Moa Katarina Nilsson

My top 10 Whiskies of 2018

My top 10 Whiskies of 2018

It’s amazing how it’s already February. January just flew past, but since it is still the beginning of the year and I’ve already had the chance to try some really nice whiskies, I thought it could be fun to sum up some of the favourite and most memorable drams of last year. It was a tough choice and through researching this article I realized that I’ve certainly have had a lot of whisky in 2018, so very excited to see what’s waiting this year. 

They’re not in any specific order and I’m sure I’ve forgotten about some incredible drams, but from memory these 10 whiskies still linger on my brain and palate. 

 

 

Brenne Cuvée Speciale 

My newfound favourite whisky, which is so incredibly unique in flavour and origin. American ex-ballerina Allison Parc founded the company and the whisky is matured in virgin limousin European oak and finished in cognac casks. For me both the nose and the palate is just like foam bananas and I’ll probably do a foam banana + Brenne pairing sometime soon as well. 

I first nosed Brenne at a tasting where we were introduced to the bottle because the guy hosting the tasting said it was quite weird on the nose. After that I really wanted to try the whisky and ordered a sample bottle from Master of Malt and ever since that I’ve been a massive Brenne fan. They’ve recently released their first 10yo so that is definitely on my list of whiskies to try in 2019. 

 

 

Glenmorangie Milsean

I first tried this bottle last autumn during a visit to Sweden. We visited Ardbeg Embassy, a whisky bar in the old town of Stockholm, and since I’ve loved the packaging for this bottle I had previously been looking to try it, simply based on its appearance. I’m so happy the cover matched the book since this became one of my absolute all time favourite drams. And my lovely boyfriend bought me a bottle, intended as a Christmas gift, but when I got appendicitis in November he gave it to me as a gift to cheer me up when I was in a lot of pain and had to go to the hospital. 

The Milsean (meaning sweet in gaelic) is matured in re-toasted Portuguese red wine casks and has a really complex sweetness, along with such a smooth and lovely oak character that really suits my taste.  

  

 

Kavalan Solist Port 

I mean; w o w. 

That was exactly what I thought when I tried a Kavalan Solist for the first time. This rich and gorgeous whisky lingers with you and makes you finish the dram dangerously quick. It’s full of dark fruit flavours, a subtle oakiness and rich sweetness that derives from the hot climate of Taiwan under which it has been matured. This whisky is what made me so fascinated with international whiskies and how different cultures and countries take whisky and make it their own. It’s fascinating! Our bottle of Kavalan Solist Port is unfortunately already all gone, so perhaps its time to get my hands on another bottle soon again. 

The first time I ever tried Kavalan was at a tasting in Edinburgh where we tried Japanese, Taiwanese and Swedish whiskies next to each other. And it was one of the best tastings I have ever been to. Good enough for two of the whiskies I had that evening to be featured on this list. 

 

 

 
 

Ardbeg Grooves

One of the amazing perks of my job is being able to meet interesting people and sometimes even take part of industry secrets, not yet released into the world. When Dr Bill from Ardbeg & Glenmorangie visited us last spring, he was kind enough to bring his new Ardbeg Grooves with him. I already was totally in love with Ardbeg, since it was the first whisky I ever liked, so I was already expecting great things. But the smooth, sweet smoke that met my nose and palate was unlike anything I could’ve guessed. I even convinced my dad to buy a bottle (and pay for it), on the terms that it has to live in his private whisky bar in the house in Sweden…

Grooves has been partially matured in heavy-charred red wine casks. The heavy charring caused “grooves” on the inside of the cask and hence the name.  

  

 

Compass Box Hedonism 

Hedonism was the first bottle that I ever owned. I won it in a raffle and wasn’t expecting much at all, since I had just started to explore the world of whisky and barely even knew what grain whisky or Compass Box was. This blended malt has a heavy note of vanilla in it and is very smooth and mellow. The marketing often mentions that it has a quite female character and I hope that is because along with the sweetness it also has some complex spice to it. I often feel that grain whiskies are under appreciated as only an ‘ingredient’ in blends, but I really enjoy having a dram of grain whiskies on their own as well. 

 

 

 

Glen Moray Chardonnay 10

It was such a tough choice of deciding wether or not I wanted the cask strength cider cask Glen Moray to be featured on my list, but in the end I couldn’t not put the 10yo Chardonnay cask finish on here because it is simply a great dram. A very white wine-like palate, with green and yellow fruits on the nose and a fresh finish that goes well with pretty much anything. Matured in American oak chardonnay seasoned casks. I think the Chardonnay cask finished Glen Moray is pretty much my go-to dram of any occasion at the moment. I also put it in to the cream in my birthday cake and I can’t wait to have it as part of my whisky & cheese pairing that I’ll write about soon!

