Monthly Archives: December 2014

Mortlach ‘Rare Old’

Bought: The Whisky Shop, 18th November 2014

79/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
77.76/100 – Whiskybase (average from 146 member votes)

Another whisky bought because I like the bottle shape. If I’d checked the reviews first I might have talked myself out of it. All Jim Murray says in his Whisky Bible is “not rare enough” and his score of 79/100 ranks this malt as “average and usually pleasant though sometimes flawed”.

I’m a bit reluctant to include the score from Whiskybase because one member rates this Mortlach 19/100 with the comment “bargain”. That sounds like a complement, which suggests the 19 was a mistake (perhaps they meant 91?). Now there have been 146 votes, nearly 78/100 is probably fair. Comments include “plain and simple”, “very average quality. Way too expensive for what you get”, “all in all nothing offensive but quite underwhelming” and “a surprising character. The tastes and smells are well integrated and play off of each other well.”

In defence of this non aged-statement Mortlach, it scores 4/5 stars on The Whisky Exchange from 8 reviews, and 4/5 on Master of Malt from 5 votes, suggesting it’s not as bad as initial ratings imply, but these still equate to 80/100 so similar to the Whisky Bible and Whiskybase.

Perhaps not a whisky to wow the taste buds but if you like having your booze on display, the bottle is certainly very aesthetically pleasing. I’m sure I’ll have this Mortlach sitting on a shelf for many years, looking good and gathering dust. Then in 30 years when it’s genuinely rare and definitely old, I’ll drink it!

Here’s Ben of ‘A Dram A Day’ with his thoughts about the Rare Old on YouTube (December 2016):

Mortlach Rare Old NAS 50cl


Knockando 12-year-old, 1999

Bought: Waitrose, 15th November 2014

78.75/100 – Whiskybase (average from 10 member votes)

I considered getting the Knockando 12yo last Christmas but I got put off by the variable ratings this annual release gets. The most recent 12yo mentioned in the Whisky Bible is the 1996 version where the first word of the review is “disappointing”. Hardly an encouraging comment! I ended up ticking Knockando off my Scottish distillery wishlist when I bought a 1986 miniature in an online auction last February.

So why buy it now? Because this is the 1999 release, and therefore the final version of this 12yo to be distilled in the last millennium. I’m probably the only person that thinks this is significant, and I doubt it will make this bottling a collector’s item. Certainly not when the only review in English on Whiskybase summarises with “This is not better than a blend. Only winning feature was that it’s a bit above 40% (at 43%).” Ouch! When the best thing about a spirit is its strength so you can get drunk faster and ignore its taste, you know it’s not a lifelong friend.

I’m wondering if the distillery got its name when someone asked “can you make a good single malt?” and the reply was “no can do!” 🙂

Knockando 12yo 1999 70cl

Glenturret 27yo Commonwealth Games Edition

Bought: The Famous Grouse Experience, 13th November 2014

95/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
90/100 – Whiskybase (average from 4 member votes)

There’s an interesting story behind this single malt, which may add more value to it in future years. The whisky was distilled in 1986 after the Commonwealth Games was last held in Scotland. 28 years later the Commonwealth Games returned to Scotland, so the whisky was bottled before the games, all ready to be sold to tourists visiting the event in Glasgow. My emboldening of “after” and “before” is significant because the law for whisky states that only the exact years spent distilling can be declared on the bottle. The whisky hadn’t reached its 28th birthday when it was bottled but went on sale saying “28-years-old” on the label. Ooops!

I’m not exactly sure of the sequence of events but it seems the whisky had to be recalled during some, if not all the days the games were running. A limited edition whisky that should have sold out, now had leftover stock, and was old news. That is until the Whisky Bible 2015 appeared in the autumn of 2014 and awarded this Glenturret “Best Single Malt aged between 22-27years from multiple casks”. The author, Jim Murray, said “every bit as rounded and chewy as the nose suggests” and concluded with “I honestly can’t remember the last time I experienced a Glenturret this good”.

I was alerted to the pedigree of this single malt when the Whisky Bible 2015 results were posted on a forum. Someone mentioned that the Famous Grouse Experience shop was offering a £30 discount so I joined the rush to secure a bottle. A great tasting malt but an obvious investment for the future. One to sell at auction the next time the Commonwealth Games are in Scotland.

At the time of posting the Glenturret can still be purchased at online retailers such as Robbie’s Drams, The Whisky Exchange and Master of Malts.

Glenturret Commonwealth Games 2014 27yo 50cl

Penderyn ‘Sherrywood’

Bought – Tesco, 12th November 2014

93/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
80.82/100 – Whiskybase (average from 13 member votes)

As Christmas draws ever closer, anything with the word “sherry” in it has me reaching for a mince pie. The Sherrywood is my second bottle by Penderyn, having got the Madeira last year. Both get great reviews and come highly recommended.

