During DramFest 2018 we saw several distilleries taking the opportunity to release new and exciting expressions to the hard-core whisky lovers who attended. Three such malts caught my attention, mostly due to their individual uniqueness as well as their stunning expressive natures.

Teeling Brabazon Series 2 Port Cask

The eagerly awaited second release in the Brabazon Series, this time highlighting the influence of Port casks. With Ruby, Tawny and White Port casks all used in the maturation process, each providing vastly differing characters. The Tawny Port brings a rich nuttiness with dark chocolate and spice, the Ruby Port a clean ripe fruit and candied apple, whilst the White Port lightens the palate with citrus notes of Orange alongside peach and plum.

Teeling Revival Volume IV 15 Years Old Muscat Cask Finish

Volume IV and the penultimate release in the Revival Series celebrating the opening of the Teeling Distillery in Dublin, and with it the reawakening of the rich history of whiskey in Ireland and Dublin specifically. This Single Malt was aged for 14 years in ex-bourbon barrels before resting for a further 12 months in ex-Muscat casks.  2017’s “Best Irish Whiskey of the Year”, the malt delivers peach, pineapple and mandarin with a hint of Chantilly cream.

The GlenDronach Peated Port Wood

A somewhat unusual release from the team at GlenDronach, but one that I am certainly glad they have produced! The rich and ripe fruits and berries from the Port Pipes layers perfectly over the smokiness of the peated malt. I’ve previously described this malt as reminiscent of homemade smoked plum barbeque sauce, with the rich smoke, sweet malt and ripe berries combine for a stunning malt that sits outside the sherried expressions associated with GlenDronach.

It is the exciting malts like these three that keep me coming back for more. We are now seeing the foresight and creative outlook of the distillers, with choices made a decade or more ago only now coming to fruition.

Tonci Jakicevich

DramFest 2018

On Friday 2nd of March, Jak, Aroha and myself made our way to Christchurch for the 2018 edition of DramFest. Our first evening in the garden city started … in the Botanical Gardens … with a rousing game of Whisky Quiz with the traveling whisky experts.

Held every second year, DramFest has fast become New Zealand’s (and possibly the Southern Hemisphere’s) premier whisky festival, attracting the highest calibre of brand ambassadors, master distillers, blenders and journalists. Taking place over two days in Christchurch’s Horncastle Arena, the event plays host to over 1000 avid whisky lovers each day, giving them direct access to the producers and ambassadors of their favourite elixirs.

This year included a special guest spirit, Rum! With Mount Gay, Diplomatico, Plantation and the Scottish Independent bottlings of Kill Devil sitting alongside the mainstay spirit category of Whisky (and Whiskey) produced in Scotland, Ireland, USA, Japan, India and New Zealand. The rich, sweet and aromatic spirit sits well alongside the whiskies, as the spirit starts to get taken more seriously we are seeing seriously special releases entering the market.

Whilst the prime reason for our journey south was to represent a brand we here at Glengarry proudly import ourselves, Wemyss, a producer best known for their top-notch Single Cask releases and now making waves with their great quality but also vastly affordable blended malts (previously known as Vatted Malts) range, we took advantage of the opportunity and explored the vast range of products on show. Our malts on show were:

  • Wemyss ‘The Hive’ 12 Year Old Blended Malt: This is a blended malt made using the Malt Whisky from 16 distilleries across the Lowland, Highland and Speyside regions. To get the desired honey and floral notes of ‘The Hive’ Wemyss use a majority of Speyside malts.
  • Wemyss Single Cask ‘Frost Molasses Tart’ Invergordon 1988: A ‘Single Grain’, rather than a ‘Single Malt’, this single cask bottling was possibly the best malt on offer at the show, and we had many repeat customers telling us so. The malt was divine, with a rich molasses vein running through the centre with hints of spice and roasted almonds.

DramFest is a great opportunity to try the new and exciting expressions from many of your favourite producers. Cardrona Distillery had several intriguing items including; a Gin aged for 6-months in an ex-bourbon cask, and two sneak peaks at their Single Malt spirit. Not yet old enough to be called a whisky, these two expressions were aged for 2 years, one in ex-bourbon the other in ex-sherry casks and served at a whopping 66% alcohol.

