Monthly Archives: April 2016

Ardbeg Supernova 2015 Committee Release

Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 11th March 2016

97/100 – Whisky Bible 2016
89.2/100 – Whiskybase (average from 117 member votes)
95/100 – Whisky Bitch (her YouTube video below)

I didn’t join the Ardbeg committee (which is free via their website) until after the Supernova 2015 came out so sadly I had to pay a bit more for this bottle at auction. Not only is this meant to be the 5th and final release of the legendary Supernova but according to reviews on Whiskybase, this is the best version of the 5. It’s also a ‘must try’ whisky for anyone who wants to experience all that’s great in the world of peated single malts. If the Macallan 18yo is the Rolls Royce of whisky then the Ardbeg Supernova is the Hummer limousine – big, beefy and adds a touch of luxury to any night.

The first release of Supernova came out in 2008 but Jim Murray didn’t start his Whisky Bible reviews until the second version appeared in 2009. His scores in release order are:

  • 97/100 – 2nd Supernova (2009)
  • 93.5/100 – 3rd Supernova (2010)
  • 96.5/100 – 4th Supernova (2014)
  • 97/100 – 5th Supernova (2015)

So the 2nd and 5th rank the same in Mr Murray’s opinion, which classifies them as “superstar whiskies that give us all a reason to live”. He says of the 2015’s taste, “a consuming delivery: frisky, smoky, sugary, ashy, playful, stern…and naturally, as Ardbeg will, amid all the enormity, comes the counterpoint of delicate citrus.” And summarises with, “in many ways an essay in balance. This is a huge beast of a malt with seemingly insurmountable peat…until it encourages, then allows you to climb up its back. Magnificent.”

Scores on Whiskybase put the 5 versions of Supernova in the following order of brilliance:

  • 89.2/100 – 5th Supernova (2015)
  • 89.1/100 – 3rd Supernova (2010)
  • 88.9/100 – 1st Supernova (2008)
  • 88.7/100 – 2nd Supernova (2009)
  • 88.5/100 – 4th Supernova (2014)

Here’s the Whisky Bitch’s review from April 2016:

Ardbeg Supernova 2015 Committee Release NAS 75cl

North Port-Brechin 1982-2008 (G&M)

Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 11th March 2016

87/100 – Whiskybase (average from 6 member votes)
83/100 – Malt Maniacs (from one maniac score)

How important is a name? Would people remember the legend of Pelé so well if he’d been called Keith? Or Elvis if he’d been called Clive? North Port distillery is a case in point because you have to wonder if it would linger longer in the imagination with a more interesting name. It started life as ‘North Port’ in 1820 but changed to ‘Brechin’ in 1823. Then Glencaddam opened in Brechin in 1825, so to avoid confusion it’s likely that Brechin distillery reverted back to its old name of North Port. Whisky production ceased a few times in the 1900s before the distillery permanently closed in 1983 along with numerous other distilleries.

It seems independent bottlers Gordon & MacPhail (G&M) decided to cover both bases with this bottling and called it ‘North Port-Brechin’. Scoring 87/100 on Whiskybase is an excellent score and a review can be found here on ‘Alcohol and Aphorisms’. After two independent releases in 2008, Malt Madness stated that old stock from North Port was running out. According to Whiskybase only two new releases have appeared since then – one in 2010 by G&M and a second in 2015 by Cadenhead (a 38yo, which is still available from Whisky Barrel for £800!).

For tasting notes and comment here are the thoughts from Drinkwell off license, UK (where it originally retailed for £95):

Nose: Soft and finely balanced; almonds and mint and freshly cut grass. Fruit and wood. Cider apple, damson plums, honey. Dark chocolate.

Palate: Oily. Black chocolate. Bitter. Sour fruitiness. The spices and biting alcohol is even more enhanced with with water. Wood dominates maltiness. Reminiscent of a rye whiskey.

