Bought: Tesco, 22nd May 2017
81.61/100 – Whiskybase (average from 20 member votes)
Although all that’s really changed about the Highland Park 12yo in 2017 is the bottle style, packaging and calling it ‘Viking Honour’ it’s an opportunity for new reviews to appear to discuss this classic old Orkney favourite. In fairness, distillery standards such as the HP 12yo do change over time, so we shouldn’t assume the taste and quality remains the same forever and ever. But an old reviewer’s 85/100 might be a new reviewer’s 80/100 even of the same whisky, such is the randomness of ratings.
After 1152 votes on Whiskybase the old style HP 12yo (bottled since 2007) scored a very decent 82.24/100. It’s early days yet but ‘Viking Honour’ is lagging behind slightly. As I discussed in my last blog about the HP12, the Whiskybase ratings for the previous incarnations of the HP12 have shown a consistent downward trend. Is this true or do whisky drinkers look back on old bottlings of Highland Park with nostalgia and rose-tinted glasses?
Comments for ‘Viking Honour’ on Master of Malt are quite amusing, especially if Highland Park only changed the packaging and not the whisky. We have a mixed bag of remarks – “very smooth. I liked it”, “not an improvement and a big disappointment”, “sweet with a delicate smoky after taste which all in all is very agreeable”, “rubbish compared to the original”, “very smooth and slightly peaty”, “absolutely zero smoke or peat”. Has the whisky actually changed or is this a case of unreliable taste buds?
Tasting notes from Master of Malt, which interestingly don’t mention any smoke or peat but I believe these notes have not been updated since the previous HP12:
Nose: Fresh, clean and very aromatic. Floral notes abound the senses with a light grassiness. Notes of creamy Manuka honey and a touch of juicy citrus with cream and a well-balanced sweetness.
Palate: Rather full with a pleasant depth. Lurking somewhere in the substratum a grilled orange lies. Notes of granary toast and green tea with jasmine. A touch of sweetness.
Finish: Quite long with peppery spice and wood shavings.
Here’s Martin Markvardsen, senior brand ambassador for Highland Park, giving us his thoughts about the new 12yo ‘Viking Honour’. He mentions peat and smoke and talks about the new dram as if it were the typical HP 12yo profile (Sept 2017):
Bought: Lockett Bros, 19th April 2017
90.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
90/100 – Ralfy (of www.ralfy.com) – his video review below
86.78/100 – Whiskybase (average from 560 member votes)
My previous bottle of ‘Kilkerran’ by the Glengyle distillery was the ‘Work in Progress 5’ (bourbon casks), which I bought at the end of 2013. Back then my blog mused about the possibility of a 10-year-old release in 2014 but we had to wait until 2016 for the appearance of the first age statement. Glengyle filled the gap in 2014 and 2015 with a ‘Work in Progress’ 6 and 7. It was certainly worth the wait because whisky lovers went mad for the Kilkerran 12yo when it appeared in 2016. It was arguably the best budget single malt release of the year. I was a bit slow off the mark but thankfully managed to pick up the 2016 version of the bottling in early 2017. Since then Glengyle have released the 12yo again and it looks set to be a regular release from now on.
Over the years critics generally said that the bourbon cask version of the ‘Work in Progress’ was marginally better than the sherry. You have to suspect that Glengyle picked up on this, which is why they made the 12yo 70% bourbon and 30% sherry. Scoring nearly 87/100 on Whiskybase is a fantastic score. And from 560 members this suggests the Kilkerran 12yo is very much a whisky drinker’s whisky. Comments include “pleasant standard at a reasonable price”, “a surprisingly tasty drama considering the price and age” and “beautifully made no-nonsense Campbeltown whisky”.
Scoring 90.5/100 in Jim Murray’s ‘Whisky Bible 2017’ classifies the Kilkerran 12yo as ‘brilliant’. The author comments about the taste “despite the dozen years in cask, this still retains a degree of youth about it. But the malts are confident and take advantage of the overall lack of body to spread out and blossom”. He summarises with, “a malt far more confident at this age than some of the previous, younger, bottlings from a few years back. Has a fragile feel to it and the air of a malt which must be treated gently and with respect.”
