Chichibu Ichiro’s Malt Port Pipe 2009/2013

I have found another trinity combination that I love; peat, port and cask strength! This was from a Japanese tasting presented by Bruce (@thedramdog) at the WhiskyBrother store. We had bottle #2665 of 4200 bottles produced.

Chichibu Ichiros Malt Port Pipe 2009_2013Whisky: Chichibu Ichiro’s Malt Port Pipe 2009/2013, 54.5% ABV

Region: Japan

Style: Single Malt

Age: 4 years

 In 2007 Ichiro Akuto, the grandson of the founder of the Hanyu distillery, decided to build a new whisky distillery in the city of Chichibu. They began distilling in the spring of 2008. It is said that the weather of the region, tough winters with hot and humid summers, helps to provide a maturity to the whiskies at a younger age.

The distillery equipment was made in and imported from Scotland, with the exception of the mash tun that was purchased from a local brewery. The long-term plan is to eventually grow, malt and peat their own barley but at present the barley is imported from England as well as from Germany, and the peat is brought in from Scotland.

This Chichibu Port Pipe was distilled in 2009. It was aged then for 3 years in quarter casks (50L) before being “finished” for a further year in port pipes (650L barrels that previously matured Port). It is this second maturation in the port pipe that it would suck in some of the port characteristics, this include the colour. It was then bottled, at cask strength, as a 4 year old in 2013 with a total production of 4,200 bottles.


Colour: Tawny tending to a lovely mahogany\rose copper with extremely slow and thick legs.

Nose: Young and lively with a fresh grape sweetness to it. There is also some yeastiness, red fruits (strawberry, cranberries and cherries), earthiness and grain/cereal round the nose out. Overall the nose is a pretty sweet one. Even the spiciness on the nose is to the sweeter side – winter and wood spices. There is also the faintest hint of Turkish delight covered in dark chocolate for me.

Palate: Very hot upfront (tip of tongue burn, due to the cask strength of the bottle no doubt) but that burns off very quickly to reveal dark fruit, burnt sweetness, tobacco leaves, strawberry and a slight smokiness. With some time more citrus fruits and Xmas cake mix emerge. There is a floral herbaceouness on the back palate.

Finish: Medium to long with hot sweet spiciness, citrus fruits and Xmas cake mix. There is a slight bitterness at the very end.

Overall: A fairly complex and intriguing whisky for one so young and the freshness does show on this whisky. The influence of the Port Pipe can definitely be felt in my opinion. I was very fortunate to experience this whisky, thanks Bruce!

My Score: 86


The Glenrothes Select Reserve

Life’s twists and turns cannot keep a whisky blogger down. I am finally back with my next review, The Glenrothes Select Reserve. This was launched in 2005 and was the first official bottling that did not have a vintage.

The Glenrothes_Selected Reserve_NAS_The Smoky DramWhisky: The Glenrothes select Reserve, 43% ABV

Region: Speyside, Scotland

Style: Single Malt

Age: NAS

For a very good long time the distinctive difference between The Glenrothes and other whisky brands was that they did not sport a regular range of ‘core’ whiskies. Instead they would release vintage whiskies instead (I still would love to try the one from my birth year – 1975).

That changed in 2005 when they launched their first official bottling not to carry a vintage – the Select reserve. Supposedly a blend of 11 different vintages with a 50/50 split between bourbon and European Olorosso sherry casks for the maturing of the whisky.

Colour: Bright old gold with nice long, slow and thick legs.

Nose: Sweet, burnt caramel and citrus (to me a mix of glazed orange wedges, marmalade and citrus fruit polish). There is also a slight sweet smokiness and vegetal notes with hints of wood spiciness and baked vanilla dessert sweetness. Over all quite clean and fruity.

Palate: Spicy yet floral. The spiciness is sweet and leaves a warm spice tingle on tip of one’s tongue. The citrus notes and wood spices follow from the nose quite nicely. There is also an interesting wet woodiness around. Time turns the spices from sweet to hot.

Finish: Fairly long with a wood spice tingle to warm ‘heart’ at the end

Overall: A great whisky that is one that could easily be used to show a non-whisky drinker what whisky can be like without completely over powering their senses. Once can also see why this is a popular whisky used in blends.

