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 Smoky Dram’s 12 Whiskies of Christmas – 2014

Smoky Dram_12 Whiskies of Christmas_Arnold Photography

Now for the second year running (hey seems like this may just become an annual ‘thing’ that I do) I present, not the 12 days of Christmas, but rather ‘The Smoky Dram’s 12 whiskies of Christmas’ to offer my selection of 12 drams that could be enjoyed this festive season. This may be either as a present for a family member or friend, or most importantly, a present for yourself. Feel free to pass this one to a friend or family member if there is something that you would like in your stocking this year.

As usual, my list is made up of whiskies across price categories, ages, regions and ABV strengths. So hopefully there is something suitable for everyone on the list below and also all of these whiskies are available in South Africa. Your best bet though, for getting your hands on one of the whiskies and if you are in the Johannesburg region, is to visit the WhiskyBrother shop in Hyde Park. If none of the below appeals to you I am certain that they will be able to help you find a dram to your liking. Another alternative, if you like to travel out the city, is to visit Wild About Whisky in Dullstroom. Here you can sample a huge selection of whiskies, including the ones below, to see which one is your favourite.

So without a further ado, here for 2014 are:Smoky Dram_12 Whiskies of Christmas_Banner

Less than R350

  1. Three Ships Bourbon Cask Finish (43% ABV) – R200
  2. Famous Grouse The Black Grouse (43% ABV) – R220

R350 to R600

  1. Tomatin 12 year old (43% ABV) – R390
  2. Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select (43.2% ABV) – R440
  3. Highland Park 12 year old (43% ABV) – R490
  4. Nikka Pure Malt – Black (43% ABV) – R560
  5. Teeling Small Batch (46% ABV) – R590

R600 to R1000

  1. Talisker 10 year old (45.8% ABV) – R640
  2. Glenfarclas 105 10 year old Cask Strength (60% ABV) – R810
  3. Bowmore Darkest 15 year old (43% ABV) – R960

Greater than R1000

  1. Kavalan Soloist Sherry Cask Strength (57.8% ABV) – R1700
  2. Octomore Edition 6.1(57% ABV) – R1700

I have been fortunate enough to of have tried (and enjoyed) all of the above whiskies and can say that they are all very fine drams. All that is left to say is that I wish all a festive, peaceful and happy time over the holidays.

Sláinte and Happy Holidays’ to all!
The Smoky Dram Whisky Blog

WhiskyBrother Online Tasting – Twitter Tasting (#WBOT)

I may be a bit late to the party here (see my previous post for reason), but at least this post is still within the same year! So here is my totally true account of what happened at the first ever whisky Tweet Tasting in South Africa, namely the WhiskyBrother Online Tasting, hosted by Marc Pendlebury (aka @WhiskyBrother) at the WhiskyBrother Shop (@WhiskyBroShop) in Hyde Park Shopping Centre in Johannesburg on the 16th April 2014.

WhiskyBrother_Banner_WBOT_The Smoky Dram

The selected lab rats (or should that rather be distillery rats?) for this little Twitter tasting experience, including myself (@TheSmokyDram), were:

WhiskyBrother_Twitter_The Smoky DramWhiskyBrother
kojobaffoe_Twitter_The Smoky DramKojo Baffoe
WhiskyGeekSA_Twitter_The Smoky Dram@WhiskyGeekSA AmandaSevasti_Twitter_The Smoky DramAmanda Sevasti
TheDramDog_Twitter_The Smoky DramBruce Clark
Fenyi_Twitter_The Smoky DramOfentse Ruele
jndub_Twitter_The Smoky DramJacques Du Bruyn
ncallegari_Twitter_The Smoky DramNicolas Callegari
whiskyoftheweek_Twitter_The Smoky DramJohn & Jeanette Wentzel
fr1day_Twitter_The Smoky DramMark Hughes

Each of the participants received their four whisky samples, beautifully packaged and that were “hand-crafted in small batches”, put together personally by Marc.

WhiskyBrother_Whisky_The Smoky Dram

Three of the samples were for the official tweet tasting on the evening, while the fourth “mystery dram” was for us to drink and enjoy at our convenience. Though for some people the temptation was too great (*cough* Nic *cough*) and it was consumed on the same evening.

