Bought: Cadenhead, 5th December 2017
88.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2018
87.85/100 – Whiskybase (average from 89 member votes)
In 2015 I contacted Springbank distillery about paying £50 to become a life member of their ‘Springbank Society’. I’d get a badge, t-shirt and an opportunity to buy two special bottles per year, exclusive to society members. In the end I didn’t join because the online forum for Springbank members disappeared and the distillery was having a website meltdown. They make great whisky but my confidence in their Internet ability was in tatters. Since then I can’t say I’ve seen a ‘society only’ bottle of Springbank appear at auction so I’ve no idea if they got produced.
The basic Springbank 10yo and the cask strength 12yo are so good it’s taken me 5 years on my whisky journey before getting the 15yo. Clearly I didn’t need any ‘special releases’ for society members because the standard releases are more than enough for me. I decided to get the 15yo because several people on whisky forums said it was their favourite dram and I hadn’t bought a Springbank for a while. With a score of nearly 88/100 on Whiskybase this is clearly a fantastic 15yo. Comments include “very tasty” and “a big whisky with big flavours”. Other remarks online include “top of the line if you like sherry matured” and “refined and full of Campbeltown character”. What more can you ask for?
Jim Murray’s score of 88.5/100 in his Whisky Bible dates back to 2012 so you can take that with a pinch of salt. A review on Whiskybase says this latest version (tasted in 2018) is better than a previous version they tried a few years ago so perhaps Mr Murray would score it in the 90s now.
Tasting notes from Master of Malt:
Nose: Fragrant with a certain richness. Notes of fruit salad and a hint of caramel, pineapple, guava and passion fruit lurk. There are notes of dried leather and old ropes. A hint of toffee sweetness and some granary toast.
Palate: Quite full and rich. There are notes of creamy fruit salad and more exotic fruit notes. There is palpable mastication from the oaked tannins with a hint of spice.
Finish: Fairly long with a gentle warmth.
Here’s Horst & Benedikt Luening of Whisky.com with their thoughts about the Springbank 15yo on YouTube (May 2017):
Bought: Whisky Auction, 24th May 2017
87/100 – Whisky Bible 2006
83.71/100 – Whiskybase (average from 9 member votes)
In 2015 a similar bottle of Glenturret 15yo sold at auction for £70, in 2016 for £50 and I got this old malt for £35 in 2017. At the same time the retail value of this bottle has been going up at a similar rate. This is because whisky shops tend to think that all whisky is increasing in value, which simply isn’t true, not if you follow the auction sites. If you want an old bottling of Glenturret then now is the time to buy at auction. If you’ve got an old bottle of this 15yo you’d like to sell then hold onto it because I have a feeling the auction price of this little beauty will bounce back.
When I say “beauty” I am of course referring to the taste not the packaging. In the 1990s Glenturret were going through a phase of asking a colour-blind hamster to design their boxes and labels. Dirty yellow and brown, really?! But what’s inside has gone down extremely well with 9 members of Whiskybase where nearly 84/100 is a fantastic score. One member concludes with “wonderfully balanced with a easygoing flavor palette.”
Although Jim Murray’s score of 87/100 in his Whisky Bible 2006 is a good bit after the 1990s this was a fairly consistent 15yo as it moved across the millennium. Mr Murray’s score classifies this dram as “very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying”. He says about the taste “highly intense malt that sweetens, mildly oily with a hint of oak” and summaries with “a discontinued bottling now: if you see it, it is worth the small investment”. And I couldn’t agree more!
Tasting notes provided on Whiskybase:
Nose: Flowery, sweet and pleasant.
Taste: Soft vanilla notes, light peppery and notes of fruit.
Finish: Pleasantly sharp and soothing.
Bought: World Duty Free, 22nd March 2016
82.67/100 – Whiskybase (average from 8 member votes) for 100cl version
84/100 – Ralfy (of www.ralfy.com)
The Johnnie Walker ‘Green Label’ first appeared in 2005 but by 2013 it was discontinued everywhere other than in Asia. In 2015 it returned (hurray!) with a limited edition to mark its 10-year anniversary. But rather than disappear again it has remained due to popular demand, and by having enough stock of the whisky that go into this blended malt. As it states on the box this is a vatting together of Talisker, Linkwood, Cragganmore and Caol Ila, which all have to be a minimum of 15 years old. And with no grain whisky to interfere with the mix you get to play a guessing game as to which of these 4 classic single malts you can spot in the taste.
