Macallan ‘Concept Number 1’

Bought: World of Whisky, 16th March 2019

Ratings:
85.65/100 – Whiskybase (average from 85 member votes)
85/100 – Mark Dermul (his YouTube review below)

As someone said on a whisky Facebook page, because this Macallan has a “1” in the title it has “investment” written all over it. When the Macallan Edition 1 came out 4 years ago it sold for €90 and according to Whiskybase there were at least 120,000 bottles. It now sells at auction for around 4 times that price and over £1,000 retail in the UK. The new Macallan Concept No.1, released in 2018, comprised 84,000 bottles and retailed at £100. It’s not inconceivable that bottles will reach £400 at auction by 2022/3. Why didn’t I buy more than one bottle? Because there are never any guarantees with investments, and there are always other whiskies to try.

If you own the Concept 1 and you’d prefer to drink it rather than sit on it like a goose with a golden liquid egg, the majority of tasters have enjoyed it although they’re quite quiet about it online. Scoring 85.65/100 on Whiskybase is a very good score but the majority of reviewers leaving comments are rather negative. Even Mark Dermul, who rates the Concept a very good 85/100, remarks that the NAS (no age statement) releases at the lowest possible ABV (40%) are getting tiring.

Although the Concept 1 may get some thumbs down from seasoned whisky drinkers, the sturdy presentation box and modern design make it an ideal gift for a Macallan enthusiast. If you don’t tell them the price they’re not going to grumble. Even at 40% it packs enough flavour and Macallan finesse to go down well.

Tasting notes from Macallan:

Nose: Sweet butterscotch toffee, with almond, ginger spice and cinnamon. Hints of dried fruit, citrus and green banana

Palate: Sweet orange and lemon citrus with soft oak spices, fresh fruit and ginger

Finish: Medium sweet, dry with a lingering oak, citrus fruit and ginger finish

Here’s Mark Dermul on YouTube with his thoughts on the Macallan Concept Number 1 (March 2019):

Eden Mill, Hip Flask Series #6 & #7

Bought: Eden Mill Online Shop, 15th May 2018

Hip Flask no.6 ‘Oloroso Sherry Hogshead’

Ratings:
84/100 – Whiskybase (average from 6 member votes)

Hip Flask no.7 ‘PX Sherry Hogshead’

Ratings:
83.33/100 – Whiskybase (average from 5 member votes)

Almost a year since I bought these 20cl bottles from the new Eden Mill distillery in St. Andrews and they’re still available from their online shop along with 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 in the series, all for £25 each. Sadly numbers 1 to 5 have long since sold out. But these little bottles are a cracking way for any whisky enthusiast to get an inexpensive taste of this new Lowland distillery. Some of the first 5 hip flasks were quite experimental in their cask use but numbers 6 and 7 follow a more traditional sherry wood maturation. I tried no.6 and it was a very pleasant experience, much like the tasting notes below from the distillery but I didn’t pick up the “subtle peat smoke”. Perhaps it all floated away when I popped the cork. But it certainly tasted older than 3 years. For such youth and at a potent 47% it felt very mellow and easy to drink with plenty of complexity.

I personally know Eden Mill more for its gin, which is testament to how good their marketing has been for a company only founded in 2012. They also make beer and have the claim to fame of being Scotland’s first combined brewery and distillery. Eden Mill also believe in supporting national pastimes as they sponsor Scottish Rugby, Hibernian Football Club and Celtic FC women’s team to name but three. That answers the question about what goes in the drink bottles for half time refreshments!

Anyway, less of my rambling. Here are the tasting notes provided on the Eden Mill website:

Series 6 – Oloroso Sherry tasting notes from Eden Mill website:

Nose: Darker in appearance, this scotch whisky leads with sweet icing sugar notes on the nose combined with a rum raisines creating a full-bodied flavour like no other. In combination, notes of honeycomb and coffee work hand in hand to create the perfect balance.

