Mark’s Whisky Ramblings 374: Aberlour a’bunadh Batch 66 – Scotch Whisky News

Mark’s Whisky Ramblings 374: Aberlour a’bunadh Batch 66

Mark Dermul, Belgian whisky blogger, tries another Aberlour a’bunadh. Mark has tried quite a few a’bunadh in his day, batch 60 only last November, but recently got a bottle of batch 66. The buyer was not very fond of it and asked Mark to take it off his hands. He did so gladly, so here we are with this sherry monster that will brighten up his day.

Balblair 15 Year Old Scotch Review

By Richard Thomas

Rating: B+

The second run in Balblair’s revamped line of single malt is the 15 year old. The whisky sees a first stage of aging in ex-bourbon barrels, which is then transferred for a finish in first-fill butts of Spanish oak (essentially Sherry casks  that weren’t used to age Sherry). Balblair 15 is bottled at 46% ABV.

The Scotch
In the Glencairn glass, this whisky has a coppered look to it. Seeing as how that is somewhat darker than what I expect from even a 15 year old malt, I’m attributing it to the first-fill Spanish oak butts, with the fresher wood putting more color in.

I found the nose smacked of honey and a rounded, fruit cocktail kind of fruitiness, accented by notes of vanilla and toffee. Hints of straw, oak and just a single kernel of black pepper finish things out, for a rather sophisticated and balanced scent.

The flavor was, I felt, much simpler. It was grassy and honeyed in the main, with a touch of that fruit cocktail and a dash of spice. The finish was a light one, leaving a lingering dusting of spicy wood.

The Price
Expect to pay between $120 and $135 in the US and £75 in the UK for a bottle of Balblair 15.

Waterford Hook Head Edition 1.1

Waterford Hook Head Edition 1.1 is one of two new global expressions in the Spring 2021 releases from this distillery (together with Lakefield Edition 1.1).

Hook Head, 10 miles from the distillery on Ireland’s southern coast, is said to have an extreme maritime terroir. The Propino barley, which is grown by Martin Foley on clay / loam soils, is exposed to salt-laden storms. It is matured in 46% first-fill bourbon barrels and 22% virgin oak barrels, the rest being Margaux wine, sherry and Marsala wine casks. As always they provide plenty of details on their website.


Waterford Hook Head – Edition 1.1 3 yo 2017 (50%, OB 2021, 30066 btl.)

Nose: this very bready character that is typical for Waterford at this moment. A lot of earthy spice as well, say nutmeg and clove. Salted popcorn in the background, as well as some milk chocolate and caramel. Some mossy, leafy notes. I’d say the saltiness and the very light iodine tingle is clearly noticeable here.

Mouth: there’s a toffee sweetness at first, as well as a faint citrusy touch, but it is quickly taken over by spices. White pepper, nutmeg, a few mustard seeds. Then rye bread and liquorice. Ginger notes. It dries towards the end – I think the wine casks are coming to the fore there – but it keeps a nice balance.

Finish: medium, with some drying oak, more spice and a whiff of menthol.

Another well-made, natural whisky which already shows a character different from all others. This particular expression is very spice-driven and indeed a bit coastal. Still bumping into the limits of age (of course) but promising. Around € 70-80.

Redbreast 10 Years Old Cask Strength Batch 1 (59.1%, OB, 2021)

Rich and full Pot Still whisky expression, great depth of distillate here lending generous ‘heavy’ character, leathery spice offset by sweet and fruity cask influences. I can only guess at the historic 10 year old profile but this new re-imagining of the 10 year old expression certainly fits in my mind to what it could have been. 87/100

Top 5 Irish Whiskeys For Under $60 (2021)

By Richard Thomas

Teeling Single Grain Whiskey

Teeling Single Grain Whiskey
(Credit: Richard Thomas)

St. Patrick’s Day 2021 is just a week away, and with the pandemic still raging one can’t recommend hitting an Irish pub and draining (a few) pints of green beer. Perhaps the best thing to do, should it be sunny, is take a flask of Irish whiskey out to enjoy the crisp air and the coming of springtime. If it isn’t sunny, take that same Irish whiskey as a brace against weather more typical of the Emerald Isle.

The last time The Whiskey Reviewer tackled this subject was October 2016, so it is time for a fresh look. Prices have changed, new brands have entered the market, and some items have been discontinued. However, the $60 mark continues to hold as a point that includes many mid-ranged, premium Irish whiskeys, as well as the best picks from the bargain category.