Even though it’s been 2 years since the Green Label (GL) returned I see that Jim Murray’s ‘Whisky Bible’ book still contains his review from many years ago (95/100) so I haven’t included that. 82.6/100 on Whiskybase is for my 100cl version but the 70cl scores higher with 83.4/100 from 76 votes (it’s the same stuff in both bottles). That’s a pretty good score. Comments include “no big challenge, no need of too much attention. Simple but decent”, “what it lacks is a bit of power, but then again, the balance between subtle smoke and sweetness is well-done” and “initial taste is very good and promising, but the body never delivers. And it’s just downhill from there, with an almost non existing finish.”
Although ratings appear to be good the new GL clearly has its faults, especially to those who tried the previous incarnation. When Ralfy did his first YouTube review of the GL in 2010 he scored it a fantastic 89/100 but in his re-review in 2016 (below) he’s downgraded it to 84/100. He felt it had been slightly sanitised since his last review. ‘Malts of Montreal’ says in his YouTube review of September 2015 (here) that the old version was more smoky and peaty whereas the new GL is sweeter. This could well upset the Coal Ila and Talisker fans and I certainly didn’t taste as much Talisker as I was hoping when I tried it. But overall, without comparison to the previous version, the Johnnie Walker Green Label is a good blended malt and an enjoyable experience on the palate.
Ralfy’s thoughts on YouTube (April 2016):
Posted in Johnnie Walker VM
Tagged 100cl, 15yo, 43%, Caol Ila, Cragganmore, Green Label, Johnnie Walker, Linkwood, Talisker, Vatted Malt, World Duty Free
Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 9th January 2017
79.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
84.12/100 – Whiskybase (average from 173 member votes)
When Macallan discontinued the 10yo, 12yo and 15yo age statements in 2013 it was the 15yo that vanished from the UK shops first (High Street and online). As old stock of the 10yo and 12yo dribbled back onto the market the 15yo has remained elusive, although I believe it’s been easier to obtain in the US and Canada. Thankfully bottles regularly appear in online auctions, which is where I purchased mine. But was it worth it as a drinking dram?
Jim Murray, author of the whisky bible, wasn’t overly impressed with this final version of the 15yo ‘Fine Oak’. In 2009 he scored the previous version 94/100 but in 2012 he added my new bottling with a score of 79.5/100, which classifies it as “average and usually pleasant though sometimes flawed”. He says, “As the stock of the Fine Oak 12 rises, so its 15yo brother, once one of my Favourite drams, falls. Plenty to enjoy, but a few sulphur stains remove the gloss.”
Although 84/100 on Whiskybase is a good score it seems that a lot of Macallan fans are left feeling disappointed with the 15yo Fine Oak. Comments include “appealing, intensely sweet with good infusion of multiple oaks, complex and alluring”, “pretty drinkable and also enjoyable but not really great either”, “I expected much more for this Macallan, so felt disappointed” and “too much wood influence? Not a brilliant whisky for that price.”
As the 15yo Fine Oak drifts into whisky history you feel it will always have its fans, such is the appeal of The Macallan but perhaps this wasn’t their finest hour. It’s worth noting that none of the comments on Whiskybase mention ‘sulphur’ and the previous version of the Fine Oak scores less with 83.25/100 (from 58 votes), which Jim Murray gives 94/100. So make of that what you will.
Here’s ‘Whisky in the 6’ from Canada with their review of the 15yo Fine Oak on YouTube (January 2016):
Bought: Whisky Auction, 22nd November 2016
84/100 – Serge Valentin (Whiskyfun.com)
78/100 – Whiskybase (from 1 member vote)
‘Braes of Glenlivet’ sounds more like a pop group of horses than the name of a whisky distillery. Thankfully the name was changed to Braeval in 1994 to avoid any confusion with the neighbouring Glenlivet distillery. It seems a tad unfair since Braeval is one of only three distilleries in the glen of the river Livet, the others being Glenlivet and Tamnavulin. Braes of Glenlivet began life in the early 70s to provide malt for the Chivas Regal blend. The distillery was mothballed in 2002 but reopened in 2008 as the demand for Chivas Regal grew.
Braeval is a true blending malt because there’s no mention on Whiskybase of the existence of a single malt direct from the distillery. The book ‘Discovering Scotland’s Distilleries’ says the principal single malt is by an independent bottler and called ‘Deerstalker’, released as a 10yo and 15yo. At 40% and 46% respectively, neither score particularly well (much like my miniature by Signatory). It’s the cask strength releases of Braeval that get the accolades.
Serge Valentin of Whisky Fun summaries my bottle of Braes of Glenlivet by Signatory with, “interesting, really interesting – I can’t remember having had that much parsley in a malt before.”
