Category Archives: Master of Malt

Islay distilleries explained thru Rock and Roll comparisons – Part 6 – Bunnahabhain & my review of the 20yo Single Sherry cask from Master of Malt

Islay distilleries and their whiskies explained through Rock and Roll – Part VI (of VIII)

I was hoping to get part six of this series up last week but time just got away from me. Having only three more Islay/Rock posts left (including today’s post), I’ll be sad to see this series end.

Here’s one of the beauties of Islay: We’re going from young, brash and heavily peated Kilchoman, to older and gentler, Bunnahabhain.  Bunnahabhain’s tagline is “Welcome to the gentle taste of Islay.”

Known as Islay’s [basically] unpeated whisky, Bunnahabhain is also known for often being generously sherried.  Today’s whisky, though not bottled by Bunnahabhain, is no exception to this generalization.

Before we move forward, let’s quick run down the Islay distilleries & their rock and roll equivalents we’ve covered so far — Part one:Bruichladdich as The Sex Pistols, Part two: Ardbeg as Slayer, Part three: Caol Ila as The 80′s (They get their very own decade!), Part four:Bowmore as David Bowie and Part five: Kilchoman as the Jackson Five (somewhat fitting, in retrospect, with them both bearing the number five).

Today we’re reviewing a 20yo Bunnahabhain bottled by Master of Malt.  Sadly, this bottling is completely sold out however, Master of Malt still have some of this as part of their “Drinks by the Dram” offering.  I’m glad I bought a bottle before they were all sold out!

20yo Bunnahabhain – 54.1%ABV – bottled by Master of MaltSold Out (though you can get a 3cl sample of it for only £5/$7)

On the nose What you’d come to expect with a heavily sherried whisky (and I mean heavily):  Furniture polish, cherry stones, tanned leather, rum balls and/or tiramasu, stewed prunes, burning cigars, unlit cigars (dark wrappers)… You name it, it’s in here and nicely organized.

On top of this is a very evident woody note… Oaky and I can almost smell the tannins.

With water and there’s some added unlit pipe tobacco (floral and reminiscent of some hookah stuff I’ve smoked before) and dark chocolates.

On the mouth MASSIVE ATTACK.  It’s like all of the aforementioned items I got on the nose were jammed into my mouth.  Thinnish mouthfeel and highly drying.  Hmmm… a bit too oaky given its age.  Let me try some water here.  ¡¡Agua al rescate!!


The mouth feel is saved and there less heat and less attack upon entry.

The flavors seem to match the nose (again) yet the addition of chocolate covered raisins and wafts of light smoke offer up something quite delicious.

Still a bit drying which leads me to the finish…

Finish Somehow my mouth starts to water as the whisky continues to dry in a long and slightly spicy finish.

In sum  This whisky is a powerhouse, no doubt.  Without water, it’s a difficult whisky to drink.  With a dash of water, it’s delicious (yet the oak will not be subdued and therefore, it’s a bit off balance).

An autumn whisky for sure.  This’ll warm you – boy, will it warm you!


Bunnahabhain – The Band!

With Michael Stipe’s unique voice rising over the band’s overall unmistakable sound and while every song was quite different, every song was very much R.E.M.

Like them or not (and I happen to love them), you can’t argue with this fact.

The same could ring true with Bunnahabhain.  While they do experiment with peated and ex-bourbon expressions such as “Toiteach (and a few others),” it’s fairly safe to say you know what you’re going to get when you taste their 12yo, 18yo,  25yo.  Big sherried whiskies.

What’s more is, like when bands have their music remastered, in 2011 Bunnahabhain “remastered” their standard range.  Moving their ABV from 40%/43% up to 46.3%, discontinuing the use of E150a caramel coloring and the ending the practice of chill-filtration has seemed to do wonders to the their standard range, breathing in new life and vibrancy.

So, rock on Bunnahabhain!  Stand in the place where you live.  Don’t Lose Your Religion, just distill while playing your Finest Worksong.

Master of Malt just released St. Isidore (aka The Bloggers’ Blend)

Announcement!!  You may have tracked the Bloggers’ Blend contest that the JSMWS took part in (along with 9 other whisky writers/bloggers from around the word).  Well, the final product is now available.

Read below and, if you want to get some, Click here to buy a bottle and don’t forget to use the term “JSMWS sample” in the delivery instructions portion of the shopping cart – Master of Malt will ship you a free dram of whisky if you do.


