The (Virtual) Whisky Colours Festival

It may be rather inaccurate by now, it’s been a few years since I was able to attend, but I still consider myself a “Dufftown festival regular”. The spring festival, Spirit of Speyside, covers a much larger geographic area, while the autumn festival has always been more confined to Dufftown. Since I was last at a festival, disagreements between Whiskyshop Dufftown and the organisation Dufftown 2000 have resulted in two parallel festivals that “just happen” to fall on the same weekend, as far as I’ve been able to determine. The festival run by Whiskyshop Dufftown was relaunched as Whisky Colours Festival in 2019. And as 2020, as you know, has been a bad year for gathering significant numbers of people for a festival, other solutions had to be found. In August of 2020 we discovered that the autumn festival was going digital, and that just 20 tickets – or rather “memberships in the Whisky Colours Club” – were to be released at the end of the month. Hence we were both in (digital) attendance on the release date and snagged a membership each.

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Some weeks later a large box was delivered by TNT, and we did our “unboxing” interspersed by quite a few expletives. 85 pounds was the price of the membership, and what with customs and such we ended up paying around 2000 NOK each altogether, but the contents seemed to us (in an understatement) to be well worth it. Included were drams for eight tastings (4-5 per tasting), a few dregs bottles (around one full bottle between the two of us) and of course nosing glasses, a t-shirt and bottle barbeque sauce containing whisky.

We had originally assumed that there would be more tickets made available for the sessions, and that the 20 “inaugural memberships” just meant more perks/full tasting package or whatever. But as it turned out, it was just us 20 – plus a couple of people from Whiskyshop Dufftown and the distillery/bottler representative – who would attend the sessions. A very exclusive club. And much more intimate and reminiscent of the physical Dufftown Festival. Compared to the Whisky Show’s digital festival (to which I also had a ticket) with hundreds – or possibly thousands – of “guests” and livestreams more in the broadcast category, Whisky Colours turned out to be both more engaging and more binding. When a guest did not attend a session it was noticed, since we were so few. It really felt like being at an actual festival, even if it all happened over Zoom (and with more comfortable chairs). The friendly banter (or heckling) between the participants, which really is part of the charm of a “small, intimate” festival like the autumn festival in Dufftown, was there in spades, and there was plenty of opportunity for asking questions of the pros.

Would being in Dufftown for real have been better? Of course it would. But even disregarding the pandemic, a trip to Scotland in September/October would not, unfortunately, have been on my list of priorities in 2020. Being able to participate from my own living room was a major boon, and even when physical festivals become possible again I hope that some of those who have now gained experience in hosting digital alternatives will keep doing so – as an addition, perhaps, rather than a substitute. And I bet the two “festivalgoers” from Japan agree with me.

The opportunity to purchase a membership to the spring edition of the festival, May Be Another Whisky Festival, has come and gone. Even though the number of tickets was now 30, they were still sold on the first day. I was ready, though, and have my ticket.

I have notes and pictures from this autumn’s tastings that I should have published eons ago. I will make an effort over the next few days (weeks…). An obvious goal must be to have published them all by the time the next festival starts on 30th April.

Gjoleid Blindpassasjeren

November sees the release of two new Gjoleid bottlings at Vinmonopolet (not available from other retailers, as far as I know) I should have had tasting notes for both to share, but due to a mix-up I’ve only had the chance to taste the one they’ve named “Blindpassasjeren” (The Stowaway). It has matured in an ex-sherry cask for “almost five years”, but the unusual thing about it is that before the malt spirit was filled into this cask it had held aquavit for a period, which it is natural to expect will have had some influence on the whisky. The cask has also been walkabout (or sailabout, rather) along with the Linje Aquavit, and has crossed the equator twice between February and June this year.


Nose: Cumin, some newmake character, oaky sweetness. Towards aniseed with water, and aquavit-notes, but the malty spirit is still discernable beneath it all.

Palate: A light note of cumin, clear oak notes, the relatively high ABV is obvious. With water the taste also turns to aniseed.

Comments: Very easy drinking, and quite “aquavit-like”. A nice combination of the two types of spirit, who’d have thought aquavit-cask would be a success? I’m definitely bagging a bottle or two come November.

Amrut Batch No 2 40%

Bottled 25 June 2004. A tasting note for an almost antique bottle to celebrate the arrival of my welcome package from the Amrut Fever Club.


Nose: Lemon and fresh herbs, malt  and cardamom. Even more malt and cardamom with water, also some apples and possibly a hint of honey.

Palate: More wood on the palate, but mostly malt, oatmeal porrige that’s a little singed, or something like that. Water doesn’t make a lot of difference, a little more vanilla, perhaps.

Comments: For a three year old (or whatever it is) this is quite impressive. The nose is interesting and well balanced, the taste perhaps a little boring, but it’s “boring, but good” rather than “boring and unpleasant”. A pity the bottle is nearing empty. I may have to pour some into a sample bottle for the archive.

Banff 1974 Gordon & MacPhail 40%

Bottled in 1994 in the Connoisseurs Choice series.

Nose: Citrus, more lemon than orange, a little honey, oak and something Play Doh-ish. Water does not have any effect worth mentioning.

