Mortlach 1995 (A.D. Rattray) Review

“Like a Rolling Stone”

Whisky Review # 619

Country: Scotland
Region: Speyside
Brand: Mortlach 1995 (A.D. Rattray Cask Collection)
Type: Single Malt Single Cask Whisky
Age: 17 Years
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 58.4%
Maturation: Bourbon Hogshead
Chill Filtration: No
Price Range: US$ 80-100 (June 2017) 
Buying Advice: 😀  Positive. Interesting Malt with reasonable P/Q ratio.

Colour: Golden (Natural Colour)

Crisp and Fruity with Mineral, Grassy, Waxy and Spicy notes as well. The Alcohol is quite noticeable but that's no big surprise given the ABV of close to 60%. I find Sweet Barley, Buttered Toast, Toffee, Vanilla, Grass, Straw, Earth, Dried Fruit like Raisins and Apricots, Orange Marmalade, Tinned Pineapple, Saw Dust, Wet Stone, Heather-Honey, Bee-Wax, Sugared Almonds, Stewed Apple, Dusty Road, Leather, Milk Chocolate, Sweet Licorice, Ginger, Pepper and a sprinkle of Fresh Mint. Perhaps the faintest hint of a piece of Bacon on a distant BBQ. Be sure to give this Mortlach enough time in the glass in order to reveal its Aromas.

Very strong delivery thanks to the high ABV. Mainly Sweet but with a few Bitter, Sour, Oaky, Earthy and Spicy notes for balance. I find Sweet Barley, Butterscotch, Caramel, Marzipan, Dried Fruit, Milk- and White Chocolate, Vanilla, Stewed Apples, Almonds, Dirty Road, Salt, Pepper, Cinnamon, Ginger, light Licorice, Orange Marmalade, Grapefruit, Sour Grapes or Grappa and hints of Leather and Raspberry.

Middle-Long, warming and Spicy. Sweet at first but quite Dry in the end with a slight Woody Bitterness. I find Toasted Barley, Sticky Toffee, Caramel, Stewed Apples, Marzipan/Almonds, Honey, Milk Chocolate, Toasted Oak, Grapefruit, Salted Almonds, Orange Marmalade, Lemon Zest, Pepper, Ginger, Cinnamon and hints of Leather and Raspberry Jam. The Alcohol remains strong until the end.  

Drinking Advice

I added 3 drops of Water and that helps to calm down the Alcohol on the Nose. The Aromas remain the same but they become more accessible. The same goes for the Palate. Perhaps some additional Floral notes here. The Finish becomes shorter, more Mineral and with a Metallic note I could live without. Still, this Mortlach deserves a few drops of Water!

Rating: 85

Nose: 22 - Taste: 21 - Finish: 21 - Overall: 21

General Remarks:

🏣   The Distillery, The Bottler and Today's Whisky:

The distillery was founded in 1823 by James Findlater. It changed hands various times before being bought by John Walker & Sons in 1923. The latter was purchased by Distillers Company Ltd that later became part of Diageo. Mortlach is located close to the centre of Dufftown. Most of the Spirit is used for the Johnnie Walker Blends but since 2014 the Malt core range was introduced that consists of the NAS Rare Old, the Duty Free version called Special Strength, the 18 Years and the 25 Years.

A.D. Rattray was founded in 1868 by Andrew Dewar Rattray. It suffered during the crisis of the early 1900's. It changed hands various times before returning to the family. Current owner is Tim Morrison, a fourth generation descendant of the founder who used to work for Morrison Bowmore Distillers. He launched the Cask Selection series in 2004.

The Spirit for today's Single Cask Whisky was distilled on the 19th of June 1995 and was bottled at Cask Strength on January 21, 2013.