Master of Malt announce St Isidore – a blended whisky created by bloggers

Master of Malt is proud to finally announce the release of the blended whisky, St Isidore, created entirely by whisky bloggers. To make this blend, the spirits retailer called upon the great and the good of the whisky industry including names such as Whisky Magazine, Edinburgh Whisky Blog, and Whisky Cast.

Master of Malt started by sending blending kits to 10 prominent whisky bloggers, and asked them to create the best blended whisky they could using the ingredients provided, whilst maximising its value for money. The bloggers’ recipes were made up and sold in sample sets, and Master of Malt asked the public to vote for which recipe should be made into the brand’s next whisky.

The votes were counted (using the AV system) and a rather smoky, Islay-inspired blend was chosen as the winner, before the bloggers agreed on a name for the blend, calling it St Isidore after the patron saint of the internet. For the final stage, Master of Malt called on graphic designers to submit label designs for the bottle, which summed up St Isidore, the blend, and the whisky blogging community, making them as creative as possible.

The winning designer, who was awarded a £250 spending spree at Master of Malt, was English artist Ben Sowter, who created a psychedelic, larger-than-life depiction of St Isidore enjoying his namesake blend. The label features numerous computer and internet in-jokes, for example a monitor lizard represents a computer’s monitor, and there is a bag of coins, representing a “cache”. In total, there are around 20 different hidden internet-related jokes and Easter Eggs!

You can buy a bottle of St Isidore from Master of Malt.

Tasting Notes for St Isidore (as provided by Master of Malt)

Nose: Sweet creamy aromas that meld well with a cool, oily, almost coastal wood smoke. It instantly transports you to Islay, whilst offering just a hint of plum wine, wood shavings and lapsang souchong tea. Time in the glass brings out notes of guava, warm custard and rhubarb crumble.

Palate: Thick, warming and balanced as it hits the tongue, it offers notes of really good vanilla ice cream, black pepper, and rum spices, whilst retaining a solid backbone of sweet woodsmoke and freshly-sawn timber. Hold it on the tongue for just a touch of salty popcorn and crème caramel.

Finish: Beautifully warming and spiced. It fades away on freshly grated cinnamon and sugared peels. A faint flutter of pear juice on the very tail.

Overall: A perfect smoky blend. This is a very old-school whisky, combining the smoke of Islay, and the rich, honeyed tones of the Highlands. A superb winter fireside dram if ever there was one.

The Bloggers:
Dr. Whisky
Edinburgh Whisky Blog
Guid Scotch Drink
The Jewish Single Malt Whisky Society
Whisky Connosr
Whisky Magazine
WhiskyWhiskyWhisky Forum
Whisky for Everyone

About Master of Malt:

– Established in 1985
– Master of Malt is one of the UK’s leading Online Whisky & Spirits Merchants, with a huge range of whiskies, rum, brandies, gins, cocktails and many other fine spirits.

Four, count them, four single cask whiskies bottled by Master of Malt

There is no shortage of Independent bottlers of whisky and to me, that’s a good thing.  The more the merrier.

The independent bottler offers to the whisky consumer (both newbies and veterans) a bit more of an adventure into the wide world of whisk(e)y.  Please understand, I’m not down on distillers’ own bottlings (E.G. Highland Park 18yo, Arran 14yo, Ardbeg Corryvreckan, etc…).   What I am trying to point out is that Independent bottlers allow the consumer more variety and flavors and other ways to love the distilleries they’re already familiar with.  Their bottlings also allow for newbies to whisky a different way to “get into” whisky.


Master of Malt is not only a whisky/spirits shop but they also independently bottle single casks of whisky from time to time (and seemingly more and more often).

Here is a link for a comprehensive guide to Independent Bottlers (as found on Serge’s

Today I am reviewing four single cask bottlings from Master of Malt:

  • A 20yo Single Cask of Cragganmore,
  • A 13yo Single Cask of Highland Park,
  • A 14yo Single Cask of Dalmore,
  • and, finally, a 27yo Single Cask Dailuaine whisky

Cragganmore 1991 20yo

Speyside Region – Refill Hogshead (sample did not specify bourbon or sherry but from the color and flavors, I’m supposing it’s an ex-bourbon hogshead) – 54.2%ABV – £49.95

On the nose Light, perfumed and a bit salty smelling.  Very floral (if you have a significant other who digs whisky, get some of this for her or him.  You can’t drink a bouquet of flowers but you can drink this!).  Some latex glove notes which seem to be oddly mixed up with pine nuts.  Ashes from burnt notebook paper with a side of white pepper.  A bit of a biting nose – smells of 54.2% ABV…

Coming back to this and the peppery quality really stands out.

