Man walks into a Pub – Pete Brown

It’s been ages since I finished a book, let alone one that has some significance for the blog. But, last week I started commuting by train again, and that means at least 40 minutes of reading extra per day. In some cases I don’t even mind delays, depending on which book I’m reading.

Anyway, I finally finished ‘Man walks into a Pub’. Finally does not mean it’s a bad read, but it does mean I didn’t get around to it as quickly as I would have liked.

The book is a history of British pubs, and therefore a history of beer in England. I felt the time was right in reading it now since I’m going to Dorset for a week soon. I should know what I’m getting in to, right? I already checked the Camra website and it seems the Best Real Cider pub of the UK is near where we’re staying. So that’s a good thing.

Anyway. The review in short is: Read this book. It’s awesome. Although it stretches back some 500 years it is nicely focused on the periods that matter, sometimes making jumps spanning decades in which not much happened.

It start with ale houses, inns and stage coaches. While this is all quite interesting I was more interested in more recent times, and that’s where the biggest part of the book focuses on. From the first world war and the temperance movement from that era onward to current times is more than half of the book and it’s very interesting to read how the brewers got bigger and bigger. How the pubs sometimes had to close down because of changing social and economic standards, and how a pub was obliged to open if it had a license in WW2.

Add to that the history of beer itself and what styles were popular at which times, and more interestingly, why they were popular and you’ve got a great read. While all this info might sound a little stale at times, it’s written in a very affable manner and isn’t lecturing at all.

There’s enough jokes and cynicism to entertain me (and I am cynical of a lot of things). The book and more important, the writer don’t take themselves too serious. Also, while I’m not much of a lager drinker, I find it very refreshing that lager is an important part of the story told and Pete Brown is never condescending towards lager drinkers. He even admits to being one himself. That doesn’t happen often in professional beer writing!

So, if you have an inkling of curiosity towards British pubs, or beer in England, you really want to read his book. You also might want to pledge a couple of bucks to his new book in which he will write in depth about the ingredients that make a beer a beer.

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Oban 12, decanter from the 1970s

A bit of a divergent title since there’s not much info in there. Funny thing is, there’s not much info on the bottle either. No ABV, no contents. Just that it’s been bottled by John Hopkins & Sons. Based on the tax label info it’s from somewhere in the 1970s.

What I do know is that I like Oban, in general. There aren’t many out there I won’t say I’ve tried a lot of them, but even the regular 14 year old is a pretty decent dram. One of the better standard whiskies, I think.

I got a sample of this in a recent trade, and that’s a good thing. I finally get to try older Oban from one of those decanter bottles. I’ve been eyeballing those in auctions for a long time but there was always something else to go after. Now I get to check whether that was a good thing to do.

The nose is light, but has some of OBE (Old Bottle Effect) which makes you recognize it as an old bottle straight away. Quite coastal with a gentle layer of smoke. Some oak pulp, leather an old books. Like an old library with armchairs. Dusty grain, wet, moldy cellars and wet cement. Somehow there’s also a hint of yeasty sherry and sawdust. Quite cloyingly sweet with a lot of fruit. Overripe mango and papaya.

The palate is more rich and full than I expected from such an old whisky. Sweet again with the overripe fruit. Leather, oak, old wood. Slightly salty an that wet cellar scent again. Dunnage warehouses and books.

The finish continues down the same path. A library from a couple of decades ago, with armchairs and a sea facing window that’s open. Quite old fashioned. Heavy and slightly cloying.

It’s quite interesting how much this whisky reminds me of the current Benromach 10 year old. Apart from that, it’s a great dram. There’s so much going on for a regular 12 year old. With booze like this I can imagine people considering older single malts (not in age, but when they were distilled) are better than their current counterparts.

I love that there’s a slight coastal note going on behind all the old books and leather notes. It makes for a very interesting and deeply layered dram. I absolutely love this kind of stuff and I can imagine it being in my next auction biddings. Whether or not it’s going to be in the winnings is an entirely different story, with current prices being north of € 200.

Oh, and based on ABV, I’d say this is a 43% whisky.

Oban 12, no further info but probably from the late 70s. Currently worth some € 250

EDIT: I’ve checked the tax label, and it’s one of those Italian ones. The contents of the bottle is ‘da litri 3/4’, and according to my own research with help from Max Righi we found that this wasn’t done after 1977. So, a real oldie with distillate of 1965 at the latest!