Tasting notes from Whisky Fun:
Nose: quite some sherry but also unusual notes of varnish and parsley. Develops on dried oranges and bread crust, milk chocolate, getting then very herbal (dill, chive, coriander…) Very interesting. Also something slightly metallic, motor oil…
Mouth: not too bold but not weak, sort of strange, starting on overripe oranges but also lots of paraffin. Notes of cod oil (err…), cardboard, clay… Gets then very herbal again (dried parsley, thyme). I’m wondering whether there isn’t quite some peat in there. Unusual notes of green curry, Madeira, and retsina… That’s right, it’s quite resinous.
Finish: isn’t too long but balanced and satisfying, on peppered strawberries
Bought: Auriol Wines, 8th August 2016
89.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2016
84.52/100 – Whiskybase (average from 27 member votes)
The look of BenRiach that we know today started when the company was taken over in 2004 by a consortium of businessmen lead by whisky veteran Billy Walker. In June 2016 the sale of BenRiach along with Glendronach and Glenglassaugh distilleries was confirmed. Although the new owners say they intend to keep things pretty much as they are, fans of these distilleries might be a little concerned. It could mean good news for collectors if standards slip and bottles bought today are classics of the future but I’ll be sad if the quality of the whisky diminishes from any of these distilleries. I might collect whisky but I firmly wear my drinker’s hat when buying bottles of BenRiach and Glendronach. Their current output is some of the best single malt on the market in my opinion.
My 15yo Tawny Port appeared in 2012 and 89.5/100 in the Whisky Bible classifies it as “very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying”. The author, Jim Murray, says of the taste “comes together on the pallet with a rare degree of grace. The kicking expected from the fruit never materialises and instead there is a soft malt and firm fruit double whammy; the fruit and nut chocolate arrives earlier than expected.” He concludes with “now that really is the perfect late night dram”.
Over 84.5/100 on Whiskybase is a very good score. Here are the tasting notes from the guys at Master of Malt:
Nose: Aromatic, port wood notes at the fore developing into a phenolic element, a little bitumen perhaps.
Palate: Sweet and firm, grape and oily smoke, sweetness develops, grapey.
Finish: Oak, smoke and a touch more phenol.
Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 10th May 2016
93/100 – Whisky Bible 2016
85.85/100 – Whiskybase (average from 199 member votes)
92/100 – Ralfy (of www.ralfy.com)
It’s 18 month since I blogged about getting a miniature of this famous Longmorn 15yo but it was only a matter of time before I got the full 70cl. This classic came and went before I started collecting whisky but now the subsequent 16yo has gone only to be replaced by the all-too-predictable NAS (non-aged statement) the Distiller’s Choice. I can understand why big names like Macallan and Glenlivet have changed to NAS because of the demand on their older stock but Longmorn? Really? Perhaps it’s because Chivas Regal need more and more mature Longmorn to go into their blend. Or maybe I don’t fully understand the reasons behind changing to NAS. Will I ever?
I mentioned Ralfy’s review in my previous blog about the 5cl but I’ll embed it this time so it’s easier to view. He talks about it as a drinker’s dram rather than for a collector and it seems that prices at auction back this up. Although one member of Whiskybase says the Longmorn 15yo cost just over £20 about 7-8 years ago it can be acquired for £45-£50 at auction now, which is a fairly average price for a new 15yo single malt. It may be a slow-burner as an investment but to Ralfy and many others, this is a dram to be drunk.
Nearly 86/100 on Whiskybase is an excellent score where reviewers leave comments of “a well balanced and very fruity dram”, “very nice indeed” and “relentlessly charming and sadly missed”. Ralfy’s 92/100 is one of his highest ever scores and 93/100 in the Whisky Bible classifies it as “brilliant”. The author, Jim Murray, says of the taste “your mouth aches from the enormity of the complexity, whilst your tongue wipes grooves into the roof of your mouth. Just about flawless bitter-sweet balance, the intensity of the malt is enormous yet – even after 15 years – it maintains a cut-grass Speyside character.”
Here’s Ralfy’s review on You Tube from November 2013:
Bought: Master of Malt, 3rd March 2016
92/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
88/100 – Whiskybase (from 1 member vote)
I’m always keen to add a different Highland Park to my collection and what better than one from a new independent bottler, Edinburgh Whisky. The company have been on the go since 2013/14 but only appear to have bottled a Highland Park, Glenlivet and a blend so far. I found their website quite annoying because it keeps asking me to confirm I am over 18yo as I try to move from page to page. A basic error that should have been fixed by now if anyone in the company bothered to test it.