On the mouth Slightly vicious mouth feel, good attack.  Fruit salad, half dried-out orange wedges and, if I’m not mistaken, an owl barn.  Water cress, sugared lemon slices and a touch of butterscotch.

Cedar wood shavings which is now leading up to the finish…

Finish Drying, long and filled with those sugared lemon slices I got on the palate.

In sum  This is a solid, solid, Craggy.  One that’s geared more toward the late spring or early summer; a mid-day dram to pick you up a bit.

Highland Park 1997 13yo

Islands Region – refill ex-bourbon hogshead – 57%ABV – £44.95

On the nose Vitamin E gel caps (those gelatin, vitamin E fluid filled pills) and medicated Band-Aids™.  Some notes of unripened stone fruits (apricot, peach, etc..).  Orangey baby aspirins with a side of cherry tarts; or vice versa…

A smokey undertone, with medicinal overtones, hospital beds & sharps disposal cans.

On the mouth Sweet & smokey attack right upfront with a creaminess that hits the spot.  Back to the citrus but more toward tart lemons or perhaps kumquat (teehee).  Polypropylene pellets quickly becoming plastic containers via plastic injection molding machines.

Magnifying glass + sun + brush and branches = a flavor I’m tasting here.

Finish Drying, smoky and medicinal.  A touch of oak and vanilla and after about 30 seconds, marzipan

In sum As a Highland Park, I’m not a fan.  This is nothing like any HP you’ll ever taste.  Take away the name and it’s a pretty good whisky!  It’s not mind-blowing but it’s fun and interesting.  I’d suggest using this as one to fool your friends with.  They’ll never guess this was a Highland Park.

Dalmore 1996 14yo

Highlands Region – Refill Hogshead (sample did not specify bourbon or sherry but from the color and flavors, I’m supposing it’s an ex-bourbon hogshead) – 57%ABV – £44.95

On the nose  An oaky influence and all things Bourbon: pencil shavings, toasted almonds and model glue.  Fresh and bright as well as a touch of toastiness and even a touch of brine.  This is a Dalmore??  Dried apricots and vanilla cream.  Walnuts, almonds and get this, egg whites.

An enjoyable nose; a vibrant nose.

On the mouth What, what, what?  Where did the 14 years of aging go?  On the outset, this whisky tastes A) YOUNG & spirity and B) and a bit like a grain whisky or a young blend.  After getting used to how different the flavor is as compared to the smells, I’m presented with hints of maple syrup, orange rind and orange juice and very puckering fresh white wine grapes (stolen off the vine during a vineyard tour).

Hi-octane ice wine.

Finish Peppery finish, long and offering up some apricot

In sum The nose, wonderful.  To taste, however… from the get-go I was very disappointed.  I warmed up to it a bit once I began to understand it but in the end, it’s not one that I would reach for.  For the price, it might be fun to explore however there are some better single cask whiskies offered up by Master of Malt (and other indy bottlers) that you can spend your money on.

Dailuaine 1983 27yo

Speyside Region – Refill Sherry Hogshead – 53.6%ABV – £64.95

On the nose  This is an interesting mix of scents and jammed into a tight little package.  We’re talking soy sauce (with a side of ginger slices) meets wood char meets dandelion jam.  On top of this, there’s a nice ooey honey center and something a bit like spiced gum drops yet not like spiced gum drops… spicy nutmeg cakes maybe.  I can’t pinpoint it but the scent is near intoxicating.  Reminds me of cold nights with lots of family and LOTS of holiday heavy cakes.

Rum raisins (and the sugared raisins you find in a bowl of Raisin Bran™).

On the mouth Loads of raisiny spice notes.  Cinnamon swirl bread, Cinnamon Toast Crunch™.  Flavors aside, let’s look at the mouthfeel – Slightly viscous with a tinge of effervescence.  Hints of orange spice.

Do you see a theme here?  SPICE! (desert planet, Arakis.  Mother!!  The sleeper has awoken!)

Finish A sweet finish with some warm butteriness to it.

In sum In all honesty, I bought a bottle of this stuff halfway into reviewing it.  No shit.

This is a kick-ass bottle of single cask Dailuaine and oh-so-perfect for colder/cool weather.  It’s warming, comforting, soothing, delicious.