Taste: With a subtle peat smoke underneath, Hip Flask No. 6 is rich on the palate yet leaves a caramel latte sweetness.

Finish: Expect a short, dry, finish with a hint of sweetness. Maturation in a Sherry cask is most noticeable on the finish – dried-berry notes with a heavy, spice underneath.

Series 7 – PX Sherry tasting notes from Eden Mill website:

Hip Flask Series No. 7. Only 1,350 bottles have been lovingly handcrafted for your pleasure.

Noise: The Maturation in PX Sherry Hogshead Casks imparts a rich, demerara-like profile, with plum, raisin, date fruit notes alongside.

Taste: On the nose, a real juicyness from the green apple is present apace with a light sweetness from the honey. A subtle hint of delicate floral notes leads to a light, sweet and sherried character, which progresses to a rich, earthy spice.

Finish: With sweet sultanas alongside a hint of dry christmas spice, leaving the palate with a malty sweetness that is both short and spicey to finish.

Talisker 8-year-old Special Release 2018

Bought: Master of Malt, 18th September 2018

Ratings:
87.92/100 – Whiskybase (average from 321 member votes)
9/10 – Whisky Wednesday (his YouTube review here)

I must admit I wasn’t even aware of the 2018 Special Releases from Diageo until this Talisker 8-year-old appeared towards the end of the run. It may even have been the last of the 10. The previous 9 were either too expensive or too mediocre for me to care. Among them was a 28-year-old from the closed distillery Pittyvaich, which I’ve rarely heard good things about. But as a collector’s item I’m sure it will do very well. No doubt this Talisker 8yo will do the same. Thankfully its youthfulness was its saving grace with regards to price. Diageo kept it down to £70 but 8 months later and auction prices are hitting £130.

No doubt the chosen age statement of 8 years was doffing its cap to the classic Talisker 8yo last seen in the 1980s but back then it was still only 45.8%. This special release tips the scales at 59.4% so it’s like the 57 Degrees on steroids with an age worth owning up to. I’m beginning to wish I’d bought two bottles!

Not surprisingly the reviews for this tantalising Talisker have been very favourable. Comments online include “the most flavoursome whisky I have had in living memory, and I am very old”, “this is superb, I cannot see how they got such complexity and depth in an 8yo” and Serge of Whisky Fun summaries with “fantastic whisky, one of the best quality/age ratio out there, in my opinion” and rated it 91/100.

As tempting as it is to keep this special Talisker as in investment I feel it has to be drunk at some stage. I’d have to hit rock bottom before considering selling it, even when it starts getting over £200 at auction. As a big fan of this Skye distillery it would be a travesty not to taste this little beauty. Something for a special occasion.

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Super medicinal: this one is all about the Bonjela notes. There’s metallic peat smoke of course, along with topical pineapple, strawberry, roast pork, peppery vanilla, and a toffee backdrop.

Palate: Powerful – this one packs a punch. There’s pepper, wood smoke, pork sausages on a barbeque, apple sauce, coffee beans, butterscotch and blackcurrant. There’s a cranberry-citrus sharpness, too.

Finish: Long and lingering, and all about that woodsmoke-fruit balance.

Here’s Mark ‘Jedi’ Dermul with his thoughts on the Talisker 8yo on YouTube, which he scores an excellent 86/100 (April 2019):

Kilchoman ‘Sanaig’

Bought: Master of Malt, 18th September 2018

Ratings:
85.18/100 – Whiskybase (average from 265 member votes)

It’s been over 3 years since I added a Kilchoman to my collection, which is something I feel quite guilty about. This Islay distillery, albeit the newest on the island (for now), produces fantastic single malt whisky. Even an ‘average’ Kilchoman is head-and-shoulders above most drams on the market. Unfortunately I was thinking about my wallet when the first 10-year-old appeared for Club members a few years ago. I should have bought it but it seemed very expensive for a 10yo, even at cask strength. But one shouldn’t have regrets with whisky because there are so many good experiences to be had from bottles you do manage to secure. One or two gems are bound to slip through the net.

