Winscombe y Gig and rain on tarmac: an evening with Luke Todd of Gordon & MacPhail

Written By Diana Lyalle


Have you noticed that gin tastings seem to be everywhere, but whisky tastings are like hen’s teeth?  So there was no way I was missing out on this tasty treat……especially knowing that Luke is a walking whisky encyclopaedia.  I learnt loads – so here is a roundup for those who couldn’t make it.

Handy tips:

  • Keep mouth ajar slightly when inhaling the nose to get more “draw through”;
  • Lighter styles are in vogue as aperitifs just now
  • Whether to add water or ice depends on the whisky in question, and those of lower strength i.e. 43% or less might be better neat.  So experiment with your favourite drams to find out what suits it best.
  • Avoid chlorine infused tap water.
  • Whisky goes well with cheese and charcuterie!

Benromach Organic 43%

Light and pure expression from G&McP’s very own distillery – despite its size it produces 9 styles.  This one is aged in virgin oak so without flavour influences from other beverages.  The distillery shuts down for 2 weeks each year to make it, due to strict organic requirements.  Medium gold with straw, vanilla and cracked pepper aromas and flavours and a medium finish.  No one else mentioned it but I got bacon!  Better neat – with water it tasted a wee bit too sweet.  £42.99 a great price given its organic credentials.

Loch Lomond Single Grain 46%

Like a single malt, it is made from malted barley in a single distillery, but this dram has to be called grain because it is distilled in a column still, not a pot still.  This makes it lighter in character.  Medium yellow with sweet fruit aromas such as banana, pear drop and baked apple.  The palate had a herbal bite and the alcohol was quite harsh – but with water this disappeared leaving a smooth mouthfeel and flavours akin to viognier white wine with apricot and honeysuckle coming through.  Good value at £29.99.

Tullibardine Sauternes finish 43%

Pale gold, with an appealing nose of sultanas, freesias, sawdust, marmalade and boot polish – the latter elements almost certainly emanating from remnants of the botrytised sweet wine previously aged in the same 225 litre cask.  The palate was mellow and smooth with a hint of smoke and a long honeysuckle finish.  This disappeared before I even thought about adding water, so it is very approachable neat.  A mellow yellow £43.99.

Tullibardine Burgundy finish 43%

Finished in 228 litre red wine casks, this was medium gold in colour with an intense broad aroma profile of honey, chocolate, candied orange, ginger, and farmyard (a nod to Pinot Noir perhaps?) and a lingering finish.   Dry, but very mellow.  Again, it vanished neat.  I enjoyed nibbling cheddar with it – this lifted both the cheese and the whisky.  Very pleasant indeed.  Alot in this bottle for £43.99.


Benromach Sassicaia 45%

This distinctive orange coloured dram (see photo above, No. 5 ) was aged in red wine casks from revered super Tuscan Sassicaia and had 12 ppm of peat smoke (as against 44 ppm for Laphroaig).  Neat, the alcohol was a little harsh, and I did not detect the red fruits and chocolate Luke promised.  BUT I then added water which released red fruity richness, leather, and a long smouldering bonfire finish.  I craved chorizo with this – luckily this was provided – bonfire season bliss.  £45.99 – you won’t see that with the word “Sassicaia” associated with it anywhere else!

Benromach 10 year old 43%

Aged in 70/30% Bourbon/oloroso sherry casks.  I had much to write about this.  Medium amber colour, aromas of nuts, raisins, marmalade, popcorn, ginger nuts, Christmas cake, marmite and smoky bacon fat.  Smooth, warming and powerful with lifted floral aromatics and a generous evolving sweet and savoury palate.  A great all rounder and amazing value at £37.99.

Loch Lomond Inchmoan 12 year old 46%

Non chill filtered (so it might go hazy if water or ice is added, especially at cool temperatures – mine didn’t) and aged in Bourbon refill and American re-charred casks, with 45ppm peat smoke.  No space here to debate whether chill filtered whiskies are better than non chill filtered…..!  Medium amber-orange in colour with a nose bursting with character.  Think rain on tarmac, the vanilla and wood smell of a sauna,  creosote and smoky toasty notes presumably from the re-char.  I found it too harsh neat, but with water it amazed; full bodied, with toffee and baked apple coming through to balance it and a very long evolving finish.  Salami tasted lovely with it!  £48.49 is fair for a dram of this character.

Benromach Peat Smoke 46%

This 9 year old was very popular.  A deceptive pale lemon in colour, this appetising dram would make an excellent aperitif paired with meaty canapés.  A light fresh nose of lavender, straw and baked lemon.  The palate was impeccably balanced and water was not needed, despite its bottling strength.  The finish was sweet, smokey and very long, and a great match with cheddar cheese – after which the finish carried on and on!  At £42.99 I suspect quite a bit of this was sold.

We then enjoyed a couple of whisky cocktails with a Somerset twist – the Whirlygig became the Winscombe y Gig, and the Whisky Manhattan, both of which included Somerset made spirits.  Recipes are a Wine Shop secret so tap them up if you want to know more.  Many thanks to Winscombe’s favourite mixologist Matthew Coxhead and his assistant Armando for those!