Tag Archives: 18yo

Caol Ila 18-year-old (unpeated), Diageo Special Releases 2017

Acquired: Birthday Gift, 7th August 2020

96/100 – Whisky Bible 2020
90/100 – Whisky in the 6 (his video review below)
86.52/100 – Whiskybase (average from 174 member votes)

I was delighted to receive this Caol Ila 18yo as a birthday gift. Initially I thought it was the standard 18yo until I saw the 59.8% on the box. Some quick research later and I discovered it was the Diageo special release bottled from 2017. The further away we get from the last millennium the nicer it is to acquire whisky distilled before 2000. It’s pure sentimentality that Millennials and Generation Z wouldn’t understand. Hard to believe such a wonderful single malt from 2017 is still available new in 2020 but it was. No need for an auction site quite yet.

I haven’t added a Caol Ila to my collection for nearly 5 years. I love the distillery but it goes to show how much choice there is out there that it’s been neglected for so long. Of my previous 4 examples of Caol Ila none are unpeated like this 2017 18-year-old. Several reviews either say they detect a hint of peat or the smoke element gives a strong illusion of peat. It’s interesting that Caol Ila can’t shake off what people expect to taste but it’s great that the distillery isn’t scared to strip the peat away. It clearly works, and works well.

Jim Murray, author of the ‘Whisky Bible’, scores this Caol Ila 18yo a fantastic 96/100, which classifies it as a ‘superstar whisky that gives us all a reason to live’. He scores the taste a near-perfect 24.5/25 with the remark “so, so beautiful” and finishes with “this is the way Caol Ila should be: so true to the distillery”. Other comments online include “intense arrival, it maintains a maritime character and has substantial oak to affirm its age”, “an extremely rewarding Islay malt, despite its lack of peat” and “just a superb whisky”. What a lovely birthday gift!

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: At the tasting we attended, “chocolate digestives” was met with universal agreement. Quite creamy with bourbon hints and sliced peaches too.

Palate: Fruitier now, fragrant and concentrated with a little furniture polish. This is complemented by the expected soft caramel and clean seashell character.

Finish: Cake-like with just a hint of smoke (even though this is ‘unpeated’).

Here’s Rob of ‘Whisky in the 6’ on YouTube giving us his thoughts about this special Caol Ila 18yo (Oct 2018):

Highland Park ‘Full Volume’

Bought: Highland Park, 30th October 2017

86.48/100 – Whiskybase (average from 119 member votes)

I was lucky enough to be one of the first 1000 ‘Inner Circle’ members to order the Full Volume so I got a 7′ vinyl record as an added bonus – woohoo! Now all I had to do was find a record player to play it on. This took 6 months only to discover that the record was faulty. But I could tell from what little I heard on constant repeat that I wasn’t missing much. Some rock dirge similar to something I recorded on a cassette back in the 1980s. Now where did I put that cassette player?

Although the Full Volume has “collector’s item” written all over it the reviews have been very favourable so far for those who preferred to drink it. It is 100% bourbon cask matured so no sherry influence in the mix. And at 47.2% it’s got a decent potency. Over 86/100 on Whiskybase is a very good score where comments include, “a really enjoyable bottling, completely different from HP’s usual core range”, “an official that tastes like some very good independent, and that’s because there’s no sherry”, “quite interesting – at least not boring” and “I like this one a lot and I’d almost give it an extra point for the Spinal Tap reference on the box”.

There is a bit of debate to the age of the Full Volume, with some saying it’s a 17-year-old. On the box it says that the last cask used in the mix was filled on 7th September 1999. Full Volume wasn’t released until October 2017, which does suggest it reached its 18th birthday before being bottled. With special 17yo releases such as the Dark, Ice and Light costing £190, £86 for the slightly older Full Volume seems like good value. Heck, it was even cheaper than the bog standard 18yo at £100!

In this video from ‘Whisky in the 6’, HP ambassador Cam Millar says the ‘Full Volume’ is 18yo, so not 17yo. I assume HP ambassadors don’t go around lying about the age of the whisky so I’ll take his word for it. (Oct 17th 2017):

Glendronach ‘Allardice’ 18-year-old (or is it?)

Bought: CASC, Aberdeen, 28th June 2017

83.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
9.5/100 – Whisky Wednesday (video review below)
0/100 – Whiskybase (awaiting votes for my exact bottling)

It would be unfair to call the Glendronach ‘Allardice’ 18yo the poor man’s Macallan 18yo ‘Sherry cask’, so I wont. But I just did. There are certainly several comparisons between the two floating around on the Internet but not recently. Not since the Macallan 18yo shot up to £300. Which leaves the Glendronach 18yo with the accolade ‘probably the best sherry cask 18yo for under £100’. It’s certainly a top contender.