Finish: Robust, warm, biting. Lots of age; some cocoa notes. Toasty and dry. Lingers quite well.

Comment: Lovely calming oak influence. The nose is very impressive. Of interest to collectors, historians and the likes of me, but this Brechin brew, staunched in 1983 is as good as it gets.

North Port-Brechin 1982 NAS 70cl

Wolfburn 2016 – 1st Release

Bought: J A Mackay, 11th March 2016

91.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
80.47/100 – Whiskybase (average from 462 member votes)

The first Wolfburn distillery actually started life in 1821 but stopped production in the 1850s and was in ruins by the 1870s. Jump forward 140 years and in 2012 approval was given to build a new Wolfburn distillery a mere 350m away from where the old one once stood. The water source for the whisky comes from the nearby ‘Wolf’ burn (stream), which gives the distillery its name. Production started in 2013 so by 2016 we have the first legal 3-year-old whisky ready for release, making Wolfburn the most northerly whisky on mainland Scotland (taking over from Old Pulteney).

I feel a bit sorry for new whisky distilleries because so much of their future reputation hangs on the success of their first release. Generally speaking a 3-year-old whisky is a gamble because it lacks maturity and can taste quite raw and spirity. But if good casks are sourced along with an experienced master distiller, magic can sometimes happen. Kilchoman have had a lot of success with young releases but then Islay whisky packs more punch, which can help mask immaturity. The highland flavours of Wolfburn are going to be more subtle and exposed.

So how has Wolfburn’s first release faired? The score on Whiskybase is better than average but not exactly brilliant. Nevertheless, several experienced reviewers have rated this dram between 84-85/100 and are extremely complimentary. Their thoughts aren’t just about what this whisky is but what it’s like as a building block for future Wolfburn releases, and it’s all very promising. Comments include “all present and correct, very, very good. One of the best [Scottish] 3yo’s around”, “a very fresh and nice taste for 3 year old whisky” and “this warrants a place in the cabinet. This is – keeping the age in mind – a nice introduction. What an entrance, Wolfburn!”

91.5/100 in the Whisky Bible classifies the Wolfburn as “brilliant”. Jim Murray, the bible author, says “this is a very young malt showing an intriguing wispy smokiness, it’s evenness more in line with having been matured in ex-Islay casks than using low phenol barley.” And in summary he says “for all its youth, its excellence and quality glimmers from the glass”.

Here’s Horst Luening on YouTube with his review of the new Wolfburn (April 2016):

Wolfburn NAS 70cl

Cyprus Whisky

Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 8th March 2016

None I can find.

Is this whisky? Possibly not. It’s obviously something produced for the Cyprus tourist market where the appearance is the most important thing. The alcohol percentage isn’t stated but I found a similar suede-clad miniature during an Internet image search that said “40%”. It’s whisky if it’s an undisclosed Scottish blend imported and bottled in Cyprus but it says on the pouch “hand made by Santa Marina Ltd”, which suggests a homebrew. If that’s the case then it’s likely to be a Cypriot spirit called zivania, known locally as ‘Cyprus Whisky’. This is a strong grape-based spirit made with herbs and figs using the leftovers from winemaking, so definitely not whisky. But to label something ‘whisky’ that isn’t whisky risks the wrath of the Scotch Whisky Association, wherever the offender may be in the world. So maybe it IS whisky.

Zivania is usually a clear spirit but I did find a version called ‘Red Zivania Kokkini’ which is the colour of whisky (with caramel added). To conclude my investigation I removed my miniature from its pouch to discover that the liquid is at least the colour of whisky but less red than the Kokkini. Ultimately the proof will come from the tasting. Until then the mystery remains.

Cyprus Whisky NAS 5cl

Whisky Francais Vendee

Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 8th March 2016

None I can find.

Vendée is a department in the Pays-de-la-Loire region in west-central France. It looks like this whisky miniature was produced for the town to give away to tourists. I can’t find any information about the distillery on the label, which says “Delmonteil – Alpa – Distillers”. Any additional information would be greatly appreciated.