My Score: 81

Wild Turkey 101

With the start of the new US television season this week, I thought it apt to have a bourbon for my next review on my blog. The Wild Turkey 101 is quite popular on television, cropping up often in NCIS and being reference on The Sopranos, Seinfeld and one of my all-time favourite shows, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Wild Turkey_101_NAS_The Smoky Dram


Whisky: Wild Turkey 101, 50.5% ABV

Region: Kentucky, USA

Style: Bourbon

Age: NAS

The Ripy brothers built a distillery in Tyrone, Kentucky near Lawrenceburg in 1869. They had consolidated the current facility by 1905 and resumed distilling after Prohibition. According to legend, distillery executive Thomas McCarthy took some warehouse samples on a wild turkey hunting trip in 1940 and the next year his friends were asking him for “some of that wild turkey whiskey”.

Wild Turkey 101 is a 101 proof (translates to 50.5% ABV) bourbon and is a mix of mostly 6, 7 and 8 year old bourbons. One theory on the mash recipe is thought to be 75% corn, 13% rye, and 12% barley.

Colour: Burnished to tawny with long, slow and thick legs.

Nose: Softer than expected and fairly sweet with maple syrup, slightly burnt caramel, sweet fruit and berry notes. There is also some creaminess about, touch of citrus fruit, wood notes and some sweet winter some spiciness (cinnamon and ginger) on background.

Palate: Rich, sweet, spicy, full and mouth coating. Winter spices (more cinnamon and ginger), touch of cooked citrus fruits with honey and hot out the oven backed dessert (malva pudding) drizzled with maple syrup. Palate is complex and well balanced.

Finish: Long with a sweet spicy tingle and nice baked dessert sweetness at end.

Overall: A bourbon that reminds of the festive season with its winter spices and baked dessert sweetness. It is also one that I feel would perform well as a pre Xmas dinner drink, not to mention also as a during and post dinner drink as well.

My Score: 83

Bowmore Darkest 15yo

This was a delightful little dram that I first got to taste at the distillery and purely by accident. We were on a very tight Islay timeline (we were there literally for 5 hours) and were travelling back to Port Askaig to catch the ferry, when our taxi driver said that he left his cell phone on charge at home and if we would mind waiting at the Bowmore distillery while he went home to fetch it? Of course we did not mind!

Bowmore_15yo_Darkest_The Smoky Dram

Whisky: Bowmore 15yo ‘Darkest’, 43% ABV

Region: Islay, Scotland

Style: Single Malt

Age: 15 years


Founded over two centuries ago in 1779, Bowmore is the first recorded distillery on Islay and one of the oldest in the whole of Scotland. They still smoke their malt in a peat-fired kiln, just as their ancestors did over 200 years ago. Bowmore’s now legendary No. 1 Vaults is a very special place indeed as it is the oldest maturation warehouse in Scotland and the only one below sea level.

Bowmore is one of an ever decreasing handful of distilleries to produce its own floor malted barley. Every four hours, the barley is still laboriously hand turned by their Maltmen using traditional tools.

The ‘Darkest’ was matured in a combination of both bourbon and sherry casks, with the final three years spent in Oloroso sherry casks.

Colour: Lovely tawny to mahogany colour with long, slow and thick legs.

Nose: Sweet and starts out with some winter spices, Xmas cake, raisins before moving on to luscious notes of subtle peat smoke, polished leather and some sea salt spray before ending off with very dark chocolate.

Palate: The entry carries from the nose with soft winter spices, brandied raisins, citrus marmalade and some of that lovely smokiness lingering around with some salty and leather notes, before having more of that very dark chocolate for the end. A big and powerful palate with a lovely weight to it.

Finish: Long and lingering with lovely winter spiciness to a sweetish very dark chocolate end.

Overall: Well as ‘accidental’ tastings go, this really was a great one! I enjoyed this first introduction to the Bowmore range and plan to explore this range more.

My Score: 86

Hibiki 21yo

Another decade jump in age, this time backwards, for my next review; the exquisite 21yo Hibiki from Suntory. The first time I got to taste this was at the World Whisky Awards workshop at the South African Whisky Live (presented by Rob Allanson) in 2013.