I’ve had my eye on the ‘Sanaig’ ever since it was released in 2015. I’m a little embarrassed to admit it’s because of the purple packaging. What can I say – it’s my favourite colour! But, even so, I wouldn’t have bought the Sanaig if it wasn’t good whisky. The Glenlivet Captain’s Reserve has purple packaging but I’m in no hurry to buy a bottle, unless it’s reduced to £20 to reflect the quality of the whisky inside.

The name ‘Sanaig’ refers to a sea inlet near Kilchoman distillery and doesn’t appear to have any Gaelic meaning in English that I can find. Perhaps the purple rocks or seaweed of Sanaig bay influenced the choice of presentation. Overall the whisky inside is well liked with comments online including, “for a relatively young whisky the complexity of this spirit cannot be understated”, “good balance between bourbon a sherry cask and peaty whisky” and “if you prefer medium peated single malts with chocolate notes I can’t recommend anything higher than this”.

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Pineapple chunks and white grapes. Hints of fresh coffee carry the earthy, subtly spicy peat. Toffee cubes.

Palate: More light fruits (this time of the peach variety), with dark chocolate raisins and a whisper of red berries. Peat grows and grows, with a little black pepper too.

Finish: Quite long with coastal peat lasting.

Vin PF of No Nonsense Whisky gives his thoughts on the Kilchoman Sanaig on YouTube (July 2018):

Highland Park 14yo ‘Loyalty of the Wolf’ (35cl)

Bought: World of Whisky, 1st November 2018

Ratings:
85.67/100 – Whiskybase (average from 3 member votes)
87/100 – Whisky Wise (YouTube review below)

The Whiskybase rating above is for the 35cl bottle, which I have. The 100cl scores over 2 points less with 83.36/100, purely because it has more votes (currently 35). Over 83/100 is still a good score but perhaps not as high as a 14yo from Highland Park (HP) from 10 years ago would score. Why? Because more and more people are having their view of HP tainted by the number of releases the distillery is flooding onto the market.

Like most HP fans I’m a member of the Inner Circle. Never a week goes by without an email from the distillery that talks about another new standard release, or limited release, or special release ‘connected with a celebrity that’s drunk as much HP as David Beckham had drunk Haig before they offered him lots of money to endorse is”.

Rightly or wrongly the over-commercialising of HP is causing increasing criticism of the distillery on Facebook groups and internet forums. And the less you think of a distillery the less you enjoy their whisky, even if the spirit hasn’t changed, such is the influence of emotions on our sense of taste.

HP may not be able to rely on the loyalty of all their fans but at least they’ve got a wolf to fall back on. On the plus side this 14yo from the new 2018 Travel Retail range has an age statement, unlike its predecessors Svein, Einar and Harald. Matured in sherry-seasoned American oak and ex-bourbon casks the distillery classify this dram as “sweet and complex”. Comments online are mostly positive and include “marvellous tipple” and “it’s not a sophisticated dram to ponder too much upon, but a very nice, enjoyable and care free evening sipper”.

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Toasted bread with marmalade, red apple, some punchy peat hints.

Palate: Barley, thyme honey and more marmalade. Smoke lingers in the background. Some Christmas spices give it heat.

Finish: Pecan, dry peat and cinnamon sticks.

Here’s Jason of Whisky Wise with his thoughts about this whisky on YouTube, which he likens to the old HP 15yo (Sept 2018):

Strathearn – Private Cask Club, Cask 005

Bought: Online auction, 8th October 2018

Ratings:
Listed on Whiskybase here but no rating as yet.

