In-Depth Review: Kingsbarns Balcomie Single Malt Scotch

Image credit: Darryl Holtby (@whiskeysith)

Years ago, when my wife and I were looking for our first house that we would own together, we were obsessed with this British documentary series called “Build a New Life in the Country”, where a couple or family bought a run down, severely dilapidated heritage farm or house in the countryside to get away from it all. Some episodes ended in success, some ended with a partial completion and more than a bushel full of financial uncertainty. Regardless of the outcome, there was always a good story to tell.

As I was researching Kingsbarns, memories of the themes of that show came wafting back to me. The big dream, the creative ambition, the desire to start a new life, unexpected costs, not enough money. Yet, a happy ending (though a bittersweet one for the founder).

The initial idea of creating the distillery lay in the mind of Douglas Clement, who was a golf caddy in and around St. Andrews, long time home of The Open PGA major tournament. Over the years, he noticed that after a hard day on the links, many golf tourists wanted to visit a distillery, have a tour and a drink, and walk away with a bottle as a souvenir. Only problem was, the nearest distillery was 50 miles (80 km) away. Douglas’ desire to fill that niche lead him to pitch his idea to several golf contacts whom he caddied for. With this initial investment in place, he was able to secure a long-term lease from the nearby Cambo Estate for the East Newall Farm, as well as obtain planning permission from Fife county council. The farm was quite run down, but had lots of character and potential for a distillery and visitor’s center.

With this initial investment and a £670,000 (~ 1 million Canadian dollars) grant from the European Union, Douglas still did not have enough capitol to realize his dream of turning the farm into a distillery. Fortunately, William Wemyss, a golfing friend whose family had interests in a number of industries, including an independent bottling company (Wemyss Malts) and a French winery, offered a substantial grant to keep the project going. To keep the dream alive, Douglas and his investors sold their interests in the distillery to the Wemyss family. Now working for Wemyss, he became the Kingsbarns visitor’s center manager and director, opening the center on St. Andrew’s Day 2014. Douglas chose to leave the distillery in 2018 to pursue other ventures and later that year, Kingsbarns released their first whisky.

Although no longer directly involved with the distillery, except of course in spirit, Douglas decided to get a tattoo on his forearm to commemorate the first distillery release. Although he was not able to independently realize his dream of serving whiskey to the golfing masses, his vision had ultimately created something that made all of Fife proud. That, in and of itself, is substantially rewarding.

In my glass today is the second core release from Kingsbarns. Called Balcomie, this is a non-age stated (NAS) single malt whisky made from 100% Concerto barley from county Fife. It spent its entire life in ex-Oloroso American oak Sherry butts from Jerez, Spain and is bottled at 46%. This is non-chill filtered and contains no added colouring.

Nose: Fresh, minty and slightly floral. There are a couple of layers of fruitiness in here. Tropical notes are dominant. Combined with a confectionary sweetness, it’s almost like candied pineapple and ginger, the latter of which tickles the nose a little. A less prominent fruitiness comes in the form of poached pears in syrup sprinkled with cinnamon. Lovely mint milk chocolate bar, like the ones sold at the old-style chocolate shop near the house where I grew up (the now defunct Lee’s Chocolates for those who lived around the west part of Vancouver). Much of what I’m nosing is the result of this near-perfect balance between spirit and cask. For a lighter spirit, ex-Sherry casks can simply overpower a whiskey. That is not the case here.

Palate: A sweet and zesty one right from the start. Initially, I get creamy, rich honey and barley sugar on the entry. As this transitions into the development, the citrus comes to the fore along with a slice of fresh ginger, which tingles the tongue a bit. That floral note from the nose comes back as the experience approaches the mid-development, giving the spirit a slight gin character. Throughout the whole development, that poached pear is prominent, this time with some dark chocolate sauce drizzled over top. For an ex-Oloroso cask, the dark baking spices are quite faint. A good thing really, as this gives the spirit a chance to shine. Instead, the cask is delivering with that dark chocolate.

Finish: The citrus and syrupy sweetness leads to a juicy finish, which dries out slightly at the end. That pear and dark chocolate continue all the way through. The cask is, again, only exerting a light touch.