Hibiki-21yo_The Smoky DramWhisky: Hibiki 21yo, 43% ABV (Suntory)

Region: Japan

Style: Blended Whisky

Age: 21 years

Suntory was started by Torii Shinjiro, who first opened his store Torii Shoten in Osaka on February 1, 1899, to sell imported wines. In 1923, Torii Shinjiro built Japan’s first malt whisky distillery Yamazaki Distillery. Production began in December 1924 and five years later Suntory Whisky Shirofuda (White Label), the first single malt whisky made in Japan, was sold. In January 2014, Suntory announced an agreement to buy the largest U.S. bourbon producer, Beam Inc. This deal would make Suntory the world’s third largest spirits maker.

Hibiki means resonance in Japanese. Hibiki resonates from nature and all the subtleties found from the twenty-four seasons of the old Japanese lunar calendar. The Hibiki 21 year old is a blend of rare and meticulously selected mature grain malts aged over 21 years. The key Yamazaki sherry cask malt is vatted with other carefully chosen mellow unblended grain malts over 21 years old.

Colour: Deep to burnished gold with long, slow and medium legs.

Nose: Sweet with plum, Christmas cake, dried fruit and nuts and some light sweet spicy notes. There is a slight minty character hanging around the edges with some sandalwood and patchouli thrown in as well. Nose is clean and balanced.

Palate: Incredible upfront wood, with a nice mix of sweet and spicy flavours. Nice touch of chocolate on the mid palate and a very subtle nuance of light sweet smoke in the background. A really full and chewy mouthfeel to this one. Palate is stunning. It is in balance, smooth and drying.

Finish: Very long and smooth with sweet spiciness throughout and a nice drying end

Overall: My first whisky from Suntory and Hibiki range and what a fantastic whisky. Loved the full and chewy palate as well as the lovely interplay between the sweet and spicy notes. One other thing I really liked was the bottle, it had a nice heft to it and looks stunning. Can easily see why this won world’s best blended whisky 3 times already at the WWA.

My Score: 87

Inchgower 31yo 1974 (Royal Mile Whiskies)

A decade jump in age for my next review, the lovely 31yo Inchgower (distilled in 1974) from Independent Bottler Royal Mile Whiskies. We had bottle #104 of 179 bottles produced from cask number 10416. Thanks to @thedramdog for bringing this bottle to our tasting.

Inchgower_RoyalMileWhiskies_31yo_The Smoky DramWhisky: Inchgower 31yo 1974, 47.2% ABV (Royal Mile Whiskies, Cask #10416, 179 Bottles)

Region: Speyside, Scotland

Style: Single Malt

Age: 31 years


The Inchgower distillery was founded as ‘The Great Distillery of Inchgower’ in 1871 (to replace Tochineal Distillery) by Alexander Wilson and Co. Buckie Council purchased the concern in 1936 and ownership was transferred to Arthur Bell & Sons Ltd in 1938 and indeed to this very day the Bell’s logo is used in the advertising of Inchgower.

During the 1960s Arthur Bell and Sons included Inchgower Scotch whisky as a component in the popular Bells blend, the vast majority of whisky produced at the distillery, as much as 99%, is used as a blending component (Johnnie Walker and White Horse blends) with only around only 1% of the total production of the distillery being sold as a single malt whisky. Lucky for us there are some Independent bottling’s around, such as this fine one from Royal Mile Whiskies.

Colour: Bright deep gold with slow long and thick legs.

Nose: Sweet, lovely and elegant nose with crème brûlée and braaied banana with burnt/caramelising sugar. There are also notes of sweet xmas spiciness and fruit cake mix as well as a custard sweetness with attractive citrus on the edges (mostly orange marmalade, for me).

Palate: Nice sweet winter spiciness on entry (tip of tongue mostly) that generates a nice warmth. The hot spiciness stays on the palate but with time some caramel, subdued citrus (oranges) and subtle dark chocolate nuances emerge. Palate has a lovely clean and full mouthfeel that coats the tongue.

Finish: A long finish that is winter spicy sweet with a nice dryness at the end.

Overall: My first introduction to an Inchgower whisky and what a cracker it is! I suspect that I will be sniffing out a few more independent bottling’s from this distillery for future enjoyment.

