Ardbeg 10yo

My 10th review (and 20th post)! This is to be the last, for now at least, review of a 10 year old whisky. Since this is The Smoky Dram and I have a slight (so slight it is hardly noticeable) bias towards the Islay malts, this review will be on the Ardbeg 10. And just in time for Ardbeg day too! Although this year it is called Ardbog day.

Ardbeg_10_The Smoky Dram

Whisky: Ardbeg 10, 46% ABV (Cost around R580)

Region: Islay, Scotland

Style: Single Malt

Age: 10 Years

Ardbeg prides itself on being the ‘Ultimate Islay Malt Whisky’. Established in 1815, Ardbeg is revered around the world as one of the peatiest, smokiest and most complex of all the Islay malts. Despite this heavy peaty smokiness, Ardbeg is renowned for its delicious sweetness, a phenomenon that has affectionately become known as ‘the peaty paradox’.

Ardbeg is certainly one of the peatiest whiskies around and that is also available in South Africa. In 2008 it was awarded World Whisky of the Year in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible and in 2010 it was awarded Gold (Best in Class) in the International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC). It also features fairly often as a Sub Category Winner in the World Whisky Awards (for Peated Islay under 12 YO).

For the fans of Ardbeg they can join The Ardbeg Committee. It’s a quirky fact that Islay, with a population of just 3000, has more than 140 Committees, with the biggest one of all being The Ardbeg Committee (with a worldwide membership of over 50,000). The members of this committee, no matter how near or far, share a common purpose; to celebrate the re-awakening of Ardbeg, spread the word and dispense drams to those deprived of knowledge of this untamed spirit.

Colour: Pale straw to pale gold.

Nose: A wonderfully intense peat smoked nose, but a clean fruity peaty smoke that is followed by smoky citrus fruits (limes and lemons), smouldered fish and bacon, almonds, salt, brine and hints of dark chocolate. Has a lovely sea air minerality to it, as if you walked by the harbour or taken a stroll on Islay. Complex and sophisticated,

Palate: Zesty citrus burst on tip of tongue (lovely spicy burn) with pepper, cinnamon, citrus fruits (but smoky), smoked meats savouriness with hints of sweetness (apple orchards), briny. Sharp with initial flash of peat that leaves a beautiful smokiness at the back of your mouth. Palate is clean and crisp and pretty much continues what you got on the nose. Strikingly balanced with a smooth mouth feel.

Body: Full bodied with very many thick and lovely legs

Finish: Sweet spiciness that is tongue tingling with a lingering smokiness at the back of it that is very long. It lingers long after you have finished it.

Overall: Another one of those either you love it or hate it kind of drams with little to no middle ground. This is a powerful yet smooth peated dram with huge smoke that also has an underlying sweetness to it. Just begs for more and a fantastic dram for me.


My Score: 88

Jura 10yo

Now on to the Islands of Scotland for the next review and surprise, surprise it is another review of a 10 year old. This island is just 7 miles wide and 30 miles long and there is but one road, one hotel and one distillery – Jura.

ura_10_Origin_The Smoky DramWhisky: Jura 10yo, 43% ABV (Cost around R420)

Region: Jura (Islands), Scotland

Style: Single Malt

Age: 10 years

Jura’s three ‘Paps’, or mountains, dominate the skyline and are distinguishable from miles around. Excavations show it welcomed some of the oldest settlements in Scotland over 8,000 years ago. The Corryvreckan whirlpool – apparently the world’s second most powerful – nearly claimed the life of George Orwell. Speaking of Orwell, there are many legends and tales from Jura, such as Orwell and the Corryvreckan, the prophecy, the witch of Jura, the skull of Glengarrisdale, the last burial, the ghost car and many more.

Origin is the 10 year old that started the Jura journey. It carries the traditional Celtic symbol for birth, beginning and the forces of nature. It tells of a passion rekindled, a distillery reborn and a remarkable whisky forged by turbulent seas and windswept landscapes. It holds a special place in the heart of all Diurachs. Diurachs is the Gaelic word for the people of Jura, which is a small population consisting of less than 200 people. For the people of Jura, Origin is the water of life.

Colour: Burnished smoky gold.