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Old Pulteney 2000-2014, 14yo, 61.1%, Hand bottled at the Distillery

Somehow I don’t try many Old Pulteneys. That’s more strange since I generally really enjoy the taste and aroma it brings, with gentle briny notes covered in fruit and vanilla.

Deducing from that you might say I prefer the bourbon casks of Pulteney Distillery, and you’d be right. So, when I could get my hands on a sample of the Hand Bottled version from last year, I did so.

What’s surprising is that after 14 years in oak, the ABV is still above 60%, and this makes me guess they filled it slightly above the usual 63.5%. Especially in a wet climate like Wick’s I’d expect to have much more alcohol evaporation and the declining ABV that goes with it.

Or, it was just a really dense grained cask. Really dense.

Image from Whiskybase

Image from Whiskybase

I think I get a minor whiff of smoke from the start. There’s vanilla and yellow fruits, which I expected. Apple, pineapple. There’s a sugary sweetness going on and a trace of pastry cream. Apart from the smoke we’re still talking bakery here! Some lemony notes too.

The palate is sharp and drying, and that’s not all that surprising. There’s hints of freshly sawed oak. White pepper and alcohol, vanilla. It’s quite sweet still with the hints of fruit and pastry cream being present here too.

The palate is warming and sharp. Again there’s vanilla and sweet bread. Brioche like. Some lemony notes again, but those are faint. Not overly long.

If I just regard the taste of the whisky, without any other factor measured in, I’d be thrilled with a dram like this. It shows the default Old Pulteney flavors and does so in a great and fierce way.

However, when I’d be bottling a distillery only version of a whisky, I always hope that it’s going to be a little extra special. Or maybe it’s more that if I try a distillery only whisky, I miss the experience of bottling it myself and the whisky has to do all the talking. In that situation, this one is good, but it just misses that little extra nudge to make it stand out a little more.

So, this is one of those cases that if it had been me at the distillery having to shell out some 70 quid for this bottling, I’d gladly do so. If I’d have to buy it elsewhere, I might have skipped it.

Then again. In the current climate in which a 15 year old cask strength costs € 100 and this single cask clocks in just below that. I’d still gladly buy it and be happy with it. How things have changed.

Old Pulteney 2000-2014, 14 years old, Bourbon Cask 649, Hand bottled at the distillery, 61.1%. Currently about € 95

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Two new bottle shares!

I’ve been doing bottle shares since forever, and recently I started a group on Facebook (hidden and such) for the usual suspects of them. Those guys get first crack since they’re participating a lot and also because they’re in The Netherlands. That’s just making things easier for me.

The following two didn’t fill up there, so now’s the chance for everybody else to join in the fun!

Bottle share: Compass Box Flaming Heart Anniversary Edition and Compass Box ‘This is not a Luxury Whisky’.

‘This is not a Luxury Whisky’ is a blended whisky from Compass Box, and the next in line of their rather awesome blends (remember The Lost Blend and The General?). In this case it’s a whisky made up of:

  • 79% 19 year old malt whisky aged in first fill Sherry butts from the Glen Ord Distillery
  • 10.1% 40 year old grain whisky from the Strathclyde distillery,
  • 6.9% 40 year old grain whisky from the Girvan distillery and
  • 4% 30 year old malt whisky from the Caol Ila distillery.

It is bottled at 53.1%.

‘Flaming Heart’ is one of their usual suspects but this one is slightly more luxurious since it’s the anniversary edition. They’ve already released some other anniversary editions but this is the newest and the first I’m actually going to do a bottle-share of. This one is made up of:

  • 27.1% of 30 year old and 38.5% 14 year old Caol Ila whisky
  • 24.1% of 20 year old whisky from Clynelish
  • 10.3% of undisclosed Highland whisky aged in ‘French Oak hybrid casks’

It is bottled at 48.9%

5 cl of this bottle share will cost € 30, 10 cl will cost € 60 and so on.

If there’s enough enthusiasm I might also do the other Anniversary editions, but first have to get this going.

Currently there’s 40cl available.

Bottle share: Willett whiskey

I’ve always been enthused by Willett whiskey. They used to have ancient ryes available but those have all gone and go for astronomical prices in auction. So, we’re down to the younger branches of the family.


This bottle-share will consist of the following:

Willett 2yo Rye (own distillate) op 55.4%
Willett 2yo Rye (own distillate) op 54.9%
Willett 6yo Rye op 58.7%
Willett 8yo Rye op 58.8%
Willett 7yo XCF op 51.7%

Own distillate means that they’ve distilled this themselves. The brand never went away, but the distillery was shut down for a long time. They’ve been firing the still for a couple of years now and the two year olds are from themselves. The others are from MGP in Indiana.