Most tweet tasting are enjoyed from the comfort of your own home, but three brave souls decided to join Marc in store and do the tweet tasting from there. Nic, Kojo and myself were there to give Marc some moral support, enjoy a Locke’s 8yo palate cleanser and to launch Nic’s ‘The Crème Cracker Test’ © 2014 (patent pending).

WhiskyBrother_Shop_WBOT_The Smoky Dram.

As there were no particular formalities on the night, with the only exception being the use of the #WBOT hashtag for all tweets, we were encouraged to be as geeky as we wanted to (Harry Potter fans not withstanding). This lead to some interesting moments and tweets, as you will see below. For each whisky Marc provided a tweet or two with further details before we delved into the nose, palate and finish of the whisky with everyone giving their thoughts. So without a further ado, onto the whiskies that was enjoyed.


Kilkerran – Work In Progress 4, NAS with 46% ABV

Kilkerran_Work In Progress 4_The Smoky DramBased in Campbeltown, Kilkerran is derived from the Gaelic ‘Ceann Loch Cille Chiarain’ which is the name of the original settlement where Saint Kerran had his religious cell and where Campbeltown currently stands. The Glengyle distiller (where Kilkerran is produced) was founded in 1872, but closed in 1925. On the 7 March 2004 the distillery reopened, the first in Campbeltown for 125 plus years, and distilled its first spirit again.

Since 2009 the Glengyle distillery started to release their whisky to show the development of the young whisky, hence the name of “Work in Progress”. With that in mind it seems as each new progress release gains a year in maturation, making the Work in Progress 4 around eight years old. It was released in 2012 with only 9000 bottles available worldwide.

Colour: Deep old gold with thick slow legs

Nose: Slightly bready with strong overtones of orange marmalade on toast. There is also a slight hint of stewed pear and burnt sugar as well. The sweetness continues with vanilla and syrup. Background has some sharpness and spiced oranges.

Palate: Starts off with a crisp sweet spiciness, followed by sweet cream, fudge and custard. The middle to back palate has wood spice, touch of pepper with hint citrus fruits. The addition of some water opens it up to more sweetness and cinnamon spiciness.

Finish: That sweet spiciness again with lingering warm cinnamon and nutmeg spiciness with liquorice at the very end.

My Score: 83

Nic’s ‘The Crème Cracker Test’: “Closest I could get to toast was the Crème crackers on the table. Not a good pairing. Consume separately.” & “The “WIP4” stands for “Work in progress 4″. Okes, job done. Bottle that sucker and sell it. But not with Crème Crackers.”

Tweet thoughts from the other distillery rats:  

  • Nose of the #Kilkerran – really pleasant on the nose. Hints of maple syrup/honey. #WBOT – @Fenyi
  • First dram #Kilkerran, beautiful gold in colour, get some orange on the nose #WBOT – @jndub
  • #WBOT Kilkerran WIP 4 Also getting jam or marmalade on the nose, still lots of fresh wood, hint of spice – @WhiskyGeekSA
  • #WBOT #1 vanilla, fresh fruit & oak. Mild spice. Nice body – @whiskyoftheweek
  • #Kilkerran nose: Quite spirituous, alcohol is a bit evident. Probably do well with a drop of water. Some white grape. #WBOT – @WhiskyBroShop
  • Marmalade! I want to dip a piece of toast in this dram! #kilkerran #wbot – @ncallegari
  • Kilkerran WIP4 Palate: Wood spices reminiscent of burnt tinder and cloves, with luscious sweetness kicking in right after #WBOT – @fr1day
  • I like the Kilkerran with a little water. Makes it gently & strangely fuller. Less of a spicy bite #WBOT – @kojobaffoe
  • #WBOT nice long finish with plenty of space at the end – @thedramdog
  • A beautiful long finish which is where the spices really shine. I wasn’t kidding about having hot cross buns with this! #Kilkerran #WBOT – @AmandaSevasti


Arran – Port Cask Finish, NAS with 50% ABV

Arran_Port Cask_The Smoky DramAs we all know the oak casks used to mature whisky in are influential to the development of flavour of said whisky. A final and shorter maturation, known as finishing, has become a fairly common place practice these days (since the early 1990’s). Finishing is where the whisky is emptied from its original cask into another cask (of different origin) to add additional flavours.