I’ve classified this as a blend but looking at the colour I’m wondering if it’s a grain whisky like the French Glenroc I blogged about yesterday. It looks very natural instead of a blend full of E150 caramel. Whoever made it has gone to the trouble of putting on a wax seal but the label is quite amateurish. A curious dram. Once I’ve tried it I’ll come back and add some tasting notes.

Verdee NAS 5cl

Glenroc Whisky de Bretagne

Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 8th March 2016

57/100 – Malt Madness
Listed here on Whiskybase

Here’s a curious find, a single grain whisky from Brittany, France. According to Malt Madness and the book ‘Le Whisky’ it used to be called ‘Glenroc’ until a legal battle with the SWA (Scotch Whisky Association), which forced the producers (Fisselier) to find another name in 2002/3. They chose ‘Gwenroc’ which is still available to purchase today (in France).

Although 57/100 on Malt Madness may not sound great the author does say “the best grain whisky I ever nosed, although it’s much more like a liqueur than a malt.” They say of the taste “flat without any inspiration. Bitter. Fruit. Orange skins. Cool on the palate. Again, it seems very much like Cointreau liqueur after a minute.” They summarise with “barely on the good side of average, but better than many young Scotch grain whiskies I’ve tried.”

One French review I found quite enjoyed the Glenroc saying it was a “happy surprise” with a fresh attack on the palate with hints of straw and fern. They say it goes well with a game of poker, apparently. Drinking suggestions for the Gwenroc say to add ice. Remember when they used to put ice cubes on earlobes to dull the pain before piercing? That’s what ice does to the palate as well as diluting the drink as it melts. Ice isn’t suitable for quality single malt but a good idea for this ‘interesting’ grain whisky from France.

Glenroc NAS 5cl

Whisky Añejo Medium (Argentina)

Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 8th March 2016

None I can find.

Who says you can find everything on the Internet?! When it comes to obscure whiskies it can prove very difficult. I’ve been unable to find any reviews for this blend from Argentina, which was produced for the Hereford Breeders Association (Asociacion Argentina Criadobes de Hereford). Much like ‘The Breeder’s Choice’ I last blogged about I suspect this dram consists of single malt imported from Scotland mixed with a grain whisky distilled in Argentina. It was distributed by the company C.Y.F. of Buenos Aires, whoever they are.

Beef is big business in Argentina, as well as other South American countries. Growing up in the Northeast of Scotland I first became aware of this fact when I heard about the outbreak of typhoid in Aberdeen in 1964. The cause was a contaminated tin of corned beef from Uruguay. The Hereford along with the Aberdeen Angus and Shorthorn were the three UK breeds of cattle that played a big part in the building of the beef industry in Argentina. And if you farm cows then having a drink of strong alcohol is never far from your mind.

The word ‘añejo’ in the title of this bottle appears to mean ‘mature’ so it’s a ‘mature medium whisky’.

Hereford Association Argentina NAS 5cl

The Breeder’s Choice (Argentina)

Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 8th March 2016

84/100 – Whisky Bible 2016
Also listed here on Whiskybase (but no rating yet)

I was amused to discover that someone found my blog by doing an Internet search for “crazy whisky collector”. Crazy….me?! Never! As I sit here with my underpants on my head and chat to my pet cactus, let’s talk about Argentinean whisky. That in itself sounds a bit mad. If it were tango or football or footballers drinking Tango it would make more sense but whisky from Argentina sounds quite unusual. But I spotted a couple of miniatures from this South American country in a whisky auction and had to have them. They tick off the 23rd country outside Scotland in my ‘foreign’ collection, which is a sub-crazy collection in my overall crazy whisky collection. If you were a cactus you’d know that already.