Nose: Light and delicate. I find the nose to be balanced with both a honeyed nose that has a freshness and floralness about it, as well as having a malty peppery spiceness to it. There is also a trace of earthy peat smoke with a mild oakiness in the background.

Palate: A notable and pleasant mouth feel with honey, caramel and wood spice as well as a slight spicy (a sweet pepper spice though) burn on tip of tongue. Despite this spiciness (notably pepper and nutmeg) it is a smooth palate that is almost sweet upfront and supported by a cereal smokiness.

Body: Nice and smooth while being medium to full bodied and that has lovely thick legs.

Finish: Lingering and dry with oaky spiciness at back of throat and overall spicy honeyed warmth.

Overall: A delicate whisky that has a complexity to it, but this complexity takes time to develop. It is well balanced and has a sweet richness to it without being overly so. This is a very approachable whisky to introduce people to the island whiskies from Scotland.

My Score: 81

Springbank 10yo

Moving on to the Campbeltown region in Scotland for the first time (but not the last) for my next review for my seemingly themed 10 year old run of reviews at the moment. The Springbank 10yo is matured in a mix of casks – 60% bourbon and 40% sherry cask.

Springbank_10_The Smoky DramWhisky: Springbank 10yo, 46% ABV(Cost around R550)

Region: Campbeltown, Scotland

Style: Single Malt

Age: 10 years

Springbank Distillery is unique as it is the oldest independent family owned distillery in Scotland. Founded in 1828 on the site of Archibald Mitchell’s illicit still, the Springbank Distillery is now in the hands of his great great great grandson, Hedley G. Wright. Furthermore, Springbank is the only distillery in Scotland to carry out the full production process on the one site. 100% of the traditional floor malting, maturation and bottling is done at the distillery in Campbeltown.

Campbeltown is one of Scotland’s four recognised whisky-producing regions and is situated on the Mull of Kintyre, some 240 km from Glasgow. There were also no less than 37 distilleries established here during the 19th century, earning the town the nickname “The Whisky Capital of the World”. By 1925, with the closing of Reichlachan Distillery, Springbank and Glen Scotia were the only distilleries left. The opening of Mitchells Glengyle Distillery on 25th March 2004 increased the number of distilleries in Campbeltown to three, allowing the town to legitimately reclaim its place amongst the great whisky producing regions.

Colour: Deep gold to amber.

Nose: A sweet nose with vanilla and sweet well rounded fruit (pears and peaches). Has a dry, barley oakiness with an earthiness to it. There is also a slight mention of peaty smoke with some soft salty sea air thrown in for good measure.

Palate: Fresh, zesty and spicy (mostly cinnamon, pepper and nutmeg). Get a spicy bite on the front and sides of tongue with malt at the back of the mouth. In background get some of the vanilla sweetness from the nose. Palate really coats your tongue.

Body: Full bodied with many thick legs.

Finish: The finish is sweetish with a long and lingering spicy bite on tongue with a trace of peat smokiness.

Overall: A complex whisky that is fresh and bracing with some lovely softness to it as well. It is a fairly approachable whisky with a wonderful spicy tongue coating mouth feel.

My Score: 86

SMWS 76.50 Mortlach 10yo

Now for something a little different for my next review of a 10 year old. The whisky is again from the Speyside region, but it is not a distillery bottling. This time it’s from an independent bottler – The Scotch Malt Whisky Society and their bottling of Mortlach 10yo, bottling/cask number 76.50.

SMWS_10_Mortlach_The Smoky Dram 
Whisky: SMWS 76.50 Mortlach 10yo, 59.8% ABV

Region: Speyside, Scotland

Style: Single Malt

Age: 10 years

The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, founded in Edinburgh in 1983, is a membership organisation which bottles and sells single cask, single malt whisky. SMWS purchases individual casks from 129 malt whisky distilleries globally, bottles them and then retails directly to their members.  They also run private members’ rooms in South Africa (SA’s SMWS website) and other international locations. An odd thing about a Society bottling is that they don’t mention the distillery – or at least not in so many words. A number rather than a name denotes each distillery.


Mortlach distillery is found in Dufftown, Scotland with 3 wash stills and 3 spirit stills. Their current capacity is around 2,910,000 litres. Founded in 1823, the creation date is not known for sure, but the licence has been officially delivered in 1823. Amongst the nine distilleries around Dufftown, Mortlach is the oldest one. The second is Glenfiddich, founded by William Grant who was production manager at Mortlach. The distillery is currently owned by Diageo. The whisky is a key component in several Johnnie Walker bottling’s.

