Bought: Waitrose, 14th June 2016
97.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2016
89/100 – Ralfy (www.ralfy.com – his video review below)
83.24/100 – Whiskybase (from 72 member votes)
97.5/100 in the Whisky Bible is as high as it gets from the author Jim Murray. No other whisky, be it a blend, single malt, vatted malt, single grain or bourbon scores higher. This sounds fantastic until you realise that Mr Murray’s review of the Ballantine’s 17yo is at least 6 years old. The score of 97.5/100 has been kicking around in the Bible for quite a while so you have to think the blend has changed a bit over the years. Back in 2009 the Bible had the Ballantine’s 17yo scoring 90.5/100, which is still an excellent score. It may or may not be the best blend in the world but whatever is in my 2016 bottle is still going to be excellent stuff.
Ralfy’s video review is also quite old (2010) but certainly worth watching. Over 83/100 on Whiskybase is a better than average mark. Saying that, one voter that scores the Ballantine’s 83/100 comments “a premium blend, but a bit bland.” And another voter within the last year remarks, “it’s a nice blend but it’s a bit dull, monotonous whisky taste”. Oh dear.
Finding recent reviews of the Ballantine’s 17yo is hard so I turned to Amazon where it scores 4.5/5 stars from 13 reviews. Comments made in 2016 include “as good as a single malt”, “this is the best blend I’ve ever tasted, a must have for blend lovers” and “superbly smooth, almost too smooth. Real mouthful with no kick”.
I’m much more of a single malt drinker so when I finally crack open this bottle of Ballantine’s 17yo I want it to be after I’ve tried a wide variety of blends. It wouldn’t seem fair to judge it based on my current limited knowledge, especially if this is as good as blends get.
Here’s Ralfy with his review on You Tube (December 2010):
Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 13th April 2016
84/100 – Whiskybase (from 4 member votes)
Millburn started out as the ‘Inverness Distillery’ in the early 1800s and spent some time as a mill later in the century. The distillery became Millburn in 1904 with the formation of the Millburn Distillery Company, drawing its name from the source of the water from the nearby Mill Burn. It survived a fire in 1922 but not the slump in the whisky industry in the 1980s. The distillery was closed in 1985 and demolished in 1988.
Although bottles of Millburn are quite rare there are 83 separate releases listed on Whiskybase, 80 of which are by independent bottlers. Gordon & MacPhail have released the most with 26, Cadenhead come second with 11, and Signatory (who made my bottle) have 9 releases.
84/100 on Whiskybase is a pretty good score albeit from only 4 member votes. Expert whisky reviewer Mark Dermul leaves these tasting notes:
Nose: The nose offers a strange mix of mashed potatoes, butterscotch, Sevilla oranges, hay, butane gas and cardboard. After having breathed for a bit, it becomes somewhat perfumy. Dried flowers? Mint! My first encounter with Millburn was equally strange. I am getting the feeling that Millburn and me are not a very good match.
Taste: It is mildly oily and immediately both sweet and salty. The sweet translates into candied sugar, Turkish Delight, maple syrup and caramel, while the salt counters nicely. Seems like peanut butter. And I have to admit, this is actually quite good. This Millburn is rehabilitating big time. The cardboard is never far off, though.
Finish: The long finish on lightly bitter oranges and spices take the doubt away.
Comments: After a weird nose, this lost glory gets totally back into the game.
Bought: Whisky Mouse, 4th November 2015
80.5/100 – Whiskybase (average from 2 member votes)
Linlithgow distillery (aka St Magdelane) started life in the Scottish lowlands town of Linlithgow in 1798. It moved to a nearby site in 1834. This location had previously been occupied by the St Magdelane hospital, which provided the new name for the distillery. Nevertheless, to this day both names are used for whisky produced at the distillery, which unfortunately closed in 1983. On Whiskybase there are 106 bottles listed under the name of St Magdelane and 70 for Linlithgow.
Apparently blind tasting Linlithgow / St Magdelane can be quite confusing even for the most experienced whisky drinker. Said to have high complexity, smokiness and even peat, there can also be sweetness reminiscent of Macallan. It’s hard to pin down as a lowlander and not likely to be confused with Auchentoshan or Glenkinchie.
80.5/100 on Whiskybase is a reasonable mark but it’s only from 2 member votes. Bottles are highly collectable and could well be a good investment. The neck level in my Linlithgow is excellent when you consider it was bottled in 2000, 16 years ago. No sign of evaporation suggests a very good seal. Long may that continue!
Here’s a short video from You Tube showing the distillery as it is today, transformed into flats but retaining the original pagodas:
Posted in Linlithgow / St Magdalene (closed 1983)
Tagged 17yo, 1982, 43%, 70cl, Linlithgow, Linlithgow / St Madgalene (closed 1983), Lowland, Lowlands, Signatory, Single Malt, St Magdalene, Whisky Mouse
Bought: Malts of Scotland (now Bartels Whisky), 27th May 2015
85/100 – Serge Valentin of Whiskyfun
– Also listed on Whiskybase here.
In early April 2015 the independent bottler ‘Malts of Scotland’ offered 3 different malts for £40 each and free postage. I chose the Tomatin 19yo but I saved the link just in case I was able to afford one of the others in the future. By the end of May only the Arran remained so I got that too. Back came an email from ‘Malts of Scotland’ asking me how I’d managed to buy the bottle at the reduced rate. Clearly the offer had ended but they’d forgotten to ask their IT person to remove the web page. Thankfully they were happy to honour the deal, which is unusually good for this day and age. Details from the website about this bottle of Arran are:
“Nose: Sweet floral notes and a hint of mint. Apple slices, apricot and yoghurt.