With water added

The ginger note is quite strong on the nose now.  Floral honey is in there too. The poached pear is absent, replaced by a barely fresh one. After I nose this for a while, I get dark chocolate ginger, quite the contrast when compared to the chocolate note I got without water added. The stronger ginger character continues on the palate and the floral nature of the development is turned up a bit. Still a ripe pear rather than poached.


Whether you like this scotch will depend upon the expectations that you had when you purchased the bottle. Those who read the label, saw the word “Sherry” and were expecting a whisky heavily laced with dark spices and dried fruit, disappointment will soon set in. Lowland spirit is a light, fruity and floral thing. Swamping it with an active Sherry cask would erase that character almost entirely. These Oloroso solera casks instead impart just enough of its signature to let you know of its presence without reaching for the ten pound lump hammer. In the end, the result is a supremely balanced young Scotch that I am salivating to try at cask strength (coming soon to Alberta, I hear). For those who are interested in trying all facets of Sherry cask matured Scotch, and those lovers of Lowland Scotch in general, this one will put a smile on your face.

Instagram: @paul.bovis

Correction: I made a couple of errors in the timeline regarding Douglas’ founding of the distillery as well as his time at Kingsbarns after him and investors were bought out by the Wemyss family. I have made these corrections in the text. Sorry!

Quick Review: Glenfarclas 12 Year Old – Wine & Beyond Exclusive

Glenfarclas is one of the very first distilleries that I discovered in my whisky journey, and one of the first that I fell in love with. It was the perfect distillery to discover that funky, nutty, sherry flavour profile that I’ve come to enjoy so much.

That being said, Glenfarclas is a family owned distillery that’s very anchored in tradition. This means that you can know exactly what to expect from most of their core lineup. Lots of sherried goodness, but not much in terms of creative maturation or cask finishes. While their yearly Family Cask releases do offer some variety and are bottled at cask strength, they aren’t always affordable to be enjoyed as a daily dram.

This is why I was so excited when I noticed this release on our shelves at Wine and Beyond. As we are currently celebrating Wine and Beyond’s 10th anniversary this month, I thought the timing would be perfect to review this exclusive release! This Glenfarclas 12 Year Old is botted at 56.9%, non chill filtered and natural colour. Like its little brother in the core range, it was matured in sherry casks.

In the glass: Copper, somewhat thin. Based on looks, the sherry influence seems similar to that of the core releases.

Nose: A lot of alcohol on the nose, proceed with caution! With time, it dissipates and gives way to that classic nutty Glenfarclas nose with dried fruits in the background. Some water helps to bring out baking spices. Palate: This is definitely the Glenfarclas 12yr on steroids. I will warn that this whisky is quite sharp. I will never shy away from a high abv dram, but even with water the strong alcohol remains on the palate. Once you get past that, the same nutty oloroso goodness from the nose shines through. Lots of spice rounds out the flavour profile, with subtle notes of raisin.

Finish: Short, very dry, and more sharpness at the end. That being said, most of the alcohol shows up at the beginning, so the finish is smoother than I would have expected. More spice and fresh hazelnuts.


This whisky didn’t quite live up to my expectations. Perhaps my feelings of nostalgia around other classic Glenfarclas releases set the bar too high. While the age statement, abv, and price point are all very reasonable, I feel as though this whisky was a bit unbalanced. The predominant alcohol notes masked the funky sherry goodness that I was hoping to find.

I’m still very pleased to see Wine and Beyond getting an exclusive release from this distillery, and I hope to see another one in the future. Ryan Engen has done a tremendous job of bringing in a wide variety of quality single casks, and his track record in the last few years shows that it’s always worth making the gamble to grab a bottle! I always look forward to trying his selections, they are just one of many reasons to celebrate this 10 year milestone or Wine and Beyond. Cheers to the next 10 years, and many more amazing whiskies to come!

Instagram: Nic Bélanger

In-Depth Review: Boulder Spirits American Single Malt – The Trailhead

Here’s the Cole’s notes on this whiskey. During a business trip in Colorado, Steve (@park.whiskey) and Travis (@edmontonscotchclub), who run PWS Imports, the agency that has Boulder Spirits in their portfolio, tasted a sample of this whiskey at the distillery. They said “We want all of this.” And we all lived happily ever after. The end.