Colour: Rich gold to amber.

Nose: An attractive sweet, light and fragrant nose that is beautifully complex. Sweet aromas of vanilla, peppermint crisp chocolate, and fruit cake mix with slight savouriness and smokiness about it like a smoky tea.

Palate: A fairly sharp start (spicy ginger burn on tip of tongue) that drops off very quickly to a sweet, smoky, savoury, and slight spicy palate that coats your mouth. It also has notes of citrus fruits, honey and ginger. The smoke on this is light, not a slap you in the face kind of smoke, making it a very approachable palate.

Body: Medium bodied with lots of thin to medium legs.

Finish: A pleasing lingering dry and warm finish that is sweet and spicy (ginger).

Overall: This is a very approachable and aromatic whisky that has a delightful mouth feel as well as being flavoursome. I would recommend it to anyone who is unsure or wary of trying a whisky from an independent bottler to see what it is all about.

My Score: 87

Meeting Andy Watts – Master Distiller at The James Sedgwick Distillery

On 25th April 2013 the WhiskyBrother shop played host to Andy Watts, Master Distiller and distillery manager of The James Sedwick Distillery. The distillery produces two brands of award winning whisky: the Three Ships range and the Bain’s Cape Mountain single grain whisky.

Andy Watts 3_Three Ships_Whisky_Smoky Dram_Arnold Photography

Both brands have done very well the last two years in the annual World Whisky Awards by Whisky Magazine. In 2012 the Three Ships 5YO was awarded the World’s Best Blended Whisky and most recently, in 2013, Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky was awarded the World’s Best Grain Whisky.

Andy started off by giving some background to the distillery and his story of how he got involved in whisky making (see the bullet point information at the bottom of this post). He also answered all of the many questions that got asked of him during his talk. Andy moreover spoke of some of the greening plans they have planned for the distillery.

We then moved on to the tasting (which I suspect is why most of us were there). Andy started us off on the Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky, then the Three Ships Select, followed by Three Ships 5YO (which Andy likes  to end off an evening meal with, usually accompanied by a blue cheese board), then the Three Ships Bourbon Cask and finishing off the tasting with the Three Ships 10YO single malt. With each one he lead us through the various flavours and notes that he got on them. Andy Watts 1_Three Ships_Whisky_Smoky Dram_Arnold Photography Andy Watts 2_Three Ships_Whisky_Smoky Dram_Arnold Photography










Thanks to Andy for his time, patience (there were many questions) and most of all sharing his knowledge, stories and whiskies with us. He obliged the whisky geeks that were there (such as myself) and signed bottles of his whisky for us. It was a memorable moment for me to meet one of the true whisky legends in our time. 

Andy Watts 4_Three Ships_Whisky_Smoky Dram_Arnold Photography Also thanks to Marc for hosting us and Marcel for getting Andy there on time and ensuring that we were all well behaved. It was also good to finally meet and put faces to my fellow SA whisky bloggers and tweeters – @thedramdog, @fr1day and @jfdreyer

Some Andy Watts information:

  • Only the sixth manager at The James Sedgwick Distillery since it was established in 1886.
  • Originally chose the life of a professional cricketer with Derbyshire CCC.
  • Got involved in the spirits blending side of the then Stellenbosch Farmers’ Winery (SFW).
  • Did a 6 month technical exchange in Scotland with Morrison Bowmore Distillers (Bowmore, Auchentoshan and Glen Garioch)

Some James Sedwick Distillery information:

  • The distillery was bought in 1886 by J. Sedgwick & Co.
  • Is named after pioneer James Sedgwick, captain of the clipper “Undine.
  • Was named 2011’s Whisky Brand Innovator of the Year by Whisky Magazine.
  • Home to the first South African single malt whisky, in 2003 – the Three Ships 10YO
    • Also home to South Africa’s first single grain whisky, in 2009 – the Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky
    • Has more than 70 000 casks of whisky in maturation any given time.
    • Since The James Sedgwick Distillery was established there have only been six managers at the distillery:
      • 1886 – 1922: Mr. WT Stephen
      • 1922 – 1940: Mr. SA Hahn
      • 1940 – 1955: Mr. RA Uys
      • 1955 – 1967: Mr. J Burger
      • 1967 – 1991: Mr. H Louw
      • 1991 – present: Mr. A Watts

Aberlour 10yo

Back to my review of 10 year olds and back to Scotland. This time the review is from the prolific Speyside area with a single malt from Aberlour.