After initially maturing in traditional ex-bourbon oak casks for approximately 8 years, the Arran Single Malt in this review was finished in the highest quality Port wine casks. Arran’s Master Distiller, James MacTaggart, carefully monitored the period of secondary maturation to ensure the perfect balance is struck between the Port casks and the intrinsic sweet-fruity character of The Arran Malt. This expression was released in 2010.

Colour: Burnished to tawny with long thick legs

Nose: Nutty with dried fruits (trial mix) and some citrus fruits mixed in as well. There is a vanilla sweet dustiness about it mixed in with some caramel. Raisins, winter spices and Xmas cake with cinnamon round out the port part of the nose. Has some woodiness as well with a red berry like character.

Palate: Classic spicy and oily, with fruit (of the stewed variety) and spice combined plus some maltiness thrown in for good measure. Not to mention fruit cake and raisins as well. Water softens it to reveal brown sugar, salty & savoury, citrus fruit spiciness, sweets, dried fruit and cinnamon again.

Finish: Very long and lusty showing the wood and port influence.

My Score: 84

Nic’s ‘The Crème Cracker Test’: “Ok. Crème Cracker test. Much better pairing. If all you can afford this month is this whisky & Crème crackers, life is good.”

Tweet thoughts from the other distillery rats:  

  • I love The Arran caramel-peach colour with a touch of blush. Reminds me of my favourite eyeshadow. #WBOT – @AmandaSevasti
  • #WBOT @Arranwhisky Port Cask Nose: unusual… raisins, slight vanilla, butter, sherbert – @WhiskyGeekSA
  • fruits, chocolate and some sea air #WBOT – @jndub
  • @Arranwhisky Port Cask Nose: Nutty character, apple peel, caramel and a whiff of dessert wine #OBS anyone? 😉 #WBOT – @fr1day
  • Sip. Pour more. Sip. Holy crap this stuff is good. Nuts…in and around my mouth. #arran #wbot- @ncallegari
  • Arran Port Cask palette is soft with honey and jam, some spice and an elegant oily texture #WBOT – @thedramdog
  • #WBOT #2. .@Arranwhisky Palette not as sweet as expected. Fruit cake, dried fruit and spice. We think finish has notes of spice and pepper – @whiskyoftheweek
  • Water has definitely developed the sweet palate of arran port cask.. #WBOT – @Fenyi
  • With a dash of water, sweet and comfortable. It lingers wonderfully. Taste buds do a slight shudder #WBOT – @kojobaffoe
  • @Arranwhisky finish: Slight wood bitterness but then countered with the fruit sweetness. Cereal (barley) notes now. #WBOT – @WhiskyBroShop
  • Advantage of tasting at home – I have Lindt in my cupboard. RT @jndub: #WBOT the Arran will go nicely with some dark chocolate in the mouth – @AmandaSevasti

We even had a tweet from the distillery itself, @Arranwhisky – Love all your comments folks, pleased to see the port Finish going down well! #WBOT


Octomore 6.1, 5yo with 57% ABV Scottish Barley

Octomore 6.1_The Smoky DramMost of the heavily-peated whiskies, from the likes of Ardbeg or Laphroaig, have a phenol measure around 50 parts per million (ppm). This Octomore is an astounding 167ppm! One would think that with such an extremely high phenol count it would be so smoky and one-dimensional with little else on offer. That assumption, in this case, is wrong. Though there is that abundance of that beautiful peat smoke, there is also a myriad of other flavours and complexities. That said, it still remains an acquired taste.

Produced by Bruichladdich and released in annual limited batches, 18,000 bottles were released worldwide of the 6.1, this whisky has built up quite the cult following. It is finally available for the first time in South Africa and I know quite a number of peat lovers, myself included, who welcomed this little gem into their collection.

Colour: Deep gold to old gold with very thick and lovely legs.

Nose: Beautiful peat smoke with seaweed, sea salt spray and freshly ground black pepper. There are hints of lemon in the background together with iodine and some burnt fruit cake. It’s like sitting next to a burnt out wood fire at a seaside harbour.

