Whisk(e)y Marketing School


By in Whiskies Comments Off on Girvan Coffey Still Proof Strength

Girvan Coffey Still Proof Strength

Day Eighteen in the Whisky Advent Calendar

*In this series, I’m working my way through the 2015 Master of Malt Whisky Advent. I had surgery in the middle, so we’re behind on the official dates.

This one is particularly exciting to me because I’m always trying to track down Lowland distillery products that are either single malt or single grain. Being located in the US makes it significantly harder.

I’m looking forward to this one!


Girvin is a Lowland distillery (Scotland), and it was founded in 1963 with the instiallation of it’s first Coffey Still. That in itself is pretty remarkable. There are only a few distilleries in the world still using the original Aeneas Coffey Still. Nikka is one, and Girvin is another!

It was built by William Grant & Sons in order to provide grain whisky for their blending products. It’s also the same distillery that creates Hendricks Gin!


Girvin Patent Still Single Grain sneaks up on you. When your nose goes into the glass, it whispers sweet longing into your ear and tells you about all the lovely things it wants to do to and with you.

My first thought was that it presents all sweet, floral, and pretty with almost no drama. But I was subsequently reminded by a close father figure that most things that are sweet, floral, and pretty come with a LOT of drama.

Then I tasted it. And he was right.


The high alcohol content gets you right out front, but even a few drops of water doesn’t take off the ass-kicking bite.

I really love it.

I get dramatic pepper all through the middle of that whisky surrounded by the creamy banana flavor that reminds me of bananas foster. The grass and earth notes that I find in other Lowlands are present, but only barely.

Essentially, this whisky is Daisy Ridley from the new Star Wars “The Force Awakens”. Nice, friendly, almost adorable, but can absolutely hand you your ass in a tin can.

By in Whiskies Comments Off on Mackmyra Brukswhisky

Mackmyra Brukswhisky

Day Seventeen in the Whisky Advent Calendar

*In this series, I’m working my way through the 2015 Master of Malt Whisky Advent. I had surgery in the middle, so we’re behind on the official dates.

Mackmyra Brukswhisky. That’s one I’ve never heard of in my life. It turns out, it’s because it’s a Swedish Whisky. Master of Malt is really keeping this one interesting!

mackmyra whiskyHistory

Named after the village it’s in, Mackmyra it was launched by a group of friends in 1999. They were in town for a ski trip, forgot to bring single malt whisky, and things basically just spiraled out of control from there.

That just goes to show you how far a man will go to guarantee access to good whisky.

They use all local ingredients. They use local pure Swedish water, Swedish barley, and Swedish peat from a local bog. They age in new American oak, and Swedish oak as well as European oak.

Hot dang. I love the culture of whisky and how great the stories are.


This one caught me off guard because of the dramatic difference between the smell and the taste.

The smell was a bit sweet with accents of hay and a kind of earthy barn flavor. Probably the combination of the cereal notes and the peat.

But behind all of that was a note of something completely different. It took two or three rounds of tasting to land on it.

Thai peanut sauce.

I think it’s a combination of real notes of peanut flavors mixed with the sweetness of the whisky and the richness of the earthy flavors.

On the finish there’s something that lifts off in the end in an almost minty direction.

It’s complicated, and lovely. I will definitely need to track this down for the whisky room.

By in Whiskies Comments Off on Balvenie Doublewood 12yr

Balvenie Doublewood 12yr

Day Sixteen in the Whisky Advent Calendar

*In this series, I’m working my way through the 2015 Master of Malt Whisky Advent. I had surgery in the middle, so we’re behind on the official dates.

Balvenie Doublewood. Ahhh. The scotch that every person buys when they are making the emotional transition from Irish Whiskey to Scottish Whisky.

It’s a standard. And for good reason.


I’ve already talked about Balvenie when I reviewed the 18yr Sherry Barrel, but here’s one extra tidbit.

It’s one of the only distilleries in Scotland with its own malting floor, and it’s absolutely one of the gold standards for how lovely a good Speyside can really get.

I’ll let them tell you themselves. They have really great marketing and produce quite a few high quality videos and documentaries. Check out their story in the video at the bottom of the page.


Balvenie Doublewood is a classic Speyside, but it’s on the more advanced side of the flavor spectrum for that region.

The first time someone introduces you to scotch, it’s often either someone giving you a generic Speyside sweet whisky, or it’s a whisky lover.