This tale is mostly accurate. Canada got 700 of the 850 bottles from the cask.

Just like Scotch and single malt brands from all over the world, American Single Malt distilleries and blenders are utilizing cask finishing and peated malt as well. Boulder Spirits is among a handful of brands that have had peated malt expressions from the start.

American peated single malt is a very different animal that the medicinal, briny, Lemon Pledge sort of vibe you get from Islay. It’s earthy and rich, like a campfire in a west coast cedar forest. With Boulder Spirits at least, their expressions are only very lightly peated. It’s more about the smoke than the peat.

Cask finishing is another element that is being more frequently utilized in American Single Malt. Sherry barrels of all types are most common, but I’ve seen Cognac, Tequila and Armagnac used too. And the list is growing rapidly.

The Boulder Spirits Trailhead expression, which is what I have in my glass today, is an attempt to take all of these things and pack it into a single bottle. This is a combination of peated and unpeated malt matured separately for four years in new, #3 char American oak barrels. Both casks were then dumped into an ex-PX Sherry barrel to marry for one more year. It’s bottled at 52.5% abv.

Nose: Scotch drinkers may expect the Sherry cask influence to be present right from the get go. Not so here. Even after a one year PX cask finish, the original cask maturation is at the forefront. Ripe, slightly sour cherries, lots of sponge toffee, a bit of dark roast coffee and a dash of cinnamon. After a while in the glass, the smoke from the peated malt starts to waft out of the glass. Underneath all of this is the undeniable signature of the PX cask. Combined with the barrel char of the American oak, it smells like the crispy caramelized edges of a freshly baked Christmas cake. The darker spices, the dried fruit. It’s all there.

Palate: The entry is like eating a milk chocolate fruit and nut bar. Rich and creamy. The PX cask is clearly asserting itself now. This this is quickly joined by still more raisins and a few prunes. Then the peat kicks in during the development. It’s slightly sour, but doesn’t consume the initial sweetness. Cinnamon, nutmeg and a good dose of clove arrive half way through and slowly build rather than crash in like a wave. The stages of this experience slowly ebb and fade so that one builds upon another.

Finish: Slightly sweet with a bigger dose or sour. Almost like the stuff they sprinkle on Sour Patch kids. Makes my mouth water. Rich cocoa emerges pretty quickly and fades slowly. As I breathe in and out after I have swallowed, that campfire smoke comes back again.

With water added

Much more of the PX cask influence now on the nose. Dark chocolate, raisins, nutmeg. It’s a little bit nutty too. Walnuts mostly. Instead of sponge toffee, I get soft Kraft caramels. The fruit and nut bar sticks around a lot longer now on the palate, resulting in a creamier mouthfeel throughout. The sourness from the peat doesn’t dig in quite as hard either. Nor do the spices. Lighter and creamier overall. The finish is less of the sour and more of the cocoa powder.


Any way you cut it, this is a phenomenal pour. It’s not a Sherry bomb. It’s not a peat monster. It’s something quite different, but incorporating enough from each of those extremes to make this a highly balanced experience. The only exception to this is that I feel like the unpeated malt kind of gets lost due to the peat and the PX cask finish. The sour peat note on the development kind of washes away the unpeated spirit too much. However, with everything else that this whiskey offers, it’s a solid “buy” recommendation from me.

Instagram: @paul.bovis

In-Depth Review: Boulder Spirits American Single Malt – Bottled in Bond

What’s one extra year’s worth of maturation time in whiskey? If you’re talking Scotland with its cool(ish) climate, it hardly makes a difference. Not so in other places around the world. Generally, hot and/or temperate climates really help to supercharge the aging process. Although not known for its searing heat, Boulder, Colorado is certainly temperate to cause noticeable differences from one year to the next.

Since I last wrote Boulder Spirits reviews, quite a lot has happened in the American whiskey world. Most importantly, American Single Malt, like Bourbon, is now an officially recognized category by the American Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). This has been a years long effort by a consortium of US distilleries such as Boulder Spirits, Balcones (Texas), and Westland (Washington). Although the rules are slightly less stringent than Bourbon, it is nevertheless a huge hurdle that has been overcome and will hopefully encourage still more distilleries to hop on board the barley train.