Aberlour_10_The Smoky DramWhisky: Aberlour 10yo, 43% ABV (Cost around R440)

Region: Speyside, Scotland

Style: Single Malt

Age: 10 years

Aberlour is situated at the junction of the Rivers Lour and Spey. James Fleming founded the Aberlour Distillery in 1879 and in 1898 a fire destroyed several of the distillery buildings and most of the whisky stocks.

Most Aberlour single malts are double cask matured. The whisky is matured separately in a mix of rare, expensive and specially selected ex-sherry butts and ex-bourbon casks to ensure a perfect balance of flavours. The other ingredient is the atmosphere at Aberlour. The soft, Scottish air permeates the casks and works on the whisky to create its smooth, perfectly rounded taste. But before the air there is water, and at Aberlour they use  the crystal-clear spring water that cascades down the slopes of Ben Rinnes, and makes its way from there along the Lour Valley to the distillery.

Quite fitting then as  ‘Aberlour’ is a gaelic word meaning ‘mouth of the chattering burn [stream]’.

Colour: A lovely warm deep gold.

Nose: Dried fruits (mostly pears, apples and apricot), stewed fruits, Wilson’s mint toffee. A sweet, rich, Christmas cake with some nuttiness around.

Palate: Very similar to the nose. Christmas spices (nutmeg and cinnamon), nuttiness, sherried fruitcake with a slight spicy bite on the tip of your tongue. Superbly smooth and balanced.

Body: Full bodied with many medium legs.

Finish: Warm and drying with a long soft and gentle lingering sweet spiciness (nutmeg and white pepper).  

Overall: This is a whisky that is refined and very approachable as well as being wonderfully balanced. It is a delightful and rich dram with that has a sweet spicy profile throughout. One that readily reminds me of those family visits over Christmas time.

My Score: 82

Glenmorangie The Original 10yo

Once again onwards and upwards with my reviews, with the focus once again on 10 year olds. Still in Scotland, but this time to the Highlands of Scotland.

Glenmorangie_Original_10_The Smoky DramWhisky: Glenmorangie 10, 43 ABV (Cost around R400)

Region: Northern Highlands, Scotland

Style: Single Malt

Age: 10 Years

Hand-crafted with pride by the Sixteen Men of Tain, the Glenmorangie Original is a 10yo single malt which is produced (as described by the Glenmorangie website) “by marrying the delicate spirit that emerges from Scotland’s tallest stills, with first and second fill American white oak casks”.

Glenmorangie was amongst the first Scottish distillers (1960s) to use ex bourbon barrels to age their whisky rather than Spanish oak (ex-Bourbon). They also only ever use their casks twice. Founded in 1843, they have been pursuing perfection – under the stewardship of two families and now Louis Vuitton Moet-Hennessy – for over 160 years.

Colour: Pale gold to yellowy with very many lovely thick legs.

Nose: Citrus (mostly oranges and lemons), soft vanilla, peaches, chocolate, sweet, warm toffee pudding. Hint of spiciness in the background. A fresh, clean and easy nose that is not overpowering.

Palate: Vanilla, sweet (toffee sweets), floral, creamy mocha with a slight citrus and nuttiness in background. There is a lovely slight spicy bite on the tip of the tongue that slowly spreads to the back of the throat.

Finish: Long finish that is clean with a lingering citrus spiciness.

Overall: A pleasant whisky that is very approachable. It has a sweetness and floralness to it that is underpinned by a lovely spiciness, which carries it way through all the way to the end.

My Score: 82

Talisker 10yo

I thought to carry on my reviews by continuing with the march of the 10 year olds. Back to Scotland this time and the Isle of Skye.

