Ledaig 10-year-old

Bought: The Whisky World, 28th August 2020

Ratings:

85.5/100 – Whisky Bible

83.3/100 – Whiskybase (average from 1195 member votes)

Ledaig, the peated Tobermory, is not something you’d give to a novice whisky drinker, unless they have very eclectic taste buds. But once you’re a regular sipper, or looking for something different to Islay peat, Ledaig has a lot to offer. Not that I’m any sort of Ledaig expert. It’s another whisky where I’m guilty of enjoying my first experience but then not following it up with another example. Slap my wrist….but let me put my glass down first!

My previous experience of Ledaig was an NAS that’s long been discontinued. It was slightly rough around the edges but I could taste the potential this spirit would have with a bit more time in the cask. The 10-year-old seems like a suitable upgrade and reviews suggest this is an excellent dram. Jim Murray in his Whisky Bible says “almost a Bowmore in disguise, such are its distinctive cough sweet qualities. Massive peat; easily one of the highest phenol Ledaigs of all time. But, as usual, a slight hiccup on the technical front. Hard not to enjoy it, though.” His score of 85.5/100 classifies the Ledaig 10yo as ‘good to excellent whisky, definitely worth buying’.

Comments online about the Ledaig 10yo include, “I knew the maritime peat, the medicinal peat, here is the filthy peat!”, “It’s a shame that this one isn’t talked about very much, because it’s spectacular!” and “Wow. This is one of the nicest peated youngish whiskeys out there. Better than Ardbeg 10 and other rivals.”

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Quite light and well-balanced. There is a very soft peat with a gentle smoke. Notes of barley and malt extract, with walnut and pine oil and a hint of iodine, dried fruit and nuts.

Palate: Medium-bodied and quite rich. There are notes of spice and smoke gathering above the charred oak. The peat is quiet and dry with a touch of black pepper and earth.

Finish: Medium-length and slightly smoky with spice.

Here’s Andy of Malt Box on YouTube (November 2020) with his thoughts on the Ledaig 10yo:

Blair Athol 12-year-old ‘Flora & Fauna’

Bought: The Whisky World, 28th August 2020

Ratings:

78/100 – Malt Whisky Companion 2015

83.09/100 – Whiskybase (average from 727 member votes)

If you’re ever fortunate enough to find yourself in Aberdeen (Scotland), the place I associate with Diageo’s ‘Flora & Fauna’ (F&F) range of single malts is the Atholl Hotel on King’s Gate. The bar is open to the public as well as paying guests. The hotel is set in a grand granite building in the wealthiest part of town so I’d recommend wearing a suit or posh frock, or perhaps both because it’s always cold in Aberdeen! The bar itself has a calm décor of light wood and subtle tartan fabrics with ample seating and the obligatory 60” TV stuck on the wall. The whisky selection isn’t vast (about 30 options including blends) but it’s dominated by F&F bottles, which take pride of place on the shelves at the back of the bar.

I was amused to read in Michael Jackson’s book ‘Malt Whisky Companion’ that he considers the Blair Athol 12yo to be a mid-afternoon drink. It makes me wonder what he recommends for breakfast! Mr Jackson says of the palate “spiced cake, candied lemon peel, lots of flavour development” and 78/100 puts this dram firmly in the “worth tasting” category.

Scoring slightly over 83/100 on Whiskybase from 727 votes makes the Blair Athol 12yo one of the highest scoring F&F bottlings still available today. There are plenty of people singing its praises. Comments online include “very decent whisky with a nice fruit component”, “impressive malt, very intense”, “mature, delicious and full of character” and “an extremely tasty all-rounder. Simply classic”.

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Nutty with sherried notes. Gentle peat. Crisp.

Palate: Good body, malty and sweet. Citrus and the peels thereof.

Finish: Peat smoke, syrup. Good sweetness, bittersweet, drying.