Since Boulder Spirits has been distilling single malt for quite a while now, they are one of the first distilleries in the country to be able to offer a whiskey that is Bottled in Bond (as well as their Bourbon, by the way). In the United States, Bottled in Bond whiskey requires the spirit to be distilled in a single season, matured for at least four years in a federally bonded warehouse and bottled at no less than 100 proof (or 50% abv). Their New American expression is one year less than the Bottled in Bond (which is in my glass today) and bottled at 46% abv. They are both matured in new American oak barrels that have been treated to a #3 char.

Let’s answer that initial question now, shall we? In the process, I’ll compare both the Bottled in Bond and American Oak.

Nose: It’s a bit shy at first. Give it a few minutes to open up. The cask has taken a firmer hold on the whiskey after an extra year. Quite a noticeable change. A nice balance between spirit and cask. The New American expression was bright, youthful, barley sugar with a slight hint of cardamom pods. This Bottled in Bond is much darker and richer. Grilled pineapple, ripe cherries, toasted cinnamon, freshly shaved nutmeg. After nosing more, I get a tiny bit of coconut.

Palate: Quite sweet on the entry. Vanilla cream and caramel with a little bit of zest thrown in. Tart cherries start the development, but dark roast coffee, cocoa powder, and a hint of dark chocolate mix with that not soon after. The sweetness from the entry mostly fades mid-way through the development, drying out the experience a bit. At the end of the development, there’s a ton of cinnamon. It’s kind of overpowering the rest of the spices.

By comparison, the New American retains that sweetness all the way through the development, allowing that spice cake/ginger snap cookie vibe to shine through at the end. That’s what I wanted to see with the Bottled in Bond as well, but instead, I’m treated to a richer experience. It’s a trade-off, for sure.

Finish: The coffee and cocoa powder hang on, but slowly fade along with the cinnamon. There’s just enough sweetness to prevent this from becoming too bitter at the end. The finish is definitely on the long side.

The finish on the New American isn’t as long, but I like the ginger snap cookie/cocoa powder notes more than the Bottled in Bond.

With water added

The grilled pineapple and cherry notes come out a lot more on the nose now, nicely balanced with the cinnamon from the cask influence. Water has made a huge difference in the development. The sweetness from the entry hangs on a lot longer, giving me that spiced cookie note that I love from the New American expression. The finish is sweeter and not as bitter.

With water, I like this more that the New American. Just with one year more, the Bottled in Bond gives me the best of both worlds. The richness that I got without water added, combined with the extra extra sweetness that I like from their New American.


Although I had some quibbles with this Bottled in Bond initially, it not only stands up incredibly well to water, it actually improves the experience dramatically. The same can be said of their New American expression as well. To me, this is a mark of a quality whiskey: one that has enough depth of flavor so that it doesn’t collapse with a few drops of H2O.

Instagram: @paul.bovis

Glenallachie 18 Year – 2021

The GlenAllachie range was relaunched in 2018, after Billy Walker purchased the distillery in 2017. To many people, Billy Walker is the mastermind who made GlenDronach (and BenRiach) famous, with bottles from that distillery having reached unicorn status over the last years. To others, the sentiment is that Billy Walker “inherited” some amazing whisky stocks and has built his reputation on liquid for which he wasn’t around during its original distillation. Regardless of which camp you’re in, I think most whisky drinkers could agree that he has always had a talent for picking and blending the right barrels and bottling some amazing releases.

When the first batches of GlenAllachie were released, I had the chance to try most of their core range and for the most part, I was pleasantly surprised. In the last couple of years, we’ve seen a trend where new batches of GlenAllachie releases are much darker, and therefore should have a much more significant sherry influence compared to earlier releases. This is a trend that has kept me very interested, since I am huge fan of heavily sherried whiskies!

This is also what lead to me picking up the newest batch of GlenAllachie 18. It is significantly darker than its predecessor! GlenAllachie 18 Year Old is bottled at 46%, non chill filtered and natural colour. It was matured in a combination of Pedro Ximenes and oloroso sherry casks.

In the glass: Dark caramel in colour, medium viscosity. The liquid coats the glass nicely.

Nose: Delicate dried fruit notes right off the bat. Raisins coated with honey and sweet caramel. With time, the dram opens up and develops more sweet and fresh fruity notes like plum and cherry. There is also a faint citrus note.

