Charrington IPA takes you on a journey back to the 18th Century when The Charrington Brewery was established in Bethnal Green within the borough of London. However, the main element of the story is from 1967 when this gigantic, well known brewery merged with Bass Brewery and was re-named as Bass Charrington, after the merger was completed the Charrington Brewery closed. 

In 1965, within the suburbs of Cheshire, the breathtaking Bass Charrington Brewery was created and this almighty brewery was incredibly known as the largest brewery in the UK, however in 1991 it was sadly the end of Bass Charringtons, the brewery was demolished.

 Furthermore, evidence suggested that reasons behind the closure were due to the location of the brewery, how it was designed, but worse of all the quality of the beer was poor which turned out to be Bass’s worst failure.  

Let’s now turn the clock to 2015, in the brewing capital (Burton Upon Trent) located at the National Brewery Centre (Sadly now closed) situates the Heritage Brewing Company which at this present day has suspended it’s brewing due to the closure of the National Brewery Centre. Anyway, when Heritage was first introduced, their aim was to brew classical beers towards a modern audience and this marked a memorable moment in Burton’s Brewing History, the re-birth of Charrington IPA. 

TasteExtreme Hoppy, Balancing Taste   
AftertasteSpicy, malty  
Overall (Star Rating)4/5 Stars 🌕 🌕 🌕 🌕 🌑

Thoughts on Clarity, Aroma, Taste, Aftertaste 

Clarity – We tried Charrington IPA at Burton’s Winter Beer Festival and from our eyes, it delivered an outstanding clear pint. One thing that I noticed though, after trying Charrington IPA a couple of times, the colour from my perspective looked more amber than the original golden look. 

Aroma – We were certainly expecting more from the aroma, it just seemed there was something missing, whether it was a caramel scent, or even fruit, the only smell that we could pick up was malt, and this gave us the impression that this IPA was heavily malty. 

Taste – There was so much going on with the flavour of this IPA, it was intensely hoppy, but there was also a balancing flavour which was being delivered from the malt, this certainly made this beer taste amazing. 

Aftertaste – The finish was incredibly spicy, which at this point once my palate had extinguished the hoppy flavour was making us think we were  sampling a peated whisky, it was such a joy to drink. There was so much going on in the glass, spice, herbs and black pepper all mixed together to deliver a beautiful IPA. 

Do we recommend it? 

Even though the aroma was not what we were expecting, we have certainly agreed that this is a beer you should certainly try and is most definitely an IPA which delivers those traditional classical British flavours. 

It’s not just the taste of the beer that makes it great, it’s also a fantastic session beer, it’s so sessionable that you could easily have a couple of pints of this beer and you’ll still be wanting more. 

However, since the closure of The National Brewery Centre, this beer is being brewed specially by Burton Bridge Brewery, it is not clear whether Heritage Brewing Company is to remain in Burton, but please watch this space.

We previously wrote about Bushmills 10 year old, but this post is the next in our Bushmills series. This sixteen year old spent fifteen years in a mixture of bourbon and oloroso sherry casks with a finish for one year in port pipes. The depth and complexity of flavours is streets ahead of the 10 year old. This has more of the depth I prefer and complexity I prefer, but still is missing something to make it a classic. That is not to detract from the quality of this edition. It is possibly overpriced (around £80) but is in a very competitive price bracket. It is a whiskey that is probably better drunk in a social environment than in private, talking about it with friends would tease out more flavours.

Although port finished whiskies are currently very popular, I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with them, such that I never buy a bottle without trying it first. Sometimes the spirit is overwhelmed by the port, and I feel I’d have done better just buying a bottle of port, I like whiskies where I can discern the distillery style. The other problem I have with a port finish is I can often detect either a sulphur or burnt rubber taste, neither of which I won’t nor like. This is a good example of what a port finish can add, and the port pipes have not overwhelmed the distillery style.

Previous DrinkBushmillls 10 Year Old
ColourDark Straw Plus A Red Blush
NoseStrawberry Jam / Peaches / Spices
PalateSoft Fruit Jam With Spice
FinishBack To Strawberry Jam, Fades To Chocolate With Some Spice
Overall (Star Rating)⅘  Stars 🌕🌕🌕🌕🌑

How did my tasting notes compare with the official notes? I think I am pretty much in agreement. I’ve gone for strawberry jam as the descriptor, but I can see why the palate is described as caramelised peach and mango although I’m not really sure what that combination would taste like. Whilst I’d agree there is depth and complexity, I’m not convinced it is exceptional. On the finish except for where I put the emphasis, we’re in agreement. Does this mean either the distillery or I am wrong? Absolutely not, tasting notes can and do vary between people and even by the same person on a different day. Tasting notes should be treated as nothing more than a guide and through experience you’ll soon work out the ones to take with a pinch of salt, or who to listen to if looking for your next bottle. 

