Bought: Just Whisky Auction, 15th November 2015
88/100 – Whisky Bible 2008
82.68/100 – Whiskybase (average from 33 member votes)
This discontinued distillery bottle of Highland Park first appeared in October 2005 and was a new addition to Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible in 2007. The 100cl version I have was exclusive to ‘Travel Retail’ so found in certain airport terminals. There was a 70cl and miniature more generally available. The bible score of 88/100 classifies this HP as “very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying”. The author says of the taste “mouthwatering and delightfully weighted barley with soft nuances of liquorice and smoke” and concludes with “I tasted this the day it first came out at one of the Heathrow whisky shops. I thought it a bit flat and uninspiring. This sample, maybe from another bottle, is more impressive and showing true Highland Park colours”.
Although 82.68/100 on Whiskybase is a reasonable score it’s only marginally ahead of the standard 12yo (82.38/100) and lagging slightly behind the 15yo (83.13/100). It certainly can’t hold a candle to the 18yo (87.42/100), which is a classic of its time. But if you love Highland Park this 16yo is certainly a good dram and worth looking out for. Hard To Find Whisky are selling a bottle for £120 but it goes for about £80 at auction.
Here’s a short Highland Park distillery video about the 16-year-old:
Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 19th June 2015
73/100 – Whiskybase (from 1 member vote)
I got this Allt a´Bhainne in a mix of miniatures at auction otherwise I doubt I would have singled it out for purchase. But I’m glad I got it. This whisky was distilled in 1979, only 4 years after Allt a´Bhainne was built along with Braeval to provide whisky for the Chivas blend. The distillery was mothballed in 2002 only to be reopened again in 2005 when Chivas launched a big effort to beat Johnnie Walker Black Label as the World’s number one blend. So you can see from the distillery’s history that providing single malt is low on its priority. There is no bottling facility at the distillery. We have to thank independent bottlers like ‘The Whisky Castle’ for buying up casks and letting the world find out what the bare bones of Allt a´Bhainne tastes like.
The house style for Allt a´Bhainne is sweet, floral, light in body and a bit spicy; very much an aperitif whisky. The Whisky Bible 2015 lists 10 versions of Allt a´Bhainne, all by independent bottlers (I don’t believe the distillery has ever released a single malt themselves). The best scores 92/100, a 20yo by Master of Malt, with a 12yo by Provenance taking second spot with 91.5/100.
The Whisky Castle company is based in Tomintoul. You can find their website here.
Bought: Amazon, 2nd April 2015
84.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
83.83/100 – Whiskybase (average from 352 member votes)
A few months ago I got an email from my local whisky shop saying that the Longmorn 16yo was being discontinued with immediate effect. Even then, at over £50 and so-so reviews, I wasn’t going to rush out and procure a bottle. It took a ‘lightening deal’ on Amazon with a big discount and free postage to tempt me. Only then did I start to look properly at reviews of the 16yo.
The Longmorn 16yo replaced the highly respected 15yo, so it had a tough act to follow. The Whisky Bible rates the 15yo as 93/100 but the lower score for the 16yo dates back to the author’s tasting in 2008. The blending of a single malt can change a great deal in 7 years. Recent reviews of the 16yo suggest that it has improved, so it seems a shame that it’s being discontinued. The replacement is an NAS (non-age statement) called ‘The Distiller’s Choice” and is currently scoring less than 81/100 on Whiskybase. I wont be bothering to buy it.
Here’s the Whisky Vault comparing a newer version of the Longmorn 16 with my older version (Aug 2017):
Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 24th February 2015
Bottled 2005 (left) – 77.4/100 – Whiskybase (average from 7 member votes)
Bottled 2009 (right) – 79.83/100 – Whiskybase (average from 8 member votes)
I’ve complained before about Gordon & MacPhail miniatures not having the same information on them as their bigger counterparts. I didn’t hold out much hope of matching a review against either of my minis of Pittyvaich until I saw “Bottle Code JE/AAB” on Whiskybase. I thought it looked familiar, so I examined both my bottles. Sure enough, looking through from the back, I could see “JE/AAB” printed on the reverse of the front label. This means one of my bottles (left in the picture below) was the first ‘Connoisseurs Choice’ release in 2005. Distilled in 1993, this whisky is 12 years old. Scoring 77.4/100 on Whiskybase isn’t brilliant with comments of “light and unimpressive” but also “a bit unusual (in a good way)”.
My second bottle from the closed Pittyvaich distillery (pictured right) has the new style label that first appeared in 2009 on a 16yo release of ‘Connoisseurs Choice’. My bottle has the code “JI/AABB” on the reverse of the front label but unfortunately this information isn’t given on Whiskybase, so the rating is a bit of a guess. I’m basing it mainly on the colour of the whisky, since the 2011 release is darker amber. Although scoring better than the 2005 release, a comment summarises this whisky with “winey aperitif style whisky. Not very well balanced.”