Palate: Just as fresh as the nose indicates. The palate mirrors the nose very nicely, but it also introduces layers of sherry spice and sweetness. This is a great showcase of both PX and oloroso sherry flavour profiles. You get the sweet and candied dried fruit notes at first, and then the more savory, rich, nutty and leathery notes at the end.

Finish: Medium and drying finish highlighted by oak and even more spice. (Un)surprisingly easy drinking and it keeps inviting you for more!

This whisky is very pleasant and easily approachable. This would definitely be a crowd pleaser and not a funky sherry bomb that the uninitiated might be scared by. From what I’ve tried so far, I think GlenAllachie seems to have a signature style that is very fruit forward, compared to some older GlenDronach which was much more rich, nutty and sometimes funky. That being said, the increased proportion of sherry casks adds layers of flavour and complexity which I didn’t find in the initial releases.
While it didn’t blow my socks off, I think this is definitely a whisky worth trying and buying, especially if you want to discover how the flavour profile of GlenAllachie has evolved over the last few years. With a multitude of recent and upcoming new releases by the distillery (Virgin oak series, Wine cask series, the increasingly popular 10yr cask strength releases), there will be plenty of opportunities to make a verdict on whether or not they are trending in the right direction. For me, I will definitely be keeping them on my radar and will continue to explore their new and different releases.

Nic Bélanger
Insta: whisky_giant

Carn Mor 2011 Macduff – Rare Drams Cask

For those of you not yet riding the Carn Mor train I suggest you go find yourself a ticket as quickly as possible. I’d recommend starting with an offering from their Strictly Limited range since new batches from various regions are released fairly regularly. Many notable and pungent weirdos come from their line and they carry some soft and more elegant little lovelies too, all with a common trait, quality. Consistent prices and reliable picks are pretty much guaranteed and based on their consistent track record of delicious and rare drams, there’s a chance they’ll have an expression that may fit your taste and budget..Enter stage left: a lovely expression from MacDuff (affectionately known as Glen Devron or The Deveron in some circles).

This particular MacDuff was distilled in 2011 and matured in a bourbon barrel for 10 years before being bottled at a monstrous cask strength of 57.4%. According to legends, the importers, RareDrams will be picking individual expressions from other distilleries and releasing them as a mini series of sort, set to promote the core range of and individual characteristics of each distillery contained within. Lucky for us here in Alberta our portion of the cask (picked by Bob Kyle) has been released to the western market at cask strength while the rest of the cask will go elsewhere and to other markets, with no gaurentee they will be bottled at cask strength..I could go on for another six months talking about the history of MacDuff, the post war whisky boom and the additional stills that were added in the 1990’s but that’s a topic more suited for Bearded Dave, the history professor.

What we know for sure is that at 57.4% this lovely MacDuff isn’t too sharp at all, quite the opposite. On the nose are notes of dried tropical fruits and wet wood. The palate is juicy and sweet with tons of butter on the finish..A touch of water should help spare this one along for a little while longer. You may find the nose is tamed quite a bit as notes of sweet bourbon vanillas and burned butter sauce comes to the tip of the tongue with a touch of zesty tanginess in the background. The alcohol bite has been almost completely removed as hints of fresh almond comes through with a touch of musty wood on the finish.

This is a whisky you’ll probably want to drink..

Review and Photos by Josh Ward aka @knowyourwhisky

Taconic Double Barrel Maple Bourbon review

I will preface this review by saying that a) I am not a fan of almost all “flavoured” whiskeys and I was a little hesitant with this one at first. I poured this whiskey into a mini copitas tasting glass. It has a beautiful rich dark amber colour in the glass and after swirling a bit, the oily whiskey clings to the glass with slow, but thin legs.

Alright let’s get this going. I’ve let this sit in the glass for about 20 minutes. It’s something I do with most reviews I partake in. Sometimes even longer depending on age and proof.

Nose: First little whiff on the nose and it’s a touch sweet, but surprisingly I get some rye notes. The mash bill for Taconic Bourbons contain only 25% rye grain putting it in a medium rye’d bourbon. Those baking spices, nutmeg, allspice notes come through strongest up front. These notes are followed by barrel notes. The sweetness from the maple syrup soaked casks comes through with a hint of barrel char or slight smokiness. Then the bourbon notes come through with a nice citrus orangey note meshed with a nice vanilla and an almost tangy mouthfeel.