My Score: 88

Old Pulteney 21yo

My first opportunity to taste this whisky was at a workshop held on the Johannesburg leg of Whisky Live on the 6th November 2013. The session was called ‘The Forgotten Coast: The Whiskies of Scotland’s North-East’ and it was presented by the knowledgeable and entertaining Dave Broom.

Old Pulteney_21yo_The Smoky DramWhisky: Old Pulteney 21yo, 46% ABV

Region: Highland, Scotland

Style: Single Malt

Age: 21 years


The Old Pulteney distillery was founded in 1826 by James Henderson in Wick, a fishing village in the far north-east of Scotland, and at the height of their celebrated herring boom. The Pulteney Distillery is one of the most northerly on the British mainland.

The distillery has unique stills that defy convention to this day. The wash still, in particular, is a source of fascination due to the absence of a ‘swan neck’. Legend has it that when the still was delivered it was too tall for the still house and the manager simply decided to cut the top off! The Old Pulteney bottle now incorporates a bulbous neck to reflect the shape of the stills.

Similar to their 17 Year Old expression, the 21 Year Old expression marries together Old Pulteney matured in ex-bourbon casks with spirit from ex-Oloroso sherry casks. Mostly used is second fill American oak, plus some Spanish oak first fill. However, there is a higher proportion of ex-Oloroso sherry cask compared to the 17 Years Old.

Colour: Rich deep gold with thick legs.

Nose: Juicy and soft with a honeyed character, but a scented honey character. Oily and leads one with a fragrant sweetness before opening up into seaweed and salty sea spray before some marzipan wafts past.

Palate: Chewy with a creamy sweetness to it. Milk chocolate, crème caramel, American salt water taffy and spicy notes play on your tongue. Has an iconic and particularly salty palate with some pepperiness. Palate has a great depth and complexity to it, as well a great balance and smoothness.

Finish: Long with a slight saltiness and spiciness to it, and a warm heart. Slightly drying towards the end.

Overall: A lovely dram that instantly transports me to that area of Scotland. A great whisky that one really needs to sit and savour, I particularly enjoyed the salty character of the whisky and how the creamy sweetness also come out to play.

My Score: 88

A trio of Auchentoshan’s

The name Auchentoshan is from the Gaelic “Achadh an Oisein” and it translates as “the field of the corner”. The distillery is also sometimes known as the “Glasgow’s Malt Whisky” due to its close proximity to Glasgow. Auchentoshan is located at the foot of the Kilpatrick hills on the outskirts of Clydebank in West Dunbartonshire near the Erskine Bridge.

The Auchentoshan distillery is one of the very few remaining active Lowland distilleries. Furthermore, which is also unusual for a Scottish distillery, Auchentoshan practices triple distillation instead of the usual double distillation technique.

Here endth the lesson, now on to the whiskies.

Auchentoshan_American Oak_The Smoky DramWhisky: Auchentoshan American Oak, 43% ABV

Region: Lowland, Scotland

Style: Single Malt

Age: NAS

This whisky is triple distilled and matured solely in first fill American bourbon casks.

Colour: Rich gold with lovely thick legs.

Nose: Overall is sweet, with coconut oil, citrus fruits, vanilla, some warm winter spices (cinnamon and nutmeg) and a lovely burnt toffee pudding character. Nose is clean, soft and lovely without being overpowering.

Palate: Light and refreshing, sweet and warm spiciness with more of the citrus fruits and vanilla coming through to the palate. There is also a nice toffee sweetness and slight creaminess to it. Palate is soft, smooth and very easy drinking.

Finish: Medium with warm spicy sweetness throughout and toffee pudding sweetness at end.

Overall: a pretty much well-made NAS Lowland whisky that is not overly complex and would be a great entry way to introduce a person to whisky, especially those that prefer a sweeter and smother mouth taste and feel.

My Score: 79


Auchentoshan_12yo_The Smoky DramWhisky: Auchentoshan 12yo, 43% ABV

Region: Lowland, Scotland

Style: Single Malt

Age: 12 years

This whisky is also triple distilled, then matured for over twelve years in a mix of Olorosso sherry and bourbon casks.

Colour: Rich deep gold with long slow thick legs.

Nose: Initially sweet, but not a strong sweetness, before the aromas of Christmas cake, brandy tart, sultana or date loaf, some citrus fruits and warm sweet winter spices (cinnamon) infiltrate your olfaction receptors.