Palate: Simply stunning, with thick treacle/molasses and that lovely peat smokiness that is further interspersed with sea spray saltiness and seaweed that smacks you around some. Sweet oak, freshly ground black pepper and lemon zest backing up the rest of the palate. It’s like licking an alligator charred burnt log* – not that I have tried. Really, I haven’t.

Finish: Very long and lingering, wrapping your mouth in warm sweet smokiness.

My Score: 91

Nic’s ‘The Crème Cracker Test’: “Octtomore Crème Cracker test: *koff* uh…no.” with a reply from Kojo “<- ::looking through watery eyes:: emphatic no.”

* It is hazardous to your health, and not to mention your taste buds, to lick an alligator charred burnt log. It is hazardous for your taste buds as you may develop a taste for it and need to supplement that craving that only Octomore can fill!

Tweet thoughts from the other distillery rats:

  • Now for sample 3. Looks and sounds like a Bond villain. #Octomore 6.1. #wbot – @ncallegari
  • #WBOT #3. OMG. PEAT and as you get up off the ground – boom, more PEAT. Iodine, TCP, medicinal. Classic Islay 🙂 – @whiskyoftheweek
  • #WBOT @Bruichladdich Ocotomore 6.1 Nose : Crisp smoke, salt, bacon, bbq’d meats…now we’re talking!! – WhiskyGeekSA
  • This is some seriously powerful peatiness.. Reluctant to try it with water though. Octomore. #WBOT – @Fenyi
  • @WhiskyBroShop I’m getting some burnt fruit cake on the nose with smoking spices on a weber, a 56cm weber to be exact 😉 #WBOT – @jndub
  • @Bruichladdich #Octomore 6.1 Palate: Strolling along the Islay coast, rotting seaweed, marine air, heather and a damp bonfire #WBOT – @fr1day
  • .@Bruichladdich #Octomore 6.1 Palate; CAUTION: Do not exhale near smoke detectors! I did and mine exploded 😉 #WBOT – @fr1day
  • I feel like Harry Potter just did a smoke spell in my mouth. #Octomore #WBOT – @AmandaSevasti
  • #Octomore finish: It’s rugged & rough but beautiful & serene at the same time. Like sitting on next to the sea as a storm comes in. #WBOT – @WhiskyBroShop
  • Add water to the #octomore and have a sip. Or pour water on a braai and inhale. Whatevs. Same same. #eishwena #wbot – @ncallegari
  • I could happily sit on my patio on a winter’s night with a deep glass of the #Octomore & solve the world’s problems @Bruichladdich #WBOT – @kojobaffoe
  • #Octomore 6.1 Quote “Like a woman with a whip. You have to approach cautiously!” #WBOT – @TheSmokyDram


“Mystery Dram”

Was meant to be enjoyed at our own time, but some were just too eager, as shown by the following exchange:

So…what’s the deal with the mystery dram? Now or now now? @WhiskyBroShop #wbot – @ncallegari

I snuck a knertsjie of the Mystery Dram. Light. No smoke. Full of vanilla. Like hot ice cream. What is it @WhiskyBroShop? #wbot – @ncallegari

@ncallegari The mystery dram is a… <close your eyes fellow #WBOT members>… @glenfarclas 12yo – @WhiskyBroShop

You can read my review of this whisky here.

Final words
It was a great first South African tweet tasting experience with a cracking selection from WhiskyBrother Marc. A very big thank you has to go out to Marc Pendlebury from WhiskyBrother Shop, not only for hosting us, but putting up with the deluge of questions and geekiness from us. Further thanks are also needed for Kilkerran, Arran and Bruichladdich (Octomore) for making the brilliant whiskies that they do.My favourite from the tasting was the Octomore 6.1 and it seemed to be the favourite for the majority of the tasters. That being said all three are brilliant whiskies in their own right and for different instances. So Marc, the question we all have now is when is the next one?

I will leave the final word for Marc – “Again, thank you all so much! It has been a pleasure and honour having you be part of our, & #SouthAfrica’s, first online tasting! 🙂 #WBOT”


The Smoky Dram’s 12 whiskies of Christmas


As we gear up for that wonderful time with family and friends, some of us are either dropping very subtle and not so subtle hints as to which whiskies’ would be most appreciated as a Christmas gift, or we are the ones looking for a drammable present for someone. Below I present, not the 12 days of Christmas, but rather ‘The Smoky Dram’s 12 whiskies of Christmas’ to offer my selection of 12 drams that could be enjoyed this festive season.

