Burns Supper Tasting 2014

Burns Night Tasting – 25th January 2014

The Line UpOnce again we gather at The Maynard Hotel, Grindleford, to have a whisky tasting in honour of the poor farmers son Robert Burns who was born this day – 25th January  – 1759  and grew to become Scotland National Bard.  As always there is Poetry, there are toasts, there is Haggis but most of all there is Whisky!!!!!

All around the world in Edinburgh, Glasgow, New York, Hong Kong, London, Sydney, and even Skegness people of all nationalities come together on 25th January to celebrate the life and work of Robbie Burns and nowhere not London, New York or even Edinburgh or Glasgow do they have as good whisky as we have.

We sampled:

Balvenie 12 y/o – Single Barrel This is from Balvenie Distillery in Dufftown. One of only a few distilleries to malt some off its own barley. It’s owned by William Grant Sons who also own Grants Blend and Glenfiddich Whiskies.  The distillery is on the same site as Glenfiddich. Just before Christmas Charles Gordon – Great Grandson of William Grant who founded Balvenie and Glenfiddich Distilleries – and life President died aged 86. Charlie was MD of the company in the 1960’s when they first marketed Glenfiddich widely, which has led to the great trade in single malts today.

Piper JessThis bottling is from one single cask of whisky. Each cask of whisky will mature slightly differently so a single cask bottling will be unique. Light gentle from a single ex-Bourbon cask. A very different malt to Glenfiddich despite the water and Barley being the same – only difference is the size and shape of the stills.

Glentauchers 1994 – 43% – Gordon & MacPhail Bottling.  Situated on Speyside near Keith. Founded in 1897 by James Buchanan of Black and White fame. Since 1989 it’s been owned by Chivas Brothers and it is a major contributor to Ballantines blend. It has six stills can produce 4.2 million litres of Alcohol a year.  Running seven days a week 18 mashes a week. A real work horse of the whisky industry – this is what it’s all about. This is a classic distillery and whisky for filling for blends – efficient large scale production – lighter floral flavour. Gives finesse to the blend. This bottling from Independent bottlers Gordon & MacPhail of Elgin.  Jim Murray in his new 2014 whisky Bible gives this 96.5% Great grassy floral note to it.



While we were enjoying the Glentauchers the Pudding Haggis made its grand entrance to the skirl of the Pipes. It was addressed by Mr Adrian Murray resplendent in full Highland dress. Our piper Jess entertained us with some more fitting music.

Arran 12 y/o – Cask Strength 53.6% abv. From the only distillery on the Isle of Arran at Lochranza in the North of the island. A small independent distillery opened in 1995 by Harold Currie. Produces 750k litres a year. When Harold opened the distillery he didn’t want the whisky to be like other island whiskies like Talisker and the heavily peated Islay whiskies so he went for this lighter style. Which picks up the flavours of the wood really well.

This is a limited run using a high proportion of 1st fill ex-sherry casks – giving a richer flavour.We did go on a quality control visit a couple of years ago to check they were making it correctly.

Benriach 15 y/o – Madeira wood finish – I like 15 year old whisky. Founded in 1897 during a whisky boom can produce Addressing The Haggis2.8m litres a year. This distillery is part of a small group of 3 distilleries owned by Billy Walker and his two partners Geoff Bell and Wayne Kisweitter. Billy has had over 40 years in the whisky industry – so knows what he’s doing. Brought the distillery in 2004. This bottling has been finished – spent the last part of it’s maturation in a cask that previously held Madeira Wine – a sweet fortified wine. Spent 15 years in the first cask – ex Bourbon – so well matured and rounded. The light citrus fruity BenRiach really picks up the flavour from the rich sweet madeira cask.

Old Pulteney 15 y/o – Gordon & MacPhail Bottling  – Was the furthest north on the mainland until last year when a new distillery opened at Thurso called Wolfburn Distillery. Situated at Wick in an area of town called Pulteney,  named after Sir William Pulteney who was the Minister of Fisheries in the 19th Century.  Founded in 1826, Pulteney can produce 1.8 million litres a year. Wick was centre of the Herring Fishing Industry with  1000 Herring Drifters in the harbour. It was a wild place – lots of Fish Wives – for a time they did have prohibition so could make whisky but not drink it. What I like about this whisky is that it tastes like it’s from Wick – not fishy – powerful full bodied, but not too smoky.

While enjoying the Old Pulteney we toasted the memory of Robert Burns with full Highland Honours.

Caol Ila 2001 – 59.8% abv  – Gordon & MacPhail Bottling. For our last whisky this evening we have a whisky from the largest distillery on the Isle of Islay. Islay is home to 8 of the world’s finest distilleries. On Islay they make mainly peaty smoky whisky. Caol Ila originally dates back to 1846,  but it was completely rebuilt in 1972 – 1974. So today a big modern distillery owned by Diageo – largest drinks company in the world. They had some more improvement in 2011 a new mash tun and 2 new Washbacks it produces 6.5m litres of spirit per year. Another Cask Strength with big flavours and body – a fitting tribute to end. 

Guests enjoying the evening