Here’s Swedish Whisky Girl on YouTube (August 2020) outside Blair Athol distillery in Pitlochry with her thoughts on the 12yo:

Glenlossie 10-year-old ‘Flora & Fauna’

Bought: The Whisky World, 28th August 2020

Ratings:

76/100 – Malt Whisky Companion 2015

91/100 – Whisky Bible 2006

81.6/100 – Whiskybase (average from 217 member votes)

I’ve never references the book ‘Malt Whisky Companion’ on my blog before. The author, Michael Jackson, sadly died in 2007 but he coined the term ‘Flora & Fauna’, which has stuck with the Diageo range ever since. My version of his book is the fully revised edition no.7 from 2015. I assume most of the words and reviews are Mr Jackson’s, including his thoughts on the Glenlossie 10yo. Scoring 76/100 is a reasonable score with the book saying “anything in the 70s is worth tasting, especially above 75”. The palate is described as “malty, dryish at first, then a range of sweeter, perfumy, spicy notes”. As a point of reference, the Aberfeldy 12yo also scores 76/100, the Glengoyne 10yo scores 74/100 and the Glenfiddich 12yo scores 77/100. One of my favourite whiskies of all time, the Scapa 12yo, also scores 76/100 so this Glenlossie must be fantastic! 🙂

Jim Murray’s review of the Glenlossie 10yo in his Whisky Bible 2006 probably dates from a similar time that Michael Jackson wrote his. Scoring 91/100 classifies this single malt as ‘brilliant’. Clearly Mr Murray is more impressed than Mr Jackson. The ‘brilliant’ score is explained with “first-class Speyside malt with excellent weight and good distance on the palate. Easily one of the best Flora & Fauna bottlings of them all”. Praise indeed! I hope bottle versions have remained consistent over time.

Scoring 81.6/100 on Whiskybase from over 200 votes is a good score. Comments are generally very favourable such as “very good flavor, rich and deep”, “for the fans of earthy stuff: buy a bottle before it’s too late” and “a very nice powerful and clear whisky” but also “all in all too unbalanced for my taste”. The last reviewer mentions a dislike for “tannins” which appear in the tasting notes below from Master of Malt. Clearly this is something to watch out for and not to everyone’s liking. But the Glenlossie 10yo gets enough thumbs-up to make me delighted I got it.

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: full of cereal and grist

Palate: good body with a decent sweetness and plenty of fruit with barley sugar and peppy oak

Finish: long with gristy tannins

Here’s Roy of Aqvavitae with his thoughts on the Glenlossie 10yo during his YouTube video about the Flora & Fauna range, April 2018:

Strathmill 12-year-old ‘Flora & Fauna’

Bought: The Whisky World, 28th August 2020

Ratings:

80.32/100 – Whiskybase (average from 203 member votes)

Firstly, thank you to everyone for helping my blog reach the milestone of 300,000 hits. Does this make me one of the greatest whisky writers of the present day? Of course not but it’s a bit of an ego boost to encourage me to keep going. I’d certainly like Whisky Den to reach its 10th anniversary in 2023. If this is your first visit, thank you for helping me towards the 400,000 hits landmark!

This Strathmill 12yo single malt starts a short mini-series of three whiskies from the Diageo ‘Flora & Fauna’ range. If you are unfamiliar with this name I thoroughly recommend watching the video below by Roy of Aqvavitae (the Strathmill 12yo is discussed at 9:38).

Strathmill is a Speyside distillery located in Keith, across the town from the better known Strathisla distillery. Founded in 1891 from a former flour and corn mill, Strathmill was originally called Glenisla-Glenlivet. The name Strathmill means ‘the mill in the valley’. The distillery wasn’t known for single malts as the output was used exclusively for blends such as J&B but in 1993 Oddbins released an expression distilled in 1980. This was the first single malt released from the distillery for nearly 90 years!

Output from Strathmill is primarily unpeated and ex-bourbon. The 12-year-old is of this ilk and a good example of the house style. Scoring just over 80/100 on Whiskybase is a reasonable mark but not one that suggests this will blow your mind or become your favourite tipple of all time. But if you’ve never tried Strathmill it’s a good place to start (Roy certainly likes it!). Comments online include “simple, but very pleasant, quite rich and dense for its years”, “pleasantly fresh and soft whisky with alternating acidity and sweetness of citrus fruits” and “all in all a nice enough whisky that will not offend anyone”.

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: quite soft yet very fruity. A hint of grassy greenness with a nuttiness, there are notes of cut herbs and apples, hints of cut hay.

Palate: silken smooth in delivery. Notes of winter spice and vanilla custard, there is a nutty oiliness which carries everything gentle.

Finish: soft and slightly herbal with a peppered delivery.