The XCF is an Exploratory Cask Finish, in this case a French Curacao cask. Curacao is a liqueur made of Laraha fruit (a citrus fruit native to Curacao). This is the expensive one in the list.

5cl of these costs € 40, 10cl is a tad cheaper at € 75

Currently there’s 50cl available

Let’s hear it!

Full disclosure:

Prices are calculated as follows. I order the bottles and the total amount of that is split by 12 or 13 (so I get my sample of either 10cl or 5cl for free). I then add a couple bucks for the bottles. Packaging is included in the price.

Why do I get my stuff for free? Because I organize this, obviously. There’s a lot of work involved in sampling, labeling, going through the post office. It also counts as a fee for those who bail after participating. Unfortunately that happens and can be a drain on funds in some cases.

Posted in - American Whiskey, - Blended Malt, - Blended Whisky, - Bottle share | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Maltstock 2015 – Saturday

I was going to say that Maltstock days begin with the most awesome breakfast ever. However, this one started with a massive headache. Not overly surprising, but most unwelcome for sure. Rehydration starts.

Then came breakfast. For a couple of years Wullie Macmorland of Hielander in Alkmaar has organized this and it’s awesome. I simply love the Scottish breakfast and this guy sure knows what he’s doing. As I was agreeing multiple times with everybody around me, this is one of the main reasons for coming to Maltstock. No kidding.

I nicked Gal's picture

I nicked Gal‘s picture

After breakfast it’s time for the ‘detox walk’. It should be named ‘retox’ instead, since Highland Park organizes it and that means that, apart from walking for an hour or so, you also get to try a couple of drams. In this case the Highland Park 10 and Highland Park 25. There might have been another one but I can’t remember which one.

They also did some kind of smuggling game in which we had to find ‘hidden’ bottles of Highland Park 10. I found two. It won me a way too large t-shirt and a set of cuff links. I might have to start wearing proper shirts because of it. (Big shout out to Highland Park!)

The afternoon was spent trying whiskies that people brought, eating sandwiches, drinking lots and lots of water and general merrymaking with a lot of whisky friends. Oh, and there was also a few masterclasses. William Grant and Sons. Kevin Abrook hosted it and he’s brand manager for the innovation brands. That means no Glenfiddich and Balvenie, but Girvan, Ladyburn, Kininvie and Ailsa Bay. There was also a blended whisky from the Rare Cask Reserve series. I hadn’t heard from it but it went straight to the wish list. More on this masterclass later.

I nicked Ansgar's picture

I nicked Ansgar‘s picture

Niels Viveen hosted a masterclass on Mars Whisky from Japan. It was interesting with a lot of not-commercial info on the brand, which was a nice change of pace. Almost right after this the barbecue dinner started. Or in this case, barbequeue, but it wasn’t too bad. I got some food in before I had to run to get to the Masterclass of Billy Abbott for The Whisky Exchange. Well, actually is was a Single Malts of Scotland masterclass. That too was fun.

At night it was more barbecue. A lot of drams here and there. Lots of chatting and meeting old and new friends. The campfire was ‘last’, which means that after that I didn’t have anything planned. It was hosted by Highland Park (again) and where it used to be a sort of stand-up comedy with a dram or two, it now was a full blown whisky tasting. Highland Park ‘Ambassador’s Cask’, 15 and 18 came by. Then there was a Highland Park Vintage 1979 Ambassador’s Cask 4 at 56.1%. Now that was a dram!

Of course, more booze was had after, but I stuck to beers. I had been all whisky’d out.

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Maltstock 2015 – Friday

So, Maltstock is over for another year. This weekend was riddled with beer and whisky from about 2pm on Friday, to 2am on Sunday morning/Saturday night. I wisely kept off the booze the rest of Sunday.

I was allotted three masterclasses: Douglas Laing, William Grant and Sons, and finally Mars Whisky. In the end I had way more whisky than expected in semi official setup, since Saturday morning’s ‘detox walk’ ended up being a ‘retox walk’ instead (thanks to Highland Park). Also, I ended up going to Billy Abbott’s masterclass for The Whisky Exchange too, since my buddy TT wasn’t feeling up to it. And there was the midnight campfire with a bunch of Highland Park whiskies again.

I’ll start the write up with some general comments and reflections of Friday. Saturday will follow tomorrow. I’ve not yet decided whether or not to do a full write up of the masterclasses since I might also do that in De Kiln (our club magazine).


