Mastering Malt with those malty masters…

With resident logophile Mr Abbott otherwise occupied, preparing for The Whisky Show it looks like blog of the tasting has been left for me. Or maybe Charly (who hasn’t written about it. Yet…!). So, back in the good care of The Gunmakers, Whisky Squad #21 sat down with Darren formerly of Master of Malt.


Serve to taste

6 whiskies were on offer from the Master of Malt single cask range – other than that there wasn’t any other ‘theme’. We started with a Lowland malt – North British (20), a single grain. Light and fresh, with butterscotch ‘Angels Delight’ on the nose this was rather nice. Fruity but nothing specific (for me at least) it was pleasant and definitely an encouragement to try more single Grain.
Whisky #2, saw us move up to Speyside, with a Cragganmore 20. On the nose we got Blackcurrants and Apple shampoo, quite sherberty if that makes any sense.  By the palette it became more sulphur and harsh – allegedly tasting like cat food! Not much on the finish – I really wasn’t too fussed on this one.


Dailuaine 27

For Number 3 we stayed in Speyside moving round to Dailuaine with a 1983 distilled, 27 year old. Matured in a refill sherry hogshead, I haven’t actually written much down for this one (oops!).

Staying with Dailuaine for Whisky 4, we moved away from the Master of Malt range, to a 13 year old from 1997.  This was much more subtled – lighter and also much less alcoholic at just 46% (1 to 3 were all in the mid 50%s). Adding water led some us to think this gave of eau-du-pond with the most extreme description being a not particularly nice beach, the sea salt spray mixed in with other less pleasant sulphur.


Secret 30

Still Speyside, number 5 came from the secret bottling series so no idea on which distillery.  At 30 years old it was the oldest of the night – heavily sherried, it evoked proper Christmas cake, a decent rum (the sugar burn) and spices.  Very tasty – if I didn’t want to one day be able to afford a house I’d be seriously tempted by this at £100 – it’s definitely more to my tastes than the Shackleton replica or some of the other £100 whiskies I’ve tasted.

Finally we left the mainland for the island of Islay, finishing with a 1982 26 year old Bowmore. Pretty much everyone in the room reckoned pencils on the nose with a touch of parma violets. For an Islay malt the peat was quite subdued and fruity. On the finish I could even get pear drops. This was ‘a whisky to put lead in your pencil!’.

If this sounds up your street check out – bookings for the next event are due to open around 18:00 on Friday October 14th and are filled on a first come first served basis.

taking a closer look

Taking a closer look

Update – Thanks to Mr Standing of Whisky Squad for a couple of corrections, turns out I missed the fact the 2nd Dailuaine was from another range!


Craft Beer Co, Clerkenwell


Craft Beer Co, Leather Lane

This week also saw the opening of the Craft Beer Co on Leather Lane, Clerkenwell. Run by the same people as CASK down in Pimlico, it promises to be a beer lovers dream – 16 cask ales, 21 keg beers and more fridges than a small supermarket. On opening night (Wednesday 29th June) it was *very* busy!

Ale tariff

Ale tariff

Price-wise, there are a few stingers out their particularly on the keg side where you’re more likely to find something obscure – Jon managed to get stung – £7.20 £7.90 for a pint of Kernel Black IPA. I’d say £3.70 / pint is a little above average even for London, for an up to 5% beer. Hopefully the quality will keep in line with the prices – I’d certainly be upset with a duff pint at that price. Still, on opening night both beers sampled were excellent and served unusually for London in lined glasses, ensuring a full pint and a nice bit of head.

Pies & Scotch eggs

Snack away

A trend for brown bar snacks also seems to be a London thing right now too. No bad thing; continental drinking include food right? Café culture the British way!


Gratiuitous barmaid shot

For me it feels like a special occasion pub but it will of course form a stop on the emerging Hatton Garden pub crawl. There’s a dearth of excellent pubs in Clerkenwell right now, well worth a look.

Whisky Squad #16 – Diversity and Innovation

And so with another month, another Whisky Squad upstairs at The Gunmakers. This time saw the squad take it’s first serious steps offshore away from Scotland, to the land of the rising sun. Japan has a fairly large market for whisky – I’m not sure where I learned this…but apparently a bottle of whisky will be a very appreciated gift if ever you are being hosted by a Japanese family.

It was actually a tangent that got us started on this fine Thursday. Introducing Rum #0, Ron de Jeremy, a brand owned by an adult entertainment star who looks a bit like Mario from the Nintendo games.

Ron de Jeremy Rum

Ron de Jeremy Rum

Rum has never really been my drink, probably after a few unwise experiments with Navy Rum from the parents spirits cupboard at the age of 16 it just didn’t really appeal. This, however, slipped down rather nicely. Very sweet – the sugar cane is obvious, but there isn’t the sugar burn I found on the rum tasting at Vinopolis. And so onto the whisky.