You would think that gathering information about my Glendronach ‘Allardice’ would be easy until you realise that the distillery was closed in 1996 to 2001. If we assume that no whisky was produced in 1996 this means the distillery ran out of 18-year-old casks after 2013. It’s now a well documented fact that Glendronach have kept their core range going long after the age stated on the label such that bottles of Allardice contain 19yo whisky in 2014, 20yo in 2015, etc. My bottle of Allardice 18yo is dated 6th October 2016 so it’s most likely a 21yo. Perhaps reviews for the 21yo ‘Parliament’ would be more appropriate? Except the ‘Parliament’ is 48% and matured in Oloroso & Pedro Ximénez sherry casks where as the ‘Allardice’ is 46% and matured purely in Oloroso casks. They’re two different beasts!

Jim Murray’s score of 83.5/100 in his Whisky Bible dates from 2010, back when the Allardice was a genuine 18yo. Although there are currently no ratings on Whiskybase for my exact bottle the previous release from May 2016 scores 89.44/100 from 11 votes and the following release in April 2017 scores 89/100 from 7 votes. I’m confident that my bottle would be 89/100. And for comparison, the Macallan 18yo ‘Sherry Cask’ 2016 scores 88.79/100 from 59 votes. Perhaps the ‘poor man’ is actually the person who spent the small fortune on the Macallan!

Here’s Whisky Wednesday with their thoughts about the Glendronach ‘Allardice’ 18yo in May 2017, which is recent enough that it could relate to my exact bottle:

Hazelwood 18-year-old

Bought: World of Whisky (Heathrow), 27th June 2017

88/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
77/100 – Whiskybase (average from 2 member votes)
90/100 – Scotch Malt Whisky

I went to the ‘World of Whisky’ shop at Heathrow airport without any intension of buying a bottle of Hazelwood 18-year-old. I was aware of its existence from previous trips and I liked its art deco styling but I only wanted a bottle of Chita, until a salesman grabbed me. He’d obviously been told to give the Hazelwood 18yo the hard sell and I was invited to have a sample. Don’t mind if I do! Granted it was very pleasant but I just wanted a bottle of Chita (Japanese single grain). I must stick to my guns! Then the salesman said they only had two bottles of the Hazelwood left and indicated that stocks were selling out everywhere. Clearly I had “sucker” written all over me. Sadly it worked and I found myself saying, “I’ll take a bottle!” A combination of sales persistence, several more whisky samples and my collector’s gullibility had been my undoing. For the same price as the new and more interesting Balvenie 14yo ‘Peated’ (£65) I’d bought myself a 50cl, 18yo blend in a fancy bottle. Well done! The moral of this story is “stick to your plan” even if a slick salesman is plying you with free whisky.

Although 77/100 on Whiskybase sounds quite average it’s only from 2 votes so far. I’ve got a feeling it will level out around 80/100 after 20 votes. Having tasted it I’d say it was more like 82/100 from me but Jim Murray in his Whisky Bible scores the Hazelwood 18yo a fantastic 88/100. This classifies it as a ‘very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying’. I don’t feel so bad about being duped out of £65 now. Jim Murray’s review consists of:

Nose: top-notch dispersal of subtle notes: walnut cream cake with a pinch of vanilla. The malt is low key but distinctly Speyside-style in its clarity, despite the odd wisp of something a little heavy.
Taste: Creamy-textured. Soft ulmo honey gives way to the thickening vanilla and toffee.
Finish: bitters slightly at the turned-up ending
Comment: until the final furry moments, a genuine little, understated, charmer

Here’s Horst Luening of Whisky.com with his thoughts about the Hazelwood 18yo on YouTube (July 2017):

Imperial 1995 18-year-old (casks 50284+50285)

Bought: CASC, Aberdeen, 24th March 2016

87.4/100 – Whiskybase (average from 7 member votes)

The independent bottler Signatory Vintage (SV) seem to be dominating the market with releases from the closed Imperial distillery. In 2016, according to the whiskies listed on Whiskybase, big independent bottlers Gordon & MacPhail released one bottle of Imperial, as did Duncan Taylor, whereas SV released 16. These were either single cask bottlings or a combination of two or three casks. So you have to think that SV bought up a lot of old stock from the Imperial distillery, which was demolished in 2013 but production had been mothballed since 1998.

Not only does SV have a lot of old casks from Imperial, they seem to be exclusively from whisky distilled in 1995. They’ve been releasing numerous bottles from this year since 2011, either at cask strength or 46%, and always un-chillfiltered and natural colour. Other independent bottlers have Imperial casks post-1995 showing that the distillery was still producing whisky as late as the fateful 1998. So it won’t be long before the youngest new bottlings will be a minimum of 20 years old. Collectable? Definitely but maybe not returning a profit for a while given the way SV are flooding the market. It’s almost as if they know there’s a whisky boom!