Palate: Rich and slightly creamy. Tropical fruit (dried pineapple coming thorough) Peach. Some oak.
Finish: Good length, full with some oaky spice and the dried fruits again – pineapple.
Arran distillery only uses traditional methods of distilling with wooden washbacks and copper stills, designed to exact specifications. All their whiskies are non-chill filtered which means they are natural in pigment. A perfectly matured single malt scotch whisky.”
Bought: World Duty Free, 31st March 2015
83.06/100 – Whiskybase (average from 36 member votes)
I first spotted this Kininvie 17yo in Aberdeen airport in July 2014. I decided not to buy it because I felt that £75 for a half bottle was excessive. Two days later I saw the same bottle sell for £170 on an internet auction. I know it’s a ‘limited edition’ but it’s also exclusive to Travel Retail shops, which are located only in certain airports. If you never visit one of those airports, your chance of buying a bottle is very restricted. I suppose two non-fliers spotted this Kininvie in the auction and battled their way up to £170. To them it was worth it because they couldn’t get it any other way.
9 months later I find myself in Aberdeen airport again, and bottles of the Kininvie 17yo are still there. So much for being a ‘limited’ release! I believe there’s meant to be about 10,000 bottles but you’d be forgiven for thinking it’s closer to a million. Gatwick airport had lots of bottles too. Perhaps they shouldn’t have so many close to each other on the shelves because they’re clearly breeding! But I’ve been noticing with ‘limited’ releases of whisky that even a mere 700 bottles can take months to sell out. 10,000 could take several years.
So far this Kininvie 17yo is doing well on Whiskybase. Comments include “not a bad Kininvie at all” and “delicate and noble” but also negatives of “lacks complexity and depth” and “flat and dull in flavour”. When you think how many brilliant whiskies you can buy for £75 or less, it makes you realise this Kininvie is either a) for the novelty of trying a new distillery experience or b) selling on for a profit. Reviews aren’t enticing me to taste it, so it looks like I’m going for option B.
Here’s Horst Luening of Whisky.com with his review on You Tube (December 2014):
Bought: Whisky Galore, 6th March 2015
95/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
87.14/100 – Whiskybase (average from 105 member votes)
91/100 – Ralfy – His review on You Tube here (March 2012)
Scoring over 87/100 on Whiskybase, 95/100 in the Whisky Bible, and 91/100 from Ralfy, I don’t know whether to drink this whisky or worship it. Michael McIntyre would have us believe that when we look at something on Amazon we always want to read the 1 star “it slapped my wife” reviews. Of the 5 reviews on Amazon for the Old Pulteney 17yo, four give it 5/5 and one gives it 4/5 with the comment “wonderful”. Try as I might, I can’t find a bad word said against this whisky. And believe me, I’ve tried!
So, it comes as no surprise that I’ve been after this whisky for a while. I first spotted it in the book ‘101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die’ by Ian Buxton. He includes the 17yo instead of the 21yo because he considers the latter “just a trifle over-aged”. He feels the 17yo offers the best combination of taste, maturity and value in the Old Pulteney range.
Scoring 95/100 in the Whisky Bible classifies this Old Pulteney as a ‘superstar whisky that gives us all a reason to live’. It scores a perfect 25/25 for taste where the author, Jim Murray says “one of the softest, most beautifully crafted deliveries in the whisky world. Absolutely faultless.”
Bought – Online Whisky Auction, 22nd December 2013
Finally I have an example of whisky by the independent bottler ‘Signatory’. They’ve proved very tricky to purchase at auction because they’re always very popular. I think it’s partly because of their reputation for good quality, partly because their bottles come with a nice tube, but also because even a miniature has information about the cask and bottle number on it. My little example is bottle no.619 from 1250 taken from cask 89/587/101 and bottled in April 1998. Fascinating! 🙂 This may seem like it brings out the inner train-spotter but it’s this level of extra detail that adds value to a whisky, unfortunately. I say ‘unfortunately’ because whisky is expensive enough, and I’m more about the taste than having the master distiller’s inside leg measurement on every bottle. When I drink this will I remember it was bottle 619 from 1250?! Will I care?! Not in the slightest. But if it tastes great than I’ll be after another example from Teaninich!
Bought – Whisky Broker, 25th October 2013
85/100 – Malt Maniacs (see link in case more reviews get added: here)
87.67/100 – Whiskybase (average from 5 member votes)
The second of my three 20cl bottles from the Whisky Broker and I was pleased to find that someone has already reviewed it on the Malt Maniacs website. The reviewer doesn’t leave any tasting notes but 85/100 is a good score, especially from a reguluar reviewer such as this. The write-up about this Caperdonich from the Whisky Broker website is:
This speyside whisky, distilled on 13th June 1995 at Caperdonich Distillery, has been matured in an oak hogshead for over 17 years. The whisky has not been chill filtered, nor has any colouring been added. Caperdonich Distillery has been closed since 2002.
This whisky has been lightly filtered to remove large particles of wood sediment from the cask, but may still contain small traces, which are visible only when bottle is left standing for a period of time. Details:
- Hogshead number 95068
- Distilled 13th June 1995
- Bottled 13th February 2013
- Strength: 55%
- Bottle Size: 200ml