Palate: Oak, vanilla, dried cranberries and heather. There is something reminiscent of an open fire here, too, and it becomes more apparent with water, though I think there might be more of the seared outside of meat cooked over open flame rather than the fire itself.

Comments: Gordon & MacPhail had their moments way back when they insisted of dilluting eveything down to 40% too, and this is a very good example. Perhaps this Banff would have been even better at a higher strength, but I find it hard to imagine.

Thanks to Johnny for the sample.

Cambus 1988 26 years Cadenhead Single Cask 47.5%

Bottled in 2015.

Nose: Vanilla and oak, but also peaches and cinnamon. Citrus and something tropical, maybe pineapple, with water. After some time in the glass aok becomes more apparent again, but it’s a sweet, spicy oak which compliments the fruity notes.

Palate: Vanilla, oak and peaches. Other fruits, too, gooseberries, I think. The oak turns slightly bitter with water. Cinnamon and black pepper on the finish. After a while banana & spice sponge cake and well-balanced oak.

Comments: This is what a good grain whisky should be. There is absolutely nothing to detract from this other than the fact that I only have a 3 cl sample instead of a bottle (or three).

Thanks to Håvard for the sample.

Imperial 1995 van Wees 46%

Distilled 21 August 1995, bottled 8 December 2014 in the van Wees series The Ultimate. Cask number 50168, which was a hogshead.

Nose: Malt, oak, a little black pepper and something fruity, kiwis perhaps. More appley with water, still very obvious oak.

Palate: Oak, vanilla, citrus, some spruce needles. With water still a lot of oak, yellow apples and some gooseberries on the finish.

Comments: A decent Imperial, but it comes across as a little washed out. I suspect it would have done better at a somewhat higher strength.

Thanks to Håvard for the sample.

Campbeltown Malts Festival: Glasgow to Campbeltown, and a walking tour

Getting out of bed the next morning was easier than could be expected, but the motivation was there. The bus for Campbeltown was leaving Buchanan at a quarter past nine, and if we missed that bus we would miss our first event: A walking tour with Kate Watt. So we made haste towards the bus station, stopping at a convenient Sainsbury’s for lunch and drink supplies and made it to Buchanan in good time. But then we decided coffee would be a good idea, and Mats was left to watch our bags while Eva and I got in line at the station cafe. Unfortunately the guy behind the counter turned out to be unable to keep track of orders and money received (and also be eager to chat to regulars, which is understandable, but inconvenient). But we got our coffee eventually, found seats on the bus and (well, speaking for myself) relaxed mentally. With a four hour bus ride ahead of us, there was not much to do except lean back and enjoy the Scottish landscape zooming past.

In Inverary the bus stops for ten minutes and I sprinted over to Loch Fyne Whiskies to see if they had any of their own bottlings available. Since they did, a Bunnahabhain, I made a purchase of that plus a variety pack of three Fyne Ales bottles. When I exited the shop and checked the time I realised I still had seven minutes, enough to obtain a cup of coffe, hopefully, before the bus left. Pretty efficient shopping, even if I do say so myself.

Utsikt fra bussen
View from the bus

After Inverary the bus stopped by Kennacraig ferry terminal, naturally, which is where you’d get the ferry to Islay, and I must admit I was a little tempted to jump off and get on board the ferry, but I resisted, and soon after Campbeltown came into view at last.

Campbeltown is not a big town, so we found Earadale B&B easily enough, and were led from there around the block to No 16 Argyll Street, where the self catering flat we had ooked for the next two night was located. We’d observed a Cooperative branch from the bus, and with no time to lose we set off for it and purchased the neccessary breakfast and snack staples for our two day stay. With about half an hour to spare before our rendevouz down at the harbour, I set off in search of Fish & Chips (I was getting distinctly peckish), and found an open cafe at last, though I had to bring the food and eat it on the move.

No 16 Argyle Street
No 16 Argyle Street

We met Kate Watt and 15-20 other walking (or pubcrawl) tour participants by the Tourist Information by the harbour, all ready and eager for Whisky Impressions’ first guided walk: Liquid History.

Kate Watt, Whisky Impressions
Kate Watt, Whisky Impressions

Kate started the tour by giving us an introduction to the history of Campbeltown. I took plenty of notes for my own benefit, but I’ll skip the history lesson here.


We visited three pubs as part of the tour (but had many more pointed out to us), The Feathers, Kilbrannan and Burnside, and had a “half and half” at each one, that is half a pint of beer and a half measure of whisky. The whisky was good and the pubs were friendly, but the beer selection was pretty dire. Tenants and Guiness were repeat performers, as well as Heverlee, new to us, but not an aquaintance we were eager to develop further. Nevertheless, we had a very good time, and I will most certainly repeat the experience if I ever get the chance.

We’d have happily hung out with Kate and the rest of the group for a good while longer, but were painfully aware that we had a dinner to attend and that we were rather in need of a brush up before that, so we bid our goodbyes and headed back to base. A report from the dinner, well, the parts I actually participated in, will follow.

More pictures on Flickr.