Overall, this is a very moreish expression that is possibly too drinkable. I can see the bottle disappearing very quickly. It deserves sipping and contemplating each sip. Well worth trying particularly if you like Irish whiskey. I wonder what a cask strength expression might be like? That could be very interesting. 

A beer festival near a train station is a great idea for a number of reasons. Firstly, it ensures that those travelling to the festival do not have to worry about having to drive and instead can rely on public transport, as they can easily access the festival via the train. This can help to reduce costs of getting to the event, and make it more accessible for a wider range of people. 

Secondly, having a beer festival near a train station can also be beneficial for those that have already attended the event. After a long day of beer tasting, being able to easily access public transport to return home can be extremely helpful and much safer since you should not drink and drive. It also means that those attending the festival can easily visit other nearby locations, or even venture further afield for a short break.

Remember whilst a beer festival can be fun, you should not drive after attending one, which is why attending a beer festival that is near a train station can make your life a lot easier. Whilst this is not a definitive list, it should contain all the major ones that will hopefully repeat next year as well.

Here are the 36 UK beer festivals from CAMRA and other independent companies that are closest to a train station:

RankTypeFull TitleLocationCountyDatesTicket LinkTrain StationHow far from Train station? (miles)
1*CamraBradford Beer & Cider Festival 2023Victoria Hall, Victoria RoadSALTAIREBD18 3JSWest Yorkshire2nd – 4th March
1*CamraGreat British Beer FestivalOlympia London Hammersmith Rd, London W14 8UXGreater London1st-5th August
2*CamraGreat British Beer Festival WinterBurton Town Hall, King Edward Place,Burton upon TrentStaffordshire16th – 18th February
2*Camra13th Chappel Winter Beer FestivalChappel Beer Festival – Station RoadChappelCO6 2DSEssex2nd – 4th March & Wakes Colne Station0.2
2*Camra45th Farnham Beer Exhibition (Beerex)
Farnham Maltings, Bridge SquareFarnhamGU9 7QR
Surrey20th April-22nd April Station0.2
3*CamraBath Beer Festival 2023Widcombe Social Club – Widcombe HillBath BA2 6AASomerset17th – 18th February Spa0.3
3*Camra12th Larbert Real Ale and Cider FestivalDobbie Hall, Main StreetLarbertFK5 4BLStirling31st March – 1st April Train Station0.3
3*CamraClitheroe Beer FestivalAssembly Hall of St Michael & St John’s, Lowergate.ClitheroeBB7 1AGLancashire11th May-13th May Station0.3
3*CamraLincoln Beer FestivalThe DrillLincolnLN2 1EYLincolnshire25th May – 27th May Train Station0.3
3*CamraNewark Beer & Cider Festival 2023Newark Castle Grounds. Castle GateNewarkNG24 1BGEssex26th May – 28th May Castle0.3
4CamraStockport Beer & Cider FestivalSTOCKPORT MASONIC GUILDHALL169-171 Wellington Rd SouthSK1 3UACheshire22nd June – 24th June Grand Central0.4
5*CamraBexley Beer FestivalDartfordians Community Sports ClubBexleyda5 1lwKent4th May – 6th May Station0.5
5*CamraSkipton Beer FestivalTown Hall, High Street,SkiptonBD23 1AHNorth Yorkshire18th May – 20th May Train Station0.5
6*CamraLiverpool Beer FestivalLutyens Crypt, Metropolitan CathedralLiverpoolLancashire16th – 18th February lime street0.6
6*CamraNewcastle Beer & Cider FestivalNorthumbria Students UnionNewcastle upon TyneNE1 8SBTyne And Wear31st March – 1st April
6*CamraTeddington Beer FestivalLandmark Arts Centre, Ferry RoadTeddingtonTW11 9NNGreater London2nd November – 4th November Station0.6
7*CamraCoventry Beer Festival 2023Coventry Rugby Football Ground, Butts Park Arena, Butts Road.CoventryCV1 3GEWarwickshire10th – 11th March Train Station0.7
7*CamraBromsgrove Beer and Cider FestivalFinstall Road, Aston FieldsBromsgroveB60 3DHWorcestershire29th June – 1st July Station0.7
7*IndependantSheffield Indie Beer FestTrafalgar Warehouse, Sheffield. S1 4JTSouth Yorkshire3rd March – 4th March
8*CamraEast Anglian Beer & Cider FestivalSt Edmundsbury CathedralBury St. EdmundsIP33 1TSSuffolk23rd August – 28th August St Edmunds0.8
9CamraLoughborough Beer FestivalTown Hall, Market PlaceLoughboroughLE11 3EBLeicestershire2nd – 4th March Train Station1
10IndependantLondon Craft Beer FestivalTobacco Dock, Wapping LondonGreater London11th-12th August Train Station1.1
11IndependantBrew//LDNBREW//LDN Beer Festival, Surrey Quays Road, SE17 7PJ, UKLondon6th – 8th May Bermondsey1.2
12*CamraYapton BeerexYapton & Ford Village HallYaptonBN18 0ETWest Sussex12th May – 14th May Train Station1.6
12*IndependantBristol Craft Beer FestivalHarbourside, Bristol,Gloucestershire9th-11th June
13CamraWigan CAMRA Beer FestivalRobin Park Leisure Centre, Loire DriveWiganWN5 0ULGreater Manchester2nd – 4th March Pemberton station1.7
14CamraChorlton Beer & Cider FestivalSt Clements Church, Edge LaneChorlton, ManchesterM21 9AEGreater Manchester6th July – 8th July Park Station1.9
15CamraCambridge Beer FestivalJesus GreenCambridgeCB4 3BDCambridgeshire22nd May – 27th May North2
16IndependantThe Big OXFORD Beer BashOld Depot, South Park, Cheney Ln, Headington, Oxford OX3 7QJOxfordshireMay 20th Train Station2.2
17*Camra33rd Oldham Beer & Cider FestivalQueen Elizabeth Hall, West streetOldhamOL1 1NLGreater Manchester31st March – 1st April Hills2.4
17*CamraTredegar House Folk Festival Real Ale and Cider BarClore Room, Tredegar House Country ParkNewportNP10 8YWMonmouthshire5th May – 8th May Corner Station2.4
18CamraGosport Winterfest XXIXThorngate Halls, Bury RoadGosportPO12 3QXHampshire24th – 25th February
19CamraWetherby Beer FestivalGrange ParkWetherbyLS225DYWest Yorkshire28th April – 29th April Train Station7.8
20IndependantThornbridge PeakenderBakewell Showground,Bakewell DE45 1AHDerbyshire18th-20th August Station7.9
21CamraCotswold Beer Festival5AQ, Cotswold Way, Winchcombe, CheltenhamOxfordshire14h – 16th July Railway Station12.2
22CamraIsle of Man Beer and Cider Festival 2023Villa MarinaDouglasIM1 2HPIsle Of Man6th April – 8th April

