Tag Archives: #whisky

Highland Park Odin (16 Year)

Bottle #5 of our 13-year Anniversary themed event – The Far Flung Regions of Scotland. The Northern Selection:

For this aged group of dedicated ET members (13 years!) I am of solid opinion that every anniversary needs a Unicorn. The Valhalla Collection from Highland Park celebrates the Norse Gods of Freya, Loki, Thor and Odin, one released per year from 2012 to 2015. HP later released 2 additional similarly packaged bottles in 2016, Fire (celebrating Ragnarok) and Ice (celebrating the Ice Realm). We all know HP has carried on with several more bottles celebrating the northern Scottish Island of Orkney, HP’s blustery home, and its roots in Norse mythology.

Alas, the entire Valhalla collection is as yet out of reach. But even a piece of this rare collection, the few bottles of which are left in existence sitting on private collector’s shelves, was a Viking Honour to sample…

Laphroaig 18 – Hunter Liang’s Old & Rare

Bottle #4 of our 13-year Anniversary themed event – The Far Flung Regions of Scotland. The Islay Detour:

Betcha thought we were headed north! But we shall take a brief jaunt to the very distinct and beloved Islay, the most populated and popular (distillery-wise) of the remote Scottish islands. Hunter Liang’s Old & Rare Platinum range brilliantly picked up enough for only 209 bottles of Laphroaig 18, before the vintage was discontinued by the distillery in 2016 as it started to phase out some age statements in exchange for other special release drams. Hence it now being both old and rare! Hard to come by even from independent bottlers, this wee beastie is beautifully packaged and, of course, boldly peated. Sure to be a bottle auction hot topic for this Club, it’s the perfect she-be-gone cask-strength sipper for a cold Canadian winter night. (The club loved it – wish we had more!).

Bladnoch 17

Bottle #3 of our 13-year Anniversary themed event – The Far Flung Regions of Scotland. The Southern Selection:

Officially Scotland’s southernmost distillery and representing the lowlands, Bladnoch 17 was matured in ex-bourbon barrels and finished in California red wine casks for 10 months. Look for dried fruit, cherries, vanilla and oak. An interesting compare to our eastern selection, aged its entire life in red wine casks! Bladnoch is one of Scotland’s largest distilleries to maintain privately owned status. Our 13th anniversary dram was bottled in 2017 to celebrate the distillery’s 200th anniversary. Been around for a while, but a new distillery to the Club! Sourced out-of-province.

Glen Garioch 1998 Wine Cask Matured

Bottle #2 of our 13-year Anniversary themed event – The Far Flung Regions of Scotland. The Eastern Selection:

Distilled in 1998 and bottled in 2014, this Small Batch Limited Edition represents the most eastern distillery available to us (Glenugie is further east, but alas, cannot be found). Packed full of red fruit flavour, it is a sweet and spicy dram with wine at the forefront, having been matured for all 16 years in an ex-wine cask. Leave it to Glen Garioch to refuse to shy away from experimenting with whisky!

Kavalan Solist Amontillado

Kavalan Solist Amontillado

Single Malt Whisky

Bottled at Cask Strength 56.3% ABV

Cask #: AM110216009B

Bottle #: 367/377

This exploration into Kavalan started with a chat with one of my co-workers who was about to travel to Taiwan to visit family and friends.  They are also pretty big fans of whisky and said they were planning on taking an excursion to the Kavalan distillery while on their vacation.  The Kavalan Solist Amontillado is what he brought back for me from his travels overseas, thanks so much Wayne for picking this up for the club to enjoy.

First impressions upon seeing the packaging is wow!  It’s a lovely, sturdy wood case, it’s lined with a golden silk liner under the bottle.  On the inside of the opening cover there is a panel with a story of the distillery and some basic tasting notes for this single cask expression.  The packaging really takes this to the next level and has an exclusive feel while protecting the nectar inside.  Kavalan also include a rolled-up scroll that shows additional tasting notes with a note that this expression won the World Whisky Awards Best Single Cask in 2016.

