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Keepers of the Quaich

Single Malt Ambassadors

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Category: Offline Experiences

More generosity from Brother Bluff who brought his unopened Ardbeg 21 *retails for over $600 at Master of Malt* to an unofficial (homemade) sushi pairing tasting at the home of Brother Bop. Demonstrating his status as a model ambassador of single malts, Bluff shows the proper way to transport Ardbeg 21.

Ardbeg 21 buckled in for the ride home

In June, 2016 Brother Bluff opened his spirit armoire to an unofficial tasting for all those able to attend. By no means representing the full extent of the wonder contained therein, his generosity for this tasting focused on his largesse of new and unusual expressions which, outside of perhaps Ardbeg Alligator, were completely new experiences for all in attendance. Bluff may very well be the premiere single malt purchaser and consumer in the Chicago area when perspective, experience, creativity, dedication, and personal means are all factored together.

Ardbeg Alligator

Ardbeg Dark Cove

Balblair 1999

Craigduff 32 Signatory Cask Strength Collection

Longrow 18

Lagavulin Islay Jazz Festival

Lavagulin 8

Macallan Whisky Maker’s Edition

Finlaggan Old Reserve Islay Single Malt

Wolfburn Initial Release (3 yo)

The Duncan Taylor Octave Collection

Circled back to Delmonico in The Palazzo on my recent Vegas excursion. I wanted to have the seared ahi with the bone marrow Bearnaise (wasn’t on the menu, had Rambler’s bbq salmon over andouille hash; also amazing) and, of course, I wanted another crack at their “book of whisky”. It took me about 20 minutes, given the scope of their book, but I decided to try an expression from a distillery I hadn’t had before and one caught my eye: MacDuff. MacDuff is interesting to me because they sometimes release expressions under the brand “Glen Deveron”, which I find quite unique in the industry, yet here was a MacDuff branded expression:


MacDuff 14, Vintage 1998, Duncan Taylor “Octave”

The specific expression was an independent bottling from Duncan Taylor’s “Octave Collection”. An “octave” is a cask that is 1/8th the size of a standard cask and contains approximately 50 litres of whisky providing a higher wood to spirit contact ratio developing more character.

The 1998 Vintage is cask strength yet I didn’t even notice. What was remarkable to me was the light orange in the nose and the palate and, in short, that the nose, the palate, and the finish were all tremendous. Any one of those is a welcome experience. Getting two of three is the sign of something special. But, to get all three made this a truly memorable single malt. I enjoyed the dram pre-dinner along with my beef carpaccio which turned out to be an inspired pairing.

The GREAT news is this expression is widely available including at all Binny’s. To all of the upcoming Fear ‘an Tighs please, PLEASE consider putting this expression (and possibly other Octaves) in your tasting lineup!

Dallas Dhu 1975

Good Christmas Eve story from friend of the KOTQ, Doug. His brother-in-law invited him to his special liquor area and told him to bring back anything he’d like to drink. Doug looked for the single malts and found two: a Signatory Dallas Dhu 1975 and LadyBurn 1973; both dismantled distilleries. It turns out that his brother-in-law was friends with the legendary Joe C of Binny’s who gave Doug’s brother-in-law Christmas gifts from Binny’s rare spirit vault every year for a time. In fact the Dallas Dhu was a bottling made from a cask hand-picked by Joe for a special Binny’s release. Every guest at the Christmas Eve party was not a single malt drinker (other than Doug) yet he had them all share in the experience. They were so overwhelmed by the smoothness of the Dallas Dhu yet remaining sweet and mildly spicy that the 8 of them finished the entire bottle that night. Twas the night before Christmas indeed! They were so wrapped up in the Dallas Dhu that they saved the LadyBurn for another time. I heard that they had never opened the LadyBurn and I asked him if his brother-in-law intends on drinking it our investing in it as a collectible. Truth is, I’ve never even seen an LadyBurn and told him I knew a buyer if he was looking to sell 😉

As if they need to advertise

I just spent a week in London with my wife and I was fortunate that The Whisky Exchange was right in the heart of the one of the areas we hung out in. Near Shakespeare’s Globe Theater and the Tate Modern Art Gallery is an elegant and modern wine and spirit exchange called Vinopolis. The Whisky Exchange, a mecca for single malt enthusiasts and a great place to source UK-only or hard to find bottlings, is situated right at the heart of Vinopolis. But, just in case you need reminding they keep this sandwich board advertisement out on the street.

Here I am doing my level best to look the part of a single malt aficionado. This is just one corner of the store. There are at least two glass cases of rare bottlings, one of which you see in this photo. The store is smart and open and you are surrounded by beautiful bottlings. It took me a good while to peruse the store and my wife was very patient throughout and helped me locate certain bottlings.

The shelf full of Talisker was of particular interest; showcasing a number of UK-only Taliskers (the first 2 listed were released in spring 2013) along with the discontinued 175th Anniversary bottling. “Storm” is their 10 kicked up a notch (or two). “Port Ruighe” (pronounced Portree) is their port finish. “57° North” is a limited cask strength bottling. “175th anniversary” we tasted in 2009 which as I remember is a rare beauty. I probably should have snagged some of these as the first three are only currently available in the UK; but I found out after I returned 🙁

I ended up buying three bottles. I wanted to complete Brother Brass’s “Distiller’s Edition” tasting lineup he is designing so I bought the Clynelish “D”. I noticed right away “The Spirit of Lewis” expression which is the first release from the new Abhainn Dearg distillery on the Isle of Lewis which I know you cannot find in the States. I love island distilleries and I was excited to be able to pick this one up. Finally, Fettercairn is a difficult distillery to source in the US so when I saw the Fasque I just had to have it.

One corner of The Whisky Exchange in London

The Talisker shelf at TWE

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