If it’s an uneducated bartender, you probably got a Glenfiddich or a Glenlivet because that’s the only scotch they have in the bar. Both are good, but the lower end of their offerings are simple in their taste profile.

If a whisky lover hands you a scotch, they will regularly make the mistake of throwing you in the deep end of the pool with an extremely smoky or an extremely complex whisky. That’s a mistake that most aficionados of a category make consistently. Once you’re that far into the ocean, it’s hard to remember what it’s like taking your first tiptoe step.

An easier way to introduce yourself to scotch is to start with Speysides or a light Highland, and move into the more complicated flavors as you get more familiar.

In that case, Balvenie Doublewood should definitely be the whisky you choose to transition you from the simple sweet lightness of a Speyside to a more complicated Highland.

Doublewood refers to the fact that it was aged in both bourbon and sherry barrels. The bourbon gives you heavy vanilla, and the sherry gives you the clingy, rich sweetness.

There are almond notes and bits of cinnamon spice from the sherry, and honey mixed with vanilla from the bourbon oak.

Altogether this is a standard that should stay always at hand. Like a good Van Morrison record.


By in Whiskies Comments Off on Fettercairn Fior

Fettercairn Fior

Day Fifteen in the Whisky Advent Calendar

*In this series, I’m working my way through the 2015 Master of Malt Whisky Advent. I had surgery in the middle, so we’re behind on the official dates.

Fettercairn Fior. Just like Jura, it’s an expression, not an age defined whisky.

What’s the difference?

I discovered Fettercairn from a special edition bottled by Signatory, the Fettercairn 18yr old 1996 edition. It was a really great Highland whisky, and I’m really looking forward to seeing one of their better-known expressions.

fettercairn fiorHistory

Fettercairn is award winning and highly sought after. Founded in 1824 by Alexander Ramsay. It was sold to the Gladstone family who became extremely influential in the history of whisky in Scotland. Whyte & Mackay bought them in 1973 and it’s been a primary whisky in their blend ever since.

Fettercairn’s various single malt creations consistently when best prizes at anything in which they’re entered.


Oh man, this is the good stuff. Right out of the bottle, I pick up dark chocolate and spices. It’s a good dramatic Highland whisky right out of the gates.

I’ve never tried the Whyte & Mackay blend, but I may have to after my experience with the Fettercairn line just to see what it adds to the blend.

The taste is every bit as good as the smell. This may end up as a staple in my whisky selection at home.

I find cinnamon in the back end of the dark chocolate with slight bitter notes of something like coffee. But it’s spicier than it is harsh. Love it.

It’s got enough drama to be mistaken for an Arran or an Islay whisky, but the light sweetness of the spice gives it away.

Definitely track this down.

Note to self: learn how to correctly pronounce Fettercairn so as not to come off as a fool in front of others.

By in Whiskies Comments Off on Expressions vs Age Statements

Expressions vs Age Statements

This is primarily a something to watch for in Scotland, although all of the whisky across the world follows essentially the same rules.

Lew Bryson really described this incredibly well in his book “Tasting Whisky”.

Age Statement Whisky

When a whisky is bottled with an age statement (Dalmore 12yr, Laphroig 10yr), that doesn’t mean it is 10 yr old whisky. That means it’s at least 10 yrs old.

When a master distiller is creating the whisky to represent his distillery, he will use different barrels mixed together in order to create the specific and consistent flavor profile of his signature taste. But if it says 10 yr old that means the youngest barrel used during the blending process was 10 years old. It could, and very often does, contain other barrels that are much older.

Example? Here’s a brilliant photo from Lew’s book showing the possible breakdown of a barrel choices in a 15yr old whisky.

barrels in a 15yr whisky

Whisky Expressions

When a whisky is an “expression”, that means that the distiller made the choice to pick any barrel that suited him in order to work towards a flavor he was striving to create. Very often it will be within a specific age window in order to keep the flavor profiles in a general direction and make them easier to “marry”.

For example, Jura’s “Superstition” is an expression of the Jura Distillery created using barrels between the ages of 13 to 21 years. That’s quite the gap.

Glenrothes is another distillery that does really lovely “expression” based releases.

The point?

The bottom line is they are both art forms. Both of them are dependent on the discretion and taste of a master at his craft.

Drink what you like.

By in Blog, Whiskies Comments Off on Jura Superstition

Jura Superstition

Day Fourteen in the Whisky Advent Calendar

*In this series, I’m working my way through the 2015 Master of Malt Whisky Advent. I had surgery in the middle, so we’re behind on the official dates.

