Bought: Whisky Auction, 22nd November 2016
76/100 – Serge Valentin (Whiskyfun.com)
83/100 – Whiskybase (average from 2 member votes)
Glen Mhor was one of many Scottish distilleries to feel the brunt of the whisky slump of the early 1980s, closing in 1983 and being demolished in 1988. Whiskybase currently have 170 different bottles of Glen Mhor listed on their database, 10 by the distillery and the remaining 160 by independent bottlers. The top three independents are Gordon & MacPhail (38), Signatory Vintage (22) and Cadenhead (14). My miniature is by Signatory and at 14-years-old it’s the youngest of the 22 listed on Whiskybase. Although 83/100 is a reasonable score it’s the second lowest of Signatory’s 22 versions of Glen Mhor with 5 bottles scoring a very impressive 89/100 or more.
Serge Valentin of Whisky Fun (and one of the Malt Maniacs) reviewed this Glen Mhor in 2005 and gave these tasting notes:
Nose: rather fresh starting on some fruity notes like green apple, kiwi, pink grapefruit and also some sherry. Develops on cereals: grain, muesli… It goes on with some porridge, yoghurt, caramel. Whiffs of white pepper. Really fresh, fruity and lively, with some jolly nice yeasty notes. Just a bit dusty, but the cask was still very neutral, it appears… Oh, some nice and bold vanilla fudge developing after fifteen minutes or so.
Palate: the mouth feel is quite powerful, the attack being little sour and unbalanced. Certainly less clean and fresh than the nose suggested. Some hot milk, brioche, yeast… Green vegetables, hydromel, bitter beer (like Bombardier). It gets even sourer after a while, and drying at the same time. A bit of apple vinegar… Too bad, it gets then even worse, with some disturbing offbeat notes.
Finish: is very sour, on green tomatoes and over-infused tealeaves
Bought: Whisky Auction, 5th October 2016
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):
Bought: Whisky Exchange, 28th September 2016
92.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
84.35/100 – Whiskybase (average from 22 member vote)
The Tomatin ‘Port Casks’ 14yo first appeared in 2014 in the old, basic bottle shape. In 2016 the whole Tomatin age statement range got redressed in a new style of bottle. I love this new look but to keep costs down I only got a miniature of this 14yo. The tasting notes provided by Tomatin have stayed the same so it seems the liquid inside is the same formula as the old 2014 bottling, which means I can quote old reviews for the new version. The score of 92.5/100 in the Whisky Bible ranks this single malt as “brilliant” and the author says about the taste “salivating, as a Tomatin delivery so often is. But here we get all juiced up by succulent fruit, helped along by glazed muscovado.”
84.35/100 on Whiskybase is a fantastic score and refers to the new 2016 version. The 2014 bottle scores 82.59/100 so perhaps Tomatin have made some improvements to the Port Casks mix, or maybe the lovely bottle enhances the drinker’s enjoyment of the contents. It’s surprising how subtle things like that can make a difference to how something tastes. A quality presentation makes you anticipate a quality product.
Here are the tasting notes from Master of Malt:
Nose: Quite a powerful nose. Big bunches of red berries and grapes. Vanilla, oak and hints of white pepper.
Palate: Dark chocolate dipped in strawberries. Crushed almonds, walnuts, Victoria sponge (with jam and cream in the middle) and a centre of oak.
Finish: Fruity on the finish.
Scotch Test Dummies review the old-style 2014 version (January 2015):
Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 16th December 2015
81.67/100 – Whiskybase (average from 5 member votes)
81/100 – Malt Maniacs (average from 6 maniac votes)
Convalmore, much like Coleburn I blogged about yesterday, was another Speyside distillery that bit the dust in 1985. Another similarity between the two distilleries was their output, which was destined (and designed) for blending, rather than turning into single malt. But when a distillery closes everything changes and it’s more profitable to whoever gets the remaining casks to bottle them up individually and sell them off as rare treasures (even though they might not taste that nice). At least with Convalmore there’s a better chance of finding a good one than Coleburn. The author of Malt Madness says the first seven samples he tried of Convalmore scored above average, which is encouraging.
81/100 and over 81/100 from the Malt Maniacs and Whiskybase is a respectable score for my miniature Convalmore bottled by Signatory. The bottle still has a good level for something produced in 1997 almost 20 years ago. One of the Malt Maniacs, Serge Valentin author of Whiskyfun, scores this dram 80/100. He says the nose is “interesting but simple” having started with a “fresh hazelnut skin”. In the taste he finds creaminess, sweet fruit liquor, Malibu, bubble gum, marsh mallow, grassy notes, cold herbal tea and concludes with ‘robust but simple’. The finish he finds “long but bitter” with burnt vegetables. In summary it seems he only scores it as high as 80/100 because of the “special notes of hazelnut skin” in the nose. His complete review can be found here.
Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 16th December 2015
80/100 – Whiskybase (average from 4 member votes)
69/100 – Malt Maniacs (average from 6 maniac votes)
In July 2015 I tried my first Coleburn single malt whisky. It was distilled in 1981, four years before the distillery was closed, and bottled by Gordon & MacPhail. It was rather boring and convinced me that I only needed a miniature to tick this Speyside distillery off my collection list. Coleburn whisky was always intended for blending, which might explain why it’s hard to find a single malt that gets rave reviews. Not that a dram of Coleburn can’t be a pleasant experience but if a 70cl bottle costs you £200+ at auction you want it to taste at least as good as a £30 malt from a supermarket.
80/100 on Whiskybase is quite a reasonable score but 69/100 on Malt Maniacs is the lowest score a Coleburn gets out of 26 rated bottles. Experienced whisky reviewer Mark Dermul scores this dram 73/100 on Whiskybase and comments “the nose starts fresh on grasses, citrus fruit, gooseberries and some kiwi. A drop of honey. Some camphor joins in. This is a pleasant nose, but with a twist. I cannot quite pinpoint it, though. It is a bit scary on the palate, though. Upon arrival I get some grasses and pepper, but then an immediate and unstoppable floral element appears that quickly goes into overdrive towards soap. By the second sip, you are ready to blow bubbles. Yikes! A medium long, soapy finish ends the ordeal. Special and pleasant enough nose, but on the palate it goes south.”
The Malt Maniac votes include 72/100 from Whiskyfun author Serge Valentin whose review can be found here (with no mention of soap).
Bought: SMWS, 27th October 2015
None as yet but added on Whiskybase here.
My second bottle since joining the ‘Scotch Malt Whisky Society’ (SMWS) is this Linkwood entitled ‘Builders at Breaktime’. Not the sort of image I’d associate with good flavour but the description of the bottle goes on to say “chips wrapped in warm newspaper and meaty broth tangled with oily engines. Dough balls with dark chocolate, espresso and cinnamon sprinkles. A cheeky tequila with salt and lime. Twiggy crisps, peanut brittle and garibaldi biscuits. Tools down for the day!” OK so it wasn’t the builders that the title was alluding to but what they might be consuming during their break. Tasty!
In Ralfy’s video below where he discusses the SMWS and reviews one of their bottles, someone comments about how expensive the SMWS bottles are when compared to distillery releases. They mention a SMWS bottle of Ardbeg. In a lot of cases you can’t get cask strength distillery releases but you certainly can for Ardbeg. What you rarely get from Ardbeg is age statements that are cask strength (the 10yo is 46% and the hugely expensive 17yo is only 40%). So it’s difficult to compare SMWS directly with most distillery bottlings. What makes more sense is to compare with other independent bottlers. This 14yo Linkwood (58%) cost £48.10 with free postage. I could buy a 15yo Linkwood (55.8%) from Bartels Whisky for £55.80 but I’d still have to add £3.95 postage. Admittedly you pay £130 to join the SMWS society but it gives you free delivery for a year. If you buy 10 bottles in that time then you’ve made your money back compared to Bartels Whisky (who I would say are one of the cheapest independents). I’m not saying the SMWS are cheap but they’ve clearly done their pricing research and charge appropriately.
Ralfy discusses the SMWS and reviews one of their bottlings (Port Charlotte):
Posted in Linkwood
Tagged 14yo, 39.110, 58%, 70cl, Builders at Breaktime, Cask Strength, Linkwood, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, Single Malt, SMWS, Speyside
Bought: The Wright Wine Company, 2nd October 2015
0/100 – Whiskybase (no rating yet)
Glenury Royal distillery was based in Stonehaven, a coastal town in northeast Scotland, 15 miles south of Aberdeen. The distillery was founded in 1825 by Captain Robert Barclay and closed in 1985. Captain Barclay was a member of parliament, which probably explains how he got permission from the king to put “royal” in the distillery’s name. Unfortunately the distillery was sold for property development and turned into apartments in the 1990s so we wont see the return of Glenury Royal.
My 14yo example was bottled in 1993 so it has remained unopened for 22 years. In all those years the neck level has stayed high, which is a good sign that it’s been stored well and the seal is nice and tight. Unfortunately I’ve been unable to find any reviews but an almost identical 14yo from the same period (1978-1993), also by Signatory, scores 87.5/100 from two voters on Whiskybase (here). This is also the same strength and matured in identical wood (oak cask). In general, most Glenury Royal bottlings get good reviews but they’re becoming increasingly hard to find. Miniatures (5cl) can still be found at auction for about £12 each, depending on age and rarity.