Having bought these bottles from an online auction, I had no idea I was getting a 12yo and a 16yo. Either I will do a taste comparison, or keep them as an investment. Pittyvaich distillery closed in 1993 so even miniature examples will be increasing in value.
Posted in Pittyvaich (closed 1993)
Tagged 12yo, 16yo, 1993, 2005, 2009, 43%, 5cl, Connoisseurs Choice, Gordon & MacPhail, Online Whisky Auction, Pittyvaich (closed 1993), Single Malt, Speyside
Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 24th February 2015
For those of you who have diligently read my words before, you’ll know that I’m not a fan of whisky auctions. But, like a mad butterfly to a flame, they have a certain fascinating that draws me back in. With another auction of whisky miniatures looming, I decided I’d have a go at acquiring a few 5cl bottles from closed distilleries. “What better way of keeping the cost down by getting miniatures?” I thought. How about not bidding!
I did all my research on the bottles I wanted, hunting through previous auctions to find out the maximum price I should aim for. The only problem with this approach is there’s no such thing as a ‘maximum’ price in an auction. It’s what two idiots are prepared to battle up to, with the biggest fool being the last one to stop bidding. There’s also a numbers game going on. If there were 3 regular people bidding on previous auctions, my arrival makes 4. The previous winners may have outbid the others but that’s not to say they reached the maximum they were prepared to pay. I would have to beat that to secure the bottles I wanted.
I set my sights on 9 closed distilleries and placed my bids. I needed to win a reasonable number to spread out the astronomical cost of postage. £15 delivery between 9 bottles is £1.67 per bottle, but £5 per bottle if I only win 3. Unfortunately, as the battle neared its close, I was down to 3 bottles, and two of those were from the same distillery. The hammer fell, as did my heart. What possessed me?!
In the end this mini of Glenugie cost me £18 but, taking its share of the postage, commission, etc, it was really £28.57! I was all set to pour my whisky collection down the sink and take up stamp collecting instead when I had a look on ‘Hard To Find Whisky’. They have the exact same 5cl Glenugie for …. wait for it…. £99.95!
From what I’ve discovered about this bottling by Signatory, it’s not one of their best. Malt maniacs give the bigger 70cl version 68/100 (average from 3 votes) but on Whiskybase a single reviewer scores my miniature 80/100. Clearly it’s better to keep as an investment than to drink.
Bought: Drink Supermarket, 4th December 2014
81/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
83.25/100 – Whiskybase (average from 65 member votes)
Last year I went home to my parents in Aberdeen, Scotland and cracked open a bottle of the famous, and dearly departed Scapa 12-year-old. It was as fantastic as I remembered from previous tastings. Each year from now on I’ll make a point to have a glass during a visit. Since nobody else in the family is that interested, it could take me 10 years before I finish the bottle. I wonder how much another one will be at auction by then? Some people say that it will be oxidised and horrible after 10 years but I’ve never found this with old, open bottles of whisky. My dear old uncle Hamish, sadly no longer with us, said to give a bottle a shake to mix the top layer in with the rest, and it’s as good as new. If you don’t, you might detect a slight bitterness from the oxidation from the surface layer.
I’ve said in previous posts about being reluctant to get the Scapa 16yo because a) it doesn’t score well enough in reviews, even if it’s supposedly won awards and b) it’s overpriced for what it is. If it hadn’t been for a Black Friday discount allowing me to get the Scapa 16yo for under £40, I still wouldn’t have it today. But I might be doing this whisky an injustice. Jim Murray’s mark in his Whisky Bible 2015 is rather confusing because he gives a different score for a bottle marked ‘the’ Orcadian (which mine is) but says it’s only for the Swedish market. At 87.5/100 it sounds a lot better than the 81/100 he gives to the ordinary 16yo. Perhaps the Scapa distillery realised the whole world deserved the good stuff and not just their Scandinavian ancestors.
I still have hope that one day we’ll see a return of the Scapa 12yo to battle it out with other 12-year-olds from the likes of Highland Park, Glenlivet and Glenmorangie, because the distillery has a lot to offer on a wider world scale. As for this 16yo, I will have to take a sample up to Aberdeen and compare it against its former younger brother. I have a feeling I wont be disappointed with the new 16yo.
Here’s Andy of ‘Single Malt Maniac’ with his review on You Tube (June 2013):
Bought – Sainsbury’s, 22th September 2014
88.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2016
86/100 – Best Shot Whisky Reviews
5/5 Stars – Master of Malt (from 2 ratings)
It only takes one person on a whisky forum to say “I think they’re replacing the Nadurra 16-year-old with a non-aged statement Nadurra” to put me in a panic. Even though someone else added “that’s rubbish!” I was instantly thinking I had to get another Nadurra 16yo before stocks ran out. I’m now wondering if a member of staff at Glenlivet goes around the whisky forums making these comments so idiots like me rush out and spend. If so, it worked!
I bought my first bottle of Nadurra back in May 2014, a potent 56.1% from batch number 0813Y. This latest bottle is from batch 0313W and a less feisty 54.8%. Not that I’ll notice the difference because at that strength I’ll always add a bit of water.
