Monthly Archives: November 2016

Port Ellen 1979 14-year-old (600th post)

Bought: Whisky Auction, 5th October 2016

Ratings:
85/100 – Whiskybase (from 1 member vote)
81/100 – Malt Maniacs (average from 4 maniac votes)

It seems fitting that my 600th Whisky Den post is about the iconic Port Ellen, arguably the most famous closed distillery of them all. Production stopped in 1983 and Diageo now own the remaining stock. The maltings from the old Port Ellen buildings still exists and continues to supply the other Islay distilleries to this day.

Whiskybase members have added 996 different releases of Port Ellen to their database. 26 of these are the distillery releases by Diageo, the rest are independent bottlings with the top 3 being: Douglas Laing (166 bottlings), Signatory (154 bottlings) and Gordon & MacPhail (90 bottlings).

My miniature of Port Ellen is by Signatory and scores a very respectable 85/100 on Whiskybase albeit from 1 vote. The bigger bottle, which is effectively the same whisky (listed here on Whiskybase) scores 84.67/100 from 3 votes. One member leaves the comment “tropical, juicy citrus-y starfruit with coconut oil. Touch of pungent fermenting malt. Refine smokes building up on palate gradually and sticky spicy oil remains. Rather short finish with ginger hot and ash smokes take over at the tail.”

81/100 on Malt Maniacs is a good score from them. One of the maniacs, Serge Valentin of Whiskyfun, gives the score of 83/100 and the following tasting notes:

Nose: Fresh, spirity, feinty and peaty. Smoke, cereals, rubber.
Mouth: Peaty, feinty and peppery… that’s more or less all.
Finish: Rather long but really lacks complexity.

Here is a video of the Port Ellen maltings, Islay, by Whisky.com (Feb 2016):

port-ellen-1979-14yo-5cl

Haig ‘Gold Label’ 26 2/3 fl oz 1970s

Bought: Whisky Auction, 5th October 2016

Ratings:
85.86/100 – Whiskybase (average from 9 member votes)

In the summer of 2015 I had a tasting session of vintage blends. I confess I’m inclined to be a diehard single malt fan but I’m prepared to try new things. On the menu were Queen Anne, Vat 69, Glenshiel and Haig Gold Label. The first three were rather dull but just when I thought I’d wasted my evening I tried the Haig Gold Label from the 1970s (or possibly 1960s). Wow, what a fantastic dram! So good in fact that I vowed to find a full bottle. It took over a year to get one at auction but I finally did it.

I’ve seen Jim Murray in his Whisky Bible sometimes use the word “chewy” to describe a whisky but I’d never experienced that sensation on the pallet until the Haig Gold Label. It was wonderfully thick, complex and rewarding. Not surprising that it scores so well on Whiskybase where someone remarks “these older Haig bottles are really good value. Thick and syrupy but you have to like old caramel notes to really get the best from it.” In November 2016 a bottle from the 1970s sold for £22.50 at auction but they can sometimes make up to £60 depending on condition.

Tasting notes found online that I agree with are (with slight edit):

Nose: Spices, herbs, honey, tobacco, creamy, dark chocolate, light smoke, dried orange slices, red and dark berries – delicious!
Taste: Creamy, oily, round and powerful! Salt, black pepper, leather, chocolate, cocoa and light herbs. Added to this is a maritime note.
Finish: Long – perfectly matched! Creamy chocolate pudding (high-quality, dark chocolate with high cocoa content). The same aromas as before, but still more harmonious.

haig-gold-label-75-7cl-1970s-nas

Haig Club ‘Clubman’

Bought: Tesco, 6th October 2016

Ratings:
4/10 – Whisky Wednesday (video review below)
2/5 – Master of Malt (from 9 reviews)
0/100 – Whiskybase (no member votes yet)

It’s been over 2 months since the Clubman was added to Whiskybase but still no reviews. If it were a new bottle of Ardbeg there would be over 100 ratings by now but that’s because Whiskybase is more about single malts. The Clubman on the other hand is a cheap single grain and, unlike the original Club, the Clubman is priced correctly for its use in whisky-based cocktails. At £15 it’s a bit more expensive than a Lidl or Aldi basic grain but you’re paying more for the marketing and stylish blue bottle. Indeed, comments on Amazon suggest it’s being bought as a Christmas present, which has more to do with the presentation. In fact, stick a light in an empty Clubman bottle and you’ve got a festive bauble for Christmas 2017!

Although scores from most whisky drinkers aren’t great there are some fans of the Clubman. Comments online include “superb for a mixer drink”, “smooth, sweet and light” and “not particularly complex or deep in flavours, but just a really nice light whisky to sup.” Remarks about the taste say it’s sweet and the bourbon ageing give it vanilla notes so it sounds perfect to mix with cola, lemonade or ginger ale.