If you look in the Whisky Bible 2015 under “Penderyn” (the only whisky distillery in Wales) you’d be forgiven for thinking that the author, Jim Murray, has shares in the company! A very high proportion of the whiskies released by the distillery score 90 or more. The latest Sherrywood mentioned scores 93/100 with the comment “a malt that really must be tasted at body temperature for the very best results.” So don’t go putting any ice in it! Unless you live in an igloo, where “room temperature” tends to be a bit ice-like.

Remarks on Whiskybase suggest that, if you’re a fan of sherry cask whisky, then the Penderyn Sherrywood hits that juicy nail on the head. One comment mentions adding water then leaving the whisky for an hour to let it fully open up in the glass. An interesting idea but that suggests forward planning, or a lot of restraint. When it comes to whisky I generally want it when I pour it. Perhaps I should add “self control” to my list of resolutions for 2015!

Here’s ‘The Good Dram Show’ doing a tasting on You Tube (Oct 2012):

Penderyn Sherrywood 70cl

Highland Park 14yo – Adelphi Fascadale Batch 7

Bought – The Whisky Exchange, 11th November 2014

82.91/100 – Whiskybase (average from 13 member votes)

I first tried a dram by the independent bottlers ‘Adelphi’ in a whisky bar, summer of 2014, in Aberdeen, Scotland. It was a cask strength mystery malt called “Breath of Islay”. Not all single malts from Islay float my boat, so I wasn’t surprised when the first scent I detected from this whisky was ‘urinal’. Probably not one of the words Adelphi would use in their marketing literature. I persevered (because I know Islay malts of old) and I was eventually rewarded with a beautiful drink AND reminded I needed to buy some more toilet duck.

Impressed with my first Adelphi experience, and a renowned Highland Park fan, this Fascadale release for 2014 instantly caught my eye. The packaging and presentation of the bottle is simple and unfussy, perhaps a little too much so. A limited release of 1391 bottles but the bottles aren’t individually numbered. They are however 46%, natural colour and unchillfiltered. Adelphi’s advertising on the side of the box is also very impressive, where they say they only select 4% of the whisky they are offered to ensure that only the best quality, rarest single casks, are released.

Initially 85/100 on Whiskybase after 3 votes it has settled to just below 83/100, which is still an excellent rating.

Highland Park 14yo Adelphi 70cl

Highland Park 1998

Bought – The Whisky Exchange, 11th November 2014

85/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
81.9/100 – Whiskybase (average from 71 member votes)

Another HP originally created for the Travel Retail market in 2010. Having been superseded by the Warrior series, old stock of the 1998, 1994, 2001 and 1990 can sometimes be found in standard whisky shops like The Whisky Exchange. I grabbed this bottle quickly because a) I’m a HP fan and b) this old release wont be available for long.

At 85/100 in the Whisky Bible, this malt just squeezes into the category of “very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying” but the author says “though pleasant, disappointing by HP standards”. Sometimes having high standards can be a rod for a distillery’s back. If this malt had been by the Speyburn or Speyside distillery it would score in the 90s simply by comparison to their usual output. Nevertheless, this 1998, bottled in 2010, compares very favourably with the standard HP 12-year-old, which only scores 78/100 in the Whisky Bible. But, just to confuse matters, Whiskybase score the standard 12yo 82.44/100, which is slightly more than what they give to this 1998 release.

Often with buying whisky, it’s not a case of getting something better, but getting something different. I could go to my local supermarket and buy two bottles of the standard HP 12yo for the same price as this 1998 version but that’s not the point. Once you’re hooked on whisky, you like to try what’s out there, even if it means paying a bit more for the experience. And being a collector adds another dimension to this malted madness! 🙂

Here’s Gerry Tosh of Highland Park discussing the 1998 release (July 2010):

Highland Park 1998 100cl

Glenlivet Guardians’ Chapter

Bought – The Whisky Shop, 7th November 2014

81.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
86.29/100 – Whiskybase (average from 128 member votes)
9/10 – Whisky Wednesday (video review below)

With my whisky interest dating back to 2013, you’ll have to forgive me for not having a big depth of knowledge when it comes to distillery publicity stunts. The Glenlivet Guardians’ Chapter is the biggest one I know, in my limited knowledge of …..ummm… one. But I think it’s a good one, whatever has happened in the past. The ‘guardians’ of Glenlivet (email list of members) spanning 37 different countries, were asked to try samples of 3 different single malts, the “Exotic”, “Classic” and “Revival”. The “Exotic” won but, only just. This became the limited release that we know as the Guardians’ Chapter.

The cunning part by Glenlivet is, with so many people involved in the selection process, they can be certain that those who chose the “Exotic” will a) buy it and b) give it a good review. But, even for those who didn’t, there’s a sense of loyalty and duty associated with buying the end product.