Palate: Warm winter spices, nuttiness (almonds and hazelnuts), grassiness, more baked brandy pudding and Christmas cake again. Also following from the nose are more of those lovely sweet spicy notes and citrus fruit flavours again.

Finish: Medium to long and warming while still being light and with sweet spices to end.

Overall: again a well-made whisky from the Lowland region and this time with an age statement. I like the elements that the sherry casks brought to this whisky to make it, in my opinion a more layered and complex lowland dram.

My Score: 80


Auchentoshan_Three Wood_The Smoky DramWhisky: Auchentoshan Three Wood, 43% ABV

Region: Lowland, Scotland

Style: Single Malt

Age: NAS

This Auchentoshan whisky has been matured in three different cask types. It first spent an initial ten odd years in American Bourbon casks before being transferred to Spanish Oloroso Sherry casks (for around a year) and ended its maturation in Pedro Ximenez Sherry casks (also around a year).

Colour: Rich tawny to mahogany with many long and lovely thick slow legs.

Nose: Rich dried and brandied fruits (mix of dark and citrus fruits), pecan nut slice, winter spices (predominately ginger), dark chocolate, baked dessert and an almost burnt caramel character. There are also some earthy and grassy notes faintly in the background.

Palate: Soft and clean but with strong sweet upfront winter spices (cinnamon and ginger) and more of the rich fruits (more citrus this time), almonds and Christmas cake coming though as well. Quite a mouth and tongue coating mouthfeel.

Finish: Very long, smooth and warm with sweet dried fruits.

Overall: A rich and well-made whisky that has some added complexity and flavours over the previous two (in my opinion) and that continues to develop over time in the glass.

My Score: 82

Glenlivet 1988/2014 15yo – Signatory exclusively for WhiskyBrother

My next review is a special one. Firstly it is a review of whisky that is a culmination of a dream for a friend of mine, Marc Pendlebury of WhiskyBrother fame. And secondly it is the first whisky that I am officially scoring since I decided to publically add my score to a review. It is a 15yo Glenlivet, distilled on the 28th of August 1998 and bottled on the 24th of March 2014 at cask strength (54.8% ABV) by Signatory; exclusively for WhiskyBrother (each beautiful bottle is individually numbered).

WhiskyBrother_Signatory_Glenlivet_15yo_The Smoky DramWhisky: Glenlivet 15yo 1998/2014, 54.8% ABV (Cost – R1300)

Region: Speyside, Scotland

Style: Single Malt

Age: 15 years


The cask chosen ( #128811) was a 500 litre butt, which previously contained Oloroso sherry, yielded 413 bottles and was personally selected by Marc on behalf of the store. Early in 2014 Marc travelled to Scotland to fulfil his dream of selecting a whisky directly for the cask to be bottled for WhiskyBrother. Out of the several whiskies that were tasted at the independent bottler Signatory, three samples were brought back to South Africa for the final selection. “The winning cask was chosen solely on the whisky we thought was best, we didn’t concern ourselves with which distillery it came from or how old it was,” explained Marc.

For years WhiskyBrother was just a blog started by Marc, until 2 years ago when he decide to take the plunge and extended his passion for all things whisky to open a boutique whisky store. WhiskyBrother, situated in Hyde Park Corner shopping centre in Johannesburg, stocks whiskies from around the world, as well as related paraphernalia such as whisky glassware, books and magazines. Holding more than 300 different whiskies, with new stock coming and going on a monthly basis, it is a little slice of whisky heaven for local whiskyphiles. Its aim is to be a focal point in the South African whisky community: a place to taste and explore all things whisky, no matter the knowledge or experience of the drinker.

Marc Pendlebury_WhiskyBrother_The Smoky Dram

So if you are ever in the area pop into the store, taste a dram or two and pick up for yourself a bottle of the store’s own bottling – it will be well worth it!

Colour: Deep and rich auburn to mahogany with many slow and long legs.

Nose: Rich, clean and fresh with dried fruits (mostly prunes and sultana’s), Christmas cake and warm winter spices (cinnamon and ginger). There is also some wood spice, brandied raisins, chocolate and stewed fruit (cinnamoned apples and prunes) to be found. Water brings out apricot marmalade on slightly burnt toast.

