Whisk(e)y Revi(e)ws: BalDonach 12 year old

Matt here with my second review of obscure whisk(e)ys from around the world.  At the behest of my fellow Maltese Falcons (hello chaps!) I returned to Kourosh’s Booze-aar for another obscure bottle of sweet Scottish bliss, and like manna from heaven, it fell to me at the low price of $56.19:  BalDonach 12 year old.

BalDonach trail: A trail as old as time

BalDonach is one of the smallest and oldest distilleries in Scotland.  Nestled in the scenic Campbelltown hills, BalDonach is Gaelic for “terrain that’s rough and hilly”.  It is served by the Donachie river (think estuary-meets-curb-side-run-off) that provides some of the salty aspects of this dram, and only receives direct sunlight three days of the week (that’s all they can afford.)  A couple of miles down the hill from the distillery, the Donachie runs into Loch Donach, which is renowned for its blind para-sailing club, “The Look-Outs”.

Loch Donach in all its Loch-ness

Anyhow, on to the review.

Nose:  Have you ever taken a piece of chalk in your hand, and crushed it up into your fist, and then gone for a bike ride in the rain, stopped for a churro from 7-11, wiped the cinnamon onto your pants, and then fired off a firecracker?  It’s kind of like that, but you’re drunk.

Taste:  Kourosh (see previous review) gets another pat on the back for this one.  Smoke is lightly present, as are toffee, coffee, salty-licorice, and caramelized green banana, like on your uncle’s breath at Christmas.  The coffee flavour makes way for black tea as it sits for a while, much like your uncle does after Christmas dinner.

Can’t beat Beets!

Finish:  If you could describe a flavour as Ernest Hemingway meets Natalie Imbruglia, that would be it.  But you can’t, obviously, so I’d have to say it’s like someone whispered a secret about horses to you inside a cardboard factory over lunch, and the guy next to you is eating spaghetti and pickled beets.

I’ve heard the 18 year old expression focuses more on the nutmeg/nuts/eggs aspect, so I’ll probably try that one as a comparison, but overall I’m quite impressed, BalDonach.  Quite impressed.

Final score, 89/100.

See you next time,


Whisk(e)y Revi(e)ws: Glengrechnie 16 Distiller’s Edition

Hello fellow obscure whiskophiles,

Kourosh's Place

It’s the only place to go for saffron when you’re shopping for a ’97 Saturn.

Matt here with my first review of obscure whisk(e)ys from around the world.  I thought I would start off with the newest addition to my collection, the Glengrechnie 16yo “Distiller’s Edition” single malt.  I picked up a bottle from the Iranian grocer in the used car district near my house a couple of weeks ago.  Apparently, the mild-mannered Kourosh (not his real name), spice-and-meat-merchant by day, runs an illegal liquor store out of his back door by night.  Quelle surprise!!!  He “imports” a lot of spirits from around the world (in bags of lentils and chickpeas) that we cannot otherwise get here in Alberta, because they are not approved by the AGLC for whatever reason.  I was lucky enough to be tipped off to this hidden booze-aar by the local Scotch club I belong to (thanks again, fellow Maltese Falcons).

I decided to try the Glengrechnie 16 because it is not readily available in Canada (or the US for that matter) and because it comes from one of the smallest and oldest distilleries in all of Scotland.  Glengrechnie is a Lowland Scotch by name only, as I discovered, and tasted nothing like the Auchentoshen drams I’ve been accustomed to in my childhood.  The distillery (I had to literally look them up in the phone book to get this information) sits adjacent to the Grechnie river, which is so small you won’t find it on any maps.  It comes from the Gaelic word for “rough, hilly terrain”.  I won’t bore you with the full history that was recounted to me while I racked up a dreadful long distance bill, but suffice to say, there are more than a few bodies buried on the property, and the distillery has changed hands more than a few times.  Many suggest some of the former owners still have an “influence” on the taste of the whisky.  Perhaps this is why they are not licensed to sell on this continent.

Anyhow, on to the review.