Amontillado is a dry sherry characterized by nutty aromas, tobacco, aromatic herbs and often ethereal, polished notes of oak, these casks are certainly unique to the whisky world but still carry the familiar sherry finishing notes on the whisky.

Some notes from the distillery:

Colour: Dark rich bronze similar to, the darker brown of the wood packaging box

Nose: Very rich and fruity, warm heat from the cask strength, sweetness with notes of almonds and a touch of oak

Palate: Exotic soft sherry with a hint of caramel, longer finish backed by nuts and pepperiness

This whisky packs a bit of punch and you will be well served to let spirit breathe for a few minutes after pouring it into your choice of whisky glass. You get the warming alcohol note on the first waft from the glass. The sweetness comes through backed by a touch of oak in the back end as you breath in the aromas. The spirit is quite dark taking colouring from the Amontillado Sherry casks, it imparts some serious legs on the glass as you swirl it in your glass. Once the spirit hits your lips you get the immediate warmth from the high ABV, however that quickly dissipates into the sweet notes of the sherry backed by caramelised nuts. It is so smooth for a cask strength whisky. The finish imparts a sweet oaky wood backed by a bit of pepper.  I still got the flavour of the whisky for up to 10 minutes after the first sips. The alcohol on the nose is quickly replaced by the nuttiness and overall dry sweetness of the Amontillado sherry cask finish.

There is no age statement on this range of Solist single cask expressions from Kavalan, however some research puts it anywhere from 8-12 years, notes on the Kavalan website show that the warm climate and the heat in Taiwan allows the spirit to take on notes of the casks at a much higher rate that the traditional scotch whisky processes.  For me and the club members this expression did not taste like a young whisky that was boring and was gone on the palate instantly.  This was a complex spirit that would normally have an aging of over 20 years.

I have not seen Kavalan for sale in Ontario through the local LCBO, it is available in other parts of Canada so this was a fantastic and rare treat for us to taste and sample. I cannot wait to get a hold of more Kavalan expressions if they are all special like this one.  Bottle was $300 Canadian after exchange. Highly recommend this expression and from what I’ve heard the other Solist expressions are just a great, well done Kavalan.

Springbank Single Cask 19 Year Old

Springbank 19 Single Cask

Notes by member Tamara Maurer.

Campbeltown Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Aged: 19 years

Distilled on: May 1997

Bottled on: May 2016

Matured in: Sherry Cask

Bottles: 390

Alcohol: 55.6%

Our purchase price: $390 CAN

Club rating: 4.01/5

When I saw this rare Springbank sitting on a dusty shelf in a private liquor dealer in Santa Monica California, there was no doubt that it would be one of the bottles I lugged back to Ontario.

Such a treat to have this as part of the collection. When I finally found an occasion to crack it open 3 years after nervously standing at the luggage carousel praying it made the journey unharmed, it did not disappoint. A beautiful colour (the last of a dying sunset over Lake Huron under a cloudless sky? Too much?) with no colour additives per Springbank’s usual practice, this whisky could have been a song of sweetness, but is muted due to its high alcohol content, at 55.6%. With an unmistakable sherry influence, this gem is genuinely unique, mixing vanilla sweetness with the saltiness of the Campbeltown sea influence. Peppery and spicy, with nothing floral or too funky.

Pure elegance, in a quirky way that is so, so Springbank.

(Note: we did sample this whisky with and without a drop of water, as recommended by past reviewers. It made a significant impact on the palate, becoming much creamier tasting with the water, with a stronger sherry punch. The club seemed to prefer it with water overall).

