Category Archives: World Blends

Crown Royal ‘Northern Harvest Rye’

Bought: Drink Supermarket, 12th June 2017

97.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
78.24/100 – Whiskybase (average from 133 member votes)

Jim Murray, author of the Whisky Bible, gave his 2016 ‘World Whisky of the Year’ award to the Crown Royal ‘Northern Harvest Rye’ (NHR) but specifically to bottle code L5083 N3. My bottle is code L5098 N5, whatever that means. The 5098 sounds quite close to the 5083 Jim Murray had but the N3 and N5 might refer to completely separate stills. Perhaps still number N5 is in a different building where it only has its pipes cleaned every 6 years and shares the premises with a donkey sanctuary. Don’t ask me, I just drink this shit!

After the award Crown Royal didn’t exactly rush to put their prices up in Canada and the US, although I believe it sold out everywhere for a while. Crown Royal knew the NHR was a $22 blend, and so did their market, which wouldn’t tolerate the stuff if it doubled in price. But in the UK we got massively stung and even 20+ months later it’s hard to find the NHR for less than £100 in whisky shops. Thankfully Drink Supermarket had it for £55, which convinced me it was time to grab a bottle, even though I know it’s unlikely to blow my mind (and it should only be £20!). I haven’t tried Canadian rye so I’m killing two birds with one stone with the NHR when I taste it AND get to denounce Jim Murray as a crackpot.

As I researched this blog post I watched the Whisky Vault’s review of the NHR on YouTube. In it they mention Mark Bylok’s blog (here) where he discusses the big variation across the different releases of NHR. He reviews 4 separate batches and gives them scores of 93/100, 88/100, 82/100 and 78/100. So Jim Murray’s bottle could have been 97.5/100 but my L5098 N5 may only be 60/100, such is the inconsistency across the NHR range. Thankfully most whisky producers try harder than Crown Royal to keep a standard flavour across their batches otherwise reading reviews would be pointless. But in the case of NHR, unless you have the same batch number of the bottle being reviewed, take everything that’s said with a pinch of salt.

Here are the Scotch Test Dummies on YouTube with their thoughts about the Crown Royal NHR, which they reviewed before Jim Murray’s award. Since then a lot of reviews have been tainted by an anti-Murray bias so it’s nice to see an honest summary and an above average rating of 88/100 (Aug 2015). I’m not sure what batch it is though:

Teeling ‘Small Batch – Rum Cask Finish’

Bought: Auriol Wines, 10th October 2016

85.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
79.34/100 – Whiskybase (average from 242 member votes)

Whiskybase have a record of 13 different releases of this Teeling blend from November 2013 to April 2016 but this doesn’t include the version in the Whisky Bible dated November 2015. My version was bottled in September 2015. It’s listed on Whiskybase here but with only 9 votes I’ve decided to take the score from the default bottle with over 240 votes. It seems fairer and it’s all going to be very similar stuff.

85.5/100 in the Whisky Bible classifies this blend as “very good to excellent whiskey definitely worth buying”. The author, Jim Murray, says “an attractive malt, showing both its rum qualities and, sadly, a slight strain of tired oak.” He goes on to talk about the bitterness that comes from maturing in rum casks and concludes with “still, the delivery offers much to enjoy.”

The score on Whiskybase is quite average where comments include “good weight on the palate, mild on the tongue with toasted sweet malt and citrus peel”, “light Irish blend, although the rum is only recognized with the cane sugar” and “it’s a good blend but the finish bothers me a bit it taste too young and spicy”.

Here’s Whisky Wednesday with their review on You Tube where the Teeling ‘Small Batch’ scores an excellent 8/10 (April 2014):


Crown Royal ‘Black’ – 5cl

Bought: Whisky Exchange, 28th September 2016

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):


Nikka Taketsuru ‘Pure Malt’

Bought: Whisky Exchange, 28th September 2016

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):


Suntory ‘Kakubin’

Bought: Whisky Exchange, 28th September 2016

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):


The ‘ONE’ by The Lakes Distillery

Bought: Amazon, 29th October 2015

84.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2016
79.33/100 – Whiskybase (average from 11 member votes)

Well that’s embarrassing. I bought this bottle in an Amazon ‘Lightening Deal’ 7 months ago and forgot to add it to my list. I have to thank Ben of ‘A Dram A Day’ for doing a video about it (see below), which reminded me I had the ‘ONE’ and made me realise it was missing from this blog. Oooop!

The ‘ONE’ is a blend (or vatting – see later) by the new Lakes Distillery, opened in 2014, which they’re selling whilst waiting for their single malt to be ready. The blend is made up of whiskies from Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland. Whisky Bible author Jim Murray quite likes it. 84.5/100 classifies the ‘ONE’ as ‘good whisky worth trying’ but you wouldn’t think so from his review. After an interesting nose he says about the taste “on the palate is a disappointment, with any complexity desired submerged under a welter of dull caramels. Just too flat and soft for its own good.”

Curiously, experienced whisky taster and reviewer Mark Dermul has the exact opposite to say about the ‘ONE’. On Whiskybase he remarks “the nose did not amount to much, but I quite like it on the palate.” Although he does think it tastes rather watery but is convinced there is some Islay whisky in there (in a good way).

Although the ‘ONE’ is described as a blend, Jim Murray believes it’s a vatted malt, so a blend of single malts. On the other hand Ben of ‘A Dram A Day’ believes there could be as much as 60% grain. One thing that’s apparent is there has been more than one version of the ‘ONE’. Whiskybase reviewer ‘jazzpianofingers’ has commented about two versions and says of the second “really coming along nicely. Improvement on the last batch, far more consistency and clarity with a firm direction”.

Ben of ‘A Dram A Day’ gives us his thoughts on You Tube (April 2016):

The ONE 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

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