Deanston Brandy Cask

I must admit that I’m a big fan of the combination of spicy and sweet that I usually find in cask strength sherries whiskies and I was incredibly satisfied by the similar character in this whisky, which although a resembling flavour still provided a new tasting experience that still makes my mouth water. The Deanston has been finished in French Brandy Casks and is 9 years old. I had it for the first time at the McIntyre Gallery Bar at The Scotch Whisky Experience and I’m so sad it’s a limited release. The Deanston Bordeaux which is also a limited release was another really nice whisky I had in 2018, but I happened to have quite a lot of it in one evening so the memory is good but a bit fuzzy... 

 

 
 

Tomatin Muscatel

I just love a whisky thats’ a little bit different and perhaps even weird. Maybe because I can relate to my own personality. The Tomatin Muscatel was another whisky I tried at work one day and I remember thinking how I didn’t like the nose at all. But on the palate my perception of the whisky completely changed and bursts of blood orange flooded my senses. I later had it in the blind tasting and still wasn’t a fan of the nose but loved the citrusy character of the palate. Muscatel is a fortified wine made from the muscat grapes and the whisky is 15 yo. Unfortunately there is only 6000 bottles available and when it’s gone, it’s gone…

 

 

 

 

 

Glenmorangie Cellar 13

 This whisky will always mean a lot to me. My dad has a bottle of it in the house in Sweden and there’s only a tiny bit left. It is one of my dads favourite whiskies, and mine as well, because of the emotional connection we have to it. An old friend of ours died a few years back in cancer. He was the nicest person I have ever met and I still think it is so horribly unfair that he got sick. He was the type of person who had a lot of friends and cared about everyone. He often got bottles of whisky as gifts from his friends even though he didn’t like it at all, so he often gave the bottles away to his friends who he knew would appreciate and like the whisky. My dad was one of those friends that got some of the bottles. So last year my dad poured me a dram of this whisky and allowed me to taste it and it is a really lovely whisky. It is smooth but really complex and the connection to it just makes it really special. We have now decided not to drink anymore of that bottle but to instead save the last few drams in the opened bottle as a tribute and memory to Peter. My dad will probably buy another bottle of it to keep enjoying and drinking the whisky but the bottle he currently has will always carry a few drams in memory of our dear old friend. 

 

 

 

High Coast - American Oak 

This peated whisky has been matured in ex-bourbon barrels and then transfered in to 40l American oak casks. This results in an intense beautiful whisky that is throughly enjoyable without adding water even though it is at 50.8% abv. This was another of the whiskies I had at the tasting which included Taiwanese, Japanese and Swedish whiskies. I’ve not been able to try another dram of this since I had it the first time so it might be my delusional romantic memory of this whisky that is speaking at the moment. But from what I can remember I was thoroughly surprised by this one, because the Swedish whisky we had just before this one wasn’t that overwhelming, but this completely changed my mind about what Swedish whisky is and even made me a bit proud to be from my beautiful little nordic country. 

Also a shoutout to High Coast Distilleries website where you can be as whisky geeky as you’d like since they write every little detail about the recipes for their whiskies, where they source barley and water as well as casks.

A Winter Guide to Edinburgh

By Moa Katarina Nilsson 

Photography by Karo Regenweibchen

 

A Winter Guide to Edinburgh

 

 

Edinburgh is well suited as a winter get away spot. The chilly air and the majestic buildings adds an atmosphere that will make you fall in love with the city. 

 

There’s two different time periods of winter in Edinburgh. It’s Before Christmas & Hogmanay and After Christmas & Hogmanay. If Christmas decorations, markets and shopping is your thing then visiting Edinburgh anytime from mid November until start of January is definitely for you. Edinburgh gets more and more crowded the closer you get to Christmas and Hogmanay so if you want to avoid all the other tourists then either go as early as you can or mid week to be able to stroll along the market and do some Christmas shopping without having to elbow your way there. If you prefer to visit Edinburgh when it’s dramatically more quiet then January and February is perfect for you. Unfortunately the Christmas market is not around anymore but it’s almost like you get Edinburgh to yourself. 