Pallet: On the palate it’s a very interesting whiskey indeed. It’s almost like the nosing notes work in reverse here. The bourbon notes hit first up front. The citrus and vanilla notes come through with a slight astringency and some tannic notes. All very pleasing on the tongue dance. As these notes start to mellow out a tinge, a nice maple note follows. With this a bit of caramel sweetness flirts about. A big surprise on the palate was the re-emergence of that rye baking spices note late in the delivery. It’s almost like the base bourbon/sweet corn and the much lower percentage rye grains are duking it out. This fight continues into the finish which was longer than expected and very pleasing. Begging you to have another sip before it fades completely. The other surprising part was that the sweetness in this whiskey wasn’t over the top in any way. I guess I expected a much more cloying sweetness but instead I got a well balanced maple influenced bourbon.

With water added…

The nose, with a touch of water, loses even more of the sweetness and brings those rye notes a bit more forward this time. The familiar (from trying the other Taconic Bourbons) bourbon notes come through strongest. On the palate with water, the sweetness shows up heavier, but still not at all cloying. More of a vanilla and maple sweetness. Like buttermilk pancakes with actual real maple syrup, not the artificial kind. With water this whiskey turns into a perfect breakfast whiskey.


I will fully admit again I was not going to like this at all. But the proof is in the pudding…the maple bourbon pudding. This is a fantastic and immensely drinkable bourbon. The maple barrels add just the right amount of influence on the already top notch bourbon and we are all the lucky benefactors of this unique and delicious marriage in a bottle.

Instagram: @seankincaid

Boulder Spirits American Single Malt Whiskey – Peated Malt – YEGWhiskynights Barrel Pick review

The production of any whisky is invariably the life’s work of multiple individuals. Being in the position to review these whiskies, particularly if you don’t enjoy them, can be an uncomfortable situation. So when PWS asked me to give my thoughts on the @YegWhiskyNights cask selection of the Boulder Peated Malt, it came with some apprehension. Sean is a friend, and an unsavoury bottle could make for some awkward interactions in the future. Thankfully, the @YegWhiskyNights cask is a fantastic example of how extra time in a cask and a higher abv can improve an already enjoyable whisky!

Boulder Spirits was founded by a Scottish-born former Air Force veteran named Alastair Broganwho’s biggest claim to fame was a stint on Survivor: Panama. He always wanted to make whiskey in his homeland, but instead relocated to Boulder, and the rest is part of Colorado whiskey history.

The regular peated malt mash, which is 100% malted barley, is blended with the Eldorado Springs water. It is then placed into 53-gallon, virgin #3 charred American oak barrels for three years. The @YegWhiskyNights release spent an extra 12 months in the cask, and was chosen from several samples for its unique character and flavour profile. 

Appearance: Orange-amber in colour. Moves easily in the glass, doesn’t really coat the sides in any noticeable way. 

Nose: First thing I notice is a rich, earthy mustiness. No smoke, but almost a hint of Japanese umami. There is a clear undertone of stone fruit like ripe peaches or apricots. There is also some heat on the nose, which can be expected based on the 58.8% abv. 

Palate: Surprisingly, there’s a slightly creamy mouth feel for a whisky with low viscosity. The first flavour that hits is reminiscent of flavoured cola, lots of caramel and sweet cherry. This is replaced by a oaky/nuttiness that reveals the character of this particular virgin oak barrel. Delicious. 

Finish: The finish of this whisky starts to show the char of the barrel. There is a wisp of smoke now, not overpowering but clearly evident. This is followed by a spicy pepper that lingers on the tongue for a long time. Slightly drying when the pepper fades. 

With water: A few drops of water in this cask strength whisky adds some subtlety. Light smoke and caramel replace the mustiness, and eases the spiciness of the pepper. I still prefer it without water. 