Here’s Roy of Aqvavitae with his thoughts about the Flora & Fauna range on YouTube (April 2018):

Macallan ‘Gold’ Double Cask

Bought: The Whisky World, 28th August 2020

Ratings:

79.76/100 – Whiskybase (average from 68 member votes)

The last time I bought the entry-level Macallan it was simply called ‘Gold’ and it was part of the 1824 colour series along with Amber, Sienna and Ruby. This series was discontinued in 2018 but Macallan were clearly too attached to the word ‘Gold’ to let it go (the other three colours weren’t posh enough). With the introduction of the Double Cask series in 2018 the name ‘Gold’ lives on as the non-age statement (NAS) before the 12yo, 15yo, etc., in the range. I’ve heard it said that the Gold Double Cask sits between the former 10-year-old versions of the Sherry Cask and Fine Oak. The Gold will be younger than 10 years though.

The pre-2018 Gold was exclusively matured in Spanish sherry casks but the new Double Cask version is a combination of sherry-seasoned American and European oak casks. They’re clearly different whiskies but blended to share that same gold colour (or very, very similar). They also both share the same price (< £40) and are aimed at the same market.

The Gold Double Cask scores nearly 80/100 on Whiskybase, which isn’t bad especially when compared to its predecessor, which only scores 78/100. But it’s worth remembering that the previous 1824 ‘Gold’ was considered a replacement for the much loved 10-year-old sherry cask, so a lot of drinkers voted down the Gold without really giving it a chance (or tasting it!).

Over on Amazon this Macallan scores a very high 4.8/5 stars from 482 ratings. Clearly this is a mass-market malt that’s hitting a lot of the right notes. Comments online for the Gold Double Cask include, “smooth, full enough, not very sweet”, “great to drink on everyday occasions”, “acceptable and easy drinkable dram” and “I think I may have just found my new favourite malt. Wish I’d tried it sooner.”.

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: This burnished gold spirit presents a lemon citrus nose, the orange peel and an interlacing sweetness that softens but doesn’t eliminate the zest. A quiet note of vanilla is followed by dark chocolate – more assertive, yet not overly so – with a lingering floral and light oak notes.

Palate: Citrus and boiled sweets rule the palate, along with hints of ginger and cinnamon, while soft oak tones reveal toasted apples.

Finish: The finish is medium sweet, malty and slightly dry.

Here’s Great Drams with their thoughts about this Macallan on YouTube, June 2019:

Johnnie Walker Black Label ‘Islay Origin’ 12-year-old, 1 litre

Bought: World of Whisky at Heathrow, 22nd February 2020

Ratings:

83.71/100 – Whiskybase (average from 9 member votes)

If you find yourself in an airport duty free shop and you spot a new whisky you fancy for £30 (or your currency equivalent) I have two words for you – “BUY IT!” I failed to do this with a new range of Glen Grant and I’ve been kicking myself ever since. So when I saw Johnnie Walker (JW) had released four new versions of their 12yo, £30 each for 1 litre bottles, my eyes lit up. With my 5% travel discount from ‘RED by Dufry’ this made it £28.50 per bottle. Since then the price has gone up to £35 at the airports and as much as £52 from online whisky shops (although £45 on Amazon). A bottle at auction went for as much as £55!

I only wanted to buy one of the four bottles, which were divided into the Scottish whisky regions of Speyside, Islay, Highland and Lowland. I’ve been in the malt game long enough to know that Islay is the one for me. Even if it’s mediocre the Islay flavours are going to be interesting. If any of the other regions are mediocre then there’s a chance they’ll be boring, which nobody wants. But with tasting notes that include iodine, sherry, smoke, toffee, red fruits, meaty and full, it sounds like Laphroaig and Bunnahabhain with a few other Islay classics thrown in for good measure. It’s also a vatted/blended malt (like the JW 15yo Green) so no grain in the mix to confuse matters.

Scoring nearly 84/100 on Whiskybase is a reasonable score but only from 9 member votes so far. Over on Amazon the rating is 4.6/5 from 88 global votes but only 3 written reviews from the UK. Most are from Germany where JW must be more popular or simply more available. Indeed Whiskybase list 4 suppliers of this Islay Johnnie Walker, the majority of which are in Germany and none in the UK. Comments online include, “perfectly balanced sweet peated entry level, yet complex”, “lovely and very good value” and “like eating toffee apples at a bonfire. Would recommend to anyone.”

