Single Malt

Review: Game of Thrones Six Kingdoms Mortlach 15-Year-Old Single Malt

Photo credit: Diageo

At last we have arrived. The HBO epic Game of Thrones is complete. Say what you will about that divisive last season (I’m on the ‘it was okay’ camp, BTW), it was a game changer in the current TV landscape. Diageo celebrated by releasing their Game of Thrones Single Malt Collection, which ranged from pleasant to very good.

The final entry in that collection is here – Six Kingdoms. According to press materials, it “pays tribute to the fate of Westeros, whose long-held Seven Kingdoms ultimately became six at the conclusion of the show’s climactic battle for the Iron Throne.”

Diageo has chosen to create a new Mortlach expression this time. The famously meaty whisky has matured in first fill sherry casks for 15 years followed by a short secondary maturation in ex-bourbon casks. The whisky has been bottled at 46% ABV and is available in limited quantities for an SRP of $150. I really like Mortlach’s recently released range of whiskies, so I’ve been anxiously awaiting this bottling. Let’s get to it.

Aromas of dried fruit, vanilla bean, toffee and oak spice characterize the nose. Taste-wise, a rich toffee sweetness coats the palate, giving way to hints of vanilla cream and dried fruit. A slight nuttiness also appears, thanks to the sherry cask maturation. A wave of baking spice. leather, and toasted oak increases in intensity through to the long, fruity, and slightly dry finish.

Of all nine whiskies of the Game of Thrones Single Malt Collection, Mortlach 15-year-old is by far the richest and most complex. The ex-bourbon barrel finishing period adds layers of creamy vanilla and caramelized sugar. Combined with Mortlach’s big and fruity nature, the result is a whisky made for toasting a special occasion, after dinner, or any time you want a damn good whisky. This is easily my favorite of the collection.

Thanks to Diageo for the sample. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Review: Starward Nova and Two Fold

And now for something a little different – Australian whisky from Starward. The Melbourne-based distillery is influenced by the culinary innovations from Australia’s foodie capital. Add to that the vast amount of wineries nearby and climate ripe for quick maturation and you end up with a distillery that’s uniquely Australian. Let’s take a look at two of their expressions.


Starward Nova is a 2-year-old single malt whisky that matured in Australian red wine casks. Because of the continent’s climate, whisky maturation in Australia is more akin to that of Kentucky than Scotland. The wine casks used here were not charred. The brand says they were instead steamed, retaining the penetration of wine into the barrels. Nova is bottled at 41% ABV.

The nose is bright and full of lush red fruit, sweet malt, vanilla, and a hint of caramel. Rich and mouth-coating, Nova is impressive on the palate. Stewed red fruit and wine notes meet creamy vanilla. The influence from the wine cask maturation really comes through. A touch of wood spice on the back palate leads to a clean, medium-length finish with hints of strawberry jam and cardamom.

I love the red wine cask maturation here, and how it does not overly sweeten the whisky. Nova drinks heavier than its low ABV suggests, but maintains a brightness that makes it a great whisky to bust out at a picnic. It’s fruity, malt, and quite tasty.


Two Fold from Starward is also a 2-year-old whisky matured in Australian red wine casks. That’s where the similarities end. Two Fold starts with malted barley and wheat in its mash bill.

The nose is at a delicate balance between fruit and grain, with buttered wheat toast, red berries, vanilla and some spice. Two Fold’s palate is a touch sweeter than Nova. Sweet wheat, red apples and raspberries are met with a soft caramel undertone. Hints of spice and slightly astringent oak lead to a short, fruity finish.

Two Fold is more grain-forward compared to Nova. It feels more rounded in flavor, but tastes younger (think vibrant and sweet, not ‘green’) thanks to the inclusion of wheat. Two Fold might appeal to American whiskey drinkers looking to expand their palates. All in all, Two Fold is a flavorful, fruity whisky that shines a little light on its grain notes.

Good on you, Starward. The unique approach to maturation exudes terroir, as only an Australian distillery can pull this off. I’m truly excited to see where Starward has in store for the future.

Thanks to Starward for the samples. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Review: Orphan Barrel Forager’s Keep

Photo credit: Diageo

We’re now five years into the Orphan Barrel brand’s existence. Wow, time certainly seems to fly by. The brand’s purpose was to showcase older or “forgotten” barrels. We’ve seen lots of bourbon and even a little Canadian whisky released under the brand’s umbrella. A few releases have been great, others not so much, and most lying somewhere in-between. Since the 2014 introduction of the brand, I’ve held my breath for a single malt release, as owner Diageo’s malt distillery profile is quite bountiful.

Now I can breathe easy.

Forager’s Keep, the latest Orphan Barrel entry, is a 26-year-old single malt whisky from the Pittyvaich distillery. You might not recognize the distillery, as it’s output was sent for blending in Bell’s. The single malt bottlings that did exist were very few and far between.

Also, Pittyvaich doesn’t exist anymore. It closed down in 1993 after only 18 years in operation and was demolished in 2002. The reasoning basically came down to the distillery being “surplus to requirements,” according to the excellent Whiskypedia section at

Forager’s Keep is bottled at 48% ABV and priced at $399 a bottle. Not bad considering the age and rarity of the whisky. In fact, this whisky aged longer than the distillery was in existence.

The types of barrels used here have not been disclosed. Based on the color (which looks natural to my eyes) and the taste, I’d guess this whisky is made up of mostly ex-bourbon and refill casks. Maybe, maybe a sprinkling of European oak casks.

The nose is centered around refined orchard fruit aroma upfront. Then, hints of vanilla and light spice (cinnamon and cloves) appear, as do dried herbs and a touch of balsamic vinegar. Just a touch. The whisky comes across as a medium-to-heavy bodied and somewhat viscous on the palate, with hints of butterscotch, pecan, and vanilla ice cream topped with stewed spiced apples and garnished with citrus peel. The fruit intensifies as oak spice develops mid-palate alongside a very small earthy note. Light oak spice and apple sauce on the long, warm finish.

I’d mark Forager’s Keep among my favorite of the Orphan Barrel releases. Of course, it stands out as it’s a single malt Scotch and not a bourbon, so it might be a bit unfair to compare. Either way, this is a nicely matured older whisky that showcases the fruit-centric beauty of the late Speyside distillery. This is one bottle I’ll be looking to own. 9.5/10

Thanks to Diageo for the sample. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.