steps I will show you how to best appreciate single malts.

Are you ready to learn tasting like a pro?

1. Choose your whiskies

Did I said that whisky tasting only make sense when comparing each of them against the others? Whether you are rating a whisky or just tasting it, everything makes more sense when done against others.


So grab no more than five or six whiskies that you want to taste.

Calibration dram

You can also get a bottle of a whisky that we will call calibration dram. Fine calibration drams are Glenfiddich 12 years old or Glenlivet 12 years old: not expensive, not to dominant in any profile and easy to buy. This whisky will help you tune in so you can compare others against this whisky and see if they are better or worse than it.

You can go ahead without a calibration dram too. I usually does without.

Try to taste similar whiskies in a single tasting.

If it is not possible then sort whiskies using the following guidelines.

A. From youngest to oldest

Usually old single malt whiskies are very complex and need and deserve lots of time and attention to get all the details going around. On the other hand, younger whiskies are most of the times simpler and unidimensional. So to give a fair chance to those whiskies taste them first.

B. Lightest to Heaviest

As you progress in your whisky tasting, not alcohol but flavors and aromas left a mark on you, so it is fair to think that light whiskies will left a smaller mark than a sherried whisky.

Some general guidelines are:
– Lowlands, Highlands, Islands, Speyside, Islay
– Blended, Single Malts
– Irish whisky, Scotch, Bourbon

C. Non peated before Peated

After tasting a peated whisky like Laphroaig, it will severly impair you to fully appreciate lighter whiskies like a grain whisky. So as long as it is possible, try to left peated whiskies for the end of your tasting.

D. From 40% to cask strength.

Usually the best whiskies that any distillery can produce are bottled at cask strength, that is a value that ranges from 40% to 70% usually. As you nose and taste a high strength whisky it will impair you to appreciate the subtle details of a lower bottled whisky. So as long as it is possible, sort them using alcohol content.

Hey! But what happens when two of your guidelines collide? Well, you need to guess. Try an order and if you are not happy with the result, try another day a different approach. The best way of learning this stuff is tasting, tasting and tasting.

Some examples of tastings

Here you have some suggestions to start tasting whisky


Let’s walk around Islay tasting some of its great peated whiskies.


Some of the greatest Speyside whiskies are aged in sherry casks, give yourself a treat and taste some of this sherries jewels.

2. Prepare the tasting

Still there? Great!. Now go a grab a few things that you will need during the tasting.
– Glasses
– Mineral water
– Glass lid or pieces of paper
Tasting notes sheets
– Pen


Not all glasses are good for tasting whisky, so try to choose a nice glass and make sure you have enough of them. Place them on the table in front of you.

Identify each glass, either by placing them over a numbered piece of paper or just by placing behind it the bottle that will you pour on it.

Now pour on each glass a small measure of whisky, I usually work with 1.5 – 2cl of whisky. If you pour less it is really hard to nose it, and if you pour more you won’t reach whisky #5.

Done? Now cover the glass, either with a lid or with a squared piece of paper.

3. Consider the whisky

Now grab the glass. Look at the color of the whisky.

Swirl it and see how the whisky return to the bottom of the glass.


Done? Great. Now just forget it. Cover the glass and let it stay calm for a minute.

Color doesn’t matter at all as it can be obtained using burnt sugar and you will see how whisky feels on mouth in a minute.

4. Nose your whisky

Take your glass and slowly approach both glass to nose and nose to glass.

Slowly take a short inspiration and appreciate it.


Move the glass, tilting it to find the way the glass delivers aromas best.

How is it? Light? Strong? Powerful? Write down.

What do you think? How it smells? Bad? Good? Mean? Awesome? Give it a score if you want.

Now try to detail what the whisky smell of? Think of the honey, the barley, the species, the fruits, flowers, the wood of the cask. The whisky is singing about its origins. Just listen to it. Many single malts are really complex, so aromas will arrive to you as a delicious mess. Just write whatever the whisky hit on your mind, most of times you will be right.

If you need close your eyes, yeah! even if it makes you look stupid, as it helps your brain to concentrate on one sense: nose.

Nose the whisky again. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. You are done with it once you are sure about what you wrote. Keep in mind that all whiskies evolve when they are exposed to open air, so give the whiskies a few minutes to open itself up.

Whisky-o-matic nosing approach

If you want to send your tasting notes to A Wardrobe of Whisky so Whisky-o-matic can use it you need to write the nosing in a special way. Write down the things you nose in the order that appears on the glass, which usually is from most powerful to most delicate aromas, and try to detail as much as possible aromas you get.

So instead of campfire near the seashore that is very poetic you have to write something like peat, smoke, salt, iodine. Got it? If you are not sure if it is apple or pears for example, write fruits or fruits, apple so whisky-o-matic can understand what it is going on.

5. Taste your whisky

Take a small sip of the whisky we are nosing.
How does it feel on the mouth? Is it light, or dense? Does it burn or is it a smooth whisky? Tick, tick , tick.


Take another sip, a generous one, and this time keep it on your mouth while rolling it around. Write down how it taste, it is a similar approach to what you did on the nose. Does it taste sweet? dry? of fruits? Write down.

Swallow it ( or spit ).

What do you think of it? Nice? Bad? Too dry? Too sweet? Score it if you please.

Have another sip and check that you are happy with what you wrote.

Whisky-o-matic tasting approach

As we did on the nosing, we have to write the most specific terms in the order they appear. For example: honey, malt, spices, cinnamon, nuts, cocoa. Again if you are not sure about the exact term use a generic one like: sweet instead of honey.

6. Listen to how it finish

Bad news! You need another sip.

Have it, swallow ( or spit ) and wait a few seconds. What taste do you have in your mouth right now? How long is it? Do you like? Score it.

7. Compare, check, write!

You are almost done.

Nose a last time to see if everything is as you wrote and now the hardest part.

Try to summarize the experience in a few lines of text, what memories this whisky brings you, which feelings does it trigger on you? Be creative.

Whisky-o-matic approach

Now you can release the poet you have inside, write the most creative two or three lines you can about your whisky.
We will use this on the tasting note.

Now you can upload your tasting note to A Wardrobe of Whisky. Just find the bottle you have tasted and scroll down until you see Tasting notes section

Finishing you tasting session

Now you are done with this whisky. Repeat the process with the rest of them until you are done.

Now before finishing, just ask yourself which one has been your favorite.

Is the favorite the best scored whisky? It should be if you want your scores to be useful for you.
In case it isn’t, just check on the whiskies where the problem could be.


Blank Tasting note Template
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