Glen Garioch 2011 Carn Mor Strictly Limited 5-year-old

Bought: Aberdeen Whisky Shop, 27th March 2017

Ratings:
80/100 – Whiskybase (from 1 member vote)

I do love the Aberdeen Whisky Shop. It’s a nice wee shop in my home town with great staff but….OMG, the website! It’s been sitting there with one page saying, “online shop coming soon” since about 2013. But this is a perfect example of how crazy the whisky market has gone in recent years. The statement “you must be online to make money” doesn’t apply to whisky. If you have a shop in the centre of Scotland’s third largest city you get enough walk-in trade to make ‘online’ become ‘on hold’ until market forces change. But it is frustrating if you find the Aberdeen Whisky Shop online and you don’t live anywhere near the city. At least they give regular updates about new stock via their Facebook page.

I hadn’t intended on buying this Glen Garioch but I was in the shop, it was there, and the rest is history. Generally I’m not a fan of immature whisky but after visiting Glen Garioch in 2016 I was keen to get more examples from the distillery. Distilled in 2011 and bottles in 2017 this 5-year-old was limited to 665 bottles. It has no added colour, and it’s non-chillfiltered but it’s a shame it isn’t cask strength. I suppose it’s a lot to ask for a mere £36 and 46% is a decent enough potency. Definitely one to be drunk as I don’t see this making much as an investment. The bottles aren’t individually numbered and it comes from 2 bourbon barrels rather than single cask. There’s no box and the label is very basic, which all says, “drink me” rather than “keep me for 10 years then sell me”. The independent bottlers Morrison & Mackay that make this whisky certainly know their marketing.

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Coconut, white oak spice, vanilla-forward barley.
Palate: Freshly cut grass, mint leaf and more sweet coconut notes.
Finish: Soft citrus and toasty oak.

Glen Garioch 1997 ‘Vintage Batch 12’

Bought: Glen Garioch Distillery Shop, 12th September 2016

Ratings:
89.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
82.82/100 – Whiskybase (average from 24 member votes)

I bought this bottle of Glen Garioch from the distillery shop following my tour in September 2016. My blog about this visit can be found here. Initially I fancied buying a hand-filled bottle but at £135 a pop it seemed rather extravagant. The pre-packaged 1997 ‘Batch 12’ was a more pocket friendly £51. Bottled in 2012 it’s 14-15 years old and cask strength at 56.7%. I’d seen it at airports and online so I knew it wasn’t very exclusive but I wanted a memento of my visit and 1997 was a significant year for Glen Garioch. The distillery fell silent in 1995 but started production again in 1997 so a bottle from that year celebrates the rebirth of a historic and treasured Aberdeenshire business.

Scoring 89.5/100 in the Whisky Bible classifies this dynamic dram from Glen Garioch as a ‘very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying’. It’s only 0.5 points away from being ‘brilliant’ according to the author, Jim Murray. His review consists of “I have to say: I have long been a bit of a voice in the wilderness among whisky professionals as to regards this distillery. This not so subtly muscled malt does my case no harm whatsoever.”

Reaching nearly 83/100 on Whiskybase suggests a very good single malt. Comments about the Glen Garioch 1997 include “very tasty, nice bourbon-barrel whisky”, “I liked it a lot” and “a very clean and fresh Glen Garioch, on sweet barley and tasting rather young”.

Tasting notes from Master of Malt (where it’s still available for £75.65):

Nose: Creamy and sweet, with notes of vanilla ice cream and banana fritters.
Palate: A kick of cinnamon and pepper, but this remains firmly in ‘caramel and orchard fruit’ country.
Finish: Apple turnovers dusted with brown sugar.