The Nadurra is one of the few cask strength whiskies available in the UK supermarkets, and as we approach Christmas it’s an ideal gift if you want to give a whisky drinker something different. To keep an eye on the various supermarket deals I’m still using my trusty friend mySupermarket.
Here’s Andy of Malt Box on You Tube giving his review of batch 0313W, which he scores 87/100 (April 2016):
Posted in Glenlivet
Tagged 0313W, 16yo, 54.8%, 70cl, batch 0313W, Cask Strength, Glenlivet, Nadurra, Sainsbury, Single Malt, Speyside
Bought – Waitrose, 22nd May, 2014
95/100 – Whisky Bible 2014
86.85/100 – Whiskybase (average from 36 member votes)
87/100 – Ralfy, of www.ralfy.com
Review: – Ralfy – Glenlivet Nadurra 16yo – YouTube (March 2011)
I like the Glenlivet 12yo, I love the Glenlivet 15yo ‘French Oak Reserve’ and I thoroughly enjoy cask strength. It was only a matter of time before I grabbed myself a bottle of the Glenlivet Nadurra 16yo, which combines the quality I’ve come to expect from Glenlivet with the oomph of cask strength. Being first introduced in 2005, there has been at least one issue of the Nadurra (Gaelic for ‘natural’) every year since. Ralfy’s version in 2011 is 53.6%, the one in the Whisky Bible 2014 is 53%, and the bottle I bought from Waitrose last month is 56.1%. Although the Malt Maniacs haven’t reviewed my version, of the 13 releases they mention, the average is about 83-84/100. Very good indeed!
Nearly 87/100 on Whiskybase is a fantastic score where members leave comments of “very enjoyable cask strength single malt at a reasonable price.” And “it’s leagues above the 12 and 18 year olds. The nose is wonderfully intense, the mouth feel is thick and the finish makes my stomach tingle and my eyes water. Another impressive feat is that it seems to constantly improve since I opened the bottle.”
Bought – Justminiatures, 2nd May 2014
90.5/100 – Whisky Bible (2014)
82.29/100 – Whiskybase (average from 162 member votes)
In the Whisky Bible 2009 the Jura 16yo scored 80/100. And back in 2006 it was only really the older Jura bottlings (21 years and over) that scored in the 90s. Since then the Isle of Jura distillery has dragged itself into the 21st century with the Elements range, Superstition, Prophecy and Elixir. All rather pretentious-sounding but they’re not the only ones in the whisky world to do this. It’s the modern way of making whisky sound more alluring.
It wasn’t many years ago that Jura were a budget malt where there wasn’t much difference in price between their standard release and a supermarket’s own range of malts. Clearly Jura have started to turn this around. The Whisky Bible 2014 gives the Jura Elements, ‘Earth’ and ‘Fire’ scores of 89/100 and 86.5/100 respectively, and the Prophecy scores 90.5/100. The quality is now there in their range, and with the standard 10-year-old also improving, prices have started to creep up. Nevertheless Jura still offers reasonable value for money (for now!). But they need to justify this by ensuring the new improved quality is maintained.
Here’s Jo of Whisky Wednesday with his review on You Tube (June 2014):
Bought – Whisky Galore, 25th November 2013
94.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2013
81/100 – Ralfy, of www.ralfy.com
Review: – Ralfy – Tomintoul 16yo – YouTube
For my single malt example from Tomintoul I was originally going to invest in a bottle of ‘With A Peaty Tang’ (which gets 94/100 in the Whisky Bible 2013) until I realised I’m not a great peat lover. I’d be happier to have a lump of peat burning on my fire than shoved into my dram! So I was delighted to find that the 16yo from this Speyside distillery was 94.5/100 in the bible AND easily obtainable as a half bottle.
I originally tried to buy this 16yo from Loch Fyne Whiskies but, after I’d ordered it, they contacted me and said it was out-of-stock. They offered me the 10yo instead but at 79/100 in the bible and only 50p cheaper than the 16yo I decided to find the older brother elsewhere.
As I was hunting down a video review of this 16yo, not only did I discover Ralfy’s version mentioned above but he also covers the 14yo Tomintoul. In this video he makes reference to his earlier review of the 16yo, which makes interesting viewing. You can see this video here.
Ralfy gives the 14yo a mark of 91/100, which is extremely high for him and 10 points more than he gives the 16yo. The whisky bible also scores the 14yo higher than the 16yo but only by 0.5 of a point. Reviews on Malt Maniacs have close marks but still in favour of the younger whisky with the 16yo getting 83/100 (from 2 reviewers) and the 14yo getting 84/100 (from 2 reviewers).
Ralfy has certainly got me curious about the 14yo, even if other reviewers think it’s only marginally better than the 16yo (not a whole 10 points like he does!). Unfortunately it’s not available in anything less than a 70cl bottle and at £40 (the 16yo is only £34 for 70cl) it seems rather expensive for what it is.