🍷  The Spirit:

Mortlach is equipped with six stills of various sizes. Unlike in most distilleries, these stills operate separately, rather than in pairs. Cooling of the vapours takes place with worm tubs. The Lyne arms are pointed downwards to create a full and meaty Spirit, quite different from your usual Speyside profile. The water for the Whisky is sourced in the Conval Hills.

🌲  The Wood:

This Mortlach matured for 17 Years in a Bourbon Hogshead with Cask # 3426. Only 264 bottles were drawn from the cask.

Drinking Experience NeatGood


Quite different when compared to your average Speyside Single Malt. If Speyside is Flower Power, this Mortlach is Dylan's Like a Rolling Stone. It's Edgy, almost Dirty sometimes and the high ABV seems to be spot on for this Malt. I would not recommend this Mortlach to beginning Whisky drinkers but for advanced Whisky fans this is a nice Malt to discuss on a Tasting session with some friends! It's not perfect and it's a bit untidy in places but it's certainly interesting and that's exactly what seems to be missing with lots of today's mainstream modern-cut Single Malts. I like it!

Jan van den Ende                                                                      June 21, 2017

Ardbeg Auriverdes Review

“The Sweetest Taboo”

Whisky Review # 618

Country: Scotland
Region: Islay
Brand: Ardbeg Auriverdes
Type: Single Malt Whisky
Age: NAS (Apparently distilled in 2002)
Alcohol By Volume (ABV): 49.9%
Maturation: American Oak Ex-Bourbon Barrels
Chill Filtration: No 
Price Range: US$ 140-200 (June 2017) US$ 80 at date of release.
Buying Advice: 😡  Way too expensive.  Better stick to the core range!

Colour: Light Golden (Natural Colour)

Nose: Surprisingly Light and Sweet when compared to the 10 Years. There is some Wet Earth and Campfire Smoke present of course but I certainly wouldn't consider them too dominant. I also find other Islay notes like Burnt Toast, Iodine, Brine, Tar, Soot, Diesel Oil, Ashes, Rubber Tyres, PVC Pipes and Leather. If you don't fancy those Aromas in a Whisky, rest assured. They are balanced by more pleasant sounding notes of Bacon, Fish and Shell Fish on the BBQ, Charred Oak, Vanilla, Caramel, Sweet Barley, Straw, Grapefruit Juice, Dried Herbs, Licorice, Flaked Chili Pepper, After Eight Mint Chocolate and Lemon Zest. The Auriverdes is a relatively Young Whisky and the Alcohol is not yet totally integrated. On the Nose, the Auriverdes comes across as an Islay "Light" Malt. The Peat lovers amongst us might find that slightly disappointing but to the general public it's certainly a more accessible Ardbeg nose. In my opinion it's not bad but as you know I'm not too fond of this sort of compromises that seek to please as many consumers as possible.   

Ardbeg - Visit May 2017
Palate: Quite Spicy and Medicinal at first but Sugary Sweet soon thereafter. This is not at all my cup of Whisky! I find Buttered Toast, Caramel, Toffee, Charred Oak, Wet Earth, Ashes, Soot, Tar, Leather, Bacon, Sugared Herbal Tea, Lemon, Grapefruit, Pepper, Salt, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Ginger, Licorice, Cocoa, Menthol and a hint of Coffee Flavoured Dark Chocolate. 

Finish: Middle-Long. Mostly Sugary Sweet but with some Bitter, Sour and Salty elements as well. More Dry in the end. The Alcohol and Charred Oak can't hide the presence of some young Spirit. I find Wet Earth, Charred Oak, Ashes, Soot, Tar, Iodine, Burnt Plastic, Bacon, Grapefruit, Lemon,  Toffee, Caramel, Sugared Tea, Sweet Licorice, Dark Chocolate, Ginger, Nutmeg and Menthol. Floral Soap after a few minutes.

Ardbeg - Visit May 2017

Drinking Advice:

I added a few drops of Water and the Sweet Peat on the Nose develops. Palate and Finish become unpleasantly Sweet though. Better sip the Auriverdes neat.