My list is made up of whiskies across price categories, ages, regions and ABV strengths. So hopefully there is something suitable for everyone? Also all of these whiskies are available in South Africa (if our allocation has not already sold out on some of them). Your best bet for getting your hands on one of the whiskies on the list, if you are in the Johannesburg region, is to visit Marc at his WhiskyBrother shop in Hyde Park. If none of the below appeals to you I am positive that Marc will be able to help you find a dram to your liking.

Smoky Dram_12 Whiskies of Christmas_Arnold Photography

So without a further ado, here are the Smoky Dram’s 12 whiskies of Christmas:

Less than R350
1. Three Ships 5 year old (43% ABV) – R145
2. Bain’s Cape mountain whisky (43% ABV) – R220

R350 to R600
3. Evan Williams Single Barrel (43.3% ABV) – R370
4. Nikka from the Barrel (51.4% ABV) – R450
5. Big Peat (46% ABV) – R460
6. Kilchoman Machir Bay 2012 (46% ABV) – R540

R600 to R1000
7. Springbank 12 year old Cask Strength (58.5% ABV) – R680
8. Redbreast 15 year old (46% ABV) – R790
9. GlenDronach Allardice 18 year old (46% ABV) – R940
10. Laphroaig 18 year old (48% ABV) – R980

Greater than R1000
11. BenRiach Authenticus 21 year old (46% ABV) – R1800
12. Glenglassaugh 25 year old (45.3% ABV) – R2900

I have been fortunate enough to of have enjoyed all of the above whiskies and can honestly say that they are all very fine drams. But just for in case you would also like to get a little something extra as a stocking filler, my suggestions would be:

Malt Whisky Companion by Michael Jackson (updated by D.Roskrow, G.D.Smith and W.C.Meyers) – R280
Whisky, The Definitive World Guide by Michael Jackson – R440

Glencairn Glass – R130 for a two-pack or R380 for a six-pack

All that is left to say is that I wish all a festive and happy time over the holidays and hope that the only smokiness is from the dram in your hand and not from the cooking in the kitchen!

Sláinte and Happy Holidays’ to all!

The Smoky Dram Whisky Blog

My 100th Whisky tasted

I recently reached a whisky milestone, my 100th whisky tasted. This prompted two things. The first was naturally “I need to try and taste something special or different for my 100th”. Enter Marc of WhiskyBrother who said that he would provide me with a blind sample of something special for my 100th whisky. The only clue I was given was the ABV. You can follow Marc (@WhiskyBrother) and myself (@TheSmokyDram) on twitter tomorrow for my notes on what I think it is and the reveal from WhiskyBrother  as to what is actually is. My guess and what it is most likely to be continents apart.

Secondly, it got me looking back on my whisky journey so far. It has not been a very long one as it has only been four and a half months since my first blog post ‘Another SA whisky blog‘ and my first review ‘Laphroaig 10yo’, both of which were posted on March 24, 2013. However, my official tasting journey started just over a year ago, according to the first entry in my now (in)famous red moleskin whisky tasting notebook. This was when I attended a ‘Misty Isles’ tasting on the 19th June 2012 and where I tasted 4 whiskies; Jura Superstition, Highland park 12Yo, a Talisker 10Yo and a Laphroaig Quarter Cask.

So here’s to my 100th and to a very long whisky journey still to come.

Update: So my 100th was revealed by Marc to be none other than the Glenglassaugh 25 Year Old, which was bottled for the Whisky Academy.

Glenglassaugh 25yo_Smoky Dram

It is a vintage cask of Glenglassaugh specially selected by Jonathan Miles for the Whisky Academy. It was distilled in 1986, before the distillery was mothballed, selected and bottled in 2011.


