Notebook – September 2020

Scottish Field drinks blogger Peter Ranscombe delves into his notebook to share more exciting bottles.

Puffing Billy Vodka (£32.99,
While most vodkas can be dull and boring on their own, those clever people at The Borders Distillery have come up with a clever way of giving their vodka texture. They use malted barley as their raw material and then weave their magic using their rare Carterhead still. The spirit vapour is steamed through charcoal rather than being filtered as a liquid, leaving behind plenty of red and green apple aromas, with yeasty cereal and green bean notes. On the palate, it delivers all the roundness that it promises, together with green apple and mint flavours, plus an almost almond-like nutty note on the finish. Forget the mixers – I’d be quite happy to sip this neat over ice.

Ardbeg The Shortie Smoky Porter (£3.99, The Whisky World)
For its first beer, Ardbeg teamed up with Brewgoodr and Williams Bros to produce a porter that raises money for clean water projects in Malawi. The beer is made using the same peated malt as Islay distillery’s ten-year-old whisky, which – as you’d expect – gives it tonnes of smoky aromas on the nose, with roasted coffee notes galore. The smoke and coffee carry through to the palate, but what’s most impressive is the freshness and relatively light body for a porter.

The Scalasaig Island Hopper Blended Scotch Malt Whisky (£45, Lockett Bros)
Staying with the islands, and a beautifully blended whisky from Colonsay Beverages, the company behind Wild Island Botanic Gin, Brochan Oat Vodka, and the Colonsay Brewery. The Scalasaig, named after the village on the island, brings together island and coastal whiskies from Orkney, Islay and Ayrshire to produce a rich amber liquid full of complex aromas of coal smoke, roast meat, toffee, caramel and lemon. It’s really light on its feet, with a great balance between the smoky notes and the sweeter tablet, caramel and vanilla flavours on the palate. This “maiden voyage” release – featuring just 3,000 bottles – was vatted and then re-racked into first-fill European oloroso sherry oak casks. A great combination and an exciting whisky.

Hatozaki Blended Japanese Whisky (£33.45, The Whisky Exchange)
Master blender Kimio Yonezawa created the Hatozaki blended whisky at his family’s distillery in the port town of Akashi in south west Japan, and named it after the local lighthouse, the nation’s oldest, dating back to 1657. It’s the lightest of light lemon shades, but the hue belies its aromas and flavours, which centre around lemon, grapefruit and yeasty cereal on the nose, alongside light woodsmoke and caramel. The mouthfeel is creamy and the whisky is richer and more flavourful than I expected, with caramel, honey and marmalade notes.

Read more of Peter’s wine, beer and spirits reviews on his drinks blog, The Grape & The Grain.