Longmorn 26 years Cadenhead Small Batch 49.5%


Nose: Pick and mix candy; Mint humbugs, Haribo peaches and sour frogs. With water it turns towards a flowery sweetness, with red clovers and dandelion flower.

Palate: Tastes older, and stronger, than it smells. Oaky bitterness and almond oil, but also spices, black pepper and some sweeter ones.

Comments: Fantastic nose, nice flavour. I’ll have another, please…

Tried at a tasting with Frode Harring at Raus, 8 June 2016.

Campbeltown Malts Festival part 1: Trondheim to Glasgow

Due to a combination of the usual travel-induced insomnia and obsessing over whether I had remembered everything for the 17th of May celebrations (it being my first year as a band mum on top of everything) I started my trip to Campbeltown with all of two hours sleep (and five hours restless dozing). Luckily I was also on an travel-induced adrenaline high, so I managed surprisingly well all things considered.

I met up with my travel companions, Eva and Mats, at Værnes (Trondheim Airport). They’d made a brave effort to get the same airport express as me, but I was even earlier than I’d said I would be. We checked in and got through security without a hitch. We’d had a message from the airline, Norwegian, that because of the ongoing strike there would be no food or drink available on board, and we were also prepared for limited service at the airport. We had hoped for an Untappd check-in at O’Leary’s, but it was not to be.


The flight to Gardermoen was uneventful, and once through to the international terminal at Gardermoen we could purchase both food and drink. We landed in Edinburgh according to schedule, got our luggage and made for “Bus stops” to find the bus to Glasgow. It was now past nine local time, and we were eager to get to the hotel to check in.

Interesting signage, we wantet stand C, which is in fact before stand A and B…

While we waited for the bus, a familiar gentleman came strolling towards “Stand C”, Jon Bertelsen had obviously arrived on the same flight and was also staying in Glasgow that evening. After an hour’s bus ride and a quick walk, Eva, Mats and I checked in to Best Western Glasgow City Hotel. Jon sent a message to say he was now at The Pot Still and that they closed at midnight, so we plunged out into the Glagow evening, beauty sleep be damned.

Håndpumper på The Pot Still, bak skimter du en brøkdel av whiskyutvalget.
Handpumps at The Pot Still, a fraction of their whisky collection is visible at the back of the bar.

After a congenial hour or so at The Pot Still we made an attempt at getting another pint at Jon’s hotel (which was close by), but they were only serving guests, not guests of guests, at that time of night, so the three of us bid Jon good night and see-you-soon and made our way back to Best Western and our beds. Just as well, really, because we had a bus we HAD to catch in the morning.

Slik ser det ut når man nerder seg sammen over øl og whisky... Ja, vi var bare fire. Ja, vi hadde bare en liten time.
This is what it looks like when beer and whisky nerds meet..

Talking about Best Western: We booked through with our main criteria being relative nearness to Buchanan Bus Station, wifi and cheapness. At arrival, I got a keycard that didn’t work, but that was resolved in a timely manner an apart from that I had no complaints. The rooms were relatively spacious, my bed was impeccable. And the door had both a physical lock in addition to the electronic one (always more satisfying), and also a security chain, which quite simply does wonders for my stress levels.

My room at Best Western Glasgow City
Security chain AND lock!

See, a hotel review as a bonus.

Part 2 to follow.

Myken Arctic Gin 47%

In May Myken Distillery finally release their first product, a gin, on the Norwegian market (i.e. Vinmonopolet), and I thought that a good excuse for a vertical tasting. So here we have batch 1 at 47.3%, which I’ve already got notes up for, batch 2 at 47%, a sample I got when I visited Myken for their official opening i September, and batch 3, the one which will be available from next Friday, also at 47%, in an appealing half litre bottle with the awesome label designed by Metric Design. Please note that I happen to have the coolest bottle from the batch, number 42 (the answer, as we all know, to life, the universe, and everything). Pretty much the best birthday present I’ve had for some time (and, yes, I turned 42).


Batch 1

Nose: Cucumber, juniper, fresh herbs, coriander and cumin.

Palate: Juniper twigs, light liquorice. More soapy coriander with a few drops of water.

Batch 2

Nose: Herbs and sea foam. Juniper and cumin. Something quite waxy, as well as warm wood.

Palate: Soapy coriander, herbs and more sea influence.

Batch 3

Nose: Juniper berries and a sweet juniper wood note, fresh herbs, black pepper and sea.

Palate: Soapy coriander, faint liquorice, juniper berries, spruce twigs and orange peel.

Comments: There is definitely a clear relationship between the three batches. A little tweaking of the spice mix has obviously been going on, but no radical changes. In my opinion they’re going in the right direction with the tweaking, too, I marginally prefer batch 3. All three are excellent sipping gins, and it would suprise me if they didn’t also work in drinks, from the reasonably simple G&T to those with a list of ingredients as long as your arm.

Myken Arctic Gin will be available to order at Vinmonopolet from Friday May 6, for 509.90 NOK for 0,5 litres. The order number is 3957902 and there are only a couple of hundred bottles available in this first release, so if you want one you shouldn’t hang around.