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

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

The Macallan 15 YO Fine Oak

Now onto one of the most easily recognisable, and arguably also one of the most iconic, whisky houses – The Macallan. This iconability is largely due to it being featured quite prominently in some of the James Bond movies

he Macallan fine oak_15_The Smoky DramWhisky: The Macallan 15 Year Old Fine Oak, 43% ABV (Cost around R870)

Region: Speyside, Scotland

Style: Single Malt

Age: 15 Years

The Macallan’s curiously small spirit stills are the smallest on Speyside. Their unique size and shape give the spirit maximum contact with the copper, helping to concentrate the ‘new make’ spirit. There are fourteen of these curiously small stills, and they are so famous that they have appeared on the back of a Bank of Scotland £10 banknote.

The Macallan’s oak casks are the single greatest contributor to the outstanding quality, natural colours and distinctive aromas and flavours of The Macallan. In fact 60% of the flavour of a whisky is derived from the cask it is matured in.  Because of this, The Macallan spends more per cask than any other distillery in sourcing, crafting, seasoning and caring for its casks.

So for the 15 Year Old Fine Oak, it is triple cask matured – Spanish oak casks seasoned with sherry, American oak casks seasoned with sherry and American oak casks seasoned with bourbon.

Colour: Rich gold with bloody lovely thick and long legs. 

Nose: A lovely sweet and full nose, with dried fruits (mostly pear and apples), caramel and tinned peas. It has a beautiful sweetness about it. The nose also really develops and opens up with time, and I find more of a woodiness and a hint of smoke towards the end.

Palate: A powerful, round and spicy palate. Winter spices (predominately cinnamon and nutmeg), vanilla and dark chocolate. Also has an underlying sweet oakiness about it. 

Finish: Very powerful and spicy oak finish that is medium to long. Has dried fruit sweetness on end.

Overall: A nicely balanced whisky that I find to be a superb and ideal mix between sweetness and spice (winter spice).

My Score: 83

Redbreast 15yo

For my first Irish whiskey review I decided on one of my favourite Irish whiskey’s, the Redbreast 15 year old from New Midleton Distillery. It was matured in a combination of Spanish Oloroso sherry casks and American Bourbon whisky barrels. The whiskey was bottled at 46% ABV and was non chill filtered. In 2006 it was chosen by Jim Murray as the Whisky Bible ‘Irish Whiskey of the Year’. 

Redbreast_15_The Smoky DramWhiskey: Redbreast 15, 46% ABV (Cost around R790)

Region: Ireland

Style: Single Malt

Age: 15 Years

The Redbreast 15 year old is a pot still Irish whiskey. So what exactly is a pot still whiskey? According to the Single Pot Still website, it is a style of whiskey which is unique to Ireland (in general) and it is regarded as the quintessential style of Irish whiskey. It is made from a mash of malted and unmalted barley, which is then triple distilled in traditional copper pot stills. The inclusion of unmalted barley to the mashbill, along with the tradition of triple distillation, defines the character of Pot Still.

The first official reference to the brand name ‘Redbreast’ appears in August 1912, when Gilbey’s were selling “Redbreast” J.J. Liqueur Whiskey 12 Years Old. The name ‘Redbreast’ itself refers to the bird, Robin Redbreast, and is attributed to the then Chairman of Gilbey’s, who was an avid bird-fancier. In December 1991, Redbreast was re-introduced by Irish Distillers Limited, after an absence of almost 10 years. In 2005 Redbreast 15 is released.

Colour: Deep gold to burnished with long medium legs.

Nose: Wonderfully complex, full and rich nose with a striking oiliness. Sweet wood notes and teasing nuttiness. Delightful sweetness to it, mostly in the form of mixed berries, black currant (fruit pastilles) and icing sugar. Also get some spicy hints on the nose.

Palate: Full bodied and very nicely balanced, while also being rich with lots of full flavour. Very pleasant full mouth feel, oily and mouth coating, luxurious. Nice sweet spicy burn on tip of tongue (and back of mouth). The fruitiness I find coming through is tangerines, oranges and gooseberries. The spiciness is a hot and spicy woodiness while still being a sweet.

Finish: Long and very spicy with enjoyable warmth at end. The spice stays on the tip of tongue for the whole ride. Also get a lovely sweetness in the finish, mostly burnt sugar and custard.

Overall: A pleasingly full, rich and balanced whiskey with an interesting sweet and spicy flavour profile that still has a juicy fruitiness to it. A lovely introduction into the world of Irish whiskey.

My Score: 85