The Smoky Dram Whisky Blog

Ardbog day with WhiskyBrother and Ardbeg

A bit late, but better late than never, is my write-up on the Ardbeg day tasting held by WhiskyBrother.  This was an event that sold out very quickly, especially once one read which Ardbeg whiskies we would be tasting, as it would be a vertical tasting of six Ardbegs’. The venue for the gathering of us Ardbeggians for this auspicious event was the Pimento bistro in Illovo.

Welcoming us to the event was Marc Pendlebury, the “Chief Ardbeggian Officer” for the evening, who was looking very spiffy in his Ardbog day t-shirt. You were greeted with an Ardbeg 10YO as a welcome drink and as you wound your way to a seat, you were greeted to the sight of a chained up Ardbeg 10YO, the whiskies for the tasting and all the empty glasses lined up and waiting to receive the ‘water of life’.

Ardbeg_Smoky Dram_WhiskyBrother_Arnold Photography_1

The whiskies in our tasting line up were:

  • Blasda – 40% ABV
  • Still Young – 56.2% ABV
  • Almost There – 54.1% ABV
  • Galileo – 49% ABV
  • Corryvreckan – 57.1% ABV
  • Supernova 2010 – 60.1% ABV

Ardbeg_Smoky Dram_WhiskyBrother_Arnold Photography_2

But first they had to be poured into the eagerly waiting glasses. This sacred duty fell to Chief Ardbeggian Officer Marc to fulfil and to ensure that each Ardbeggian got their fair share.

Ardbeg_Smoky Dram_WhiskyBrother_Arnold Photography_3

Once all poured and distributed the tasting began, with Marc leading the tasting and sharing with us anecdotes, stories and the history of Ardbeg. Soon the room was filled with the usual murmurs and mutterings of a tasting, which naturally steadily increased in volume as each dram was tasted and savoured.

Once all whiskies were tasted, relished, discussed and appreciated some more it was time for us to reveal which ones we enjoyed the most and which particular one was our favourite (for the evening at least). This was an almost impossible task for me as I thought they were all good and that each one had its own set of characteristics and peculiarities that made them interesting and delicious.

Anyway, after much deliberation I felt that my top Ardbeg, from the line up for that evening, was the Corryvreckan. It was very closely (extremely closely actually) followed by the Supernova 2010, and then by the Almost There and the Galileo.

Ardbeg_Smoky Dram_WhiskyBrother_Arnold Photography_4

This really was an excellent evening with special tasting that I believe to be a once in a lifetime opportunity for most of us (it certainly was for me). A huge thank you to Marc of WhiskyBrother for arranging and putting together such a wonderful and extraordinary tasting of Ardbeg.

So here’s to Ardbeg Day 2014 in South Africa. May it be even bigger, better and bolder!


The Smoky Dram Whisky Blog

Ardbeg day 2013 is Ardbog day

The time is very near for that special day each year that Ardbeggians celebrate – Ardbeg Day! For this year it is to be known as Ardbog day – 1st June 2013.

And in celebration for this day The Smoky Dram now sports a fetching Ardbeg green link colour scheme.

Ardbeg’s Ardbog Day

ArdbogDay_The Smoky Dram

Rai Banbury, senior brands manager, says, “The Islay Ardbeg Festival has become a key date in the calendar of malt whisky lovers worldwide. Every year Ardbeg creates a unique and fun way for our Ardbeg fans to celebrate Ardbeg and the much anticipated limited edition release.” This latest limited edition release is called Ardbog and will be released on ‘Ardbog Day’.

The name Ardbog was chosen to highlight the peat bogs of Ardbeg’s island home Islay and the part they play in the whisky making process. The unique peat bogs contain highly aromatic plants that when used to dry malted barley gives Ardbeg whiskies their distinctive smoky flavour.

Ardbog has deep, enticing waves of pecan nuts, salty toffee & caramels, fudge, leather and a distinct whiff of herbs, lavender and violets. The smoke is soft and aromatic, and is interwoven with savoury notes, like Iberico ham (de bellota) and olives.

South Africa’s Ardbog Day and first African Ardbeg Embassy

We all dig PEAT! South Africa will celebrate all things peaty with the launch of the first African Ardbeg Embassy, Wild About Whisky, on world Ardbog day. This will be an opportunity for current and future Ardbeggians to comPEAT in some uniquely Ardbeg activities. The shinDIG will begin with an Ardbeg procession starting on main road at the Cricket oval (in Dullstroom) at 12:00. Do not rePEAT this as there are only 100 tickets available – which sadly are all Sold Out!