Palate: Oily and mouth coating with a hot entry onto the mouth. Warm with hot yet sweet spiciness (cinnamon and ginger), dark chocolate, Christmas cake, dried fruits and a lovely jamyness. Some mocha is also to be found floating around. Water softens the heat but not too much and some more wood spice comes to the fore.

Finish: Fairly long and warming with a lingering hot and sweet spicy tingle (pepper and cinnamon/ginger mix) leading to some apricot marmalade and dark chocolate at the end.

Overall: an excellent choice Marc, it is an incredibly moreish whisky that is powerful and intense without being too overpowering. Looking forward to the next bottling for the store!

My Score: 88

To score or not to score? That is the question.

Many a fine (and not so fine) word have been written on the scoring of whiskies; from the how to score whiskies, through which whisky scoring scale is best to use and all the way through to why you should (or should not) score whiskies. So why add my 2 cents to the mix?The Smoky Drams whsiky score spread

This graph shows the spread of all the whiskies I have tasted so far across my scoring bands.

Well it may not be a milestone to many, but I recent reviewed my 50th whisky and in doing so also looked back at the previous 49 that I reviewed before them. I could tell from the reviews which ones I enjoyed more than others, but I could not see definitively which ones I truly enjoyed the most (from all those that I really seemed to like). I had to keep going back to my score sheet that I keep on my whiskies to do that (I do enjoy my numbers and it helps to keep me organised and to make my own buying decisions). So I decided to also add my scores to my reviews – plain and simple, right? Not quite so, read on.

My scoring philosophy (scale to use and why) was also largely influenced by some other whisky legends that I follow, namely Serge Valentin, Oliver Klimek and Dave Broom:

  1. I too feel that scores should always be used in combination with the notes and never as a pure standalone reference.
  2. My score (and review) is my own personal opinion that reflects my tastes, which whisky I particularly enjoyed and my personality – so as I really enjoy powerfully peaty whiskies, these would tend to be scored higher by me (though I try not to be too biased).
  3. I use the 100 point scale as it allows me, if forced to choose (desert dram, only one of the two for the rest of your life etc), to show which one I would choose. I had this particular problem (and funnily enough still have it) between the Laphroaig 10 and the Ardbeg 10, as I immensely enjoy both drams, but in the end the Laphroaig pips the Ardbeg by 1 point (for me).
  4. Most of my whiskies were tasted at least twice before reviewing and scoring them. Also there were times where a flight tasting contained whiskies that I have had before and know fairly well, so I could use them as a benchmark to rate the other whiskies against.

My dilemma_The Smoky Dram

So now that that has all been said and done, what does my whisky score mean to me? I usually go through 2 stages when scoring a whisky. The first is to put it into one of the broad bands below:

0 Reserved for the mythical whisky that I would not even give to people who drink their whisky with coke!
1 – 49 Flawed, not drinkable to almost not drinkable
50 – 79 Moderate flaws but for the most part drinkable
80 – 99 Very few flaws to exceptional. Highly drinkable
100 Reserved for that mythical “perfect” whisky – which I hope to never find (I am enjoying the journey too much!)

Then upon subsequent sips and tastings I refine it into one of the finer scales points below before settling on it’s final score:

0: Reserved for the mythical whisky that I would not even give to people who drink their whisky with coke!
1-24: Very heavily flawed, abhorrent and undrinkable.
25-49: Still very flawed and very hard to swallow.
50-59 Has some big flaw but almost a bearable drink.
60-69 Some minor flaws but kind of drinkable.
70-74: On or two moderate flaws, drinkable but nothing to get too excited about.
75-79: Drinkable and good, but plain and quite uninteresting.
80-84 Getting to the good stuff, pleasant and drinkable.
85-89 Very good, satisfying and recommendable.
90-94: Stunning, beautiful and excellent. Must try.
95-99: Unequivocally stunning and exceptional.
100 Reserved for that mythical “perfect” whisky – which I hope to never find (I am enjoying the journey too much!)

My reviews (and scores) make it easier for me to remember the finer details of the whiskies I have tasted, which become an almost necessity the more whiskies you taste. A final note, to stress once again, is that all my reviews are based on my own experiences and tastes as I travel on my whisky journey.

So what are your thoughts on the scoring of whiskies?


The Smoky Dram Whisky Blog