90/100 from Ralfy is one of his highest scores. Here are his thoughts about the Kilkerran 12yo on YouTube (Oct 2016):
Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 10th January 2017
88/100 – Whisky Bible 2006
81/100 – Whiskybase (from 1 member vote)
81/100 – Serge Valentin of Whiskyfun.com
You wouldn’t look at “Poit Dhubh” and think it was pronounced “Potch Ghoo” but it is. That’s the wonders of the Gaelic language for you. As it proudly states on the back of the 70cl bottle “malt whisky specially produced for the Gaelic speaking islands of the Scottish Hebrides and for connoisseurs throughout the world”. It goes on to say that Poit Dhubh (meaning ‘black pot’, a term for an illicit still) is not chill-filtered to ensure the “oils contribute to its rare and soft, distinguishing flavour”. Marketing also states that its entirely natural so no added caramel either. And at 46% this whisky is looking worthy of 88/100 in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2006, which classifies the Poit Dhubh as “very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying”.
The Poit Dhubh 12yo is still produced today by Pràban na Linne Limited (The Gaelic Whisky Company) along with an 8yo and 21yo. They also do the blends ‘Té Bheag’ and ‘Mac Na Mara’. The current Poit Dhubh is still natural but 43% compared to my older 46% version. Quite when the 46% bottle dates from is unclear (2005?) but there are 10 different versions of the Poit Dhubh 12yo listed on Whiskybase. Strangely Whiskybase categorise my bottle as ‘single malt’ but elsewhere it’s described as vatted or blended malt (as is the current 43% version). Scotch Whisky Auctions sold a bottle of Poit Dhubh 12yo, 46%, in July 2014, which they summarised as “vatted malt (technically a combination of several single malts). Talisker comprises the majority of the malt, reflecting the provenance of its parent company, which is based on the Isle of Skye. The remainder of the blend is composed of various Speyside malts.”
Serge Valentin of Whiskyfun.com gives the Poit Dhubh 12yo 46% a very good 81/100 and remarks, “I think it’s the best Poit Dhubh I ever had, but I think I only had three or four before. Good stuff but at the same price, why not buy the genuine single malt from that island?” [Talisker]. His tasting notes consist of:
Nose: Dry whisky. Notes of wet chalk, very faint smoke, paper, lager beer and lemon-sprinkled porridge, then sea air. More smoke but also more notes of old wood (barrel) after a moment.
Taste: I don’t know if it’s my mind playing tricks to me but it does taste like Talisker (Pràban na Linne are on Skye.) ‘Smoked oranges’, pepper, salt, lime and kippers.
Finish: Rather long, more on lemon.
Here’s Ralfy with his review of the more modern 43% version of the Poit Dhubh 12yo, which he scores a fantastic 89/100 (May 2010):
Bought: Amazon, 12th March 2016
91.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
79.14/100 – Whiskybase (average from 111 member votes)
I must admit I tend to think of Auchentoshan whisky as being in the same bracket as Jura, Fettercairn and Speyburn in terms of quality. This might seem unfair until you look at the entry-level single malts each distillery produce and they get similar ratings online. One reviewer on Whiskybase for the Auchentoshan 12yo even says “very similar to Jura 10”. Other comments for the Auchentoshan 12yo include “Approachable”, “Enjoyable dram” and “worth spending some time otherwise will completely pass you by”. It’s this last remark that’s important because Ralfy (of www.ralfy.com) says in his YouTube review in 2009 to give this dram 15 minutes to open up. This allows the whisky to get over the E150 obstacle and let out its freshness and summery citrus notes.
One person who certainly enjoys the Auchentonshan 12yo is Jim Murray. Scoring 91.5/100 in his Whisky Bible classifies this Lowland single malt as “brilliant”. He says about the taste “oily and buttery; intense barley carrying delicate marzipan and vanilla” and concludes with “a delicious malt very much happier with itself than it has been for a while”.
Having tried the Auchentoshan 12yo I certainly enjoyed it but it doesn’t hold a candle to the Highland Park 12yo, which is cheaper, nor the Talisker 10yo, which is significantly more complex and rewarding. But every whisky enthusiast will at some time want to try an example from the Scottish Lowlands and the Auchentoshan 12yo is very approachable and pleasant.
Here’s Horst Luening of Whisky.com with his thoughts about the Auchentoshan 12yo on YouTube (July 2016):
Bought: Aberdeen Whisky Shop, 11th September 2015
95.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
83.14/100 – Whiskybase (average from 525 member votes)
If I were to list my top 10 whiskies to have in the sideboard the BenRiach 12yo would be one of them. It ticks the boxes for quality and budget, which make it ideal as a regular sipper. But saying that I see prices are on the increase. I bought my bottle for £32.50 but 18 months later it’s up to £41.50. A sign of the times or is BenRiach becoming more exclusive?