Here’s Whisky Wednesday with their review on You Tube (October 2016):

haig-club-clubman-nas-70cl

Tamnavulin ‘Double Cask’

Bought: Tesco, 29th September 2016

Ratings:
87.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2018
80/100 – Malt Box (video review below)
81.88/100 – Whiskybase (average from 27 member votes)

A new release for 2016 is this no-age statement single malt from Tamnavulin. Certain reports online suggest this is the first release from the distillery for about 20 years but in 2015 I bought a 12-year-old that first appeared in 2005 (according to Whiskybase). But the distillery was mothballed between 1995 and 2007. I suppose it’s possible that the distillery owners released a 12yo in 2005 from whisky distilled in 1993, even if the distillery hadn’t officially been reopened. Apparently in 2000 the staff at nearby Tomintoul spent 6 weeks in Tamnavulin distilling 400,000 litres of spirit just to keep stock ticking over. So ‘mothballed’ certainly doesn’t always mean ‘inactive’.

The official tasting notes for the ‘Double Cask’ are:

Nose: rich, warm aromas of apple, toffee and honey with sweet marzipan and subtle tangy marmalade notes.
Palate: fresh, mellow notes of pear, creamy peaches, pineapple and a hint of Demerara sugar.
Finish: rich, smooth and refreshing. A signature Speyside malt.

Although 81/100 from two votes on Whiskybase may sound good comments on the Malt Maniacs Facebook page have been quite critical. It will be interesting to see where the Double Cask’s score levels out after 20+ ratings.

(Update Oct 2017): Well there’s a surprise. After 27 votes on Whiskybase the average score has moved up to nearly 82/100, which is a very good mark. The Whisky Bible 2018 has arrived and Jim Murray gave the ‘Double Cask’ a fantastic 87.5/100, which classifies the malt as ‘very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying’.

Scoring 80/100 from Andy of Malt Box is quite a reasonable score. Here is his review on You Tube (November 2016):

tamnavulin-double-cask-nas-70cl

Crown Royal ‘Black’ – 5cl

Bought: Whisky Exchange, 28th September 2016

Ratings:
86/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
82/100 – Whisky Whistle (video review below)
78.06/100 – Whiskybase (average from 20 member votes)

Before Crown Royal shot to fame when Jim Murray awarded the ‘Northern Harvest Rye’ edition his Whisky of the Year 2016 I was mainly interested in the bottle shape. It’s curvy, chunky and would look good on the sideboard. Whether the Harvest Rye deserved 97.5/100 is debatable but the ‘Black’ scores a more modest 86/100, which classifies it as “very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying”. Jim Murray says “not for the squeamish: a Canadian that goes for it with bold strokes from the off which makes it a whisky worth discovering. The finish needs a rethink, though.”

78.06/100 on Whiskybase might not sound all that great but the ‘Northern Harvest Rye’ has a very similar score with 78.54/100 from 98 votes. The standard ‘Fine De Luxe’ can only muster 72.5/100 from 81 votes so I’m confident that the Black is a step up from that.

Here’s Whisky Whistle with his review on You Tube (December 2015):

crown-royal-black-nas-5cl

Nikka Taketsuru ‘Pure Malt’

Bought: Whisky Exchange, 28th September 2016

Ratings:
82.34/100 – Whiskybase (average from 120 member votes)
89/100 – Scotch Test Dummies (their video review below)

The details of this Japanese blend on The Whisky Exchange (TWE) reads, “Taketsuru’s no-age-statement blended malt contains a high percentage of malt from Miyagikyo, with the remainder coming from Yoichi. Aged on average for around 10 years in a variety of different cask types, including some sherry wood for extra richness.”

TWE are selling a full 70cl for £47.95, which is quite expensive but it seems this whisky is better than your average blend no matter what its country of origin. Scoring 82.34/100 on Whiskybase is a very good mark. Comments include “Elegance and finness. Excellent sipping whisky.” And “A lovely smooth and delicate malt, I highly recommend this one, nothing flash about it but hits the spot every time.”

Here are Scotch Test Dummies with their review on You Tube (July 2016):

nikka-taketsuru-pure-malt-nas-5cl

Suntory ‘Kakubin’

Bought: Whisky Exchange, 28th September 2016

Ratings:
92/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
73.7/100 – Whiskybase (average from 12 member vote)

This Japanese blend is a bit of a curiosity, especially when you compare the Whisky Bible rating to the average score on Whiskybase. Jim Murray’s mark of 92/100 in his Whisky Bible 2017 classifies this whisky as ‘brilliant’. His review consists of “absolutely brilliant blend of stunningly refreshing and complex character. One of the most improved brands in the world.” It seems a shame then that the only place on Whiskybase that’s selling it says it’s discontinued. Because of that they’re charging €50 for a bottle when a Whiskybase member says it sells for the equivalent of €20 in Japan.

Scoring nearly 74/100 on Whiskybase suggests a poor-to-average whisky. Comments include, “cheap rice wine” and “this isn’t a great whisky but it is certainly an unusual, fascinating and educational one. It has its moments too – that candid vodka note is pleasing in this example and the balance between the spice, sour citrus and sugar is good. Overall though it’s totally underpowered and rather an oddity.”

Here’s Frozen Summers with his review on You Tube (May 2015):

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