The Whisky Bible’s score of 81.5/100 ranks the Chapter as “good whisky worth trying” but the author summaries with “just doesn’t gel”. Some comments on Whiskybase agree with this but the overall score of 86.29/100 is extremely good. Jo of ‘Whisky Wednesday’ certainly thinks this Glenlivet is great because his score of 9/10 is one of his highest. Here he is with Ben of ‘A Dram of Day’ giving us their thoughts on You Tube (June 2016):

Glenlivet Guardians' Chapter NAS 70cl

Singleton ‘Tailfire’

Bought – ASDA, 3rd November 2014

79/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
77.3/100 – Whiskybase (average from 82 member votes)

With the name “tailfire” I was a bit worried about the finish on this whisky. Is it designed to set your palate on fire? Or does it mean I’ll have indigestion for a week after drinking it? Or perhaps a ‘tail fire’ more commonly experienced after a hot curry?! The ‘tailfire’ actually refers to a salmon fly, used for fishing, although the tail pictured on the back of the whisky box looks more like that of a dragon’s! (I now realise it’s supposed to be a fish hook, not a tail).

The Dufftown Distillery hasn’t exactly been setting the world of whisky on fire in recent years with their lacklustre 12yo, so it’s nice to see some new releases aimed at injecting life into the brand. Although the current rating on Whiskybase isn’t great, it’s not bad either. The member, and expert vlogger, Mark Dermul summaries his review of this new malt with “The difference with the Sunray is quite clear. This one is much better. A nice addition of red and dark fruit and a wonderful finish. Again eminently quaffable and friendly priced, so if I had to make a choice, I would take this Tailfire home.”

Jim Murray in his Whisky Bible only has 3 words to say about the Tailfire, which are “tailspin, more like”. Not exactly complimentary and 79/100 classifies this single malt as “average, and usually pleasant though sometimes flawed”.

Here’s SingeMaltManiac with their thoughts about the Tailfire on YouTube (Nov 2015):

Dufftown Tailfire NAS 70cl

Millstone 12-year-old Sherry Cask

Bought – Amazon, 28th October 2014

95/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
83.85/100 – Whiskybase (average from 35 member votes)

If you’ve never used Amazon before for buying whisky, I’d highly recommend giving them a try. I’ve wanted an example from the Dutch Zuidam distillery since 2013 but, at over £50 for the youthful 5-year-old rye, I wasn’t expecting to get a bottle any year soon. Browsing Amazon one day, I spotted the new 12-year-old release reduced by £30 to £45, with free postage, supplied by Amazon. It was pure luck but it makes up for some of those supermarket discounts I keep missing out on. Grrrr! But, like the Millstone, I’m not bitter.

So spontaneous was my purchase, I’d not read any reviews of this new 2014 release by Zuidam. I knew they were highly thought of, so it came as no surprise when I read online that this 12-year-old Sherry Cask has won prizes. Jim Murray in his Whisky Bible says “superb age on this: almost like opening a bottle of 20-year-old sherry” and “an excellent cask at work here which ensures an overflow of character”. A score of 95/100 classifies this Millstone 12yo as a “superstar whisky that gives us all a reason to live”. Make mine a double!

Bottle No: 606
Cask numbers: 1344, 1345, 1347
Date of distillation: 26/2/1999
Bottling date: 8/11/2012

Zuidam Millstone 12yo Sherry Cask 70cl

Laphroaig Select

Bought – Morrisons, 28th October 2014

89/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
79.28/100 – Whiskybase (average from 77 member votes)

Morrisons, bless ’em, caught me again with another tempting reduction on a new line of whisky. So smitten was I that I didn’t look for any reviews of this new, non-age statement release from Laphroaig. Why should I, since Laphroaig are hardly going to be releasing a mix of vinegar and pee onto the market?! Although, there have been rumblings on the whisky malt vine for a while that standards have slipped at the distillery. And some lovers of the classic 10-year-old see this ‘Select’ as an indication that Laphroaig are taking the same road as Macallan. With this is mind, I wasn’t surprised to read some negative reviews of the ‘Select’ on the internet after my purchase.

Thinking I’d bought a dud, I was surprised and delighted when my Whisky Bible 2015 arrived in the post including a score of 89/100 for this new Laphroaig. This classifies it as “very good to excellent whisky definitely worth trying”. It’s a shame it’s not 46% and unchillfiltered but I guess we can’t have everything for £26. Thankfully it says on the back of the tube that the Select is “natural colour”.

Falling just short of 80/100 on Whiskybase might not seem brilliant but the members who have left comments are generally very favourable. When this ‘Select’ is at full price it’s not much different from the 10-year-old, but it’s worth a punt if you see it at a discount.

Here’s Frozen Summers on YouTube with their thoughts about the Laphroaig Select (May 2015):

Laphroaig Select NAS 70cl