Scoring 95.5/100 in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible is a fantastic score and classifies this quality 12yo as a “superstar whisky that gives us all a reason to live”. In the author’s opinion it beats other standard distillery 12yos such as the Glenfiddich (85.5/100), Old Pulteney (90.5/100), Highland Park (78/100), Glendronach (92/100), Glenfarclas (94/100), Glengoyne (91.5/100) and even the new and acclaimed Glen Grant (95/100). Mr Murray says about the BenRiach taste “quite magnificent! How I pray whiskies to be on delivery, but find they so rarely are. Some caramels are caught up in the genteel squabble between the grape juice and the rich barley.” He concludes with “a celebration of a malt whisky in more ways than you could believe.”
Scoring just over 83/100 on Whiskybase is a very good mark but not to the same degree as the Whisky Bible. Comments include “beautiful entrance to sherried single malts”, “a pleasant whisky with an easy-to-drink character” and “this is a seriously good core range whisky and considering the price, it’s a great bang for the buck.”
Here’s Horst Luening of Whisky.com with his thoughts on YouTube (December 2014):
Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 10th January 2017
86.5/100 – Whiskybase (average from 2 member votes)
This mystery single malt was released to celebrate 1997’s reconstitution of the first Scottish parliament since 1707. I have a miniature but the 70cl version was a limited release of 5000. When it was sold on ‘Master of Malt’ it was listed as £27 but since selling out bottles have made between £25 and £110 at auction depending on condition. The bottle was produced by ‘Flavour of Scotland’ who are listed online as a consultancy and still active at their Glasgow address.
Scoring 86.5/100 on Whiskybase is a very good score albeit from only 2 member votes. The tasting notes below suggest the Scottish Parliament 12yo is probably a single malt from a mystery Highland distillery:
Nose: soft smoke & citrus with fresh fruit feature
Palate: soft and sweet with syrup and oak
Finish: sherried with hints of chocolate and spice
Bought: Amazon, 16th April 2016
88/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
82.35/100 – Whiskybase (average from 354 member votes)
91/100 – Whisky Bitch (her video review below)
As a fan of the Glen Garioch Founder’s Reserve I jumped at the chance to get the 12yo when Amazon reduced it to £32. That’s cheap for any 12yo whisky let alone one as hefty as 48%. Once open the 12yo certainly is a lovely dram but I slightly prefer the Founder’s Reserve, which seems less ‘designed’. I tried the 12yo again when visiting the Glen Garioch distillery and it stood up well against the 15yo, which I also got to sample. It’s hard to go wrong with spicy dark fruits, vanilla and a hint of smoke when presented at 48%. Delicious!
Scoring 88/100 in the Whisky Bible classifies the Glen Garioch 12yo as a ‘very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying’. The author, Jim Murray, says of the taste “sticking, broadly, to the winning course of the original 43% version, though here there is a fraction more toffee at the expense of the smoke.” The Founder’s Reserve scores 87.5/100 in the Bible and the 15yo 86.5/100 so not much in it.
Getting over 82/100 on Whiskybase is a very good mark. The Founder’s Reserve scores 80.6/100. Comments for the 12yo include “very solid uncommercial style and very nice strength for a standard bottling”, “well crafted….perfect daily dram” and “overall it’s good, enjoyable and showing complexity”.
The Glen Garioch 12yo is a hearty Highland hidden gem that’s well worth seeking out.
Here’s the Whisky Bitch with her thoughts on YouTube about the Glen Garioch 12yo (May 2012):
Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 10th January 2017
None I can find.
It took me a while to find out that this miniature is by the independent bottler ‘Signatory’. They’re not mentioned on the label but sometimes the bottle appears at auction in a Signatory box (mine didn’t). It was bottled in 1993 as number 2 of a series of four tram-themed miniatures for ‘The Wee Dram’ in Blackpool. I’ve been unable to find out what ‘The Wee Dram’ was but I’m assuming it was a shop, or possibly a pub. It’s not the current ‘Wee Dram’ shop located 90 miles away in Bakewell because that only dates back to 1998.
Although I’ve been unable to find a review about this specific bottle I have a similar mini Glen Albyn 12yo by Signatory bottled in 1993. Unfortunately it doesn’t fair very well where a reviewer says “one of those notorious bad casks of Signatory in the past.” It makes you realise that some whisky has more value in a collection than to a whisky drinker.