(Note 2: Although not a fair inclusion in a review of the whisky itself, I will add that my one criticism of this whisky is its packaging. Springbank continues to bottle its whisky in a decidedly “oldschool” fashion. Although I enjoy the love of tradition, this particular bottle should have packaging to match its specialness, rather than a nondescript bottle with a flimsy open cardboard box)

Scapa Glansa Single Malt

Scapa Glansa

Scapa Glansa,

The name Glansa is taken from Old Norse and means ‘shining storm-laden skies’

Limited Availability at the LCBO

40% ABV


I’m reminded of an early damp spring morning, with a blustery wind at my back. I have selected my driver as I’m not sure I can reach the par 3 220 yard 10th hole at Orkney Golf Club. This old style classic Scottish links course is providing quite the test for my amateur at best golf skills. With the salted bite of the cool sea air in the breeze, I am reminded of my hip flask full of this warm mysterious dram, picked up on a visit yesterday to the nearby Scapa distillery about 2 kms down the Scottish countryside. I pause to look over the the lush green landscape and the nearby shoreline. I take a swig of the Scapa Glansa… I’m instantly warmed by the light peated flavour and taken back to days gone by.  The sweet palate brings a euphoric sense of pleasure to my taste buds. As the finish finds me like the sunshine that has opened the clouds and has brightened up this old style links course. I am warmed by not only the rays of sunshine, but the warmth of this succulent dram, shame I am drinking it out of the hip flask as this whisky needs a proper Glencairn. I take a deep breath and a whisper of the salty warm delicate smoke fills my nostrils and tickles my senses. I smile and know that this will be a dram that provides the inspiration to approach this daunting par 3. I tee it up and unleash my swing, the swing and contact is pure. The brisk breeze knocks my drive down short of the green but in relative safety. I go for another nip and I am reminded why I made the trip from the mainland to the Orkney Islands during my travels to Scotland last year. As I sit crafting these notes in my basement bar, all it takes is the pop of the cork on my bottle of Scapa Glansa to transport me right back, to a place I would love to visit time and time again. Hey, maybe one of these times I’ll even par that 220 yard par 3.

Scapa Glansa is highly recommended, let this dram transport you on a taste adventure to the Orkney Islands.

For more information visit

Joshua Campbell

Glengoyne 25 Year Old


On January 26, 2019 we had a the opportunity to have the Glengoyne 25 Year Old as one of our featured tasters as we celebrated our 11 Year Anniversary as a Whisky club.

Club member Tamara has added her notes:

Glengoyne 25 Years


Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Aged: 25 years

Matured in: Sherry Cask

Alcohol: 48.0%

Our purchase price: $485 CAD

Glengoyne 25 was not a hard sell on me from the get-go, generally being a fan of sherry casks.

Rich & spicy, with no peat, this whisky is a beautiful and impressive amber colour, a baseline signature of the sherry cask. My first impression, it tastes like it looks! On the brown sugary sweet side, but not too sweet, it reminded me of Grandma’s Christmas fruitcake, which would perennially appear on the kitchen counter around December 25 throughout my childhood, and which would still be there come March, mysteriously intact. I never developed the taste for indestructible cake crammed with old dried fruit, but I’ll take these homey flavours in my whisky. Throw in a little orange flavour, a few nuts (walnuts, almonds?) and bam! A bottle that I certainly would include as a highlight of my personal collection. Apologies however, the LCBO does not carry this bottle, making it difficult to obtain in Ontario.

Other common comments from online reviews are notes of old leather, cinnamon and licorice, which were not the stand out elements for me in sampling this bottle. Kensington Wine Market reviews this whisky on their website as “one of the best releases by any distillery in the last few years”. This whisky also won Gold at both the Asian Spirits Masters 2018 and the San Francisco World Spirits Competition 2017.

The distillery’s slogan, “Unhurried since 1833”, reflects perfectly in this bottle. Very easy to drink and a definite go-back-for seconds experience. Overall, a great selection for those who want a complex, rich whisky without the smoke. Skip the dessert, just have a Glengoyne!

Wow what an endorsement, if the above notes strike you we would highly recommend this Glengoyne expression.  Cheers!

Highland Park 12 year Viking Honour

Review by club member Luke Moffatt

Highland Park 12 year Viking Honour.