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Iodine, toffee, orange, you’d swear there was some sherry here though apparently there isn’t.

Palate: In the mouth it’s peppery with dried fruit, fresh red fruits and honey, with the smoke lingering but not dominating. Meaty and full.

Finish: Smoke and a little toffee.

Auchnagie ‘Classic Selection’ (43%)

Bought: Master of Malt, 17th March 2020

Ratings:

78.27/100 – Whiskybase (average from 28 member votes)

Auchnagie is the sixth and final example in my ‘Classic Selection’ from The Lost Distillery Company (TLDC). The only one I’m missing from the seven lost distilleries TLDC have reproduced is the Jericho.

Auchnagie distillery ran for almost 100 years from 1812 to 1911. During that time it had seven different owners and was closed for lengthy periods. The distillery itself was located in the hamlet of Tulliemet, in the Ballinluig area of Perthshire, 6 miles south-east of Pitlochry, which makes it a Highland distillery. Peat used in production came from the nearby Loch Broom. This natural resource had been formed from moss and heather, which gave off a delicate floral note when fired. The final owners, who acquired the distillery on a long lease in 1890, were John Dewar & Sons. They went on to build Aberfeldy distillery in 1896-98. The potential of this new distillery is probably one of the reasons why John Dewar & Sons closed Auchnagie for good in 1911.

Scoring just over 78/100 on Whiskybase, the Auchnagie gets the lowest mark of all seven of the ‘Classic Selection’ by TLDC. Nevertheless, the three reviewers on Amazon give it 4.7/5 and seem to like it a lot. Comments online include, “a nice, easy / light starter for a tasting line-up – or otherwise an aperitif whisky”, “probably the best I’ve tasted from the TLDC line”, “I thought it was wonderful with an early full flavor of cedar ending with vanilla” and “a great dram at this price”.

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Digestive biscuit, banana and thick waves of honey.

Palate: Sponge cake (with yet more honey), rice pudding, dried apricot.

Finish: A subtle lick of baking spice appears on the finish.

Here’s Whiskey Vault with their thoughts about the Auchnagie on YouTube, December 2018:

Highland Park ‘Valfather’

Bought: Master of Malt, 17th March 2020

Ratings:

84.27/100 – Whiskybase (average from 162 member votes)

The Highland Park (HP) ‘Valfather’ is the third and final bottle of the ‘Viking Legend’ series, which kicked off with the Valkyrie in 2017, then the Valknut in 2018. Valfather makes reference to the Norse god Odin. His strength is reflected in the extra peatiness of the Valfather, which has been a highlight of this whisky for a number of reviewers. Presented at 47% with natural colour, you have to feel that HP kept the best for last.

Danish designer Jim Lyngvild provided his artistic skills for the presentation of the Viking Legend series. Did you know that Jim Lyngvild appeared on the TV show ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ in 2009? No, neither did I but it’s on his Wikipedia page. Apparently he’s known for his ability to eat things very quickly, which has earned him a place in the Guinness Book of Records. If this skill also includes drinking, perhaps it’s best to keep him away from the Highland Park distillery!

Valfather’s score of 84.27/100 on Whiskybase is very good. It’s slightly less than the Valknut (85/100) but slightly more than the Valkyrie (83.7). Comments for the Valfather include “I was disappointed with the nose but give it a moment then wow”, “the flavours are intense yet amazingly balanced” and “smokey notes, fruity after taste with hints of vanilla, what’s not to like!”. Valfather also scores an excellent 4.7/5 stars on Amazon from 211 reviewers, although a lot of the 5 star reviews say “I gave it to a friend and they’re still speaking to me”.

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Robust, but refined smoke fills the nose initially followed by delicate vanilla, Conference pears, green apple skins and a heady, heavy floral richness. Underneath there’s cedarwood, honeycomb, spice from black pepper and nutmeg, as well as salted caramel before the heathery peat makes itself known. A sprightly sea breeze note emerges with time.

Palate: Simultaneously huge and yet elegant, the palate is beautifully integrated. Layers of creamy vanilla, apricot yoghurt and a helping of crème brûlée interplay with notes of incense burners, iron and salted almonds. Then there’s bitter orange marmalade, charred wood and dried earth among touches of cacao powder, toffee apples and smoked paprika.