Having tasted this bottle of Imperial (I have a 19yo as my investment) I would agree with the excellent score on Whiskybase. This is a fantastic old Speysider. It’s a great shame it’s gone but SV are certainly making sure it’s not difficult to get hold of, for now. I suspect that prices may follow a similar rise to bottles of Littlemill (dismantled in 1997), which were quite reasonable a few years ago but are now rare and £200+.

Tasting notes left on Whiskybase:
Nose: Apple, almond, caramel, vanilla, honey, citrus and a whiff of smoke.
Taste: Honey, hazelnut, caramel, citrus, beeswax, white pepper and vanilla.
Finish: Caramel, hazelnut, honey, vanilla and chestnut.

Macallan 18-year-old ‘Sherry Oak’ 2016

Bought: Amazon, 14th November 2016

89/100 – Whiskybase (average from 30 member votes)
5/5 – Master of Malt (from 4 reviews)

If you want to get into whisky as an investment you can’t go far wrong with the Macallan 18yo ‘Sherry Oak’ (for now). If anyone criticises you with the tiresome adage “but whisky should be drunk!” slap them hard across the face and remind them that alcohol is a poison. But seriously, it’s none of their business what you spend your money on or how you treat your whisky. Those critics are usually hypocrites because they’ll be only too delighted to buy rare, vintage whisky at auction that would have been drunk long ago were it not for the collectors and investors. I bought my first Macallan 18yo in the summer of 2015 and only 18 months later it was consistently getting £100 more at auction. It’s liquid gold I tell thee!

But what is the Macallan 18yo like to drink? As I mentioned for the 1995 vintage, this is the Rolls Royce of whisky with a deep, smooth texture and heated seats. It’s very rare that you hear a bad word about the Macallan 18yo and year after year the quality is kept high. 89/100 on Whiskybase is a fantastic score and the equal of any previous vintage. Comments on Master of Malt include “perfect”, “the Macallan 18 is still one of my all time favourites”, “fantastic” and “a hefty price tag, but for a special occasion it’s worth it!”

Here are the tasting notes from Master of Malt:
Nose: Classic dried fruit, crème de cacao and crème anglaise with ginger and oak.
Palate: Winter spice, sultanas, toffee apple, rich oak and mixed peels.
Finish: Oak shavings, raisins and caramel.

If you would like to buy the Macallan 18yo and are happy to play a waiting game I’d recommend finding it on Amazon, adding it to your wishlist and waiting until the price drops to sub £150 (if you’re in the UK). I believe it had one mad moment when it hit £125 last year after dropping from the heady heights of its typical RRP of £200.


Brora 1981 18-year-old

Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 16th December 2015

88/100 – Whiskybase (average from 6 member votes)
87/100 – Malt Maniacs (average from 4 maniac votes)

Of the distilleries that were closed in 1983, Brora, Dallas Dhu, Glen Albyn, Glenlochy, Glen Mhor, Glenugie, North Port, Port Ellen and St. Magdalene I tend to think of Brora as being second to Port Ellen in terms of cost. Even blends that contain a bit of Brora such as the Ainslie’s can make £400+ for a bottle at auction. If you ask me it’s bonkers but nobody does. Brora was formerly known as Clynelish but in 1968 the owners built a brand new distillery right next door. Later that year the old distillery ceased production, made redundant by the new Clynelish. It was only thanks to a shortage of peated malt from Islay for the Johnnie Walker blend that old Clynelish distillery was brought back to life in 1969. For a while it was known as Clynelish II until the name Brora was taken from the town the distillery was located. The strongly peated, Islay-esque Brora continued until 1973 when it was toned down to a more Highland-style level of peat. Once into the 1980s Brora became similar to the Clynelish whisky of today but still with something distinctive about it.

It’s only when you realise how short-lived Brora was, and the different phases of flavour it had, that you understand why it costs so much at auction. Not that any of the boys from 1983 are cheap but Dallas Dhu, Glen Mhor and North Port are currently the most reasonable of the nine. But I do think the Brora whisky distilled in the 1980s, like my bottle, is overpriced for what it is because of the hype caused by the rare, heavily peated Brora of 1969 and the early 70s. All that seems to be lost in the sands of time and every Brora is labelled as precious, and therefore valuable.

88/100 on Whiskybase and 87/100 on Malt Maniacs suggest that this Brora bottled by Signatory is a cracking dram. A member on Whiskybase leaves the tasting notes of:

Nose: Sweet. Cooked pears. Hint of nutmeg. Some peat smoke.