Trade Winds is one of those classical beers that will take your brain down memory lane, specifically to the year of 1997 and if you were Scottish born it will certainly be a remembering thought. 

In the heart of Scotland, within the city of Aberdeen there once took place a Tall Ship race which was viewed from the eyes of half a million people and this event is notified as being one of the largest events to be held within the Scottish borders and still to this very day this event is taking place. 

Cairngorm Brewery, located within the Highlands of Scotland, decided to brew this almighty golden ale to celebrate the iconic Tall Ship Race. 

According to Cairngorm, this beer is identified as being the perfect beer to enjoy on the summer’s day whilst sitting on the patio. 

We were incredibly lucky to be able to have the chance to try this Scottish beer at The Great British Winter Beer Festival in Burton Upon Trent and when we found out that this beer had won many national awards we were certainly keen to give Trade Winds a sample. 

ClarityDark Golden 
AromaTropical Fruit, mild hop
TasteHoppy, Bitter finish  
Overall (Star Rating)3/5 Stars 🌕🌕🌕🌑🌑

Thoughts on clarity, aroma, taste and aftertaste 

Clarity – The colour of the beer in the glass was almost similar to the same style of two of Luke’s favourite classic bitters, Draught Bass and Marston’s Pedigree. Also, the beer was so clear, you could see reflections through the other side of the glass. 

Aroma – There was an enormous amount of tropical fruit scents which honestly made this beer smell amazing and it was these scents that made us understand why this beer is perfect for summer. The specific fruits that we could smell were pineapple, mango and melon and this was balanced against the hops which were used in the making of this beer.  

Taste – The hop aroma became stronger when we took the first sample, it made our palates become fiery which gave us that impression that this beer is for the type of drinkers who like extreme hoppy beers. We were also slightly surprised when we noticed that the tropical fruit scents that were around at the start of the tasting had now suddenly vanished, the finish delivered a subtle bitter finish which was pleasant. 