Here’s Horst Luening of Whisky.com with his thoughts about this Glen Garioch 1997 (August 2015):

Bunnahabhain 9-year-old (SMWS 10.93)

Bought: SMWS, 6th May 2016

Ratings:
88/100 – Whiskybase (from 1 member vote)

Those who have read my SMWS Review (Scotch Malt Whisky Society) wont be surprised to hear that this Bunnahabhain will be my last ever SMWS bottle in my collection. Although the majority of what this illustrious independent bottler produce is excellent it was their customer service that let them down and I allowed my membership to expire last year. Nevertheless the opportunity to get a cask-strength Bunnahabhain was too good to resist, so I purchased 10.93 entitled ‘Sweet but Dangerous’ before leaving the society.

I love the standard 46.3% bottling of the Bunnahabhain 12yo, perhaps a little too much, which is why this 9yo by the SMWS failed to impress me. The distillery’s 12yo is mature, refined, smooth and well crafted. Unfortunately this 9yo has none of those qualities and at 61.8% it was very difficult to tame. Maybe I didn’t get the water right, or perhaps it will improve over time as it sits in an open bottle. It wasn’t bad but I wouldn’t go as far as scoring it 88/100 as one member does on Whiskybase. For me it was more like an 85/100 compared to 90/100 for the standard 12yo.

Here are the tasting notes as provided by the SMWS for the Bunnahabhain ‘Sweet and Dangerous’ 9yo:

“Flavour profile: Peated

The nose took us to a beach bonfire – peat smoke, heather, gorse, salty sea air and moules marinières – but one panellist had his own barbeque in a hospital car-park. With water, we imagined coal-tar, liquorice and teriyaki-glazed ribs, an Islay High Street in winter and Dick Van Dyke’s chimney-sweep cap. The neat palate was enormous – deep smoke, chewy dark toffee, mechanics overalls, a disinfected operating theatre, hints of farmyard and pork and apple sausages roasting on a smoky barbeque. The reduced palate – liquorice and clove confectionery – sweet but dangerous (like Mary Poppins!) – and all enjoyed down-wind of an Islay pagoda.

Drinking tip: At a beach bonfire – or while watching a certain movie.”

Ardbeg ‘Kelpie’ Committee Release

Bought: Ardbeg Shop, 26th March 2017

Ratings:
86.37/100 – Whiskybase (average from 193 member votes)

Ardbeg Day is here, and so too is my blog post about the Kelpie Committee Release. This is the second year I’ve been a committee member and endured the 8am bun fight in March to secure a bottle. At least this time the Ardbeg website didn’t go into meltdown. The March release shares the same name as the June release but it’s a higher strength and much more limited in numbers. Each year the price creeps up by a few pounds. This year I paid £89 but it quickly sells out and bottles instantly start making between £130-£140 at auction. Use this knowledge for future releases to tell your partner it’s an investment 😉 but privately you know you’ll be drinking it.

Here is how the previous four ‘Ardbeg Day’ committee releases have faired on Whiskybase:

  • Dark Cove (2016) – 87.94/100 from 273 votes
  • Perpetuum (2015) – 86.72/100 from 234 votes
  • Auriverdes (2014) – 85.7/100 from 616 votes
  • Ardbog (2013) – 87.36/100 from 738 votes

After the success of the Dark Cove last year I’m not surprised that the rating for the Kelpie has dipped. With 86.37/100 it’s currently 4th out of the last 5 releases but that’s still an excellent score. Comments left on Whiskybase about the Kelpie include “rather clean and certainly not bad, but there is nothing exciting about it”, “solid whisky, with some unpolished but pleasant smells and flavours” and “a big and unapologetic Ardbeg”.

Here’s Great Drams on YouTube with their thoughts about the Ardbeg Kelpie (May 2017):

Imperial 1995 18-year-old (casks 50284+50285)

Bought: CASC, Aberdeen, 24th March 2016

Ratings:
87.4/100 – Whiskybase (average from 7 member votes)

The independent bottler Signatory Vintage (SV) seem to be dominating the market with releases from the closed Imperial distillery. In 2016, according to the whiskies listed on Whiskybase, big independent bottlers Gordon & MacPhail released one bottle of Imperial, as did Duncan Taylor, whereas SV released 16. These were either single cask bottlings or a combination of two or three casks. So you have to think that SV bought up a lot of old stock from the Imperial distillery, which was demolished in 2013 but production had been mothballed since 1998.