Talisker_10_The Smoky DramWhisky: Talisker 10, 45.8 ABV (Cost around R600)

Region: Isle of Skye, Scotland

Style: Single Malt

Age: 10 Years

The only distillery on the Isle of Skye. Originally they triple distilled but changed to double-distillation in 1928. In 1880 Robert Louis Stevenson described it, in his poem “The Scotsman’s Return From Abroad”, as “The king o’ drinks, as I conceive it, Talisker, Islay, or Glenlivet.”

Talisker has an unusual feature – swan neck lye pipes. A loop exists in the pipes taking the vapour from the stills to the worm tubs so some of the alcohol condenses before it even reaches the cooler. It then runs back in to the stills and is distilled again.

Colour: Rich gold to amber

Nose: Up front charcoal smokiness, peat smoke. Closely followed by seaweed, saltiness and sweet citrus. Hint of fields of heather. An attractive, fresh and clean nose.

Palate: Wonderful peat smokiness with dried fruits (pear), freshly ground black pepper and barley. A surprisingly sweetness to the palate with a lovely softness to it – except for the superb burst of pepper at back of ones throat.

Body: Full and intense with plenty of nice legs.

Finish: Powerful with an enduring warm and peppery finish with a mention of sweetness towards the end.

Overall: A delightful whisky for me. It has the peaty smokiness of the Islay whiskies that I like (but not to such a strong degree) yet has a pleasant sweetness to it that balances out the pepper and peaty smoke nicely.

My Score: 89

Three Ships 10yo

Three-Ships-10-single maltWhisky: Three Ships 10 year old Single Malt, 43% ABV (Cost around R250)

Region: Wellington, South Africa

Style: Single Malt

Age: 10 Years

The first South African single malt whisky to be released was in the form of the Three Ships 10 Year Old in 2003. That first limited-release earned a gold medal at the 2007 International Wine and Spirits Competition.

This helped to show that South Africa and Three Ships were serious about their whisky. It was also rated 91 in the 2012 Jim Murray Whisky Bible. This limited edition whisky has been produced and matured at The James Sedgwick Distillery

Colour: Deep gold to burnished copper

Nose: Starts off slightly sweet with hint of peat (honeyed smoke) and then moves along to dried fruits (especially pear), smoky fudge, and notes of stick toffee pudding. A charming and fresh nose.

Palate: Sweet smoky spiciness, honey, peaches, glycerine, vanilla and hints of Christmas cake. A palate that is soft, well-balanced, round and full that coats your tongue. It leaves a lovely warmness at back of ones throat.

Body: Full bodied with fine-looking medium to thick legs that covers the inside of the glass (and not to mention your mouth).

Finish: A finish that is long, warm, spicy and toasty. Lingering oak and dry at the very end.

Overall: A wonderfully balanced whisky, that is full of flavour, with a sweet florally scent and stunning palate. This single malt really shows what brilliant whisky is being made in South Africa. Well done to Andy Watts and team.

My Score: 86

Laphroaig 10yo

I thought to start my review of whiskies’ section with the whisky that started it all for me, the Laphroaig 10yo

Laphroaig 10yo Smoky DramWhisky: Laphroaig 10, 43% ABV (Cost around R500)

Region: Islay, Scotland

Style: Single Malt

Age: 10 Years

Laphroaig, pronounced “La-froyg”, is a Gaelic word meaning “the beautiful hollow by the broad bay”. A very characteristic Islay dram. Laphroaig has been the only whisky to carry the Royal Warrant of the Prince of Wales. It was awarded in person during a visit to the distillery in 1994.

Colour: Sparkling burnished gold

Nose: Oodles of camp fire and smoke, sea weedy and salty sea air (harbour and fishing nets), spices, medicinal with a lovely back hint of caramel sweetness. Despite all the smoke on the nose it is a very clean nose – cool clean smoke.

Palate: Loads of smoke and peat with hints of sweetness, sea salt and seaweed (fishing nets again), oak wood, has a spiciness (black pepper) and richness about it

Body: Full bodied, gorgeous thick and slow legs with an explosion of peat when you swallow.

Finish: Gorgeous with long and lingering savoury smokiness. Very satisfying.

Overall: For me an undeniably wonderful dram. It has enormous smoke and peat, manages a hint of sweetness and yet also has a cleanness and delicateness about it. This is an either you love it or hate it kind of dram, there is no middle ground. For me – I absolutely love it.

My Score: 89