Aftertaste – The bitter finish which rounded off this drink converted our palates into a citrusy dry finish which did make this beer taste good but it was missing that outstanding wow factor. It did make us think that we believed there was something missing in the flavour of this beer and that was those impeccable sweet tastes. 

Do we recommend it? 

We believe that Trade Winds is a great beer but it’s only a beer that we would happily try once in a while, we just feel that it’s missing that sweetness touch in the flavouring. On the other hand, as mentioned earlier in this post, the aromas that floated around the top of the glass were outstanding and that’s one thing we love about beer, tropical fruits and sweet scents. 

This has given us the idea though, that even though this beer wasn’t up to our taste buds, we will certainly in the future try another beer from this amazing brewery. 

Who needs an excuse to drink whisk(e)y? Well with International Whisk(e)y Day just around the corner, you’ve now got two perfect reasons! And whisk(e)y is truly international anyway with India being the biggest producer, the French drinking more bottles of whisky than cognac, and cracking distilleries producing wonderful drinks such as Cardrona in New Zealand, Milk and Honey in Israel and Mackmyra in Sweden amongst many favourites. Name a country and whisk(e)y will either be consumed or produced in it. 

But what about those who are not so keen on whisky, is there a whisky drink for the non-whisky drinkers? We at The Cask Connoisseur think we’ve found it. Welcome to the Dewar’s Double Double range. The 21 year old was awarded the “World’s Best Blended” and “Best Scotch Blended” at the 2021 World Whiskies Awards and the 27 year old won gold for ‘Best Blended Scotch Whisky’ in the International Wine and Spirits Competition two years in a row. The 21 year old is reviewed here. But first let’s explain, or at least attempt to, the Double Double process which aims to produce very, very, smooth whisky. 

The ranges creator Stephanie Macleod, Dewar’s Master Blender since 2006, became the first women to win the “Master Blender of the Year” at the 2019 International Whisky Competition and went on to win it again in 2020. She clearly knows a thing or two about whisky. 

The Double Double range is created using a four stage ageing process. The malt whiskies in the blend are first aged to their required age, then they are mixed together and put back into an oak cask to “meld together”. Grain whisky to be used goes through the same process. 

Then the Malt and grain whiskies are blended together and are put back into oak casks for a secondary ageing period. Finally, the blend is finished in an ex-sherry cask. In effect you have an ageing process followed by a finishing process, then another ageing and finishing process, creating the Double Double.

This produces a whisky that quite honestly has no alcohol kick whatsoever, even at 46% ABV and feels incredibly smooth. Making it very suitable for either a novice whisky drinker or someone who believes they do not like whisky. Even a cask strength enthusiast will enjoy it. This is a whisky for when you just want to experience the flavours and an easy introduction to whisky. Everyone can enjoy it. 

Dewar’s ‘Double Double’ 21 Year Old Whisky 46% ABV £128

The team at The Cask Connoisseur really enjoyed this even the anonymous one who confesses to preferring Southern Comfort (you know who you are) over scotch whisky. If all blends tasted this good! The score is probably very conservative, and we suspect others would score it higher. The only negative is it is not from a single cask, but one suspects, if it was, the price would be astronomical. Despite the price, this is well worth the money, certainly if you have something to celebrate, or need something to keep you warm on a winter’s night. Although it probably would work just as well with a summer barbeque, we’ve not had the chance to try it. We recommend you buy a bottle, we’re pretty certain it will not be your last. 

Previous drinkOther Dewars blends at 40%
NoseSweet Sherry, raisons and cinnamon
PalateSherry, oranges and candied sweetness. Whilst a sweet whisky it does not overpower the flavours
FinishLong with similar flavours to the palate
Overall Score4/5  Stars 🌕🌕🌕🌕🌑

We spoke to Luke Slater, our in-house beer expert to find out how cask beer is made. Here you will find out how the Brewing Process or making of beer is made, by breaking it down into nine easy to understand steps. 

There are some many different of varieties of beers out in the world ranging from Cask Ale, Lager and Craft Beer, all of these styles of beers have one thing in common and that is that they are made in a Brewery, however the process for each one can be different, but we are most focused on how the traditional Cask Ale is produced. 

Step 1: Malting 

The first part of the Brewing Process is a method called Malting, this is where barley which grows over thousands of crops across the UK is converted so it can be used for brewing beer or even distilling whiskies. 