The two five-hour long sessions were over far too quickly, with many drams left unsampled and waiting for my visit in two years time! Until then, join us at one of our Monthly Malt Clubs and experience the rich fabric and stories that whisky and its producers provide!

Tonci Jakicevich

The Whisky Adventure Part V: Tonci’s tour of distilleries in Scotland and Ireland

Glengarry Wines‘ Operations Manager, Tonci Jakicevich, was lucky to participate in a tour of distilleries in Scotland and Ireland during February. Here Tonci recounts his experiences of Glenglassaugh, BenRiach, GlenDronach, The Speyside Cooperage, and Slane in a five part series.


Upon arrival into Dublin we were quickly whisked north to Slane on what is touted the straightest road in Ireland, built to give King George IV the quickest route (no pun intended) to his mistress the Marchioness of Conyngham of Slane. Our accommodation for the night was the Conyngham Arms Hotel, three doors down from the jovial Boyles Pub, host to the talented Wednesday Gang, a session band that returned on a Thursday for our group especially. Boyles was an absolute classic of an Irish pub, where the bell for “Last Call” didn’t really mean anything except “You want another round yet?”

After the loud and joyous night in Boyles, our group was a little ginger the next morning as we made our way to Slane Castle, the stables of which now house the state-of-the-art and incredibly energy savvy Slane Distillery. Our tour guide was Alex Conyngham, an Earl and son of the 8th Marquess of Slane Henry Conyngham.

The distillery is not yet fully operational, although they hoped to be up and running a week or two following our visit. The Conyngham family have merged projects of rebuilding and renovating the original stables complex and the developing a new source of income for the Conyngham Estate at Slane Castle, with the commissioning of their new distillery, done in partnership with Brown-Forman. Using the heritage listed complex has added a complexity to this project, and influenced the design of the system including the shape of the three stills, which are narrow and deeper than commonly seen. The swan-necks of the stills are pushed through the walls of the building, with the condensing units outside due to the buildings limited internal space.

Slane currently has only one expression on the market, made using a mixture of Grain and Malt whiskies purchased at various stages of maturation. These whiskies were then blended to create the base which was then vatted into three forms of cask; Virgin American Oak barrels (made with a medium char and heavy toast), Ex-Bourbon & Tennessee Whiskey Barrels, and Olorosso Sherry Puncheons. A unique offering, this whiskey is bursting with ripe orchard fruits, caramel and butterscotch with brown sugar and spice. Well suited to being enjoyed neat or on ice, this whiskey also provides a good base for many classic cocktails including the Irish Coffee.

Slane has long been famous for the music festivals hosted on the grounds, making full use of the natural amphitheatre at the base of the castle itself. Since 1981, the famous acts to play have include Thin Lizzy, The Foo Fighters, U2, Madonna, Bruce Springsteen and Oasis.

Although production has yet to begin, I look forward eagerly to trying the Slane Whiskeys as they plan to produce a wide range including Single Grain, Single Malt and the Irish specialty of Single Pot Still Whiskey made using a large portion of un-malted barley. This is a style of whiskey the Irish developed to avoid taxes on malted barley, but resulted in a unique flavour profile.

A tour of Slane Castle proper only served to highlight the unique footprint that the Conyngham family have left on their country, a rich tapestry of stories and history that will only be emboldened with their latest project.

Slane Hill, which rises above the town itself, is the site St Patrick lit the first Paschal fire, a sign of Christianity and the start of the annual celebration St Paddy’s Day. A visit and cheeky dram on the hill was consumed before we made our way back to Dublin. Two nights of pub and bar visits, taking in the Friday and Saturday nights of Dublin then a repeat of our 36-hour odyssey home.

With the whisky (or whiskey) adventure now complete, I’m left with a raft of lasting memories highlighting the rich history behind Uisge Beatha, the characters that carry forward the traditions or look to lay the foundations for new traditions. Until next time, Slainte!

Tonci Jakicevich

The Whisky Adventure Part IV: Tonci’s tour of distilleries in Scotland and Ireland

Glengarry Wines‘ Operations Manager, Tonci Jakicevich, was lucky to participate in a tour of distilleries in Scotland and Ireland during February. Here Tonci recounts his experiences of Glenglassaugh, BenRiach, GlenDronach, The Speyside Cooperage, and Slane in a five part series.