Nose:  On first pass, I was sure that my grandmother had come back from the dead, hadn’t showered for 12 days, and brought me a basket of moldy figs and congealed hamster blood.  But in a good way.  After a few minutes of opening up, some of the more lichen-y notes became apparent, blue and black lichen specifically.  There is also a faint hint of door-to-door vacuum salesman aftershave, like if one stopped by your house around 3:30 in the afternoon on a muggy day.  Apples and caramel (but certainly not a caramel apple) also present.

Glengrechnie distillery

Could you imagine if your name was Glen and you lived in Scotland? You’d go nuts.

Taste:  Oh.  My.  Kourosh (again, likely not his real name) you have a return customer on your hands.  Ok.  So it starts off medium smoke, but it’s not a real peaty smoke, it’s like when your friend pees on a campfire to put it out, but before that he had been drinking nothing but caramel milkshakes for 3 days.  It’s hard to explain properly.  Mandrake root, wasn’t expecting that…. frozen peach fuzz shavings… almost a metallic flavour, but more vibrant, like if you lick a tuning fork…  some minor medicinal notes, but not herbal, more of an over-the-counter kind of thing going on…  It’s long and fairly narrow, and oily, like my neighbor’s driveway.  I’m guessing aged in sherry casks that were washed up on shore, having been discarded in the oceans around northern Spain.

Finish:  I’m left with what I can best describe as a ghostly oral reminder of mid-1860’s Glasgow, that one of my dogs seems to find very interesting.  The other doesn’t seem to care for it.

All in all, I’m very impressed with my first taste of obscure Scotch, and I will be visiting Kourosh again quite soon.  I will have to make sure I don’t accidentally call him Kourosh, because again, it is not his real name.  It is made up.

Final score, 89/100.

See you next time,




Kinsella – Not Your Average Town

Greetings from Kinsella, Alberta!


Here it is!

Have you ever played ordinary bingo?  Yes?  Well, that’s probably because you’ve never been to Kinsella, Alberta, home of the extraordinary.

What else are you going to do on a Tuesday in Kinsella?

While most septuagenarians in rural towns play standard bingo, the prairie vanguards of Kinsella play Satellite Bingo (see photo, right)!  Here’s how it works:  everyone goes over to Jim and Nancy’s on Tuesday.  They’re the only ones in town who have satellite TV.  Most people assume Jim and Nancy actually own a satellite in space.  Those people are wrong.

Someone picks a numbered ball out of a cage, and if you can guess what channel corresponds to that number (eg. Fishing Network, Bowling Network, Home Quilting Network, etc…) then you get to watch that channel until the next ball comes up.  Sure Jim and Nancy always win (they own the only TV guide in town too), but most people are just happy to be out of the house, and in front of the only 27″ TV in existence (as far as they know.)


"Watch your t's, bro, slow down"


Bingo isn’t the only thing they do differently in Kinsella.  Local resident Hal Thompson decided he was going to make up his own unit to measure speed, called, predictably, “the Thompson”.  It’s based on how fast he thinks he can run.  15 years ago, the forward-thinking town council adopted the Thompson as their official measure of speed, and put it on their signs.  The typical speed limit is 32t.  Of course,  nobody really knows how fast 32t is, but it doesn’t matter, because nobody owns a car.


"Now boarding: nobody!"


Also pictured here is the failed Kinsella Airport.  They had hoped the motto, “If you build it, they will come” would hold true for airports.  It certainly didn’t.  Now it is home to the annual North American Commercial Building Squatters Association Conference.  The town collects zero dollars from it.  Obviously.

People here are friendly and accommodating, especially if you’re not a minority.

FAMOUS PEOPLE FROM KINSELLA (other than Jim and Nancy):

-W.P. Kinsella, celebrated Canadian author (only in town during a brief 3-day kidnapping ordeal to celebrate the opening of the airport.  They built it, and no one came, so they let him go back home to Edmonton.)

-Janeen Darvishire, famous for an appearance on the Russian reality show, “So You Think You Can Grow Cucumbers”

-Frank Sinatra, woodworker with the same name as Frank Sinatra.

Loving life on the prairies!


Hughenden – City of Hidden Beauty

Hello from Hughenden!

Here it is!