There are so many different types of malt which can be found in the UK today, and you’ll probably realise when you drink certain types of beers they have to be brewed with specific malts. Low Colour Maris Otter or Extra Pale Maris Otter Malt is used to create the classical light Pale Ales. A golden ale uses a malt called Caragold, and this type of malt brings subtle flavours of toffee and fruit. The two other important malts that we have to be aware of are Roasted Malt & Chocolate Malt, and these two types of malt are what used to create your chocolatey stouts and porters, the colour of roasted malt determines the beer is dark coloured. 

Step 2: Mashing 

The next step is a term called Mashing, and the easiest way to describe this is just imagine now you’re making a cup of tea and you’re stirring the teabag in a cup and your letting all those calming flavours escape into your cup, well mashing in a brewing process works the same. 

The malt has to travel through a piece of machinery called a hopper, this is how the malt travels from the hopper to a huge mash tun. In order to mash in your malt, you have to use a consistent amount of hot boiling water, however it’s important that you don’t mash in the malt too quickly otherwise it will destroy the flavouring of the beer, to understand what the consistency of the malt and water should be you just need to think of thick porridge. 

After the final bit of malt has hopped its way into the mash tun, it’s vital to leave the mash tun for a good couple of hours so that the sugars in the malt can dissolve. 

Step 3: Sparging 

Then, the next step involves a process called sparging which is a mechanical arm that sits at the top of the mash tun and sprays water onto the malt just to make sure that all the remaining sugar has been extracted. 

Step 4: Straining (Run Off) 

Next, this part of the process involves the transportation of the liquor from the mash tun into a gigantic vessel which is called a copper tank. The technical name for the liquor which is running off from the mash tun into the new tank is called wort. It’s called wort because this is the liquid that is extracted from the mashing process, you’ll probably notice when the wort is straining the colour may determine if it’s a light beer or a dark beer. 

Step 5: Hop O’ Clock 

Hops are green styled flowers that are used to build the characteristic of the beer that is being produced. Due to the amount of different hops that are used in the brewing world, each hop has to be used in conjunction with the style of beer that is being created. 

The most common types of hops that are today are Citra, Fuggles, Goldings & Amarillo, there are so many more but these are the popular hops. Just to give you another understanding of these hops that have been mentioned, if you take Citra for example, this hop is predominantly used to create citrusy beers. 

Step 6: Boiling 

This step involves adding the chosen hops for the brew, however just like the mashing process, timing is key. The reason for this is that the hops have to be added into the copper at specific time points, this is so that the flavouring of each hop can be extracted into the wort.

Once all the hops have been added into the copper, the final step before fermenting is to let the wort cool down before it can be transferred into the next tank. 

Step 7: Fermenting

You’re now just a couple of steps away before you can actually take a sip of your beautiful brewed beer, before you can do that the beer has to go through a stage of fermenting. 

Fermenting basically involves adding yeast to the wort and the sugars are then basically converted into alcohol. Furthermore, the yeast when mixed with the wort also produces the chemical Carbon Dioxide, the Carbon Dioxide determines what the alcohol content will be at the end of the brew, alcohol content refers to ABV (Alcohol By Volume). 

Fermentation is a steady process and sometimes depending on the weather can also determine how long the process will take, if it’s hot fermentation will take longer and if it’s colder it won’t take as long. 

Step 8: Racking 

Now, this is the exciting part, once all of the necessary checks have been completed, the final task to complete the end of the Brewing Process is to rack your finished beer into the Firkin Casks. 

Racking involves transporting the beer from the fermenting vessel into the barrel which then can be stored in a cold room and then is ready to be delivered to the cellar to be put on sale. 

When racking into the barrel, you have to mix a small amount of Isinglass finings to help with clarification of the beer. Finings are used to deliver a bright coloured beer which is what sells it to the consumers. On the other hand, there are some beers out in the world which don’t contain finings, these are typically Unfined ales. 

Step 9: Drink Away 

It’s important for many brewers to actually try there finished product, the reason for this is to make sure that the beer is served to Perfection, all brewers will keep a record of 4 important checks that have to be completed before selling there beer to the public and that is Clarity, Aroma, Taste and Aftertaste.

Once those checks are completed, it’s now time to enjoy selling your perfect beer to the general public.

Many breweries around the UK have different ways of producing their much loved beers, however there are specific elements within the brewing process that when tweaked will actually make  the same recipe beers almost different. 

If you take Carling for example, one of Molson Coors premium products around the majority of Europe, this beer you see is brewed into Kegs (Lager Barrels) for the pub trade and also cans for the public to purchase from supermarkets. Furthermore, if you try the same beer which has been created from two different departments of the same brewery, you’ll be able to notice that the taste will be completely different. 