The name of this whisky does not refer to the area of Scotland known as The Highlands, but rather to the fact that the distillery was founded on an area called ‘High Park’ distinguished from a lower area nearby. Highland Park is one of the few distilleries to malt some part of the barley it uses, blending locally cut peat from Hobbister Moor with heather before being used as fuel. The malt is peated to a level of 20 parts per million phenol and then mixed with unpeated malt produced on the Scottish mainland. Thank you to Wikipedia for providing this information.


             I love a good whiskey with a strong background and lets be real for a minute. The Viking culture is arguably one of the richest and more well known cultures from history. What makes a better tale than a horde of warriors sailing for weeks if not months on end with no real idea of where they were going, only to loot and pillage. Warriors that pleased their gods only with the death of their enemies. No amount of prayer or devotion could sway the gods, only death, conquering, and strength. Highland park is very much like this culture. Strong, unique, bold, and brave. You get this right from the moment you open the bottle.

           The nose is strong. Strong smoke and sweetness wash over your senses, and what I can only describe an a brine smell. I imagine a Viking longship sailing in stormy weather with a salty mist and a fire going to keep the warriors warm on a cold voyage. A strange sort of calm to mask what was coming. I am intrigued, a little nervous, but I want to know more, so I take a sip and sail into the unknown.

            The palate is unique. Just like any conquest, victory is bittersweet and amongst the smoke , I can detect orange, honey, and tropical fruits. I chew for awhile and find that it gets waxy and thick, and for a moment I find myself wondering what side will emerge victorious.

            The finish is bold. Bold with the flavours of wood, spice, and black pepper. To the victor go the spoils of war and it is long lasting. A celebration and a marriage of flavours is what truly describes the finish on this whiskey. I am feasting with the victorious Vikings by a fire, celebrating a glorious victory, while an arranged marriage of tribal leaders is debated, so peace can be obtained.

            A brave connoisseur is needed to appreciate this. Brave in the sense to appreciate strong, unique, and bold flavours. Pair this whiskey with smoked meats. Cherry, apple, or pear smoke would be excellent. I think slow smoked pork back ribs, beef brisket, or smoked pork chops. Better yet, turn this into a BBQ sauce and baste your meats with it. You may be nervous, but when you emerge victorious, you will not be disappointed.

1975 Signatory Vintage Rare Ayrshire Whisky

1975 Signatory Vintage Rare Ayrshire – Cask Strength Collection

Specs: Lowland Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Aged: 40 years

Distilled on: October 24, 1975

Bottled on: December 2, 2015

Matured in: Bourbon Barrel

Cask No: 3421

Bottle No: 104 of 166

Alcohol: 47.1%

Our purchase price: $1495 CAN

When I was given the opportunity by the Executive Board to select and purchase a very special bottle of whisky for the Club’s 10 Year Anniversary, I was both excited and wary. To spend a budget of $1500 of the Members’ hard earned money on a single bottle was a big responsibility, but also a rare treat. I was afforded this task as I was planning a trip to Scotland, where an entire world of whisky would be available to choose from, versus the maddeningly limited selections consistently put forth by the uninspired LCBO. I took my assignment seriously and put a full-on nerdy amount of time into researching the purchase. I thought this was the hard part. What ended up being much harder was the year that passed while the carefully selected bottle sat on my shelf, sealed and unsullied, waiting for the Big Day of January 27, 2018 to arrive. Paranoia set in: What if something was “off” about the bottle? What if the seal was compromised? What if that beautifully packaged whisky just plain sucked?

It didn’t.

Rare Ayrshire is close to my heart, not only because of the work that went into selecting it over hundreds of other unique and interesting options available in Scotland, but also because of the journey. Procuring it and safely transporting it home was part of my trip to a country that I enjoyed immensely.