I wrote this review over 2 nights, including a side by side comparison with the regular peated malt release. Was I supposed to drink a third of the bottle in that time? Maybe. Maybe not. But what that tells me is this whisky is an amazingly easy drinker, especially at 58.8%. It is a significant improvement over the original release, offering a greater depth of flavour and a satisfying spicy finish. I will be adding another bottle of the @YegWhiskyNights selection to my shelf before they disappear forever. Definitely backup bottle worthy. Slainte!

Instagram: @woodley_dr

@yegwhiskynights – Sean McCalder

Johnnie Walker Green Label 15 Year review

Ah, Johnnie Walker. The company many (though not all) experienced whisky drinkers love to hate. Sure, people covet the special releases (like the recent 200th anniversary bottlings), the Blue Label and Ghost & Rare, but the Black, Double Black and Green? Hard pass, right? Wrong!

In my mind, there is always a place for these bottles on your shelf, even if it is to share with friends, not all of whom share your enthusiasm for cask strength peated scotch. I will always stand by the Black Label (and I’m sure the Double Black when I eventually try it), but it is the Green Label which is the focus of today’s review. This is a great whisky for several reasons. First, if you are new to Scotch, this is a great introduction to the thoroughly (almost criminally) underappreciated category of blended malts as well as peated, smoky whiskies. Second, it lists the three or four distilleries that are the sources of the blend. Last, it is presented at an un-JW like 43% abv.

Which Diageo (owner of the JW brand) distilleries are represented in your bottle will depend on the release of Green Label you have. The one I am reviewing is a blend of Caol Ila (unpeated), Talisker, Clynelish and Craggenmore. The blend contains whiskies that are now younger than 15 years. It is chill-filtered and probably colored as well.

Nose: This is a light, but pleasant nose. Right off the bat, I get fresh cut apples, light sponge toffee and vanilla. There’s a little bit of smoke in here as well. This has Talisker and unpeated Caol Ila, so that’s not surprising. There is a little bit of citrus with some orange and a tiny bit of lemon. I’m not getting an awful lot of spicing on the nose apart from some cinnamon and maybe a little bit of ground coriander seed. As this sits for longer, it get’s ever so slightly herbal (cilantro) and floral.

Palate: The entry starts off light and sweet with a nice, oily mouthfeel. There’s nothing surprising here and should taste pretty familiar to anyone who has had other JW expressions in the past. It’s slightly floral with a little bit of honey and vanilla cream. There’s some flesh of an orange as well. A nice mix of sweet and sour. That sourness builds during the development with the introduction of a bit of lemon peel, very much the Caol Ila shining through there. The oak and baking spices kick in during the backend of the development. Cinnamon, ginger and a dusting of nutmeg. The experience gets a little drier as I head into the finish.

Finish: It’s short to medium in length, but has a nice amount of balance. A little bit of that honey sweetness from the entry is still detectable and helps to counteract the oak, spices and lingering sour peat from the development. Mid-way through the finish, I get a square or two of dark chocolate, but it’s presence is fleeting.

With water added…

The nose has gotten slightly tropical now. A heavy hint that the majority of this whisky comes from first or refill Bourbon barrels. There’s a touch of pineapple alongside the apple. I’m definitely getting cantaloupe as well. The ginger has come forward from the development without water added. I have never had this with water added, but I like what I’m smelling so far! The entry is just as fresh, light, sweet and slightly citrusy as before, but the peat is much more pronounced on the development. This won’t knock the socks off of experienced peated Scotch drinkers, but it’s still a nice change. The development has a bit of a surf n’ turf thing going on with the peat. There’s a bit of the maritime saltiness and sour lemon that you would expected from coastal peated Scotch mixed with earthier baking spices like nutmeg, which I get off of American peated single malts. The chocolate comes in at the very end of the finish. Making the end of the experience a little less drying that without water added.


Look, this isn’t a whisky that will take you to strange and bizzare new places. That is simply not what Johnnie Walker is all about. Instead, this bottle is a great introduction to peat and blended malts, the latter being a category everyone should explore more of these days. If you like what you taste here, I fully encourage you to explore Diageo’s regular distillery releases, but more importantly, the independent bottlings from those distilleries as well. You’ll find some hidden gems in there that will transform your scotch experience, believe you me!

Instagram: @paul.bovis

Dunville’s 12 Year VR PX review

46% abv
10 years in ex-Bourbon and 2-3 year Finish in PX butts and Hogsheads.