Rating: 83     

Nose: 21.5 - Taste: 20.5 - Finish: 20.5 - Overall: 20.5

General Remarks:

🏣   The Distillery and Today's Whisky:

The current Distillery was founded in 1815 by John MacDougall close to the little town of Port Ellen on the island of Islay. In 1997 the distillery was bought by The Glenmorangie Company (part of French based Moet Hennessy) from the previous owners Allied Distillers. This company closed Ardbeg between 1981 and 1989 and only produced yearly during 2 months between 1989 and 1997. As a result, Ardbeg is lacking older stocks and is almost forced to launch Limited Editions while maintaining a very limited core range that consists of the 10 Years, the Corryvreckan and the Uigeadail. Like Glenmorangie, Ardbeg likes to experiment with Wood, Toasting and NAS expressions.

The Auriverdes was launched on May 31, 2014 to celebrate both Ardbeg Day 2014 and the World Cup Football 2014 in Brazil. Auri (Gold) and Verdes (Green) refer to the Brazilian National Colours as well as to the Golden Ardbeg Whisky that is sold in the well-known Green bottles.

🍷  The Spirit: 

Ardbeg possesses only one pair of Stills with tall necks and rising Lyne arms that create lots of Reflux. A Purifier is connected to the Spirit Still that takes out the heavy Vapours and guarantees a Lighter and Fruity Spirit. The Water for the Spirit is sourced from Loch Uigeadail.

🌲  The Wood:

The Spirit for the Auriverdes matured in Charred American Oak Bourbon Barrels with new specially toasted American Oak lids. This Spirit was later blended with a percentage of Ardbeg Spirit that matured in standard 1st and 2nd Fill Ex-Bourbon Barrels.
Drinking Experience Neat:

The Nose is certainly Okay but Palate and Finish are way too Sweet for my taste.


The Ardbeg Auriverdes is not a bad Single Malt but it's not as good as the core range. Therefore it's way too expensive for what it offers. As a concept and taste wise it does not work for me personally as well. The Nose is quite okay and sufficiently balanced although much Lighter than you would expect of an Ardbeg. Many people would probably call it more accessible though so it's not necessarily a bad thing except for Hard Core Peat adepts. On the Palate and in the Finish however the Charred Oak and the High ABV can't hide the fact that there's some very Young and slightly Sharp Malt Whisky in the mix. And it's Sugary Sweet, way too Sweet for my taste. I don't think I have ever tasted such a Sweet Ardbeg before. If you like Sweet then it's fine of course but I will pass next time somebody offers me an Auriverdes.

Jan van den Ende                                                                      June 19, 2017

Ardbeg - Visit May 2017

Trip To Scotland (May 6/May 22, 2017) - Part 3 The Tours and the Tastings

“Drams Come True 2017 Part 3”

Hello Everybody and Welcome to Best Shot Whisky Reviews!

The Distillery Tours and Visitor Centres:

When compared to 2014 some changes are noticeable. These changes are more noticeable in some distilleries and less so in others. Most of these changes are a result of the continuing - and substantial increase in visitors. You can compare it to the difference between a local village grocery shop in the 1960's and today's large Supermarket. The first probably received a relatively small number of people each day and there was time for small talk. You were a friend, not a client. The same applies to the Whisky Distilleries. The Visitor Centres, Shops and Tours have become a parallel industry next to the actual making of Whisky. Especially in those Distilleries controlled by the large Internationals you are often not considered as guest or friend but as (potential) client.

Tour at Springbank

Glen Scotia

The large numbers of visitors also resulted in a strict Tour Schedule as the next Group is already waiting. That's probably the main reason why in most of the Multinational-owned Distilleries you are no longer allowed to take pictures. It's being sold as part of the Safety Procedures but I have my own thoughts about that. At the Dalmore Distillery we were not even allowed to take our switched off mobile phones into the Distillery. Leave them at the desk or put them in your car! Most Standard Tour prices have increased by around 30% since 2014 from around 6 to around 9 English Pounds with the exception of Islay where prices remained stable. The drams at the end of the Tour have become even smaller though!