There were only 257 bottles produced of this HP. For a collector that’s a good thing. With an age statement (15yo), natural colour and non chill-filtered, this ex-bourbon cask whisky ticks a lot of good boxes. Thankfully Jim Murray agrees in his latest Whisky Bible 2017 where 92/100 classifies this HP as “brilliant”. He summaries with “after an uncharacteristic scramble on delivery this becomes a classic HP for its age, as is the nose. Rather lovely.”
The supplied tasting notes are:
NOSE: Soft, smoky initial maritime hit – from Lapsang tea to light iodine – washed over with a mineral, salty brine. The sweet fruitiness of candied orange and dried apricot evelops into darker fruit like fresh figs and prunes in Armagnac, which leads to great savoury elements like new leather, pipe tobacco and toasted macadamias. Lightly floral and aromatic with notes of fresh roses, wild heather and jasmine tea.
TASTE: Lovely mouthfeel – both dense and smooth. Panettone to salted caramel and pure heather honey. Baked apples and golden raisins. Cigar box woodiness. Climbing intensity with the light peat smoke throughout. Dark and brooding. Long, lush finish.
IMPRESSION: A sophisticated and truly engaging malt that slowly draws you in to some dark smokey world, but keeps balance and lightness and becomes about the sum of its parts, rather than just peat, or fruit. One to take time over. Quite special.
A couple of reviews can be found here:
Bought: SMWS, 4th November 2015
87.25/100 – Whiskybase (average from 4 member votes)
Although Jim Murray doesn’t mention this HP by the SMWS in his Whisky Bible 2016 (it’s too new) he does mention 4 other HPs by this experienced independent bottler. They range from a 13yo scoring 88.5/100 to a 22yo scoring an incredible 96.5/100. In the middle are two 14yos, which are closest in age to my 15yo. They score 93/100 and 95.5/100 respectively. This tells me that, according to Jim Murray at least, the guys at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society know how to pick a good Highland Park. This is hardly surprising when you consider that Whiskybase mention 137 separate releases of HP by the SMWS since their inception in the early 1980s. They have a lot of knowledge of Highland Park and it shows in the quality of casks they select for bottling. The code ‘4.213’ would suggest this is the 213th HP cask the SMWS have released. That’s about one bottling every two months since the society started.
My 15yo, distilled in 1999, goes by the name of “A Regency Pomander” with the usual over-the-top Oscar-winning tasting notes conjured up by the SMWS “from the word go this one was oozing quality. The aromas were intoxicating, baked apple with crème Anglaise, Banana Brulee using Ambrosia custard, clove studded oranges, a very chocolaty mousse and always in the background, the fragrant glow of a Jo Malone incense and embers candle. The taste neat was that of thick, sweet and waxy goodness, deep fried corn fritters served with honey and cream, blueberry pancakes with maple syrup and chocolate tofu pudding. A drop of water and the luxurious fragrance of a rosewater poured candle appeared along with a heavenly dessert of macadamia praline and Frangelico parfait.”
In the video below Georgie of the SMWS explains the society’s bottle labels:
Posted in Highland Park
Tagged 15yo, 4.213, 56.6%, 70cl, A Regency Pomander, Cask Strength, Highland Park, Islands, Orkney, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, Single Cask, Single Malt, SMWS
Bought: SMWS, 30th October 2015
93/100 – Whisky Bible 2016
86/100 – Whiskybase (average from 5 member votes)
My 3rd and final 10cl sample from the SMWS membership pack and I’m surprised and delighted to find it’s included in the Whisky Bible 2016. Not only that but the author, Jim Murray, scores it 93/100 which classifies it as “brilliant”. He describes the taste as “spectacular mouth feel: the softest of oils allows the salivating butterscotch and barley to do its thing” and summarises with “the way in which it keeps its sweetness in such delicate voice is a thing of wonder”.
86/100 on Whiskybase is also a very good score. The society entitle this dram “Foamy strawberries in a cigar box” with tasting notes of “sugary cola bottles, crème Anglaise and raspberry jam. Deeper resonances of cedar, cigar boxes, putty, mint and menthol cigarettes. Luxurious, strawberry sweetness; custard donuts, banoffee pie and menthol cough candies.” Completely over-the-top description as usual but clearly it must be worth it, especially if Jim Murray thinks it’s brilliant!
Here’s a quick video on the origins of the Scotch Malt Whisky Society:
Posted in Arran
Tagged 10cl, 121.66, 15yo, 55.4, Arran, Cask Strength, Foamy strawberries in a cigar box, Highland, Highlands, Single Malt, SMWS