Unfortunately the other Ardbeg day event in South Africa (of which I know) is also Sold Out! This event is being hosted in Johannesburg by WhiskyBrother Shop and this event promises Ardbeg shenanigans and a chance to sample some very special Ardbeg drams. I was very fortunate to book in time for this and shall report on the special drams and any shenanigans that may happen with photographic evidence where possible.

I find it encouraging that both South African events sold out so quickly, both virtually within only a couple of days from the announcements being made by the respective hosts. The other promising point is the launch of first African Ardbeg Embassy. Hopefully this will result in more exposure for Ardbeg in South Africa and more importantly enable more Ardbeg whisky expressions to make its way to SA! Currently the only expression commercially available here the Ardbeg 10YO.


The Smoky Dram Whisky Blog

Whisky and chocolate pairing

I have always been intrigued by the idea of pairing various foods with selected drinks, be it spirits or wine. One of the pairings that has been on to top of my to-try list was a chocolate and whisky pairing.

Then lo and behold Marc from WhiskyBrother Shop, together with chocolatier Lara Sklaar of Fine & Raw Chocolate, held a whisky and chocolate pairing tasting on 7th May 2013.

What an interesting and enjoyable experience it was. Lara explained how her chocolate making process works using the artisan low heat technique and the importance of quality ingredients (the raw cacao is imported from Ecuador). Marc then continued on to explain how they went about choosing which whisky to pair with which chocolate for the tasting. It was a trial and error approach (though an enjoyable one I am sure) they used; by tasting the chocolates with various whiskies and selecting the combinations where they felt the chocolate added something to the whisky (and vice versa). For the pairings to work they would need to complement each other, amplify certain flavour profiles and even highlight other flavours otherwise missed by not combining the two.

Whisky and chocolate_The Smoky Dram

We were then ready to move onto the whisky and chocolate pairing tasting, after one last topic was covered; how to taste chocolate and whisky together. The following was advised:

  • Take a sip of whisky and move it around inside your mouth to coat all areas of your tongue.
  • Swallow the whisky (I mean you should also properly taste the whisky right?) ;P
  • Wait a short while before taking a piece of the paired chocolate and allow the chocolate to melt and let you experience the flavours of the chocolate and whisky together.
  • Then, while still having some of that lovely melted chocolate in your mouth, take in some more whisky and swirl it over the chocolate. This should lead to greater concentration and sometimes the development of some surprising and fascinating flavours.

Right, onto the paired tasting!

1 – First up was the BenRiach 21YO Authenticus whisky (peated and with 46% ABV) paired with the 78% Ecuador chocolate (pure raw chocolate with a touch of blue agave nectar).

The whisky had a lovely spicy and clean peaty nose with stewed fruits and custard in the background. There was a beautiful richness on the palate with oak wood and dark chocolate fruit & nut bar. It had a long warm finish with mellow spices all way to end.

When combined with the 78% Ecuador chocolate, the chocolate brings out more of a sweet earthiness in the whisky for me, while enhancing the spicy character in both the chocolate (a bitter spiciness) and the whisky (more of a wood spice).  The chocolate seems to add a good length of taste to the experience.


2 – The second pairing of the evening was The Macallan 10YO (43% ABV) together with the 75% cold pressed virgin coconut oil wrapped in 83% cacao chocolate.

Here the whisky had more of the stewed fruits and heather fields on the nose with only a subtle spiciness to it. The palate was soft, smooth and well balanced that had malt, wood and fruit on it. The finish was fairly lingering with hints of oak and spice on the whole tongue.

I found it really interesting and pleasant how these two combined and played together. The blending of the chocolate and the whisky brought out a lovely spicy sweetness in one’s mouth. The usual bitter taste that one gets from a dark chocolate with a high cacao percentage is superbly balanced out by the sweetness from the whisky. They made a delightful combination.


3 – The final pairing was between the GlenFarclas 105 Cask Strength (60% ABV) and the chilli bon bon (a dark raw chocolate bar with a thin line of chilli bonbon truffle running down the inside center).