Nestled in the South-Eastern region of Alberta, rising above the landscape like a blade of quack grass rises slightly above a lawn of ordinary grass, is a gem of a town called Hughenden.  Founded in 1743 by a trio of Franciscan monks, Hugh Chapeau, Ennis Mault, and, (as legend has it) the world’s only sentient Denver Omelette, Hughenden derived its name from their three first names combined, HughEnDen.

We're open. No, really, we're open!!!!

Current population -12 (everyone is out of town at the moment), the main industry of Hughenden is custom windows and doors made entirely from plywood.  Unfortunately, when the first (and only) restaurant in town had completely made over their storefront with these unique plywood fixtures, business ground to a halt, with all visitors to the joint restaurant/confectionary assuming it was closed permanently.  Can you say, “refund?”

Now, Hughenden’s best public attraction is the town library/used book store/internet cafe/public restroom/plumbing supply store/volunteer police force recruiting centre/school/daycare/photo booth/laundromat/liquor store/un-authorized AMA branch/town hall/museum/kennel/jail.  It’s at Ted’s house (not pictured for legal reasons).

"Well, if we sell all the books, we won't have to keep the library open!"

If you’re wondering where all the residents of Hughenden are, look no further than the next town down the highway.  Each summer the whole town goes on a field trip to a better town so they have something to talk about for the rest of the year.


-John Davis, inventor of the spiciest pepperoni stick ever made.

-Tad Grenwich, bronze medal, adult tricycle 500M trials, 1972 World Championships of Unexpected Transportation.

-Hal Hefford, pretty good guy.

Anyway, I miss you all back home, I’ll write again when I get to the next exciting town.


Killam – A Cartographer’s Dream

Hello from Killam!

Here it is!

I know you’ve heard a lot about Killam, in movies, in Broadway musicals, and especially in 19th Century Russian literature, but prepare to forget everything you THOUGHT you knew about Killam.

It's important to enjoy the little things, like big ice cream cones.

Dubbed the “Ice Cream Capital”, Killam is actually more well-known for sorbets and other flavoured ice products, but in 1865, the original Killam Chamber of Commerce (a guy named Doug) decided (correctly) that dairy desserts looked better on road-side signage, and the decision has stuck.

Killam is now home to the Culinary Institute of Conical Dessert Accessories, specializing in the art and science of edible serving device preparation.  You might not be familiar with the Institute (student population 3), but you might be familiar with the Waffle Cone.  Well, so are they!  It wasn’t invented there, but it represents an entire semester of learning.  Fill your boots, foodies!

The town motto, confusingly, is “Drive safely, avoid accidents, Killam”.  (See town sign in picture, above.)  For over a century, it was, “Drive safely, avoid accidents, kill’em”, and residents loved it a lot.  When vehicular homicide was made illegal in 1946, they changed the name of their town from “Staplertown” to “Killam” so they could continue to use the motto at ceremonies, sporting events, and in singing the civic anthem “Killam Well, Killam All”.  Not just a catchy town motto, this phrase now serves as a reminder to NOT hit people with cars.  According to town’s statistical records, since 1946, there has never been a single vehicular accident in Killam (not counting accidents involving a man named Jeff, Geoff, Jef, Geff, etc…) which would place it easily in the Guiness Book of World Records, if the book included dumb records like that.

Killam was also the first town in the Western world to have the map of their entire town painted on the side of the biggest building in town (see picture, below).  This process is known as “pulling a Killam” and means a short-sighted, ill-advised waste of money on public art, because towns change size, and the sides of buildings don’t, generally.  Killam however, will never face this problem.


TRIVIA TIME: The building that the map was painted on... ISN'T ON THE MAP!

-Sandra Jacobavich, flute player in Augusto Pinochet’s personal traveling woodwind quintet, The Augustinotes (1974-1975).

-Fiona Reading, the first person from Killam to learn what reading is, and how it could be used in today’s society for the betterment of humanity (1983).

-The world’s 9th tallest three-legged cow on record, named Harvey (two-term Mayor of Killam, 1965-1976).

Well, I guess it’s back to the tour bus now, I hope the weather back home is mild.

Best regards imaginable,