Tour at Kilchoman


It needs to be said that the problems described above multiply during the weekends. At Glengoyne for example four different groups were touring at the same time. At Talisker it was almost impossible to move around in the (large) shop. It looked like a large supermarket on a Saturday Morning! So avoid the weekends if you want to have a little privacy! Also avoid the Friday afternoon as in most distilleries at least part of the process is stopped in order to be able to clean the equipment. It's much nicer when everything is working!

Tour at Tobermory


The increase of visitors has also lead to a decrease in general knowledge of the average visitor about the Whisky making process. For many of them it's the first time they visit a Distillery. As little or no in-depth questions are to be expected, some distilleries have delegated the guidance of the Tours to junior staff. They might also hire (mostly young) people during the high season to perform this job. For more knowledgeable persons this can be annoying sometimes as the more specific questions can't be answered during the Tour. The low point was our Tour at Bunnahabhain on Islay. We were really looking forward to that as the Distillery was closed during our first trip in 2014. The Tour Guide was a trainee who read the text from a piece of paper and many mistakes crept in the presentation. I could have done a better job there myself! We found out that the best days to visit a Distillery are from Monday to Thursday. If you're lucky you can score a private tour or a tour with a small group  of 2-6 people who have generally speaking more knowledge of- and interest in the Whisky making process. We were very lucky to have this type of Tour at a.o. Arran, Glen Ord, Tobermory, Springbank, Tomatin and Tullibardine.

Tour at Glenturret

Famous Brother-in-Law & Famous Grouse

Fortunately there are still many positive exceptions as well. At Laphroaig you always feel welcome for instance. And we are extremely positive about the Tours at Arran, Springbank, Glen Ord, Balblair, Tomatin and Tullibardine. And I shouldn't forget Tobermory in this respect. The Distillery is closed at the moment as important equipment is being replaced. There were no other visitors so we had the place to ourselves. Despite all this, our guide managed to give one of the best tours of our Trip. We were impressed! So in the end it depends on people as so often in life.

Tour at Balblair

I do hope that Distilleries will understand that their visitors usually come as friends. If they are treated like this there is a big chance they become clients afterwards. If they are treated as mere casual by-passers, they will not be inspired to become a client. In fact they might lose them for ever. Another suggestion I would like to make to the Distilleries is the following. Wouldn't it be an idea to organise separate Tours for first time Distillery Visitors. Or, as an alternative, reserve the Standard Tour for this type of visitor. This way, every guest can be treated in a more comfortable way. Just a thought!

Tour at Tullibardine

And, finally, a word about the Shops and Visitor Centres. Some are great like at Arran, Aberfeldy, Glen Ord, Kilchoman and Talisker but others are becoming too small like Caol Ila, Bunnahabhain, Lagavulin, Glen Scotia, Tobermory and Dalmore. It would be nice though if all shops would sell at least one miniature bottle of their Whisky. Lots of people would appreciate that to complete their collections. The Ardbeg shop was practically without product (except Whisky) during our visit. If you have a shop, organise it, keep it clean and make sure that all products are available. Glenmorangie is a good example of this. Even though I'm not a huge fan of their Whiskies, I must congratulate them on their job. It's a joy to walk around the premises and the Still Room or Whisky Cathedral is a feast for the eye!

Tasting at Isle of Arran

The Distillery Tastings.
For most visitors, the Tasting of the Whisky or Whiskies after the Tour is the fun part. The number of the Whiskies that you get to taste usually depends on the Tour you have booked. The Standard Tour will buy you one or at the most two of the Standard younger Whiskies of a Distillery. Most Distilleries offer a range of other Tours. They are of course more expensive but generally have the advantage of smaller groups, more experienced Tour Guides and, of course, more Whiskies to taste afterwards. A Tour of around 30 English Pounds will usually offer you six different drams + New Make Spirit. In most of these Tours the Whisky line-up include special Distillery Bottlings, Cask Strength expressions and so on.

