On location: Dornoch, again! [Part 1]

castleIm nearing the end of my second Scottish whisky tour [July 2017] and what better place to finish than Dornoch? After a breathtaking tour of Brora [blog] in the morning, ive arrived a bit late in the day to see the [Dornoch] distillery in operation, but if im keen enough Phil says, i can get up the next day for the 07:30 morning mash. If im anything like last year however, ill be lucky to see midday.

After a blast at Dramboree and 17 distillery visits spanning Annandale to Scapa, ive got the young/contemporary core malt profile ‘down’. Here at Dornoch [second year in a row], im again looking for the old & rare, the weird & wonderful, ‘When in Rome’ – and theres a malt expression ive only had two of previously.


(Glenburgie) Glencraig 1970 GM old map 40% [75cl] WB79.50[2]

Serge [on the 1970/1991]: ‘Glencraig was the name of the malt whisky made at Glenburgie with two Lomond stills between 1956 and 1981 [WF].


  • N: Vibrant [Diageo-like] fruitiness, cereal putty forming, oily citrus, dunnage-spelt honey sponge, sewing machine oil, a touch of brandy butter,…  a generous/giving nose.
  • T: Decidedly bitter-sour on the palate. A drop of water helps to relax it but the profile doesnt budge too much at first and quickly moves onto the finish. However more sips, time & water brings a dry & orchid fruity-malty chew and an elongated journey, albeit with a bitter tannic edge. More time-in and the bitter-sour turns more dunnage-y with some molasses sugars and a milk chocolate-waxy dry mouthfeel lurking underneath – how much of this is E150a, we are not to know.
  • F: ,… as if its got somewhere else to go, it rushes through with a sour aniseed freshness moving to more spongy & fruity [sherry & bourbon?] cereal putty. Theres is however some lingering at the death on dusty/earthy>heathery dunnage.
  • C: Worth it for the nose alone and the lingering finish, but nurse it and youll get extra rewards.

Scores 82 points


Inchgower 1994/2007 13yo Ob. Managers Dram 58.9% WB87.85[29] WF86~WM86[1]


  • N: This one starts with a big sweet-funk potency and water wont subdue its eagerness. Potency is the word, and maltiness – a glossy maltiness with sweet barley grasses, a little baking [sponge>pastry base], buttered peas & sea kale, sweetened button mushrooms, musk-y wood.
  • T: Edgy spirit, with a brash arrival. Water will temper things initially only for the pepper to make a scene later on. I found it needed 50/50 dilution for the malt to flow. Nothing profound here but if you have the inclination after this ‘work’, youll find some nice action.
  • F: So, with 50/50 theres some chocolate-y, fruity maltiness – whisky-like finish :]
  • C:  Good yet needy. A reaffirmation of my love for this OTR distillery, given the subtle complexities that manage to exist in such astringent conditions.

Scores 87 points


Glen Garioch 1997/2012 Ob. Small batch #12 56.7% WB83.17[26]

Back to basics: a recommendation from Norbert who [whilst being very concerned about the shape & direction of my improvised flight], recommends this GG to me under the banner term ‘new skool’ – in an attempt to re-calibrate my palate! I didnt have the energy to tell him id been re-calibrating for weeks and today is the day i am letting my hair down. Anyway, intentions were honourable, thinking was good, lets embrace it – and i like Glen Garioch very much.

Glen Garioch.jpg

  • N: So, what have we? A dense/hard, fusty sour>sweet grapefruit>pineapple bark spirit that devours bourbon casks like Pac-man on heat. More dunnage-y bourbon with water. With time, the hard shell cracks a little to release a ray of sunshine in the form of a light [yellow] flora=fruit=vanilla sweetness.
  • T: Even with plenty of water it bites with a peppery attack. Needs plenty of softening time [days/weeks] for a putty ever-green to emerge, but the young components and high abv arent going to make this overly joyous and its never going to budge from its bitter-sour citrus stance. Spicy [chilli]<pepper forever lingers, though pleasantly so.
  • F: In relation to the astringent/intense mouth, its all down hill from here [in a good-bicycle kind of way] – freewheeling with sour-savoury bourbon-grapefruit-clay, puncture repair chalk, green sticks and raspberry leaf tea.
  • C: Its clear what style Norbert likes: hard, straight ahead and no funny business – spitting image. Better not order the Springbank ‘Red’ just yet then.

Scores 84 points


To be at Dornoch again, at the end of [what became] a 2000 mile road trip means ‘party time’, so lets get back to the fun & games, the jewels & gems, the weird & the wonderful –  and theres a gem right here:


Glen Ord 1973/1997 23yo Ob. Rare Malts [btl#4157] 59.8% [75cl] WB87.74[44] WF88 WM80[1]

Glen Ord.jpg

  • N: Aah, there we are. I love the oily ones like i love bread dipped in olive oil, often steeped in garlic. Talking of garlic, we have garlic paste with herbed bread crumbs, ,… Needs plenty of time for the sweeter barley cereals to show. The nose certainly softens with time, even if theres no let-up on the palate [as we shall see].
  • T: Firm/strong arrival but not ‘massive’ like the previous Glen Garioch. It is though a big glossy barley oily number that stays on a true course. With time theres a chance to catch a glimpse of a passing farm. Water seems not to change things at first, though later theres more putty and a hint of red fruits, melon and passion fruit. With more water, fruity<herbal=heathery teas [some bitter oregano] to the fore before a subsiding return to those underlying intensive oils.
  • F: Putty & [linseed] oils with an oily>briney mouthfeel.
  • C: The Glen Ord distillery functions much like Mannochmore, geared up to making whisky for blends – but both can make super single malt that is to my liking. What a pleasure to be drinking a 1973 Glen Ord with a Mannochmore-esque intensity.

Scores 88 points


After an opening bout of intensity [especially from the ‘re-calibrator’], i feel like a change in direction. Of course,……..Balblair!