Top 5 Irish Whiskeys For Under $60

5. Jameson Black Barrel ($45): Jameson introduced this expression more than a decade ago, originally as Jameson Small Batch and then rebranded as Black Barrel. Whereas normal Jameson is a blend of the Irish whiskey trinity — pot still, malt and grain whiskeys — this is a blend of pot still and grain. Thus, it is more akin to a premium take on Powers than Jameson. In this particular instance, the last time I checked the folks at Midleton used pot still whiskey approximately 12 years old and grain whiskey about 5 years old, aged in either toasted Sherry casks or charred ex-bourbon barrels. Hence the “black barrel” part.

Since its introduction, Black Barrel has come up in price, but remained my go-to choice for getting real bang for your buck in Irish whiskey. It’s a very reasonably priced choice, offers excellent value, and is just plain, all-around good. Fans of Powers in particular should take note and snag a bottle for St. Patrick’s 2021.

4. Writer’s Tears Double Oak ($60): Whereas two of the whiskeys described above blend pot still and grain whiskeys, this Walsh Whiskey creation is based on pot still and malt whiskeys. This 2020 brand extension to the arguably best named of Irish whiskeys takes that blend (drawn from ex-bourbon barrel stock) and finishes it in ex-Cognac barrels. I found this particular choice of finishing cask brought out the best in Writer’s Tears, with the Cognac polish rounding out the malty honey and pot still spices nicely.

3. Knappogue Castle 12 Year Old Single Malt ($50): Knappogue Castle is a sourced brand made by Castle Brands, and their 12 year old is a solid entry level example of Irish single malts. Several years ago, most Knappogue Castle single malts were supposed to have been sourced through Bushmills, but don’t think you are getting a slightly improved take on Bushmills 10 Year Old. Knappogue 12 is a quite different character, and one well worth becoming acquainted with.

Green Spot

Need to try pot still whiskey for the first time? Reach for Green Spot.
(Credit: Irish Distillers)

2. Teeling Single Grain ($50): Grain whiskey is often perceived as a cheaper, lighter spirit than pot still and malt, and thus is the least loved among Irish whiskeys … at least by those who know just enough to be snobby, without rising to erudition. So, why not put a twist on those folks by trying something underrated, a little different, and quite excellent this St. Patrick’s Day: Teeling Single Grain. This is one of the most accessible single grain whiskeys around, and you can tell just by looking at the bottle that the rich, golden liquid inside is not cheap or light on flavor.

1. Green Spot Single Pot Still ($55): Pot still whiskey, a type based on a mix of malted and unmalted barley, is a unique signature of Irish whiskey. In recent years, the category has seen a revival that has turned it into the crown jewel of Irish whiskey. Green Spot is a 7 to 10 year old single pot still whiskey, aged in first- and second-fill bourbon barrels and ex-Sherry casks. That mix yields a personality distinct from the more Sherry oriented style embodied in Redbreast.

During the dark days of the Irish whiskey industry in the 1970s, it almost disappeared from production, but the New Midleton Distillery (makers of Jameson and Powers) made a firm commitment to keep on making their pot still whiskey. They later spearheaded the revival with the introduction of two brands: Redbreast and the Spots. Nowadays, Green Spot is the only one of the lot that can be reliably had for less than $60, so if you are looking to get a handle on Ireland’s most distinctive style of whiskey-making for a reasonable price, this is where you must go.


Whisky Wednesday Reviews Famous Grouse: Smoky Black – Scotch Whisky News

Matthew Gloag created The Grouse in 1896, renamed The Famous Grouse in 1905. Classicslly, Famous Grouse would contain Macallan and Highland Park. But Smoky Black uses an in-house peated malt produced by Glenturret once a year called Ruddy Mhor.

Edrington don’t own Glenturret anymore, it’s now in Lalique’s hands. But they still own the Famous Grouse brand. So even though it contains peated Glenturret, other whiskies within the Edrington umbrella could be within it: Bowmore, Highland Park, Macallan? Glen Garioch.

2,000,000 cases annually and Royal Warrant in 1984 have allowed the brand to become one of the best selling, and most well known in Scotch whisky.



Benriach Distillery has today (Wednesday 3rd March) unveiled its latest single cask bottlings – Benriach Cask Edition Collection 2021. Each of its 19 premium expressions have been crafted to celebrate the individuality of the distillery’s cask types, and the resulting Single Malt that each helps to mature.

Each expression in the new collection has been individually nurtured and selected at its optimum maturation point by Benriach’s Master Blender, Rachel Barrie. Featuring both peated and unpeated styles of whisky, each expression celebrates the unique flavour impacted by its cask, and allows a different facet of Benriach’s multi-layered, fruit forward style to be explored.

From madeira to moscatel hogsheads and rum barrels to port pipes, 11 different cask types from around the world have been used to paint a rainbow of flavour across the collection. From the smoked nutmeg of the madeira cask to the smouldering pine nut and rich campfire smoke found in the Oloroso sherry butt, these flavourful individual casks range from 1994 to 2009.