Tasting at Kilchoman

When you do a Standard Tour, the dram or drams are usually offered in the Shop and/or Visitor Centre. The picture above is a good example of this. The whole procedure lasts 5-20 minutes.  When you do a more extensive Tour, the Tasting is usually set up in a special Tasting Room or in one of the Warehouses. The sessions can last up to one hour and are accompanied by a tutor. This is of course much more fun and, if you can afford it, I can fully recommend it. The following pictures give you an idea:

Tasting at Tomatin

There are always exceptions to these general rules of course. At Dalmore we got two drams after the Standard Tour but they were served in a nice Tasting room where you could also buy optional drams of other Whiskies if so required. And at Bunnahabhain we did the Tasting Tour but the drams were offered in the very small Shop that was crowded with people and with no place to sit down. And for that you pay 25 Pounds! That sucks big time!

Tasting at Tullibardine

We prepared a rating of the Distillery Tours. Both Jan and I gave between 1-10 points for the four categories we selected. This way each Distillery could gain a maximum of 80 points. Please find the table below. It should be noticed that this was our impression on the day that we visited the Distillery. Naturally this could change from day-to-day and from Tour guide to Tour guide. But it gives you a very rough idea anyway! We loved the first five in the ranking. The rest was Regular to Good with the exception of Bunnahabhain that was a thorough disappointment!

DistilleryTourguideTour  Price/Quality  Charisma  Total
Arran16.516.5  17  16.5  66.5
Tomatin16.517  16  15  64.5
Glen Ord16.515.5  17  15  64
Springbank/Glengoyle1516  15.5  17  63.5
Tullibardine16.516.5  15  14.5  62.5
Auchentoshan14.515.5  14.5  16  60.5
Balblair13.515.5  14.5  15.5  59
Glenturret/Famous Grouse1414  14    16  58
Tobermory15.513.5  14.5  14  57.5
Aberfeldy14.514  14  15  57.5
Talisker14.514.5  14  14  57
Dalmore14.514  14  14.5  57
Glenmorangie1415  12.5  15  56.5
Glen Scotia14.514  13.5  14  56
Glengoyne15.514  12  14  55.5
Kilchoman12.513.5  13.5  14.5  54
Bunnahabhain910  8  10  37

Tasting at Aberfeldy

What Else is There to See in Scotland except Whisky.

Scotland is a beautiful country. Especially the East Coast, the Islands and the Lakes. At least when the sun shines! Today's Rain is Tomorrow's Whisky but it can't be denied that the rain is a major factor to consider when you're planning to go there. It's not that important when you're on a Whisky Tour but when you go there for outdoor activities it can spoil your day! Historically speaking, May is a good month to visit Scotland but good weather is never guaranteed.


Arran and Mull are beautiful islands that are a must to visit when you go there. Skye (and the main town Portree) have become very touristic and are crowded. Not places we would return to if not for the Whisky. Another little town that called our attention was Tobermory. It's also touristic but still nice!



Final Observations:

What a great time we had in Scotland this time around. We were lucky with the Weather and the advanced Bookings of Ferries and B&B's proved to be crucial. A big Thank You to my brother-in-law who made all these arrangements. We can certainly advise you to do the same. We were also very fortunate to participate in a number of Private - or very small group Tours. If you fancy those, plan your distillery visits during the week, preferably from Monday to Thursday. In the weekends you might encounter large groups of tourists and on Friday afternoon most distilleries stop (part of) the production in order to clean the equipment. And, finally, we haven't visited all Scottish Distilleries as yet so who knows we might return in a couple of years. I can't wait to be honest!😄