The final whisky was a deep and complex one with dark Wilson toffee, wet oak wood, hints of pear & apples with pecan nut slice on the nose. It has a lovely full bodied palate that has a deep rich spiciness, sherried fruit cake and woody smokiness to it. With a finish that is dry and bursting that leaves a spicy tingle that lingers and coats your tongue.

The combination of the two brings out a more pronounced spiciness in both the chocolate and the whisky. As weird as it may sound, I found that the paired chocolate made the whisky a bit sweeter on the palate, bringing out more of that pecan nut slice I was getting. On the other side I found the chocolate to be even hotter, with the chilli even more pronounced. The finish of the combination lasted for a very long time.


Surprisingly my favourite pairing of the evening was The Macallan 10YO together with the 75% cold pressed virgin coconut oil wrapped in 83% cacao chocolate. I say surprising as I usual prefer the cask strength styled whiskies. In this instance, since it was a tasting to exploring the pairing and not the individual whisky, I just felt that the combination of the two was the most enjoyable for me that evening.

Whisky and chocolate_The Smoky Dram

One of the attributes of raw chocolate is not only is it delicate, but they melt easier and quicker than ‘normal’ chocolate. I saw this by just picking up a piece having my fingertips covered in melted chocolate and a few scant seconds later. Another property is that the chocolate seems to be coarser and grainier when compared to ‘normal’ chocolate.

Both of these makes for a wonderful texture and feel of the chocolate in one’s mouth and especially on one’s tongue. I feel this also helps to spread the combined tasted with the whisky all over your mouth so that you can fully get and appreciate the various flavours.

Besides the three chocolates that were used in the pairing above, Fine & Raw Chocolate also has other chocolates on its offering. See their website for details on this and how to get your hand on this gorgeously fine and raw chocolates.

Marc also collaborated with Lara to produce a small range of chocolates that have whisky as part of their makeup. These are available from the WhiskyBrother store, if they are not already sold out.

Thanks to Marc and Lara for an interesting and delicious event.


The Smoky Dram Whisky Blog

Islay flashback

I recently read a blog post on ScotchBlog about their pilgrimage to Lagavulin. It reminded me of my trip to Scotland and Islay that I undertook in July 2011. This trip was before my current whisky passion, which was unfortunate for me but not so for my wife.

Then there was a very informative Twit conversation between ScotchBlog (@scotchblog), WhiskyBrother (@WhiskyBrother) and myself (@TheSmokyDram), with maybe just a wee bit TMI from WhiskyBrother.

All this helped me have a little Islay flashback. However, unlike the weather ScotchBlog had, where “the sun shone down gloriously from a pristine blue sky”, the weather I had been decidedly more overcast, windy and misty (as my two photos below will show) – perfect to have a dram or two to steel yourself for the next walk outside.

Back to the Twit conversation and the one question that came up was around if you could return to your favourite whisky destination/place/memory. For me the answer was not so easy. Once the various voices and personalities battled it out in my head, two remained victorious as my favourite of favourite places on Islay. The first was the Whisky Distillery that got me started on my whisky passion and will always hold a special place in my collection, Laphroaig:

Laphroaig_Smoky Dram_Arnold Photography

This was followed very closely by the other distillery that brings back many a great memories for me, Ardbeg, with their fiery peaty whiskies:

Ardbeg_Smoky Dram_Arnold Photography

These pictures and fond memories now make me want to return, and I know that I will one day return to that wonderful spiritual home many of us call Islay.

What are your memories of Islay? Let me know in comments below.


 The Smoky Dram Whisky Blog

International Whisky Day 17 March 2013

Whisky lovers around the world are gathering on 27 March 2013 for International Whisky Day. It is a day to not only celebrate our favourite drink, but also to honour the late Michael Jackson (author of several whisky books and whose birthday fell on the 27 March).

Jackson suffered from Parkinson’s Disease before succumbing to it in 2007. In that regard many hold various tastings and gatherings around the globe to raise awareness and funds of the disease from which he suffered.

In Johannesburg WhiskyBrother invites you to celebrate International Whisky Day with a whisky tasting held at Southern Sun Hyde Park, with 100% of the proceeds going to the Parkinson Association of SA.

To RSVP or for more details you can go to