Anyway, Friday was an early riser for the Maltstock trip. I picked up TT and Gal Granov (of Whisky Israel fame). Of course, Gal’s luggage was delayed before it hit the belt. Then we waited for one of his friends who rented a car. Things went slowly so far.

After getting about an hour and a half delay in hitting the road we drove to Sint Oedenrode to visit The Old Pipe. One of my favorite whisky shops when I still lived in Den Bosch. I hadn’t been there for five years or so and by visiting it again I realized I should get that one on the regular list again.

About 10% of what's available

About 10% of what’s available

The shop is awesome. Booze-boner awesome. They have everything they can get from Adelphi, they have boat loads of The Whisky Agency, Ultimate, Creative Whisky Company and many, many others. Also a lot of older stuff that’s just a big surprise that it’s still out there.

Of course, I went in with every intention of not buying anything, but in a little speck of heaven that’s just impossible. I got a bottle of Willett 2yo (their own distillate) and a Ledaig 18. I also set up an upcoming bottle share of Willett whiskey (2x 2yo, 4yo, 8yo and XCF, keep an eye on Facebook). My buddies bought some stuff as well, of course.

After that it was time for pancakes next to the Maltstock venue. We met up with loads of usual suspects and some new folks too. Double bacon pancakes and Westmalle Dubbel for the win!

Double bacon pancake

Double bacon pancake

Maltstock opened at four. We went in, dropped off our bags and put our contribution for the sharing table out on, well, the sharing table. Then we had some drams while shaking hands with folks we hadn’t seen in ages. It was good. I didn’t even try to take pictures of what I had. I also don’t remember.

In between pizzas it was time for Jan Beckers’ masterclass for Douglas Laing (more on that soon). When the Maltstock folks emailed that there would a pizza and a half for each, I thought they had seriously overestimated our guts. They didn’t. That stuff filled like paper, after this much booze.

At night it was time for the whisky quiz in which I didn’t do particularly well. No prize this time, but it was good fun and I got to meet some new people again. I hung around with Kevin Abrook from William Grants and Sons, who would be hosting the masterclass the next day. Also a couple of Germans I didn’t know (David and Isabella). We had gin tonics. We shouldn’t have.

I think I tucked in just before 2am. I was getting drunk and I didn’t want to ruin the Saturday so I stopped just in time.

In short: It was awesome. I had great booze. I met great folks.

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Bunnahabhain 6yo, 2007-2014, 61.4% – SMWS (10.77, Beware of the Monster)

It’s been a while since I reviewed a random SMWS sample, but this one came up in a grab from my sample box, and I should get through them eventually.

Does that indicate that I didn’t really feel like reviewing this? Maybe. I didn’t have anything against it either. Also, I only had a tiny bit of information from the label (the number indicating the distillery), so I went at it rather blind. No age, no ABV, no cask type or anything given.

Bunnahabhain is a bit of a mixed bag nowadays. I really like the old ones where they went for the more mellow style of Islay whiskies and I, generally, am not a huge fan of all the heavily peated stuff that comes out.

Image nicked from Reddit

Image nicked from Reddit

The nose is very light and malty. Young and a bit salty. It’s really sharp with a tiny bit of sweetness. Some tangerine, lemon. Lots of malt, in the shortbread kind of way.

The palate is tingling and sharp. Some oak, a lot of malt and that citrus note is back again too. Some lychee and a bit more sweetness than on the nose. Slightly salty again but with lots and lots of alcohol.

The finish is quite different with flint and even a bit of an asphalt flavor. Malty and sweet with some light fruits.

I wasn’t thrilled with this one. It lacks depth and every bit of complexity. With so much alcohol going on (which you don’t need on the label to figure out) it’s hard to find anything except malt. Mind, I don’t have anything against malty whiskies, but this one shows just that.

After finding out it’s a young and strong one it makes sense. Six and a bit years is just not enough (normally, I know there are exceptions) to pick up a lot of depth and interestingness.

I think it’s a shame that this is getting more and more regular nowadays. I see a lot of bottlers out there releasing really young whiskies of which you can see they didn’t pick up much from the cask. The color, as with this one, is almost like water. On the nose you get mostly alcohol and the malty sweetness of spirit.

Technically nothing is wrong with this dram, but I’m glad I didn’t pick up a bottle of it.

Bunnahabhain 6yo, 2007-2014, 61.4%, Refill bourbon hogshead, SMWS (10.77, Beware of the Monster)

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