Not only does SV have a lot of old casks from Imperial, they seem to be exclusively from whisky distilled in 1995. They’ve been releasing numerous bottles from this year since 2011, either at cask strength or 46%, and always un-chillfiltered and natural colour. Other independent bottlers have Imperial casks post-1995 showing that the distillery was still producing whisky as late as the fateful 1998. So it won’t be long before the youngest new bottlings will be a minimum of 20 years old. Collectable? Definitely but maybe not returning a profit for a while given the way SV are flooding the market. It’s almost as if they know there’s a whisky boom!

Having tasted this bottle of Imperial (I have a 19yo as my investment) I would agree with the excellent score on Whiskybase. This is a fantastic old Speysider. It’s a great shame it’s gone but SV are certainly making sure it’s not difficult to get hold of, for now. I suspect that prices may follow a similar rise to bottles of Littlemill (dismantled in 1997), which were quite reasonable a few years ago but are now rare and £200+.

Tasting notes left on Whiskybase:
Nose: Apple, almond, caramel, vanilla, honey, citrus and a whiff of smoke.
Taste: Honey, hazelnut, caramel, citrus, beeswax, white pepper and vanilla.
Finish: Caramel, hazelnut, honey, vanilla and chestnut.

Highland Park 1991 (Travel Retail)

Bought: Whisky Auction, 9th February 2017

Ratings:
85.33/100 – Whiskybase (average from 5 member votes)

Released in 2012, this Travel Retail exclusive was a replacement for the 1990 bottle. At the same time the 2001 came in to replace the 1998 release. Unlike the Highland Park (HP) 1990 the HP 1991 was limited to the Singapore market. This may explain why it didn’t appear in Jim Murray’s ‘Whisky Bible’. Strangely it took over 4 years after the release before the HP 1991 started to appear in UK auctions. I’ve heard of the slow boat from China but these bottles must have been on a tortoise from Singapore! Auction prices have ranged from £77.50 to a whopping £165, which is a lot for a 10-11yo HP. Nevertheless I foresee prices going up because this seems to be quite a rare bottle.

Scoring over 85/100 on Whiskybase is a very good score but the HP 1990, which the 1991 replaced, scores 86.44/100. The 1990 was bottled in 2010, which makes it slightly younger than the 1991. So being older doesn’t necessarily mean being better.

Tasting notes about the HP 1991 from ‘Scotch Malt Whisky’ say:

“Golden with glowing coppery tones, Vintage 1991 (40% ABV) has aromas of dried orange peel, vanilla with toasted cedar wood and rich fragrant spicy notes such as nutmeg, a hint of cloves and incense. Mouth-watering lemon and orange citrus flavours in the mouth, with sweet vanilla custard notes wrapped in subtle yet complex spices at the end. The finish is medium sweet with a lingering, smoky spiciness.”

Linkwood 1989 26-year-old (Whisky Broker)

Bought: Whisky Broker, 25th May 2015

Ratings:
83/100 – Whisky Bible 2016
89/100 – Whiskybase (average from 8 member votes)

I bought this cask strength bottle of Linkwood from the Whisky Broker in May 2015. Since then it’s provided several enjoyable sipping sessions. At 26-years-old it’s a mature Speysider but with plenty of fruity freshness. Only 288 bottles were produced from cask no.1828 and at 53.1% it packs a potent punch. It appeared in the Whisky Bible 2016 where the author, Jim Murray says “malty, sharp and, at times, searingly hot. Sparse and off key on the finish, also.” His score of 83/100 classifies this Linkwood as “good whisky worth trying”.