Dunville’s Irish Whiskey…..what can i say about thee…

Let’s start this off with a bit of personal history fist and then bring the facts of this bottle. I have a deep personal connection with Dunville’s that stretches back over a century. My great-grandfather emigrated to Canada in 1906 and stories circulate that he enjoyed the odd tipple from time to time. The original Dunville’s brand of whiskey was a favourite of his before he left what is now present day Northern Ireland.

I found out this information a few years ago when I stumbled upon a beautifully labelled bottle of Irish Whiskey in a green bottle. This was the Dunville’s 10 year VR PX. I instantly fell in love with everything about this whiskey. From the gorgeous floral themed label with the word BELFAST displayed, to the absolutely gorgeous whiskey inside. A 10 year Irish Whiskey that had a short yet beautiful and impactful Pedro Jiminez finish that instantly grabbed my attention and never let it go. Sadly, not long after finding this whiskey I was told it had been discontinued. Tears ensued. Then the folks at Echlinville Distillery (who resurrected the Dunville’s name and brand) reached out to tell me they were releasing a 12 year version to replace the 10 year. It did take longer than anyone would have liked to reach the “shores” of Alberta but it has finally arrived and I for one am celebrating for not just this 12 year but there are a couple other Dunville’s releases that accompanied it to Canada’s whisk(e)y mecca that is Alberta. Oh and by the way, as you can see in these photos, the bottles and labels are still as gorgeous as ever.

In the glass: Greeted by a deep gold and maybe a touch of red or pink hue. A most inviting colour to be sure. With a slight twirl of the glass, I have to wait a decent amount of time for legs to even appear, and when they do, they sit idle for a significant amount of time. When they do fall, they are even and very slow. Surely a sign of things to come. 

Nose: OOOOOOOH there it is, so familiar yet not the same. It starts off almost tropical citrus fruit sweet. Papaya and mango and even some slight notes of peaches. This rather quickly slides to more of a strawberry or ripe cherry pie note. And then the beautiful PX influence comes in strong. Citrus peels and sweet raisins (like the ones in cereals) followed by a nutty coffee note like a fruity dark roast thats been freshly ground. The spices come next with a touch of cinnamon and baking spices. Like Christmas at Grandma’s a couple days before Santa’s visit and she is hard at work prepping all the baking and food that will very soon disappear. I love a solid PX influence on an Irish whiskey nose. A bit of the citrusy fruits and some toffee/caramel along with a touch of old leather in a shop at the very end of the nose. Its everything I loved about the nose on the former 10 year but amped up and stronger. If the palate follows suit I will be in Irish Whiskey heaven.

Palate and finish: The very first thing I notice when I just sip a tiny amount to get my palate ready is the mouthfeel. It sits heavy in the mouth in weight not in hotness. In fact the 46% thats this is bottled at might be the perfect abv (if you aren’t going to bottle it straight from the cask). The first note I find is caramel drizzled apple slices. And it’s inviting for more and more. The Irish malt comes through next and I can taste some grass and maybe a hint of tea. A switch is flipped and instantly a sherry oak note comes through, firing on all cylinders. It’s spicy PX all the way. Baking spices and sweet cinnamon with a touch of dryness from the oak. The orange citrus note makes a comeback followed by that PX raisin note and even a bit of light red fruits like strawberries again. The one consistent thing from start to finish is the creamy mouthfeel and this takes it straight through to the finish. This lasts on the palate long after I swallow. The spice/oak tannin tames down and I find a nice nuttiness hanging around.  It’s still drying but my upper cheeks are still tingling with sweet spice. The nuttiness, sweetness and creamy feel meld into a double double coffee note.


I won’t deny I went into this one already expecting to drink a very fine Irish whiskey. What I will say is even my high expectations were blown away. The PX finish on this one has so much more of a varied influence on the whiskey than the former 10 year. It isn’t nearly as sweet either, which I like, as it truly let the various notes come and go without fighting through a blanket of sweetness. This was just the neck pour as well, so i feel that as it opens and maybe evolves a bit it might, just might, get even better. This unfortunately seems to be a limited release here in Canada, or Alberta anyways, so if you were humming and hawing over this, go grab one right now. Dark Cloud seal of approval.

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