Strathearn is another relatively new distillery, which has the claim to fame of the smallest in Scotland. It’s certainly the only one I’ve seen described as a ‘micro’ distillery. Situated in the southern highlands, Strathearn got planning permission at the start of 2013 and on the 18th October of that year the first cask was filled. The bottle of single malt I purchased at auction was distilled 12 days later on the 30th October and placed in cask no.005. Production comes from 2 stills – an 800 litre wash and a 400 litre charge. Rather than use the industry standard 200 litre barrels Strathearn have opted for the 50 litre ‘octave’. Hardly surprising since a typical spirit run is only 100 litres.

Strathearn use their own maris otter barley in the whisky making process. Well it is a farm after all. Initially they distilled into American oak and French oak barrels but recent releases have young spirit maturing in mulberry, chestnut and even peated acacia wood casks. By early 2017 Strathearn had withdrawn 12 products because of issues with the SWA (Scotch Whisky Association). Thankfully this doesn’t seem to be holding them back with their experimenting. Long may that continue!

Towards the end of 2016 Strathearn’s inaugural release was done by auction through Whisky Auctioneer. I followed it with interest but even the cheapest bottle at £315 was about £200 more than I would have considered paying, especially at 50cl rather than 70cl. Bottle no.1 went for a staggering £4,150. Interestingly the pictures of the bottles on the auction site had a blank space where the cask number should go. You would assume it was cask no.001 but the distilling date was 11th December 2013, nearly 2 months after the first barrel was filled. I can only assume this is because all the early casks were bought by the distillery’s ‘Private Cask Club’. My bottle from cask no.005 is the earliest example of distilling from Strathearn that I’ve seen on the market.

After the inaugural release it seemed the only way to own a bottle of Strathearn was by being a Private Cask Club member or finding a bottle at auction. By 2018 (if not 2017) Strathearn made a bottle of single malt available from their online shop but at £145 for 50cl it was still a bit steep. Thankfully more private casks were being bottled and appearing at auction where a typical price was £65-£80 for 70cl. Time to make a purchase!

The good thing about using smaller barrels is that there is a bigger surface to surface ratio between spirit and wood compared to a bigger barrel. This might not necessarily make the spirit taste older than its years if it comes from a smaller cask than the industry standard but it can influence the taste. My bottle is less than 4 years old but the spirit has drawn an amazing colour from the French oak, along with an augmented flavour:

Nose: Very fruity with spices (cinnamon/ginger/nutmeg), hint of pepper, honey and some citrus.

Taste: The sweetness and spices come through with a creamy fruit yoghurt at play in the background. Elements of the French oak wood become clearer, which were hinted at in the nose.

Finish: A good length with a pleasant warmth of after-spices and almost a floral tinge.

Glasgow Distillery Co. ‘1770’ – First Release

Bought: Glasgow Distillery Co, 8th June 2018

Ratings:
87.62/100 – Whiskybase (average from 15 member votes)

It’s always nice to see another whisky distillery popping up but you have to wonder if this trend will damage the industry in the long run. But perhaps the modern customer will lean towards the new arrivals and it will be old distilleries that end up suffering. It wouldn’t take much for a cut-throat company like Diageo to close one of its many locations if they thought they weren’t profitable enough. And don’t get me started on the potential impact of Brexit! Time to pour a dram.

The Glasgow Distillery Co. was established in 2014 and proudly claims to be the first single malt whisky distillery in the city since 1902. As they waited for their whisky to mature they produced a gin they named ‘Makar’ in one of their 3 stills. And to kick-start their name in the whisky world they bottled and sold a mystery Speyside single malt they named ‘Prometheus’. Initially a 26yr, then 27yr, their latest edition is a 28yr priced at a ridiculous £699. Seriously?

In 2018 the Glasgow Distillery Co. announced a ballot for a limited release of 5,000 bottles of their first ever single malt named ‘1770’. Hardly memorable but they probably looked at the stupid names other distilleries were inventing and decided that a number would be safer. 1770 was the year Beethoven and William Wordsworth were born but what that has to do with Glasgow whisky I don’t know. Regardless, £100 for a 50cl bottle of 3yr whisky hardly felt like a bargain. I also didn’t realise when I paid for a bottle in June that I’d have to wait nearly 5 months before it would arrive. Perhaps some of the £100 was to cover the cost of oats for the blind donkey delivering my bottle. But it’s all worth it for a taste of history! Honest!