Thornbridge Brewery based in Derbyshire also follows this procedure and this is what we are basing today’s post on today. 

AM PM Tasting Notes – Keg Version 

AromaTropical fruity and Malty
TasteDry, Orange and mango 
AftertastePineapple, bitter and tropical 
Overall (Star Rating)3/5 Stars 🌕🌕🌕🌑🌑

Thoughts on the clarity, aroma, taste and aftertaste 

Clarity – AM PM delivered a clear and bright blonde beer, and one thing for sure that we clearly noticed once the beer was poured the head retention was almost perfect and the retention of the head remained as we took each sip. 

Aroma – The malt scents made this beer smell absolutely amazing, it made us feel that there was just the correct amount of malt scent bursting out the top of the glass, too much malt can impair the aroma of the beer. After you get past the scents of malt, there is a welcoming amount of tropical fruit which again makes this beer have an outstanding aroma. 

Taste – Although the beer aroma is great, there was just one small tiny problem that we struggled to compete with on the flavour of the beer which we  personally found quite dry and alarmed us to thinking that the texture of the beer was unpleasant, however the dryness did provide those fruity flavours, most common fruits we could pick up were orange and mango. 

Aftertaste – So the dry flavour that sparked at the first sip is converted into a fruity finish which made us feel that this beer certainly has a complex flavour which made the beer taste beautiful. It wasn’t just how sweet the finish of the beer was, the long lasting amount of pineapple and the subtle amount of bitter throughout the tasting of this beer made it sensational. 

AM PM Tasting Notes – Cask Version 

ClarityDark Amber 
AromaCitrus, Lime 
TasteToffee, Caramel, malty and creamy  
AftertasteBitter-sweet & citrus  
Overall (Star Rating)⅗ Stars 🌕🌕🌕🌑🌑

Thoughts on clarity, aroma, taste and aftertaste 

Clarity – In comparison with AM PM Keg beer, the cask ale version delivered more of a darkened amber ale that certainly made the keg ale more brighter and welcoming. 

Aroma – The appealing malt scent which was surrounding the top of the glass was swapped with a citrus smell which certainly made this appear to be interesting. 

Taste – What was really interesting about this beer was how different the flavours  were from the keg version of this beer, like mentioned earlier, a beer which is brewed differently throughout the process can deliver completely opposite results. 

Instead of that tropical fruity malty flavour, there was more caramel and toffee involved, this certainly made us feel we were drinking a classic British real ale. 

Aftertaste – The citrus aromas were welcomed once again on the aftertaste, but instead of it being a sweet citrus, it was more of a bitter citrus, it made this version of the beer quite sharp but not overly powerful. 

Do we recommend it? 

Out of both versions of the beer we tried, we scored both beers the same 3 out of 5 stars, but if we had to decide which was the winner, then that would be the cask ale version.

It’s important to remember both beers tasted great, but one thing that the cask ale didn’t deliver was the dryness which appeared in the keg beer, we just believe when you taste beers that are dry it sometimes can confuse the pallet, but still with this in mind both beers were certainly very enjoyable and we would definitely try them again in the future.

From ex-bourbon and refill casks according to the bottle label. But retailers describe the casks as “freshly charred American oak”, “freshly charred American virgin oak” or even “from non-traditional casks”.  Can these descriptions of the casks the expression was matured in mean the same? We’ll come back to that, but it does make me wonder why the different descriptions.  

Diageo Special Releases are an annual release that has been running for over 20 years. They are all cask strength, non-chill filtered and aim to showcase the best of each distillery.

Oban Distillery was originally established in 1793 as a brewery by brothers Hugh and John Stevenson and it was not till the following year they started distilling whisky. The distillery actually predates the town of Oban. In 1989 Oban 14 year old was named one of the six “Classic Malts”. One of the smaller distilleries in Scotland it has two small stills which help produce the characteristic flavour of this distillery which produces a very approachable and easy drinking whisky that might be called a mixture of highland, island and maritime goodness.

I chose to review this bottle as I’ve had it open for a few months and it’s a good example of how whisky can change in the bottle once opened. To me it has mellowed with much less spiciness, and it was difficult to pick out any salinity or coastal notes that should be there. 

ColourPale Gold
NoseVanilla, caramel, slight spice
PalateVanilla, caramel, chocolate, coffee, spice
FinishLong spice fading to caramel then black coffee
Score3.5/5 Stars 🌕🌕🌕🌗🌑

Interestingly after a burger and chips the palate became creamier with milk chocolate, very pleasant. Although I probably preferred the punchiness of the spice and the coastal notes when the bottle was first opened, followed by the fruity characteristic flavours of the distillery, it is still a lovely whisky. 