The four trams in the series of miniatures were:
No.1 – Longmorn 12yo ‘Blackpool Trams standard car no.40’ (on Whiskybase here)
No.2 – Glen Albyn 12yo ‘Blackpool Trams Dreadnought No.59’
No.3 – Glenury Royal 14yo ‘Bolton Tram no.66’ (on Whiskybase here)
No.4 – Glenturret 14yo ‘Edinburgh Car’
Although this was billed at ‘series 1’ there wasn’t a second series. A list of Signatory miniatures including the Tram series can be found here.
Posted in Glen Albyn (closed 1988)
Tagged 12yo, 1993, 43%, 5cl, Blackpool Trams, Dreadnought No.59, Glen Albyn, Highland, Highlands, Online Whisky Auction, Single Malt, The Wee Dram Blackpool
Bought: Whisky Auction, 22nd November 2016
67/100 – Whiskybase (average from 2 member votes)
Yes, I confess I bought this miniature even knowing its poor rating on Whiskybase. But the problem is not due to the size of the bottle because the full 70cl version can only muster 61.33/100 from 3 votes. One member explains why “very, very, very strange whisky. One of those notorious bad casks of Signatory in the past. The distillery used to have a hit-and-miss reputation as well. Seems that this whisky has matured in an oil barrel.” Oh dear. We get to enjoy their tasting notes later.
So why did I get it? Because I’ve become a crazy collector of ‘Signatory Vintage miniatures in cardboard tubes’ that’s why! You had to ask. I now have a total of eleven, seven of which are from closed distilleries. To be fair on myself this Glen Albyn mini was being sold with two others, neither of which were considered to be as bad. Normally I would say that miniatures are a cheap way of getting a taste experience from a closed distillery but this Glen Albyn wouldn’t be a fair example. The liquid is better off staying in the bottle and joining the investment merry-go-round or tucked away in someone’s collection (mine for now).
Here are the tasting notes from Malt Martin on Whiskybase:
Nose: What’s this! Lots of gasoline. Like filling up your car at a petrol station. First I thought this was due to my glass, but it is really the whisky. Acetone and plastic. Later on some leafy and flowery notes. Biscuits.
Taste: Astringent and sharp. Orange peel. Lemon grass. Zesty. Also cereal and porridge. A little perfume. Lavender. Heather. Very strange again.
Finish: Medium long. Sourness. Pepper and a little nutmeg. Bitterness at the end.
Bought: Whisky Auction, 8th November 2016
None I can find.
‘Royal Chester’ sounds more like a racehorse than a whisky. I’ve been following whisky auctions since 2013 and never have I seen a bottle of the Royal Chester 12yo blend. You’d think therefore that it would be valuable but that’s not how the whisky market works. If it’s not a single malt or a known make with pedigree then it wont make much as an investment. Even if this whisky hails from the 1980s it’s still only £20-£25 maximum at auction. If I keep it for another 20 years it might reach £40.
If you have a bottle of whisky where there’s nothing on the Internet about it then the next port of call is to search for the bottler. In the case of ‘Royal Chester’ this is Campbell & Clark Ltd, Glasgow. According to the website ‘UK Companies List’, Campbell & Clark Ltd were incorporated on 9/11/1934 and dissolved on 19/02/2010. Their category was “wholesale alcohol and other drinks” with address c/o Speyside Distillery Co Ltd, Duchess Road, Glasgow, G73 1AU.
Campbell & Clark Ltd are listed on Whiskybase here for two releases of the Glen Mhor single malt, bottled in the mid 1990s. Searching for ‘Campbell & Clark Ltd’ reveals that the company mostly specialised in blended whisky for the American market. The earliest example I could find was ‘Clark’s Reserve’ from the 1950s but also ‘David Ross’, ‘Lord Nelson’ and ‘John Blair’. Not exactly famous whisky names but very typical from a time when lots of blends were being produced.
So why have the name ‘Royal Chester’? The term doesn’t appear to belong to the city of Chester in the northwest of England, which has no royal patronage. There is however a ‘Royal Chester Rowing Club’ founded in 1838 and one of the oldest rowing clubs in the United Kingdom. There’s also a steam train engine built in 1925 called the ‘Royal Chester’. But there’s nothing on the whisky bottle or box connecting it with either of these. For all I know the name was chosen randomly or comes from the Royal Chester Hotel, Nagasaki, Japan. The mystery continues!