The good news is that the 1770, matured in first-fill bourbon casks and finished in virgin oak, has been well liked since its arrival. Scoring nearly 88/100 on Whiskybase is an excellent score and the distillery have announced another release during 2019.

Tasting notes left on Whiskybase:

Nose: Floral. Waxy fruits, especially pears and apples. Honey, lacquered wood and touch of saffron.

Taste: Dried and baked fruits, caramel, orange peel, pepper and touch of gum.

Finish: Medium length, spicy, sweet.

Glendronach 21-year-old ‘Parliament’

Bought: Amazon, 6th April 2018

Ratings:
76/100 – Whisky Bible 2018
85/100 – Whiskyfun
89.58/100 – Whiskybase (average from 21 member votes)
96/100 and 91/100 – Scotch Test Dummies (YouYube video below)

In the Whisky Bible 2016 author Jim Murray’s rating of the Glendronach 21yo was a fantastic 91.5/100 and ended with “Memorable stuff”. In the 2017 issue of the Bible the 21yo had disappeared and in 2018 Mr Murray introduces his thoughts on the 21yo ‘Parliament’. All around him the status of Glendronach has been rising but he gives the 21yo a lowly score of 76/100 and remarks, “myopically one dimensional, rambles on and on, sulphur-tongued, bitter and does its best to leave a bad taste in the mouth whilst misrepresenting its magnificent land.” It’s worth noting that the 2017 Bible contained reviews of 27 different bottles of Glendronach but in 2018 that’s shrunk by more than half to 13. Perhaps Mr Murray has fallen out of love with this up-and-coming Highland distillery, because of the whisky or maybe something else entirely.

I’m reminded of the old joke ‘opinions are like arseholes – everyone has one’. But arseholes are generally very similar, whereas opinions can vary greatly. Mr Murray’s thoughts about the Glendronach 21yo are like a square peg in a round hole of shared opinion, if you pardon the mental image. I’ve found it impossible to discover anyone else who dislikes this whisky as much as he does. Most people adore it, which makes me wonder if Mr Murray had a bad sample. There are certainly lots of different batches of the ‘Parliament’. Mine was bottled on the 29th January 2018 so after the Whisky Bible 2018 went into print. Although Mr Murray’s opinion about the 21yo is a bit strange I respect him enough to breath a sigh of relief that it wasn’t directed at my batch.

89.58/100 on Whiskybase for my particular release of the Parliament is a fantastic score but quite typical of all the batches of this 21yo. A comment about the flavour says “elegant, expensive leathery notes, more olorosso built up on palate for boldness, spicy sherry coat with ample of creamy sugar laden of fruits.” Whiskyfun score the Parliament 85/100 in August 2017 with the comment “rather fine, just not too complex. And quite easy on the fruits”.

Here’s the Scotch Test Dummies with their review about the Glendronach 21yo on YouTube (Feb 2018) both of whom love this dram:

Aberlour ‘Casg Annamh’ Batch 0001

Bought: World of Whisky, 28th June 2018

Ratings:
84.55/100 – Whiskybase (average from 119 member votes)

The Aberlour ‘Casg Annamh’ (meaning ‘rare cask’) first appeared at the end of 2017. About 6 months later the legendary Aberlour A’bunadh almost doubled in price causing fans to froth at the mouth and swear allegiance to the likes of the Glenfarclas 105. Some quarters felt that the Casg Annamh had been introduced to replace the A’bunadh but this was mostly based on both whiskies having a batch number. A year after the launch of the Casg Annamh and it’s still only on Batch 0001. The A’bunadh has had 62 releases in 21 years, quite typically 3 or 4 releases per year in recent years (but only two in 2018, perhaps due to the price increase reducing sales). The big difference between the Casg Annamh and A’bunadh is the strength. The Casg Annamh is fixed at 48% and the A’bunadh is cask strength around 60%. Basically they’re two different beasts.