Now let’s look at the descriptions of the casks used. I’ve listed some definitions and thoughts below that hopefully demonstrate how in a roundabout way, rather than a definitive way, you can reach the conclusion that all four descriptions are correct. It would be interesting to hear if you reach the same conclusion. I admit that my thought on the use of non-traditional is conjecture, but it helps the case that virgin oak was used, and I cannot think of any other reason for using this term. 

Ex-Bourbon – traditionally distilleries matured the whisky in second hand barrels that once held bourbon. So ex-bourbon simply means it was previously used to mature bourbon. 

Refill cask – means the cask has been used to mature spirit twice previously. The first use is as a virgin oak cask, the second as a first fill cask, then as a refill.

Virgin Oak Cask – is a cask that has not been previously used to hold spirit. It is a new oak cask. Charring new oak enhances the colour and flavour of the spirit and can give the impression the spirit is older than it is. In other words it can speed up maturation.

American oak – a barrel or cask made of American oak. It could be that this is virgin oak or been previously used for bourbon (ex-bourbon) or even whisky (refill), just that it is made of American oak. 

Charring – this takes place at the cooperage and is the burning (charring) of the inside of the barrel. Charring is a requirement for bourbon so the use of the term “freshly charred” could imply the use of ex-bourbon barrels, or maybe refill barrels that needed some rejuvenation, or even virgin oak as this would help impart the original spiciness due to the freshness of the wood. 

Non-traditional casks – the spirit in this bottle was laid down in 2008 which is round about the time there was increasing interest among Scottish distilleries in using virgin oak for the whole maturation period. This might have been seen as a bit experimental at the time and hence could be described as non-traditional? 

Speaking with Chris Walster, our in-house whisky expert, he discusses how whisky can be for all, making it the perfect surprise gift this Mother’s Day.

I can remember my great-grandma having a “port and lemon”, my grandma would celebrate with a sherry, usually Harvey’s Bristol Cream or with a “Snowball” an Advocaat and lemonade (Advocaat is great on vanilla ice-cream), my mother drank “Babycham” and my wife drinks a “G&T”, whilst my daughters seem to prefer a prosecco, or on a rare occasion a Southern Comfort and lemonade. A quick straw poll in the office seems to confirm that ladies seem to prefer sweeter drinks or do not have much interest in alcoholic drinks except perhaps a cocktail or glass of wine. Most of these drinks are either sweet and/or lowish in alcohol. Something on the whole whisky is not. Or is it?

Go to a whisky club or festival and the fairer sex is notable for its absence. But those who are there seem to enjoy themselves as much as any other attendee, but it would seem clear that whisky is not a favoured drink for women (compared to the number of men at these events). Perhaps this is cultural, and they simply have never tried whisky?

If your mother is already a fan of whisky, then buying a favourite bottle is simply a matter of contacting your usual retailer and purchasing one. But what if she is not a fan or never tried whisky before? You could be miserable and buy her a bottle she’s unlikely to enjoy, but you will, safe in the knowledge that at least there will be a decent whisky to drink when you visit. Whilst cynical, it might encourage you to visit more often, something she is likely to appreciate. 

But how might you approach buying a whisky she would enjoy and introducing her to the wonderful world of whisky? It might lead to there being a selection of good whiskies when you visit. A win-win for all. Let’s see if there is an approach which would increase your chance of buying a bottle that would be appreciated. 

There are three basic ideas that might help and combining the three may provide the best chance of success.

Reducing the alcohol content (ABV)

The simplest thing to do is add water to dilute the ABV. When I first came across cask strength whiskies, I recall being advised to dilute to 35% ABV. Recently I read an article which stated that Master Blenders never taste whisky above 40% ABV and some will only drink it at 20% ABV, they’ll dilute the whisky with water. As someone who prefers to drink their cask strength whisky either neat or with a few drops of water this got me thinking. 

I’m not a great fan of adding water into my whisky glass because there is a good chance I’ll either increase the spiciness or the woody flavours. Neither of which I like particularly and can overwhelm the other flavours. Master Blenders adding water seems rather counterintuitive, how do they know they’ve the perfect “formula” if the whisky is “tainted”? But, certainly in my youth, most if not all bars in Scotland would provide jugs of water or taps for customers to add to their whisky “to taste”. What’s going on?

I suspect the issue is where I live in England. The water coming out of the tap is chemically different (in simplest terms think of soft and hard water) to that used by the distillery and interacts with the flavours in a different way to that intended by the distillery. The solution is to find a bottled water with a composition as close to the distillery’s source as possible. When I have done this, it certainly makes a big difference. 