Posted in Glenury Royal (closed 1985)
Tagged 14yo, 1978, 43%, 70cl, Glenury Royal, Glenury Royal (closed 1985), Highland, Highlands, Signatory, Single Malt, The Wright Wine Company
Bought: Bartels Whisky, 18th August 2015
83.67/100 – Whiskybase (average from 20 member votes)
I’m a big fan of the independent bottler ‘Bartels Whisky’ (formerly ‘Malts of Scotland’). I’ve bought from them several times and the customer service is second to none. There have been a few glitches but every time I’ve contacted them they’ve bent over backwards to make things right. Getting this Linkwood was pure luck. They’d run out of the item I ordered but offered me a choice between a Fettercairn 22yo, Benriach 18yo or a Linkwood 14yo. These were only available to retailers so didn’t appear on Bartels Whisky’s website. Although the ancient Fettercairn seemed the best value, reviews weren’t favourable. My head said Benriach, which I knew would be an excellent dram but my heart said Linkwood, so that’s what I got. Whichever I picked it was only going to cost £47, which is what I’d already paid for the Deanston that was out of stock.
83.67/100 on Whiskybase is a very good mark although not all the comments are favourable. One reviewer remarks “nice but uneventful by Linkwood standards” but a more positive voter says “if you like the fresh, mellow, floral, summery flavour profile, you will like this. I know I do. I seem to be a bit above the average rating here (88/100), but this really suits me.” And as a fan of the Linkwood profile I’m sure I’m going to enjoy this Speyside dram.
Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 5th June 2015
88/100 – Whisky Bible 2009
89/100 – Ralfy – His YouTube Review (March 2013)
81.03/100 – Whiskybase (average from 35 member votes)
I was surprised and delighted to find a video review by Ralfy of the Scapa 14, and 89/100 is an amazingly high mark from him. Compared to the 12yo and 16yo he says the 14yo is his favourite but he admits that it’s more challenging than the 12yo with some sour, bitter notes and a more old-fashioned taste. But if you pour a glass and let it settle, it’s well worth the experience.
The now discontinued 14yo (replaced by the 16yo which has also been discontinued) was a new entry in the Whisky Bible in 2009. Scoring 88/100 it has the same mark as the 12yo, classing it as “very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying”. Jim Murray, the bible author, says of the taste “fresh barley for its age, a few bands of light oak, but some fruit notes towards the drying middle.” He concludes with “usually, this is one of the true great malts of the Chivas empire and a classic islander.”
One thing Jim Murray and Ralfy agree on is the variation of whisky from bottling to bottling of the 14yo but Ralfy felt the standard was always kept high. Saying that, 81/100 on Whiskybase is quite an average mark. Malt Maniacs give the 2005+ version of the 14yo 81/100 and the 2007+ version 79/100, which is again quite so-so. As a long-time lover of the 12yo I’ll be interested to see what I think of the 14yo. It sounds intriguing!
Bought – The Whisky Exchange, 11th November 2014
82.91/100 – Whiskybase (average from 13 member votes)
I first tried a dram by the independent bottlers ‘Adelphi’ in a whisky bar, summer of 2014, in Aberdeen, Scotland. It was a cask strength mystery malt called “Breath of Islay”. Not all single malts from Islay float my boat, so I wasn’t surprised when the first scent I detected from this whisky was ‘urinal’. Probably not one of the words Adelphi would use in their marketing literature. I persevered (because I know Islay malts of old) and I was eventually rewarded with a beautiful drink AND reminded I needed to buy some more toilet duck.
Impressed with my first Adelphi experience, and a renowned Highland Park fan, this Fascadale release for 2014 instantly caught my eye. The packaging and presentation of the bottle is simple and unfussy, perhaps a little too much so. A limited release of 1391 bottles but the bottles aren’t individually numbered. They are however 46%, natural colour and unchillfiltered. Adelphi’s advertising on the side of the box is also very impressive, where they say they only select 4% of the whisky they are offered to ensure that only the best quality, rarest single casks, are released.
Initially 85/100 on Whiskybase after 3 votes it has settled to just below 83/100, which is still an excellent rating.
Posted in Highland Park
Tagged 14yo, 46%, 70cl, Adelphi, Batch 7, Fascadale, Highland Park, Islands, Orkney, Single Malt, Whisky Exchange