So how has the Casg Annamh done in its first year? 84.5/100 on Whiskybase is a very good score. It’s doing better than the standard Aberlour 16yo (83.2/100), which costs about £15 more than the Casg Annamh. By the time you get to the Aberlour 18yo (85.5/100) it’s over £80 so you might as well buy the A’bunadh. Comments online about the Casg Annamh include, “enjoyed this more than A’bunadh. Whereas A’bunadh is a whisky disguised by sherry, Casg Annamh is a whisky featuring sherry without covering up the other flavours within”, “it contains considerably younger whisky than the 15YO, but makes up for that by a higher level of first fill and a higher ABV” and “an excellent value dram which won’t disappoint any sherry cask enthusiast”.

You have to feel this new Aberlour has found its place in the market. Currently £60 for a litre at certain airports it’s good value for what it is. But after a year of ‘batch 1’ it’s definitely not a ‘rare cask’ as the Gaelic name implies.

Here’s Horst Luening of Whisky.com with his thoughts about the Aberlour ‘Casg Annamh’ on YouTube (May 2018):

Daftmill 11yo 2006 ‘Summer Batch Release’ (700th post)

Bought: Berry Bros & Rudd, 31st July 2018

Ratings:
87.28/100 – Whiskybase (average from 60 member votes)

For my 700th blog post I wanted to add something special, and Daftmill distillery came to my rescue. When I started getting interested in whisky in 2013 Daftmill had been distilling spirit for 8 years but nothing had been released from the lowland distillery. Surely something would appear soon? But we had to wait until 2018 before the 12-year-old inaugural release hit the market. I can’t remember exactly how much it was advertised for (£300?) but the 629 bottles sold out very quickly. Formed from 3 barrels it had a cask strength of 55.8% and scores a very respectable 86.3/100 on Whiskybase from 37 votes.

In July 2018 the second release from Daftmill arrived at a more pocket-friendly £95. This ‘summer batch release’ was formed from 7 barrels and limited to 1665 bottles. According to Berry Bros & Rudd I got the last bottle they had in stock. The reverse label says, “distilled and filled in the summer of 2006, these ex-Bourbon barrels from Heaven Hill in Kentucky have waited patiently in the bottom storey of Warehouse No 1 for nearly 12 years”. The only thing daft about this release is that some shops are now listing it as £799. The current auction value is about £180.

Although diluted down to 46% my summer release from Daftmill scores a point more on Whiskybase than the older and stronger inaugural release. People really love this stuff, which must be very encouraging for the Cuthbert family who own and operate the distillery at their farm in Fife. Comments about the taste mention lemon zest, peaches, honey, shortbread, spices, fresh marzipan, mint, key lime pie, tangy oranges, greengages, toffee and a youthful floral complexity. Sounds delicious!

I can only find two YouTube videos about Daftmill distillery, both of which take a tour with the owner Francis Cuthbert in 2010. He’s interviewed by Charles MacLean for SingleMaltTv and then by Ralfy who gets to nose a 4-year-old barrel of spirit. Ralfy likened the aroma to the former lowland distillery Linlithgow, which Francis thought was a fair comparison. A comment on Whiskybase feels the summer release resembles Rosebank, so you get the impression that Daftmill whisky has fantastic lowland pedigree.

When you research Daftmill distillery on the internet it soon becomes clear how generous the owner Francis Cuthbert is with his time. He has given numerous people a tour of his facilities even though I don’t believe the distillery is officially open to the public. It’s a working farm after all and has been in the Cuthbert family for 6 generations. But among the lowing cows and fields of barley (they grow their own, which is malted elsewhere) there is a real passion for making whisky. I have a feeling the distillery will go from strength to strength.