Buy a bottle of whisky and a bottle of suitable still water.

You could add a mixer such as lemonade and, on the whole, I tend to use a blended whisky if I want a long drink. Alternatively, you could make a whisky cocktail. I do like cocktails, and they do potentially address the two issues of a lower ABV and also sweetness. I rarely drink them in my own home as I cannot be bothered with the faff, but I’m very happy if someone else makes me one. 

Show her your care by mixing a whisky cocktail. 

A trawl of the internet will provide a plethora of recipes but two simple ones I like are:

The Lindisfarne Dark Mead produces a drink reminiscent of a Pimms although perhaps more herbal. You could try adding honey dissolved in warm water, which aids mixing, to increase the sweetness. This is a drink we tried for the first time in 2022 up in Northumberland and were surprised by how much we liked it, so it’s definitely one to try. 

Sweet Whiskies.

American whiskies tend to be quite sweet and one I’d recommend is Uncle Nearest 1884 Tennessee Whiskey. You really can taste the honey sweetness and if anything I personally find it too sweet although not unpleasantly so.  

For other whiskies I’d look out for ones either finished in a fortified wine barrel (e.g. Pedro Ximenez a type of sweet sherry, Madeira a fortified wine from the island of Madeira) or a cognac finish which seems to produce a very luscious whisky that can be very mellow. 

Finally an obvious whiskey choice would be to go Irish. These whiskies are smoother than scotch and taste slightly sweeter because of it. My favourite at present, although definitely on the expensive side is Bushmills 1991 Madeira Cask Finish, The Causeway Collection which has peach flavours. You should be able to find it on whisky auction sites at substantially below the retail price.

At the end of the day though, if your mother likes whisky straight up, mixed or a little sweeter, the point is to enjoy this drink. Whisky preferences all comes down to personal taste, but it certainly can be one for all, you just need to find the right approach to enjoying this drink.

Don’t be fooled when purchasing this un-fined classic, Highland Suntan. The imagery that surrounds the can as well as the name of the brewery, (Glen Affric) will make you believe this is a Scottish born beer. However, the beer is actually brewed in Merseyside, near Liverpool. 

Established in 2017, The Glen Affric Brewery is situated in Birkenhead, the journey of this brewery takes you on a rollercoaster ride of some of the greatest styles of beers, ranging from dark to light, there is certainly a choice for everyone to enjoy a quality beer. 

Glen Affric, takes its name from a village close to Cannich in the highlands of Scotland, as well as being located close by to the well known, Loch Ness. 

According to the brewery, Highland Suntan is brewed to be as pale as a “Scottish Suntan” this is showcased within the brewing process as extra pale malt is used to create this almighty pale ale. 

On the other hand, the aroma aspects of this beer are so incredibly intense, having a beer that is packed full of tropical fruits and citrus, indicates this beer is best to try for the arrival of Spring. 

ClarityBlonde, Crystal Clear 
AromaTropical Fruits 
TasteMango and Pineapple 
AftertasteSlight bitter kick, punchy citrus 
Overall (Star Rating)4.5/5 Stars  🌕🌕🌕🌕🌗

Thoughts on the clarity, aroma, taste and aftertaste. 

Clarity – The best way that you can imagine how this beer looks is visualising the colour of wheat that has just freshly been cut with an almighty straw coloured beer. Furthermore, when pouring, it’s best to avoid pouring quickly otherwise you’ll end up with a glass full of foam. 

Aroma – Floating around at the top of the glass you will be greeted with pleasant scents of tropical fruits as well as a gorgeous citrusy malt aroma, both combined together surely does make this beer smell amazing. 

Taste – This beer becomes extremely fruity after you take the first sip, pineapple and mango springs to your mind. The tropical fruits combined with malty texture certainly makes this beer completely refreshing.  

Aftertaste – Things change when it comes to the finish on this beer, all of that tropical fruitiness that you had earlier disappears and then is converted into a bitter sweet kick. Furthermore, being a strong sweet beer it needs to be respected and consumed lightly so you can enjoy all of the pleasant flavours. 

Do we recommend it? 

This is definitely not a bad pint of beer, and is one that we certainly will show our hands up and say it was well worth the purchase and also the sample. It’s not just the imagery that surrounds the can but also how well this beer is preserved throughout the glass. 

Another point to make is how the taste of this beer gives you the realisation that you could be standing on top of one of the most amazing Scottish hills and give that almighty cheers to the view that surrounds you.