Special thanks goes out to the fine chaps and chappesses from Master of Malt for the samples!

The Bloggers’ Blend now has a name: St. Isidore – design the label & win a £250 Shopping Spree at Master of Malt!

You might remember a few months back that I (along with 9 other prominent whisky bloggers/writers/journalists) was asked to participate in a competition to design a new whisky blend for Master of Malt.  After all was said and done, I gave you my tasting notes on the every single blend and a short while after that, it was announced that blend “I” was the winner.

Now that we have a winner and a name for the whisky – Master of Malt is looking for a label for the bottle.  You might have read their blog post about this yesterday but below is the official press release regarding your chance to design a kick-a$$ label for some kick-a$$ whisky and win a £250 shopping spree at Master of Malt.  Good luck!!


Design a label and win a £250 shopping spree at Master of Malt!

Calling all Graphic Designers! Master of Malt has recently launched a competition to design the label on a very exciting new whisky, and the winning submission will receive £250 worth of vouchers to spend at Master of Malt!

The label will be used for the winning blend from a competition aimed at whisky bloggers, in which Master of Malt asked ten of the top spirits bloggers to create their own blended whiskies, and then asked the public to vote for the best one.

The blend which was chosen will be called “St Isidore” after the patron saint of the internet, and Master of Malt is calling on graphic designers to come up with label designs for the new bottle, and the brief is simple: create a label which sums up St Isidore, the blend, and the whisky blogging community. Try and make it as amusing and as creative as possible.

Not only will the winning design receive a £250 spending spree at Master of Malt, they will also be credited on the back of what will certainly be an incredibly popular new whisky!

The competition closes on the 5th October 2011, and the winning submission will be announced that same day.

To enter, simply email your label design to

Technical Specifications for the label.
Please ensure your submissions meet the following criteria:
Dimensions: 10.5cm by 9.2cm (4.13 inches by 3.62 inches)
3mm Bleed
Resolution: 300 DPI
CMYK Colour

Tasting Notes for St Isidore (as provided by Master of Malt)

Nose: Sweet creamy aromas that meld well with a cool, oily, almost coastal wood smoke. It instantly transports you to Islay, whilst offering just a hint of plum wine, wood shavings and lapsang souchong tea. Time in the glass brings out notes of guava, warm custard and rhubarb crumble.

Palate: Thick, warming and balanced as it hits the tongue, it offers notes of really good vanilla ice cream, black pepper, and rum spices, whilst retaining a solid backbone of sweet woodsmoke and freshly-sawn timber. Hold it on the tongue for just a touch of salty popcorn and crème caramel.

Finish: Beautifully warming and spice. It fades away on freshly grated cinnamon and sugared peels. A faint flutter of pear juice on the very tail.

Overall: A perfect smoky blend. This is a very old school whisky, combining the smoke of Islay, and the rich, honeyed tones of the Highlands. A superb winter fireside dram if ever there was one.


Master of Malt Bloggers Blends – my tasting notes on the whole she-bang!

This was one hell of a feat, I tells ya!  My charge to myself: taste ten whiskies over two days WITHOUT getting tipsy – a lot to review but a ton ‘o fun to do.

You might remember I posted on the details of the Master of Malt Blogger’s Blend contest a few weeks back (a brilliant idea – find 10 whisky bloggers and ask them to try and create the ultimate whisky blend).  I hope some of you out there had a chance to participate in the contest.  Sadly the voting is now closed, but Master of Malt made some more sets (they did sell out for a bit if I’m not mistaken but are stocked up again) for you to buy then try.  It was a fun tasting experience.

I will say that this group of bloggers did a great job on their blends and I felt extremely honored to be among them.  It was tough for me to choose a favorite out of these 10 blends.  However, two of then really stuck out for me.  Let’s see if, based on my notes below, you can figure out which two were my favorites…

On the nose A Both sweet and peppery at the same go.  Some lemon tart sweetness and a tad dusty.   A touch smoky but it’s all around the edges – crispy burnt edges.  Twine & paper bags.
On the mouth A Nice soft mouthfeel, honied and a bit of toffee upfront.  Milk chocolate, raisins and nuts (I’ve gotten this in a few other whiskies before – Cadbury Fruit & Nut Bar).  Second sip is offering up some clear notes of tobacco and just-lit-cigars.  Like on the nose, there’s a crispiness around the edges (think pepper-rubbed foods).
Finish A Chocolates and pepper and lasting tobacco.