Isawa 1983

Isawa 1983

The first whisky up is 25 year old, distilled in 1983. To me it smelled strong – deceptive, in that it was ‘only’ 43%. On the nose, pine trees on fire, a real spicy/herby mix but not particularly medicinal. At £89, probably not something I would put on my own shelf, though super rare in the UK.

Icharo's Malt

Ichiro's Malt

Whisky 2, is much younger – 10+ years old and likely a blend as the bottle is a little hazy on the details. It’s richer and sweeter. A proper dose of Christmas cake, with the stickiness of glacé cherries. At 46%, marginally stronger. At £85, it’s probably over my budget right now but this was much more to my liking.



Whisky 3 continues in this vein – not at all smoky, with even more of a rich fruit nose. No age statement, but at 46% is perfectly savour-able. At £27 it’s also the cheapest of tonight’s tasting bottles.

Crazy newborn

Crazy newborn

‘Whisky’ 4. It’s time to break out the caps: FUCKING MEDICINAL. Heading out towards an Islay style – there’s a lot of peat on the nose of this. It’s a very ‘noisy’ flavour, with burnt vanilla and saltiness trying to come to the fore but not quite winning. This one actually can’t be labelled as whisky according to the rules – it’s just 3 months old and it’s craziness stems from the fact its short cask life was in a brand new American oak barrel, much like a bourbon would be. As it’s essentially ‘new’, it’s still 61% so there’s a lot of duty in the £65 retail price. The base wort was brewed using optic barley, apparently well known for it’s smoky flavour.

The regular tasting ended here – with the additional complication of import duties, Japanese whisky tends to be more expensive thus your entry price can’t stretch too far. However, Darren had gone to the trouble of finding some samplers – of which I only wrote anything down about one.

Whisky #5 is Ichicho Malt, King of Hearts 1986. Very simply smooth – easy drinking, going back towards the styles of whiskies 2 and 3.

Ichiro's King of Hearts

Ichiro's King of Hearts 1986

And so ended another successful Whisky Squad. Number 17 continues the Japanese theme and is already fully booked. However, 18 sees the journey around the globe continue eastwards coming around to the USA for an introduction to bourbon. Tickets are not yet available – follow @whiskysquad on twitter if you’re interested. Knowing absolutely nothing about bourbon I plan to be there if I can be in the right place at the right time (none of this Olympics ballot nonsense!)

Whisky Squad 14 and 15

Having donated a few pictures to Billy for his reviews, I thought it was only fair to let the dust settle before adding a few words of my own.

Starting with the most recent first – Whisky Squad 15 was held in it’s normal venue, upstairs at The Gunmakers. This means whisky enjoyed in limited light and a mandatory cozy feel. The tasting led by Rob from Berry Brothers was themed around the Highlands. Apparently this means absolutely nothing. The highlands are defined by what they are not: Speyside, Islay or Lowland.  Possibly including the Islands (such as Skye for Talisker and Orkney for Highland Park) or possibly not.  This means there’s no real connection between the flavour profiles – it’s all very much down to the local tradition of which ever distillery the bottle is from.

Bottle of whisky

1991 Glencadam - 13 year old

During #15 I was suffering a late season bout of man-flu, so my tasting notes are rather limited and vague.  Read Billy’s words if you want an interpretation of the taste!  However, think I came to the conclustion that my favourites were whiskies 3 and 6, an 11 year old Blair Atholl and 15 year olf Karuzawa (Rob decided to stretch the boundaries of Highlands to include Japanese highlands for the night!). Both had been near sherry butts which probably explains that – my sweet tooth picking up the fruitier, richer flavours.

Whisky Squad 14 was a very different affair. Titled, side-by-side it featured whiskies with a close connection in pairs. Led by Colin from Diageo were led through 7 whiskies, and in true ‘geek’ style we started with whisky 0, Cameron Brig – a single grain whisky, meaning a a light fairly simple whisky to enjoy as an apéritif.This time the ticket included a main meal and the numbers were scaled up to 25, meaning we were out back with a little more light.  After dinner we were led through the 3 pairs: Johnny Walker Black / Caol Isla 15 Distillers Edition, two Clynelish and two from Dufftown.

Singleton 15

Singleton of Dufftown - 15 year old

Dufftown is very important whisky-wise. It’s the home of Glenfiddich (the biggest selling independent single malt) but also home to more distilleries than anywhere else in Scotland. Again for the tasting notes you’re best of reading Billy. I can’t even remember my favourite, though I do remember being pleasantly surprised by the Johnny Walker black label so that may join my cabinet as ‘the blend’. I still haven’t quite shaken the anti-blend snobbery yet!

Something new at whisky squad 14 were the ladies. Typically as per stereotype, it’s been a mostly (or all) male affair. This time Ruth joined me but she was not alone…

Lady with whisky dram

Whisky - not just for blokes

Remember – just like wine or beer, there are hundreds of varieties of whisky. Chances are you might like one of them…

The next Whisky Squad is on June 2nd. Keep an eye out for more information on their website.