8 voters on Whiskybase are feeling a bit more generous than Mr Murray where 89/100 is a fantastic score. It’s up there with the Macallan 18yo and some of the best Ardbegs. Comments include “this is a remarkably good whisky” and “a very good whisky. Light in flavour profile, but really full in taste. The spice and sweetness harmonise very well.”

For me my score would sit between the Whisky Bible and Whiskybase at 86/100. It’s an excellent whisky but I’ve tasted better cask strength Linkwoods. But it’s worth buying at auction if you see it going for less than £100 and you enjoy the Linkwood profile. This is a very good example.

Tasting notes left on Whiskybase:

Nose: Pear Drops, Wine Gums, Ripe Strawberries, a slightly spirity nose but not unpleasant. After about 30 minutes and a drop of water – some lemon and still the acid pear drops. Very big and slow legs.
Taste: Acid pear drops. Fresh and sweet with some pepper. Wine Gums. A hint of licquorice and some lemon.
Finish: A dry finish. Lingering acid drops and lemon with a pepper after taste. Most pleasant.

Ardmore 8yo – Claxton’s ‘A Dram A Day’ Charity Bottle

Bought: Gauntley’s of Nottingham, 3rd February 2017

Ratings:
87/100 – Whiskybase (average from 11 member votes)

If you’re a fan of YouTube whisky reviews like I am you’ve probably come across Ben Bowers and his ‘A Dram A Day’ channel. Starting in January 2016 he set himself a challenge to post a whisky review every day for a year, all in the aid of charity. Initially he wasn’t sure he’d manage it but he did, even during the birth of his 3rd child. As the 365 days drew to a close, Claxton’s, a Yorkshire-based independent bottler, offered Ben’s cause a limited edition Ardmore with all proceeds going to charity. After watching most of Ben’s videos I thought it would be rude not to get it. Finished in a Laphroaig cask, limited to 299 bottles and at the cask strength of 55.1%, it sounded wonderful. Also I’d never tried Claxton’s before and their square bottles looked very attractive. I do love a good bottle shape!

Fans of the Ardmore ‘Traditional Cask’ will know how well the Highland distillery’s spirit harmonises with peat. Ralfy, a leading YouTube vlogger, once remarked that the ‘Traditional Cask’ was his favourite peated whisky outside of Islay. Praise indeed and something I agree with. So it doesn’t surprise me that after 11 votes on Whiskybase this special dram has got the excellent score of 87/100. One comment (translated from French) said, “peaty but not in a crazy way either. Gentle on the nose. The high title pushes the sensations high enough, but it remains creamy, not so peated eventually. Youth does not appear.”

Since finishing his challenge I’m delighted to see that Ben got a job with Gordon & MacPhail. I’m sure his whisky videos helped boost his CV as well as helping a worthy charity. Congratulations Ben, and thanks Claxton’s for this awesome Ardmore!

Here’s Ben of ‘A Dram A Day’ with his thoughts about his Ardmore charity bottling (YouTube, January 2017):

Johnnie Walker Green Label (2015 -)

Bought: World Duty Free, 22nd March 2016

Ratings:
82.67/100 – Whiskybase (average from 8 member votes) for 100cl version
84/100 – Ralfy (of www.ralfy.com)

The Johnnie Walker ‘Green Label’ first appeared in 2005 but by 2013 it was discontinued everywhere other than in Asia. In 2015 it returned (hurray!) with a limited edition to mark its 10-year anniversary. But rather than disappear again it has remained due to popular demand, and by having enough stock of the whisky that go into this blended malt. As it states on the box this is a vatting together of Talisker, Linkwood, Cragganmore and Caol Ila, which all have to be a minimum of 15 years old. And with no grain whisky to interfere with the mix you get to play a guessing game as to which of these 4 classic single malts you can spot in the taste.