I can’t drink this whisky because I haven’t had any children. If you have then ‘The Breeder’s Choice’ was obviously named with you in mind. Well done! If you have children you probably need something stronger than whisky, like cheese and a long sit down.

This blend is the only whisky from Argentina listed in the Whisky Bible where it was added in 2006. The author, Jim Murray, says “a sweet blend using Scottish malt and, at the helm, an unusually lush Argentinean grain.” 84/100 classifies this whisky as “good whisky worth trying”. Mr Murray scores the taste element 22/25, which is 88/100 and comfortably into the “very good to excellent whisky” range. Note that my bottle is 43% and the one mentioned in the Whisky Bible is 40% so my miniature could be an older, stronger version.

And now for a song…..

The Breeder's Choice 5cl

DYC ‘Fino Blended’ 8-year-old

Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 8th March 2016

None as yet but listed here on Whiskybase

This old bottle of the Spanish blend DYC was part of a set of 10 foreign (not Scottish) miniatures I won at auction. I bought a new, full-size DYC 8yo in March 2015 but this is the older ‘fino’ version. Unfortunately I’m not sure when this dates back to and information about the whiskies from Destilerías y Crianza (DYC) are hard to come by. They started producing whisky in the 1960s but I doubt this mini bottle is any earlier than the 1990s.

In the 2006 edition of Jim Murray’s ‘Whisky Bible’ he mentions the DYC blend but without any reference to age or type. He scores it 81/100, which is “good whisky worth trying” and says “thin and graining in parts but the bite is attractive and assertive while the malt comfortably holds its own.”

Sadly there’s no rating on Whiskybase but at least this Spanish dram is listed. As yet I haven’t opened my new 70cl of DYC so this miniature is a perfect opportunity to taste this whisky without opening yet another big bottle. Perhaps I’ll try it as part of a group of non-Scottish whiskies as an exotic ‘foreign flight’.

Here’s Jo of Whisky Wednesday talking about the DYC 10yo (Feb 2016):

DYC 8yo Fino 5cl

Highland Park 2000 15-year-old ‘The Library Collection’

Bought: Master of Malt, 3rd March 2016

92/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
88/100 – Whiskybase (from 1 member vote)

I’m always keen to add a different Highland Park to my collection and what better than one from a new independent bottler, Edinburgh Whisky. The company have been on the go since 2013/14 but only appear to have bottled a Highland Park, Glenlivet and a blend so far. I found their website quite annoying because it keeps asking me to confirm I am over 18yo as I try to move from page to page. A basic error that should have been fixed by now if anyone in the company bothered to test it.

There were only 257 bottles produced of this HP. For a collector that’s a good thing. With an age statement (15yo), natural colour and non chill-filtered, this ex-bourbon cask whisky ticks a lot of good boxes. Thankfully Jim Murray agrees in his latest Whisky Bible 2017 where 92/100 classifies this HP as “brilliant”. He summaries with “after an uncharacteristic scramble on delivery this becomes a classic HP for its age, as is the nose. Rather lovely.”

The supplied tasting notes are:

NOSE: Soft, smoky initial maritime hit – from Lapsang tea to light iodine – washed over with a mineral, salty brine. The sweet fruitiness of candied orange and dried apricot evelops into darker fruit like fresh figs and prunes in Armagnac, which leads to great savoury elements like new leather, pipe tobacco and toasted macadamias. Lightly floral and aromatic with notes of fresh roses, wild heather and jasmine tea.

TASTE: Lovely mouthfeel – both dense and smooth. Panettone to salted caramel and pure heather honey. Baked apples and golden raisins. Cigar box woodiness. Climbing intensity with the light peat smoke throughout. Dark and brooding. Long, lush finish.

IMPRESSION: A sophisticated and truly engaging malt that slowly draws you in to some dark smokey world, but keeps balance and lightness and becomes about the sum of its parts, rather than just peat, or fruit. One to take time over. Quite special.

A couple of reviews can be found here:

Highland Park 2000 15yo 70cl