Jura Superstition. I was introduced to Jura for the first time at the Whisky Event hosted by Opal Divine’s in Austin. Maybe one of the best whisky events I’ve ever attended in my life.

I’d never heard of it before that, and I was still new to the scotch world at the time, so I didn’t understand their use of Expression naming instead of age marker whiskies. Now that I understand that Jura focuses on taste expressions instead of tying themselves down to age markers, I love the art and risk behind their approach.

Isle of Jura SuperstitionHistory

Jura’s distillery was established in 1810, about 30 years after private distilling had been officially banned. But it wasn’t until the 1960’s that the Jura distillery as we know it now came to exist. The Isle of Jura itself is only seven miles wide, and 20 miles long, has one road, one pub, and one distillery. It’s an amazingly tight community of people whose Gaelic moniker is Diurachs.

Superstition is just one of their expressions, and it’s a lovely one.


I had surgery last week, and I’m only just getting back into this tasting thing. So I employed 3 friends to join me in the experience and recorded the discussion with my iPhone. I will post the transcript below with nicknames to protect the guilty.



Daniel: Tell me what you smell or taste and remember there are no wrong answers. All that’s happening is you brain trying to categorize the smells and tastes with things it already knows and understands.

Make sure you smell only close enough that it doesn’t burn. As soon as it starts to burn, you’re too close.

What do you smell.

SprayTan: It’s kind of sweet

The Serge: Maybe butterscotch?

Daniel: Yeah, caramel and butterscotch are going to be common things found it almost every whisky just because that’s what happens when you put alcohol in wood.

There’s something almost sickly sweet in the smell.

BoxWine: Yeah, I’m finding almost a floral smell like honeysuckle or something green or natural kind of sweetness.

Daniel: I think I’m picking up more cheese. Like some kind of stinky blue cheese or goat cheese or something,

BoxWine: Have you ever had the Bri where they put caramel on it? I think I get that. It’s not salty, just creamy and sweet.

SprayTan: I’ll be honest with you, so many times I come up and taste with you and I consistently maintain that Springbank is my favorite, and I’m not a scotch guy. But you guys have since named the Springbank the “Asshole Scotch”. And I’m worried about what that means.

Daniel & BoxWine: No, no, no, we named it the Asshole scotch before you were ever there.

SprayTan: Okay, good. That’s better. I was wondering if it was some sort of personal commentary.

So this is very sweet, but it’s hard to be poetic. I’m not really good at this scotch thing. I get the same carmel that The Serge said.

Daniel: Ok, let’s try a first sip.

I’m getting a weird vegetable combo with the cheese like a broccoli cheese thing or a vegetable green combo with the cheese.

SprayTan: I love cheese and I eat cheese all the time. I know exactly what you taste. I don’t get the broccoli thing, but I totally get the smoky cheese thing

Daniel: I caught a hint of that sourness in the smell, but it really showed up in the taste.

Okay, let’s add a few drops of water to open it a bit.

That definitely opened up more of the smoke but it’s less harsh.

BoxWine: Yeah, a bit of a campfire thing going on right now.

The Serge: Well this is my first tasting, so I’m not finding anything really specific.

BoxWine: Orange peel maybe?

Daniel: Yeah, but it’s a bit bitter.

BoxWine: Yeah, maybe the Orange Zest bitter notes instead of citrus.

SprayTan: I taste that too! Man, cheese and orange, damn you guys are good. I think it’s because you guys are saying it, but I’m totally getting it.

BoxWine: Yeah, I get that cheese but I’m also getting notes of rubber or tires. That’s the word that kept coming to mind. Or new leather? Or maybe the glue inside of antique furniture? Like an old bookshelf or the drawers in antique furniture?

Daniel: (smells the drawer of an antique dresser about 2 feet from the table) Yep. That’s it. You nailed that one. Smell this.

BoxWine: (goes over to smell the drawer). Yes. We look ridiculous, but that’s definitely it.

Daniel: Must be the glue in the process or something. Dust and mold.

SprayTan: Oh Man, we got cheese, tires, and old books, hot damn! That’s worth the price of admission right there! That’s crazy.

I don’t know how you arrive at that, but it makes a lot of sense.

I’ll be honest, most scotch I’ve tried all tastes the same to me except SpringBank. I taste it and I only taste one thing. But once you tell me to look for all those things and mention things like “Look for this on the front of your tongue”. or “Look for this as you swallow and take a breath”. I definitely taste all of those things. It’s really wild.