Even though it’s been 2 years since the Green Label (GL) returned I see that Jim Murray’s ‘Whisky Bible’ book still contains his review from many years ago (95/100) so I haven’t included that. 82.6/100 on Whiskybase is for my 100cl version but the 70cl scores higher with 83.4/100 from 76 votes (it’s the same stuff in both bottles). That’s a pretty good score. Comments include “no big challenge, no need of too much attention. Simple but decent”, “what it lacks is a bit of power, but then again, the balance between subtle smoke and sweetness is well-done” and “initial taste is very good and promising, but the body never delivers. And it’s just downhill from there, with an almost non existing finish.”

Although ratings appear to be good the new GL clearly has its faults, especially to those who tried the previous incarnation. When Ralfy did his first YouTube review of the GL in 2010 he scored it a fantastic 89/100 but in his re-review in 2016 (below) he’s downgraded it to 84/100. He felt it had been slightly sanitised since his last review. ‘Malts of Montreal’ says in his YouTube review of September 2015 (here) that the old version was more smoky and peaty whereas the new GL is sweeter. This could well upset the Coal Ila and Talisker fans and I certainly didn’t taste as much Talisker as I was hoping when I tried it. But overall, without comparison to the previous version, the Johnnie Walker Green Label is a good blended malt and an enjoyable experience on the palate.

Ralfy’s thoughts on YouTube (April 2016):

Poit Dhubh 12-year-old (46% version)

Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 10th January 2017

Ratings:
88/100 – Whisky Bible 2006
81/100 – Whiskybase (from 1 member vote)
81/100 – Serge Valentin of Whiskyfun.com

You wouldn’t look at “Poit Dhubh” and think it was pronounced “Potch Ghoo” but it is. That’s the wonders of the Gaelic language for you. As it proudly states on the back of the 70cl bottle “malt whisky specially produced for the Gaelic speaking islands of the Scottish Hebrides and for connoisseurs throughout the world”. It goes on to say that Poit Dhubh (meaning ‘black pot’, a term for an illicit still) is not chill-filtered to ensure the “oils contribute to its rare and soft, distinguishing flavour”. Marketing also states that its entirely natural so no added caramel either. And at 46% this whisky is looking worthy of 88/100 in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2006, which classifies the Poit Dhubh as “very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying”.

The Poit Dhubh 12yo is still produced today by Pràban na Linne Limited (The Gaelic Whisky Company) along with an 8yo and 21yo. They also do the blends ‘Té Bheag’ and ‘Mac Na Mara’. The current Poit Dhubh is still natural but 43% compared to my older 46% version. Quite when the 46% bottle dates from is unclear (2005?) but there are 10 different versions of the Poit Dhubh 12yo listed on Whiskybase. Strangely Whiskybase categorise my bottle as ‘single malt’ but elsewhere it’s described as vatted or blended malt (as is the current 43% version). Scotch Whisky Auctions sold a bottle of Poit Dhubh 12yo, 46%, in July 2014, which they summarised as “vatted malt (technically a combination of several single malts). Talisker comprises the majority of the malt, reflecting the provenance of its parent company, which is based on the Isle of Skye. The remainder of the blend is composed of various Speyside malts.”

Serge Valentin of Whiskyfun.com gives the Poit Dhubh 12yo 46% a very good 81/100 and remarks, “I think it’s the best Poit Dhubh I ever had, but I think I only had three or four before. Good stuff but at the same price, why not buy the genuine single malt from that island?” [Talisker]. His tasting notes consist of:

Nose: Dry whisky. Notes of wet chalk, very faint smoke, paper, lager beer and lemon-sprinkled porridge, then sea air. More smoke but also more notes of old wood (barrel) after a moment.
Taste: I don’t know if it’s my mind playing tricks to me but it does taste like Talisker (Pràban na Linne are on Skye.) ‘Smoked oranges’, pepper, salt, lime and kippers.
Finish: Rather long, more on lemon.

Here’s Ralfy with his review of the more modern 43% version of the Poit Dhubh 12yo, which he scores a fantastic 89/100 (May 2010):