Cask Edition Collection 2021 continues Benriach’s creative legacy of bottling individual casks in what is a new era for the distillery since it relaunched its portfolio last year.

Rachel Barrie, Master Blender at Benriach Distillery commented: 

“When it comes to experimenting with flavour through our rich inventory of cask types at Benriach, it is important to appreciate the individuality of the cask and its back story to tease out its full potential. Benriach Cask Edition Collection 2021 offers an insight into this journey, capturing unique moments in time at our Speyside distillery.

“Exploring cask maturation at this specific level continues to excite me about the flavour possibilities of Benriach. From the honey, apricot and stewed plum of the sauternes barrique to the smooth barley cream of the rum barrel, it’s a true joy to savour the palette of flavour in these cask edition releases.”

Benriach Cask Edition Collection 2021 is available to purchase from specialist retailers in select markets globally from 3 March 2021. More information found below.


Expressions 21 years and over will be available in a secondary box. Younger expressions in the collection will be available in a secondary tube. 

Details and market availability for each expression:

1994 CASK #1851

Aged 26 years

Cask Type: Pedro Ximénez Puncheon

Style: Peated

Appearance: Golden Brown

Nose: Chocolate orange and smoked dark honey, on a base of sandalwood, date oil and prune.

Palate: Chocolate espresso and black cherry with lingering campfire smoke and plum.

ABV: 51.5%

Availability: China

1994 CASK #1272

Aged 26 years

Cask Type: Oloroso Butt

Style: Peated

Appearance: Auburn

Nose: Sticky plum preserve and baked crème brûlée with smouldering pine nut and rich campfire smoke.

Palate: Blood orange, cherry cake and candied clove with lingering smoked caramel and pine nut.

ABV: 53.2%

Availability: China

1997 CASK #16004

Aged 23 years

Cask Type: Bourbon Barrel

Style: Classic unpeated

Appearance: Mellow gold

Nose: Candied lemon, bergamot and dark vanilla with traces of honeysuckle, apple and lime.

Palate: Lemon sweets and toffee with spiced vanilla, banana and lingering dark chocolate mint cake.

ABV: 51.1%

Availability: Israel

1998 CASK #2803

Aged 22 years

Cask Type: Pedro Ximénez Puncheon

Style: Classic unpeated

Appearance: Deep amber

Nose: Sticky toffee apple and caramel sponge pudding layered with cherry cake and sugar glaze.

Palate: Cherry and sultana bread with vanilla, candied peel and golden syrup, cinnamon and nutmeg.

ABV: 52.7%

Availability: South East Asia

2005 CASK #2569

Aged 15 years

Cask Type: Oloroso Butt

Style: Classic unpeated

Appearance: Arabian sunset

Nose: Richly sherried with fruitcake, honey, orange and crème brûlée.

Palate: Chocolate meringue, toasted hazelnut and lingering sun-dried raisin.

ABV: 59.8%

Availability: France, Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark & Ukraine

2006 CASK #5303

Aged 13 years

Cask Type: Pedro Ximénez Puncheon

Style: Classic unpeated

Appearance: Mahogany

Nose: Nectarine, cherry cake and caramel mocha with hints of baked apple and spice.

Palate: Chocolate macchiato and baked orange with lingering sweet almond.

ABV: 61.2%

Availability: Australia

2007 CASK #8736

Aged 13 years

Cask Type: Moscatel Hogshead

Style: Classic unpeated

Appearance: Egyptian gold

Nose: Apricot and lemon syrup, with macadamia nut brittle and manuka honey.

Palate: Vanilla cream and sticky apricot preserve with lingering honeyed orchard fruits and praline.

ABV: 58.1%

Availability: New Zealand

2008 CASK #5813

Aged 12 years

Cask Type: Sauternes Barrique

Style: Classic unpeated

Appearance: Red gold

Nose: Honey, apricot and stewed plum, with fleshy orange, mixed nut and tropical fruit.

Palate: Sweet mandarin orange, lemon curd and ground nutmeg with lingering ginger and toasted malt.

ABV: 61.3%

Availability: Canada

2008 CASK #2014

Aged 12 years

Cask Type: Pedro Ximénez Puncheon

Style: Peated

Appearance: Golden walnut

Nose: Chocolate coated red apple, plum and redcurrant on a base of pistachio, sandalwood and espresso.

Palate: Smooth fig and apple with cinnamon spice, pistachio cream and chocolate coated dates.

ABV: 60.5%

Availability: China / South East Asia

1997 CASK #7420

Aged: 23 years

Cask Type: Virgin Wood Barrel

Style: Classic unpeated

Appearance: Chestnut gold

Nose: Sweet candied orange and almond biscotti with banana, toffee and cream pie.