Finish: Long and confident. The floral smoke lingers for an age but is offset by tropical fruit and black pepper.

Here’s Ben and Horst Luening with their thoughts about the HP Valfather on YouTube, August 2019:

Dalmunach 3-year-old, 2016, Aberdeen Whisky Shop Exclusive

Bought: Aberdeen Whisky Shop, 21st May 2020

Ratings:

85/100 – Whiskybase (from 1 member vote)

Dalmunach is one of the newest distilleries on the Scottish whisky scene that’s owned by a big players in the industry, Pernod Ricard (Chivas Brothers). The ultra-modern distillery was built in 2014 on the site of the former Imperial distillery (also owned by Pernod Ricard), which was demolished in 2013 simply because it wasn’t economical to be refurbished. Dalmunach distillery is in Speyside not far from the Dailuaine distillery. The name ‘Dalmunach’ comes from a nearby pool on the River Spey.

In August 2019 I spotted on a whisky forum that 4-year-old bottles from the new Dalmunach distillery were now on sale as part of ‘The Distillery Reserve Collection’. Unfortunately this bottle was only available in distillery shops belonging to Pernod Ricard. As fortune would have it I was intending to visit one of these, the Strathisla distillery in Keith but not until October. Before making plans I contacted the distillery to ask about the Dalmunach bottle but sadly they’d sold out. At 64.5% it was going to be hot but a nice chance to try something new. Currently this bottle scores 82.1/100 on Whiskybase from 11 member votes.

I had to wait until May 2020 before getting my next chance to claim a bottle of Dalmunach, this time from the Aberdeen Whisky Shop. This exclusive release was put together by the independent bottler Duncan Taylor as part of their ‘The Octave’ series. Of the 22 releases of Dalmunach listed on Whiskybase, 15 of them have come from Duncan Taylor, 14 of which as part of ‘The Octave’ range. As the name suggests, the whisky has had its final phase of maturation in a smaller octave cask (in this case ex-sherry) to “enhance its hue, taste, form and character”.

The majority of ‘The Octave’ releases score in the mid 80s out of 100, which goes to validate Duncan Taylor’s 40+ years of experience of small cask maturation. For my 3-year-old example (5 months spent in an octave cask) a review says “needs more ageing” but adds “looking forward to trying older Dalmunach in the future”. Most definitely!

Stratheden ‘Classic Selection’ (43%) – (aka Auchtermuchty)

Bought: Amazon, 31st July 2020

Ratings:

79.82/100 – Whiskybase (average from 21 member votes)

When my blog falls silent for weeks or months at a time it’s usually because my next whisky to write about doesn’t inspire me. Stratheden is my fifth example from The Lost Distillery Company (TLDC). I’m beginning to wish I’d put all 6 miniatures into one blog rather than writing about them individually. But each whisky has its own merits, and they’re meant to represent flavour profiles from long-dead distilleries by mixing malts that exist today. It’s a hard task to do and TLCD should be applauded for their efforts. I, on the other hand, deserve a slap for my procrastination.

Stratheden distillery was founded in 1829 in the centre of Auchtermuchty, a wee village in Fife in the lowlands of Scotland (current population is just over 2,000). If you ask any Scot what their 3 favourite places in Scotland are to pronounce, almost all will include Auchtermuchty. It’s just a great word to say. Go on, say it! When you reach a ‘ch’ you have to sound like you’re clearing your throat. If you say it 5 times you need to gargle with a dram to recover. Sadly the distillery closed in 1926 when Prohibition in the US removing the distillery’s biggest market but it had been struggling for quite a number of years before that. A great lost to Auchtermuchty, as well as throat lozenge salesmen.

This Stratheden blended malt gets two 5 star reviews on Amazon, which isn’t a great deal of interest but it’s better than none at all. Reaching nearly 80/100 on Whiskybase from 21 votes is a reasonable score. Comments online include “very pleasant whisky with a long taste in the mouth and a super pleasant sensation of light smoke”, “not a complex whisky, but it has an interesting taste at a reasonable price” and “an easy drinkable fresh whisky”.

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Old oak furniture, juicy orange and a touch of vibrant pineapple.

Palate: Rounded oak once again, with caramel and salted popcorn in support.

Finish: Slightly smokey, though fruit notes still sit at the core.

Here’s Whisky Vault with their review of the Stratheden (YouTube, Oct 2018):