Taste: Sweet. Fruit juice with wood chips.

Finish: The wood lingers on when then sweets are gone.

Comments: The nose is really good. It smells much older than 19 years. Taste is good too but the finish isn’t very nice.

It’s good to know there’s still a bit of peat lingering in this 1981 Brora but I hope I don’t agree about the finish when I come to try it.

Brora 1981 18yo 5cl

Glentauchers 1996 18-year-old

Bought: Bartels Whisky, 8th December 2015

84/100 – Whiskybase (from 1 member vote)

Bartels Whisky tempted me yet again with another great offer on this Glentauchers 18yo, reduced to £40 in a pre-Christmas sale. This independent bottler has a habit of doing that, and a cask-strength, age statement bottle for 40 notes is hard to beat these days. If this is something that interests you then you can follow updates on Bartels’ Facebook page here.

I must admit that Glentauchers is one of those Speyside distilleries I tend to forget about. It’s like the member of a boy band, the one on the left, with the hair and the teeth that did a bit of dancing and backing vocals. You remember him don’t you? In my book about distilleries, the section under ‘Points of Special Interest’ for Glentauchers mentions the co-founder, James Buchanan, created a blend that he later registered as the ‘Black and White’ brand. That’s about as fascinating as it gets.

It’s just as well we’re drinking whisky not history and it’s in the glass that Glentauchers becomes memorable. The Whisky Bible 2016 lists 16 different bottlings with 8, exactly half, scoring over 90/100. The house style is light-bodied, fruity, fragrant, nutty, floral and malt. The casks are ex-bourbon and the malt is unpeated. Any time I spy ‘fruit’ and ‘nut’ in the tasting notes it gets me reaching for some dark chocolate to accompany the whisky. Having only spent £40 I think I can afford a couple of bars!

Tasting notes left on Whiskybase:

Nose: Fresh, summery nose on young apples, vanilla, freshly cut grass, mint and lemon. Some breakfast cereals. Yes, Kellogg’s original corn flakes! The second whiff adds some unripe banana.
Taste: The body might have been a bit bigger, but it tastes nice. Fruity (more of the same) and feisty. Think pepper, ginger and a pinch of cinnamon.
Finish: Medium long finish on apple, vanilla and pepper.

Here’s ‘The Good Dram Show’ on You Tube with their review of this Glentauchers, the first of a series of 6 single malts from Bartels Whisky (Sept 2015):

Glentauchers 1996 18yo 70cl

Springbank 18-year-old

Bought: Abbey Whisky, 28th October 2015

90.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2016
89/100 – Ralfy of www.ralfy.com
87.07/100 – Whiskybase (average from 43 member votes)

Good review after good review after good review and I got the Springbank 18yo because it’s purple. The box and label that is, not the whisky. Well I do love purple! But seriously, I’m a big fan of the Springbank 10yo and after getting the 12yo ‘cask strength’ the natural progression is to add the 18yo. Scoring 90.5/100 in the Whisky Bible classifies this dram as ‘brilliant’ and the author, Jim Murray, says of the taste “yummy, mouthwatering barley and green banana. Fresh with excellent light acacia honey”. He summarises with “just one so-so butt away from bliss”. Spank that naughty butt! Thankfully it was only a minor blip in Mr Murray’s enjoyment.

87/100 on Whiskybase is a fantastic score with one voter saying they prefer this version of the 18yo to the one with the old label. They summarise with “a very accessible Springbank. Good stuff.”

For an expert overview, here’s the legendary Ralfy discussing the Springbank 18yo, which he scores 89/100 (from October 2014):

Springbank 18yo 70cl

Macallan 1995 18-year-old ‘Sherry Oak’

Bought: Drinkfinder, 21st July 2015

89.24/100 – Whiskybase (average from 70 member votes)

At last I have the Macallan 18yo! Admittedly I had to sell one of my kidneys on Ebay to get it but at least I still have my liver to process this fine whisky. No collection would be complete without it. There was a rumour a while ago that Macallan were removing the year of distillation from the 18yo, which finally happened (it now has the bottling year). Without the distillation year printed on the label the 18yo may not be as collectable. There’s no denying its quality though because over 89/100 on Whiskybase is a fantastic score.

In May 2014 I made a note that Amazon were selling the Macallan 18yo for £122.45 and free postage. 18 months later and you’ll be lucky to find it for less than £150. It wont be many more years before it hits £200, which makes getting a bottle or two now quite a good investment. But, as Horst Luening says in his video review below of the 1996 release, this is the Rolls Royce of whisky, so Macallan obviously feel there’s a market for this dram no matter how astronomical the price. I don’t think I’ll be selling any more organs to get a second bottle! One will do.

Macallan 1995 18yo 70cl