Daniel: It’s all about pattern recognition. It really has only to do with how often you’ve repeated something while looking for common elements and patterns. It’s not voodoo or magic, it’s just brain science and pattern recognition.

SprayTan: Yeah, but with a bit more hair on your chest.

Daniel: It’s fun isn’t it?

SprayTan: It’s fun if only you didn’t have to puke at the end of the process. “Oh, THERE’S the cheese”

lots of laughter

BoxWine: (smelling his glass), Hmmmm, urine, shit, and a bit of vomit. But you know, the fancy vomit. Like the vomit from an art gallery wine and cheese event. Not the vomit from a Frat Party.

You know. A wealthy person’s vomit.

*continued laughter

Daniel: Yeah, not poor people vomit. That’s the worst.

BoxWine: Like someone who only eats organic. Nice vomit.

Daniel: This should definitely be part of the marketing campaigns

SprayTan: It’s like the Best kind of vomit. Like vomit from Democrats. You know…. More pure.


Daniel: Alright, we’ve officially gone off the rails. Let’s call this one.

Thank you, gentleman.

If you made it this far, this one is for you. Because you know we were all thinking it.

By in Blog, Whiskies Comments Off on Glendronach 12 yr

Glendronach 12 yr

Day Thirteen in the Whisky Advent Calendar

*In this series, I’m working my way through the 2015 Master of Malt Whisky Advent.

I have the Glendronach 12yr and the Glendronach 15yr in my whisky vault at our school. That’s actually true of 10 of the thirteen whiskies I’ve tried so far. The downside of having over 300 whiskies in your own personal whisky vault is that when people try to surprise you with whisky, it rarely works. The upside is…. over 200 whiskies in your own personal whisky vault.

But I like Glendronach. I’m looking forward to trying to find something new in this one.


Glendronach distillery is on the far eastern tip of the Speyside region located in Aberdeenshire. It’s owned by BenRiach and is well sought after by blenders. It’s currently used in Ballantine’s and Teacher’s among others.

It was founded in 1826 and was one of the first distilleries to use sherry barrels. It’s traded hands many times over the years, and almost every time it was because the owners wanted to secure the use of the whisky in their blending recipes.

And it stands just as strong on its own two feet as it does in a blend.


Because it’s in the Speyside region, it still brings first notes of butterscotch to the nose, but the heavy use of Sherry barrels shows up just as strong.

The taste is all sherry, butter, and almost a raisin vibe. I hate raisins, so luckily it’s a small addition.

I wanted to mix this one up a bit, so I added two drops of water. That brought out the grass and grain in the smell. And it added a slight tinge of nutty bitterness to the taste that I love.

You should try that on any whisky. Neat, add two drops, add two more. You’ll find that almost every whisky has a sweet spot and it changes even in the same distillery.

Glendronach 12yr with two drops of water. Nailed it.

By in Blog, Whiskies Comments Off on Caol Ila 12yr

Caol Ila 12yr

Day Twelve in the Whisky Advent Calendar

*In this series, I’m working my way through the 2015 Master of Malt Whisky Advent.

Caol Ila 12yr is a very special Islay whisky. It has a completely different kind of smoky flavor than the instantly recognizable Laphroig or Lagavulin, and they’re only recently accessible by the outside world.


Caol Ila is Islay’s largest distillery. It’s on the side of Islay facing Isle of Jura, and up until recently used its whisky almost exclusively to supply other famous blends (like Johnnie Walker). It was founded in 1846 by Hector Henderson, did poorly, and changed hands in 1854 when it was bought by the Jura Distillery. In 1863 it was acquired by whisky traders, Bulloch Lade & Co. It’s currently owned by Diageo.


First experiences involve salt and citrus mixed with a bit of olive oil.

The taste presents smoke heavy at first, but it’s a much lighter kind of smoke than Laphroig, Ardbeg or Lagavulin. I would definitely call it a “lighter” whisky and without questions the lightest of the Islay whiskies that I’ve tried.

Remember that I’m assuming you prefer smoke, and you’re not being overwhelmed by that dominate taste. It’s really well balanced out. Both sweetness and smoke. Like bacon wrapped dessert treats.

Now that I’ve written that, immediately I began thinking of bacon-maple donuts. Imagine if you took hickory-smoked bacon, and laid it in strips on the top of a maple donut. That is totally the flavor I get here.

Get some. It’s a reasonably affordable single malt for such a high quality taste.