Palate: Candied citrus and spiced apple with liquorice root, caramel and sweet oak vanilla.

ABV: 51.6%

Availability: France & Belgium

1998 CASK #10298

Aged: 22 years

Cask Type: Marsala Wine Hogshead

Style: Classic unpeated

Appearance: Burnished copper

Nose: Baked pear, apricot jam and clementine, with soft sweet spices and sugar fondant.

Palate: Caramelised apricot, tangy orange and hazelnut, layered with vanilla icing and ground nutmeg.

ABV: 52.2%

Availability: Italy

2005 CASK #1867

Aged: 15 years

Cask Type: Rum Barrel

Style: Classic unpeated

Appearance: Honeyed gold

Nose: Candied apple, tropical fruit and pineapple syrup, enriched with smooth barley cream.

Palate: Golden fruit, soft spices and crème caramel, with lingering maple syrup and nut brittle.

ABV: 55.9%

Availability: Benriach Distillery Visitor Centre, Scotland

2007 CASK #3944

Aged: 13 years

Cask Type: Pedro Ximénez Puncheon

Style: Peated

Appearance: Polished gold

Nose: Smoked apricot and silky milk chocolate with seared mandarin orange glaze

Palate: Smoked Brazil nut and walnut, balanced with sweet floral honey and chocolate cream.

ABV: 56.2%

Availability: France

2008 CASK #4052

Aged: 12 years

Cask Type: Pedro Ximénez Puncheon

Style: Peated

Appearance: Burnished brass

Nose: Smoked stone fruit with cedar wood, with maple syrup and custard.

Palate: Sweet peat, smoked gingerbread and cinnamon spiced plum with hazelnut, baked apple and almond.

ABV: 60.5%

Availability: Belgium, Cyprus, Greece, Malta & Poland

2009 CASK #4833

Aged: 11 years

Cask Type: Port Pipe

Style: Peated

Appearance: Ruby

Nose: Honeyed fruit syrup, smoked strawberry panna cotta and vanilla cheesecake.

Palate: Chocolate velvet cake balanced with wild berry, spiced orange, red apple and angelica root.

ABV: 60.8%

Availability: United Kingdom

2009 CASK #1642

Aged: 11 years

Cask Type: Madeira Hogshead

Style: Peated

Appearance: Rich gold

Nose: Smoke-laced melon and jellied fruit with honeycomb, aromatic coffee and sugared malt.

Palate: Smoked nutmeg, burnt orange and macadamia nut with cinnamon, pepper and lingering wintergreen.

ABV: 60.6%

Availability: Andorra, Poland and Portugal

2009 CASK #8562

Aged: 11 years

Cask Type: Oloroso Puncheon

Style: Classic unpeated

Appearance: Burnt sienna

Nose: Toffee apple crunch and mixed nut brittle with pecan, almond and mixed spice.

Palate: Baked apple strudel with layers of bramley apple, brown sugar, cinnamon and raisin.

ABV: 58.9%

Availability: Nordics & East Europe

2009 CASK #8748

Aged: 11 years

Cask Type: Moscatel Hogshead

Style: Classic unpeated

Appearance: Deep copper

Nose: Heather honey, apricot and sweet orange marmalade with hazelnut in golden syrup.

Palate: Deliciously sweet and fruity with honey, apricot and lingering pecan syrup.

ABV: 53.9%

Availability: The Netherlands

2009 CASK #3911

Aged: 11 years

Cask Type: Pedro Ximénez Puncheon

Style: Classic unpeated

Appearance: Copper

Nose: Crème-caramel and fresh orange with rich malt and candied vanilla.

Palate: Mulled orange and chocolate caramel with brown sugar and chestnut cream.

ABV: 56.5%

Availability: Germany, Austria & Switzerland

About Benriach Distillery

A Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whisky as intriguing and extraordinary as Benriach could not have come to be without a unique whisky making heritage, dating from 1898, when founder John Duff built his distillery. Ruggedly beautiful, Benriach stands on the site of the old Riach farm in north Speyside, drawing water from a mineral-rich aquifer, deep beneath the distillery.

Thanks to a long-standing tradition of distilling three styles of whisky; classic unpeated, Highland peated and triple distilled, together with an eclectic selection of casks from around the world, our whisky makers are able to explore the full flavour possibilities of Single Malt, creating some of the richest, most multi-layered whiskies in Speyside.

This tradition continues today, under the guidance of Master Blender, Rachel Barrie. Benriach is the story of a hidden Speyside gem, quietly revealing its treasures to be discovered and savoured.

Facebook – @Benriach

Instagram – @Benriach

Twitter – @TheBenriach