The Speyside Cooperage

With our tour of the GlenDronach facilities complete, we again jumped in our convoy of mini-vans heading towards the Speyside Cooperage in Craigellachie for a tour and demonstration. Good quality casks can have a lifetime of 60+ years, although that level of longevity often requires careful maintenance often done by the specialised team of Coopers at the Speyside Cooperage. Paid by the completed barrels, not by the hour, watching the team work is tiring in itself. Barrels are examined for faults, stripped down and the guilty staves replaced using the same age and style of oak. It is an impressive process to watch, and the Coopers have a 4 year apprenticeship to learn their trade.

With the tour of the Cooperage, and the pre-requisite crawl through small town pubs our short stay in Scotland was drawing to a close. We now make our way to Ireland, where Whiskey is spelt with an ‘E’ and is said to have been invented!

Tonci Jakicevich

The Whisky Adventure Part III: Tonci’s tour of distilleries in Scotland and Ireland

Glengarry Wines‘ Operations Manager, Tonci Jakicevich, was lucky to participate in a tour of distilleries in Scotland and Ireland during February. Here Tonci recounts his experiences of Glenglassaugh, BenRiach, GlenDronach, The Speyside Cooperage, and Slane in a five part series.


As mentioned earlier, our home during our short stay in Scotland was the Glen House, which shares the grounds and pre-dates the building of the GlenDronach distillery. Located in a Glen (valley) alongside the Dronach Burn (river), the GlenDronach distillery was built in 1826 making it the elder-statesman of the three distilleries in the BenRiach Distilling Company. Much of the equipment and processes remain unchanged, although production was increased in the 1960s with the addition of a second set of stills. Amazingly, at the time the decision was made to have an exact replica of their original spirits safe made to ensure cohesion and to continue the traditions.

The washbacks at GlenDronach are all traditional timber, however they are made using Scottish Spruce instead of the usual Douglas Fir (also known as Oregon Pine). The Under Back is also an usual beauty, of cast iron and copper.

Maturation at GlenDronach is almost exclusively done in Sherry Butts and Puncheons, which provides the rich, round and spicy character that the brand has long been known for. There is however a small selection of unique finishing’s, found amongst the rare and much sought after ‘Batch Releases’.

The Manager’s Cask available for Hand Filling at the distilleries visitor centre during our stay was a 1st Fill Olorosso Sherry Butt, filled on the 12th February 1993. Considering this is 1 day (and 3 years) after my own birth I had little choice but purchase one myself. Sampling of the malt was graciously accepted, as I hope to keep this bottle as part of my collection, and the dark mahogany liquid did not disappoint! The nose indicated the heavy sherry influence, with dark dried fruits, heavy roasted nuts and a hint of bitter chocolate and coffee. The palate was rich and bold, with bitter chocolate, muscovado sugar and prunes. The finish was long, but lifted by the warmth of its cask strength.

Our tasting featured two unique GlenDronach malts, first was a 1992 Single Cask 25 Year Old. This shared much in common with the Manager’s Casks, with a depth of colour hinting at 2nd if not 1st fill sherry cask maturation. It was again sherry influenced, with dried apricot and prunes on toffee oat cakes.

Our second malt was a more unusual offering from the GlenDronach stables, a peated malt that was finished in Port Pipes. With a stunning red hue in the glass, the peat smoke stood between whiffs of red berries and plum. On the palate this malt instantly conjured up memories of the Plum Barbecue sauce my father has always basted his Pork Ribs with. The smoke, layered with the rich and sweet plum and a hint of spice. A vibrant red fruit note towards the finish to cleanse the palate, ready for another sip.

Tonci Jakicevich

The Whisky Adventure Part II: Tonci’s tour of distilleries in Scotland and Ireland

Glengarry Wines‘ Operations Manager, Tonci Jakicevich, was lucky to participate in a tour of distilleries in Scotland and Ireland during February. Here Tonci recounts his experiences of Glenglassaugh, BenRiach, GlenDronach, The Speyside Cooperage, and Slane in a five part series.