By in Blog, Whiskies Comments Off on Arran Single Malt Batch 4

Arran Single Malt Batch 4

Day Eleven in the Whisky Advent Calendar

*In this series, I’m working my way through the 2015 Master of Malt Whisky Advent.

Arran Special Edition Batch 4. Well played, Master of Malt.

This one is a special edition from That Boutique-y Whisky Company. It even has one of their custom labels by the artist Emily Chappell. I’m not really a fan of the label. Art is subjective, so it could be more your cup of tea. To me it looks like something you would buy at the merch table for a Jimmy Buffett concert.

Either way, Arran is one of my preferred distilleries, and I’ve never tried this one. Looking forward to it!


Arran Distillery is in Lochranza, Scotland, and it’s the only distillery on the Isle of Arran. It was founded in 1994 and had to have construction temporarily halted when a pair of Golden Eagles (a protected species) built their nest on a nearby cliff. It finished construction and opened in 1995.

They used to store barrels at Springbank’s distillery in Campbeltown (just to the east), but they now have a warehouse of their own.

Most of their products are unpeated, except Machrie Moor (a really amazing whisky). Their water source is the waters coming from the top of the mountain in Arran, and it’s considered to be some of the purest water in Scotland.


Full disclosure time.

When I tested this one, it was in a group at the pub in my office. And I’d been drinking Irish Whisky (Writer’s Tears from Walsh Distillery) since 4pm. So respond accordingly.

I hit record on my phone and did a verbal tasting with the whole group. So I’m mostly transcribing from that recording.

No peat, but definitely earth in the nose. Lots of spice notes. I almost smell hints of rye mixed with the caramel.

First taste introduces really lovely drama. All the spice shows up on the tongue. Cinnamon and vanilla but with a salty-grassy flavor.

I love this. I’m going to have to track this down if possible. I think I love this because it has so many flavors happening at once.

Other people in the room added a few other comments to the mix.

“It smells like lemongrass”

“It’s the newborn baby dropped into a pile of hay”

“Hints of licorice and bandaids”

“I get more moss than anything else”

“It tastes like insecurity and fear”

“It smells like the middle class”

“Butterscotch and green grass”

“Tastes like William F Buckley”

“Salted Dark Chocolate at least 85% Cocoa mixed with wood”

“Bitter but pleasant, almost like an ex-husband”



By in Blog, Whiskies Comments Off on Monkey Shoulder Blended Malt Scotch

Monkey Shoulder Blended Malt Scotch

Day Ten in the Whisky Advent Calendar

*In this series, I’m working my way through the 2015 Master of Malt Whisky Advent.

Monkey Shoulder is a true Blended Malt Scotch Whisky. That means it’s the product of multiple single malt scotches. In this case, it’s from their 2 neighboring Speyside distilleries. That means it includes whisky from Kininvie, Balvenie, and Glenfiddich, all of which are owned by William Grant & Sons.

monkey shoulderHistory

Kininvie Distillery is the creator of Monkey Shoulder. The distillery itself has only been open since 1990, but they’ve partnered with others in a few really wonderful creations. Normally their whisky is used in blends like Clan MacGregor. They’ve only released two single malts, Hazelwood 105 15yr and Hazelwood Reserve. I have a bottle of the Hazelwood 15yr, and I can honestly say I’m not a fan.

But Monkey Shoulder is something else. And it’s tasty. Where did get its name? I’ll let their own website answer that question.

The term ‘monkey shoulder’ harks back to our whisky making heritage. It’s a reference to a condition that maltmen sometimes picked up while working long shifts, turning the barley by hand. It had a tendency to cause their arm to hang down a bit like a monkey’s, so they nicknamed it ‘monkey shoulder’.


As usual, it has the Speyside carmel in the nose, but the grass and earth that Kininvie brings mixes with the caramel and lightness of the Balvenie. Not sure where Glenfiddich is in the smell, but we’ve only just begun.

If I remember correctly, there was a kind of aniseed funk in the Hazelwood that I couldn’t come to terms with. Let’s see if it made it through.



Only a bit! Mostly I get sweet wood mixed with grass and a hint of licorice (there’s the aniseed). It could be that I’m tasting citrus, but if so it more reminds me of those chocolate flavored orange wedges that show up during the holidays.

This is definitely one of the more quality blends, and I think anyone could stand strong recommending this as a great example of blended malts. I’d put this up against some of the Compass Box line with confidence. (not all of them though).

Thank you, Monkey Shoulder.