The worst moment of my trip sadly was an experience I had that was directly related to my mission to acquire Rare Ayrshire, at a distillery I was dying to see, Edradour, the smallest in the country and distiller of some of my personal favorite and hard-to-find-in-Ontario whiskies. Edradour is home to the bottling processes of Signatory Vintage, a company that has been collecting rare barrels from around Scotland since 1988. Signatory Vintage bottles its carefully curated selection of spirits under its own banner and credits the original distiller on the label. Its bottles are packaged beautifully and fetch significant sums as the company boasts one of the most unique collections of whisky in the world. Most Signatory Vintage bottles are extremely rare.

Signatory Vintage bottled our Rare Ayrshire, which was distilled in 1975 by a now-closed facility called Ladyburn Distillery, an expansion of the still-operating Girvan Distillery owned by Grant and Sons (owners of brands such as Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Tullamore). What an opportunity for our Club!: to taste a rare whisky that is not only 40 years old, but is also a tiny piece of the spirit’s proud history that will never be even close to replicated. Ladyburn was demolished in 1976, after only 2 bottlings of its Ayrshire whisky under its own name and label.

Upon departing for Scotland, I knew that two bottles of Rare Ayrshire were within my reach given the areas I planned to visit. The first of the 2 was housed at Edradour, in an exit-through-the-gift-shop style collection of many, many special bottles. As it turns out, Edradour was the most pretentious and unwelcoming place that I visited in Scotland. It was really the only place in the country I could describe this way. They have crazy cool whisky available, and they know it. 1975 Rare Ayrshire, in the exact same packaging, was priced at $800 USD higher than at the private seller I eventually purchased the bottle from in the central Highlands. The price was mad and the kilt-wearing skinny old (totally not Scottish) man that “helped” me while I was in the Edradour whisky shop was a total prick.

Rare Ayrshire is everything that Edradour was not. There is no pretention to this beautiful, smooth, golden-straw coloured gift from the glens of the coastal lowlands. There is nothing flashy about the whisky itself – no crazy flavours or twists like many of the punch-you-in-face styles the Club has tried. It is just lovely and mellow. You could taste the patience of the 40 years it spent in its bourbon barrel.

Rare Ayrshire boasted no mucky seaweed or mossy birch bark or leathery old shoes. It is not a peated whisky, despite its heritage of being from a region known for its bogs. There is a creaminess to it, with lots of fruit. I am not super-skilled at calling fruit for what it is when tasting, and I can’t lie, I did not get pineapple as suggested by some tasting notes online, but I did get the feeling of an orchard – only a touch more exotic. There was a delicate sweetness to it that turned somehow nutty. Despite its mellow approach, Rare Ayrshire was truly complex – the type of whisky that you could gladly try over and over again and always discover something new.

Alas though, she is a limited gift, with very little more to be found out there, as evidenced by its now-increased price to at least $1800 USD per bottle (our price: $1495 CAN). Note that I also found what I believe was an authentic Ladyburn-labelled bottle of 1975 Rare Ayrshire during my travels in Scotland, which was selling for a whopping $4500 CAN.

Here are a few more of my tasting notes, along with what better-honourary-Scots-than-I have found in my unicorn of whiskies:

EYE Honeyed straw, with the longest and slowest legs possible (Online notes: dark pear juice)

NOSE Fruit, sweet Orchard apple and mild citrus, and a whole-lotta vanilla (Online notes: grassy malt, toasted nuts and a charred sweetness like burned marshmallows and some earthy undertones. Also: creamy and zesty, with red berry fruits and apple peel. Toffee and thick vanilla-laden custard. Also: pineapple)

PALATE Fruit (tropical?), honey, almonds (Online notes: complex fruit, honeyed sweetness, some wood and a nutty overtone. Darker earthier background notes, cumin? Also: cantaloupe melon, rye spice, black forest honey, Madeira cake and citrus)

FINISH Slightly dry finish, with a medium fade, ending with more light notes of almond (Online notes: wood and fruit heavy, notes of nuts and cumin. Also: black pepper, apple strudel).

Thanks to the boys for this awesome opportunity. I’m sure I will hear the wind whispering her name for many years to come.

Tamara Maurer