Following a delicious lunch served with a ‘pint of heavy’ at the Station Hotel in Portsoy, our convoy of mini-vans crossed the River Spey to the BenRiach distillery in the ‘heart of Speyside’. Built in 1898, only 2 years before the 1900 ‘Pattinson Crash’, BenRiach was only open a short number of years before closing, remaining so for 65 years.

“Warehouse 13”, BenRiach’s ‘Area51’, has long been home to an amazing array of malts aging in unique and wonderful cask selections. During our visit, Callum the warehouse manager at BenRiach took us through the barrel house selecting two such casks for us to sample. Our first dram was stilled in 1976 before entering the 3rd fill Sherry Butt in which it still sits. Tasted at cask strength (unknown, but expected to be in the high 40’s) and at warehouse temperatures (a cool 3-4c.) the whisky needed warming in the hands for the nose to truly open up, but once it did WOW! Honeyed fruit, roasted nuts and spice were layered over hints of barley and oak. The palate was rich, round and mouth filling, with apricot jam and roasted almonds and walnuts. Our second cask sampling was just as special, distilled in 1988, it has had an extended maturation of 10 years in a Tokay wine cask. A deep amber in the glass, this dram was all honey and spice with a hint of orange peel and candied ginger. It hinted at bees wax and citrus towards the long, lingering finish.

Our day was completed with a trip to Elgin, where we were thrown onto the ice and given lessons in Curling. With the Winter Olympics in full swing, the whole group threw themselves at this challenge whole-heartedly.

Tonci Jakicevich

The Whisky Adventure Part I: Tonci’s tour of distilleries in Scotland and Ireland

Glengarry Wines‘ Operations Manager, Tonci Jakicevich, was lucky to participate in a tour of distilleries in Scotland and Ireland during February. Here Tonci recounts his experiences of Glenglassaugh, BenRiach, GlenDronach, The Speyside Cooperage, and Slane in a five part series.

After 36 or more hours of travel, including the world’s longest flight (Auckland to Doha) my companions and I arrived at the Glen House, our base camp for the Scotland section of our whirlwind whisky adventure.

The Glen House, build in 1771, and located on the ground of the GlenDronach would play host to 4 Kiwis and 9 Aussies for 3 nights as we visited the GlenDronach, BenRiach and Glenglassaugh distilleries. We were all guests of Brown-Forman who has purchased The BenRiach Distilling Company, which comprises the above distillery operations.

Our first full day was action packed, with two separate distillery tours split up by a pub lunch in Portsoy before a secret group activity and dinner in the town of Elgin.


The first stop on our tour was the Glenglassaugh Distillery, located some 200m from the waters of Sandend Bay, a short distance from the fishing town of Portsoy.

The original distillery was built in 1875, however multiple changes in ownership and the downturn of the whisky industry lead to a closure in 1907. Whilst the stills sat silently, the outbuildings at Glenglassaugh were put to a variety of uses including temporary accommodation for soldiers during WWII and the malting facilities being turned into a bakery.

Glenglassaugh - Glengarry Wines - Tonci

Reopened in 1960 by the Highland Distilleries Company, with an aim towards production of a light style Malt whisky with limited character suitable for use in blends. After several years of production, the spirit was found to be too rich and expressive for blending in volume and the distillery was again mothballed in 1986, for a further 22 years until its most recent revival began in 2008.

The malt at Glenglassaugh is milled using a famed Porteus Patent Malt Mill, a stunning piece of equipment which truly represents the saying “they don’t make ‘em like they used to”, with the producer going out of business in the 1970’s after a lack of repeat purchases, not from faults or issues but the distinct lack thereof.

The mashtun is a combination of cast iron with a copper domed top, which was almost stolen during an attempted daylight robbery by a team dressed as maintenance staff.

The fermentation at Glenglassaugh is unique within the whisky industry, taking place over an average of 80 hours and leads to the distinctly fruity notes that are found in Glenglassaugh malts.

Our tasting during our visit to the distillery included:

Glenglassaugh - Glengarry Wines - Tonci

The grey and snowy day made our short walk down to Sandend Bay with our dram of Glenglassaugh a special moment, along with the opportunity to hand pour my own bottle from the Manager’s Casks which during our visit was a bold 9 Year Old aged in a 1st fill Olorosso sherry cask.

Tonci Jakicevich