On the nose B A touch sour and bit vinegary.  Band-Aids.  Salted corn (?)… something salty.  Let’s see if I can make sense of it after I get a taste.  Back to the nosing: Salted fruits – clear note of papaya.  Pepper & dark chocolates.  Ginger root.  There appears to be a good deal of grain influence on this one.
On the mouth B Herbal and wildflowery (think daisies and dandelions).  Grain comes through loud and clear with hints of tin cans and plastic bags.  Light teas with and old lemon.  Salty with some vanilla and wood out there in the distance
Finish B Shortish with hints of oak.

On the nose C Very sweet with loads of fresh cherries and other red fruits.  A good deal of oak but in a good way.  Salty and floral (like mother’s day flowers).   Back to the red fruits (raspberries?).  Some black pepper and perhaps a little pear.
On the mouth C Smokey entry (this’ll grab you but good) and very viscous chewy, chewy mouthfeel.  Dark chocolates, tobacco (dark tobacco cigars filled with spice).  Buckwheat honey (the dark syrupy sweet stuff).  A bit of citrus (burnt) and salted grapefruits (focus is more on the salt and less of the grapefruit).  Perhaps even some coffee in there too.  There’s a lot to discover here.
Finish C Medium to long with a good deal of spice, chocolates & fizz.

On the nose D Honied, floral and has some notes of pomegranate and some cardamom in the distance.  A touch of smoke – very inviting; drawing me in.  Some sour notes.  Some sour cherries too.  A touch of spice to it but more on the fruity side.
On the mouth D Cereals, malty and a bit of smoke.  Rolled oats.  Decent mouthfeel.  Not overly complex but enjoyable.  Some very light oak and honey notes.
Finish D Fairly quick finish with some pepper lasting just at the back of the throat.

On the nose E Seems to be a theme here with the sour cherry notes.  Some added vinegar.  Burning twigs and leaves.  Red wine and apricots.  Some nail polish remover.  Smoked lemons.  Really enjoyable nose.
On the mouth E Nice creamy mouthfeel with some grain coming through (in a positive way).  Sour oranges and tangerines.  Some sherry influence – stewed dark fruits.  Citrus tarts with a lightly buttered crust.
Finish E Slightly chalky (think Necco wafer chalky).  Decent length.

On the nose F Smoky yet some citrusy grain influence here as well.  Grilled pineapple and burning bramble.  A touch of pepper and some savory spice.
On the mouth F Smoky again with loads of burnt tea leaves.  Much smokier than any of the other drams so far.  Someone here likes their peat!  Apples and the sauce thereof.  Stewed carrots with a touch of ginger.
Finish FToasty almonds (marzipan) through and through with a decent length to it.

On the nose G Brown paper bag filled with an assortment of fruits.  Vanilla, oak and more fruits (tough to get past the fruitiness of this).  A whiff of smoke and the smell of that super subtle taste you get from Jicama.  Art class paste.
On the mouth G Warm water mouth feel.  All of the flavors seem to be in the distance: Lemons, pie crust and grapefruit marmalade.  Vanilla ice cream.
Finish GThe finish is a more intense version of what I tasted – near exact.

On the nose H Derumura sugar and spiced rum.  Booze soaked oak.  Sugar cane.  All things dark and sweet.  A fantastic nose.
On the mouth H Not as intense as the nose lead on nor as thick and/or oily as I would have expected.  A touch oaky and dusty.  Wild flowers and various burned things.  Citrus spice with a touch of smoked sugar (if there is such a thing).
Finish H Very fruity with some berries and light brown sugar.

On the nose I Light and flowery, salty and flinty.  Lemons lurk in the back as do sauna stones.  Spiced apples and elderflower.  Some graininess swirled throughout.
On the mouth ISmoky and flinty – slightly reminded of Port Ellen here.  A very, very light version of Port Ellen, mind you.  Coastal & notes of late fall.  A bit waxy too.  This is delicious stuff.
Finish I Long and warming throughout.

On the nose J Oh, this is a nice citrusy light & grainy blend.  Youth & young manhood.  Dusty – like an empty room in a old house.  Fresh cut grass and baked rhubarb.
On the mouth J Fresh, light and clean – like a Sauvignon Blanc of whisky.  Clean & still grassy.  Grainy for sure but in a very pleasant way.  Balanced and delicious.
Finish J Medium and tangy.