 

 

  • Christmas Market. This German themed Christmas market offers up most of what you could what. It has food stalls, hot beverages, rides, Christmas decorations and so many options of stalls to find Christmas gifts at. My favourite things to do is grab a cup of mulled wine and stroll along the stalls having a look at everything, trying some of the cheese samples, smelling the different flavoured coffees and trying to decide which Christmas star I’d like to buy.   
  • Warm Beverages (Mulled wine, Hot toddy). One of the best things about Edinburgh being so cold and windy is that you have the perfect excuse to consume hot beverages to warm yourself up. May it be coffee, tea, mulled wine, hot toddies or something else. Or why not one of each?
  • The Castle. You can't miss it. Literally. In most places in central Edinburgh chances are you'll see the castle. Even if you don't want to pay to enter the castle, I would still say it's worth to go up to the castle esplenade to admire the beautiful view and of course also the castle itself. 
 
 
  • Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe. This is an adorable little shop located on the less crowded part of the Royal Mile that offers Christmas decorations. I personally don’t think it is as commercialised as the Christmas shops closer to the castle and even if you’re not looking for Christmas baubles it is a cute little shop to hava a look around in. 
 
  • Fudge Kitchen. If you want to see how traditional fudge is made then head to Fudge Kitchen and watch them make the sweet yumminess. It’s also a perfect gift since you can choose a box size and pick the flavours you like to givaway. Sometimes they’re even so nice that they offer some fudge to taste as well. 

 

 

  • George Street. For shopping George Street is a good shout. It is usually not as crowded as Princes Street and offers a lot of options for gifts. Anthropologie is perfect for quirkier but stylish glasses or plates, Molton Brown has everything for bath & body, Lululemon is for the work out enthusiast and there’s lots of restaurants and cafés around, I would recommend the Italian restaurant Gusto. 

 

  • The Dome. If you like spectacular you’ll love The Dome. Even from the outside it is a magnificent building and indoors you have beautiful architecture that allows you to have a cocktail, lunch or afternoon tea in a real fancy environment. 

 

  • Arthurs Seat. If you have a few hours left over, why not hike up Arthurs Seat? The view from this old volcano is stunning and it’s a beautiful hike that is not too hard to complete. If you don’t want to go all the way to the top, you also have the option of walking along the road that goes around the hill and see the two lochs hiding along it. Why not stop by Dr Neils Garden or the pub The Sheep Heid Inn on the way for a hidden gem and some lunch.  

 

 

  • Swedish Fika. As an immigrated swede myself, I’ll passionately talk about why fika is something everyone should indulge in all year round, but perhaps specifically during the colder winter months. Fika is a term for meeting up with someone to have a beverage and something to eat, most commonly something sweet like a slice of cake or a cookie. Fika is well suited when it’s cold outside because basically all you want to do is hide indoors in a warm café and drink something warm. It is a also a perfect little break in the midst of exploring and shopping around Edinburgh. 

 

  • Photo Opportunities. Oh, all the beautiful photo opportunities you’ll find around Edinburgh. They even have specific signs in the pavements in spots that are known for being the perfect photographic opportunities. Of course Old Town is like a postcard so many nice scenery to catch here, but I would also recommend  going for a walk through Dean Village, by Portobello Beach or along the Water of Leith. 
 

 

  • The Black Cat. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays you can head to The Black Cat on Rose Street for a genuin pub vibe with some live folk music. Perfect atmosphere to enjoy a pint or a whisky. 

 

  • Usquabae. If you’re a whisky lover, an aspiring whisky enthusiast or just in he company of one, you shouldn’t miss Usquabae. A wide selection of whiskies, along with wine, cocktails and beers ina hidden away underground bar with lovely staff. 

 

  • Calton Hill. This is a must do for everyone visiting Edinburgh. Even if you don’t have the time or the will do climb Arthurs Seat, then Calton Hill is perfect. You still get the lovely view over all of Edinburgh and it’s only a few minutes away from Princes Street. 

 

Of course the absolute best tip I can give is to just walk around Edinburgh and see where your feet takes you. There's so much too see and my favourite thing is to visit the places I have stumbled upon randomly. And I'm still discovering new places and things all the time!

 

xx Moa

 

 

Did I miss something? Or do you have any questions? Feel free to get in touch!

 
One of my favourite shoots so far
Finally Karo is back in town and being the nice person she is, she agreed to help me out with a project I was doing. It will hopefully be published soon so I can share it here as well, but for now I can show all the lovely photos I got from it. Aren't they pretty?
 
Photographer: Karo Regenweibchen
Location: Edinburgh