Bought: Aberdeen Whisky Shop, 30th March 2017
90/100 – Whiskybase (average from 2 member votes)
When I watch the Whisky Hunter on YouTube I’ve been stunned by how many amazing finds he’s made. It seems that every garage sale or backwater off license in America harbours a classic whisky at a ridiculously low price. Why can’t the UK be the same? It’s possibly because bourbon is the big thing in America and single malts and blends get neglected. More people in the UK want and recognise a vintage whisky so it’s rare to see one languishing on a shop shelf for years.
I found this bottle of Crawford’s 5 Star in the Aberdeen Whisky Shop. They’d recently bought it from a private seller so it hadn’t been sitting on the shelf for long. Priced at £50 I did some research and discovered that bottles can sell at auction for over £100 but also less than £40 depending on age and condition. This particular version dates from the 1980s, which appears to be the last decade the 5 Star was produced, although it might have crept into the 1990s. A whisky auction site says “A & A Crawford was a whisky blender and merchant which established in Leith in 1860, now belonging to Whyte and Mackay’s portfolio. The deluxe 5 Star Blend that was launched in the 1920s, now discontinued, followed the success of the 3 star offering.” The Whisky Exchange are selling a bottle of 5 Star from the 1950s for £350.
I don’t think discovering this bottle of Crawford’s has turned me into a whisky hunter because £50 is probably all it’s worth. The reason I bought it was because of the great reviews it gets for flavour. 90/100 on Whiskybase is a fantastic score, albeit from only 2 member votes. Ben of ‘A Dram A Day’ is also very impressed. Here are his thoughts about the Crawford’s 5 Star on YouTube (Sept 2016):
Bought: Whisky Auction, 8th November 2016
None I can find.
‘Royal Chester’ sounds more like a racehorse than a whisky. I’ve been following whisky auctions since 2013 and never have I seen a bottle of the Royal Chester 12yo blend. You’d think therefore that it would be valuable but that’s not how the whisky market works. If it’s not a single malt or a known make with pedigree then it wont make much as an investment. Even if this whisky hails from the 1980s it’s still only £20-£25 maximum at auction. If I keep it for another 20 years it might reach £40.
If you have a bottle of whisky where there’s nothing on the Internet about it then the next port of call is to search for the bottler. In the case of ‘Royal Chester’ this is Campbell & Clark Ltd, Glasgow. According to the website ‘UK Companies List’, Campbell & Clark Ltd were incorporated on 9/11/1934 and dissolved on 19/02/2010. Their category was “wholesale alcohol and other drinks” with address c/o Speyside Distillery Co Ltd, Duchess Road, Glasgow, G73 1AU.
Campbell & Clark Ltd are listed on Whiskybase here for two releases of the Glen Mhor single malt, bottled in the mid 1990s. Searching for ‘Campbell & Clark Ltd’ reveals that the company mostly specialised in blended whisky for the American market. The earliest example I could find was ‘Clark’s Reserve’ from the 1950s but also ‘David Ross’, ‘Lord Nelson’ and ‘John Blair’. Not exactly famous whisky names but very typical from a time when lots of blends were being produced.
So why have the name ‘Royal Chester’? The term doesn’t appear to belong to the city of Chester in the northwest of England, which has no royal patronage. There is however a ‘Royal Chester Rowing Club’ founded in 1838 and one of the oldest rowing clubs in the United Kingdom. There’s also a steam train engine built in 1925 called the ‘Royal Chester’. But there’s nothing on the whisky bottle or box connecting it with either of these. For all I know the name was chosen randomly or comes from the Royal Chester Hotel, Nagasaki, Japan. The mystery continues!
Bought: Whisky Auction, 8th November 2016
75.33/100 – Whiskybase (from 3 member votes – 43%, 70cl version)
The Whisky Exchange are currently selling the Royal Culross 8yo for £99.95 where they say “The blend was compiled by A Gillies & Co, then-owners of Glen Scotia, hence the similar bottle style. We estimate this bottle dates from the 1980s.” It can make between £35-£45 at auction with a box but as little as £20 without.
On the back of the bottle it says in a flowery script “By appointment. This warrant shall signify that A. Gillies & Co (Distillers) Ltd. Glasgow Scotland are appointed suppliers of Royal Culross Scotch Malt Whisky to the Provost, Magistrates and Councillors of The Royal Burgh of Culross, Fifeshire. Granted this day, 23rd April 1972.” Below this is an indecipherable signature of the provost, perhaps written after sampling some of the whisky.
I found an online whisky shop saying a bottle of Royal Culross was from the 1960s but clearly the blend only started to appear in the 1970s. Both a US and UK website for trademarks have A Gillies & Co registering ‘Royal Culross’ in 1974. The trademark expired in the mid 1990s. The UK website lists trademarks going back to 1876 with no mention of ‘Royal Culross’ before 1974.
Trying to find out more about the Royal Culross blend has proved quite tricky. Scoring a fraction over 75/100 on Whiskybase suggests quite an average whisky but what has gone into the blend? Clearly Glen Scotia malt is possible but the distillery was inactive for most of the 1980s. A. Gillies & Co became part of Amalgamated Distilled Products (ADP) from 1970 who bought Littlemill in 1982 before becoming part of Argyll Group in 1984. But Littlemill closed between 1984 and 1989, much like Glen Scotia. That’s not to say stock wasn’t being used for blends during this period. ADP also produced other whisky such as the Burberry blend.
Not that any of this matters to me because I bought this bottle because I like the dumpy shape and love the 1980s. Let’s just hope the taste is more inline with Bon Jovi than Sigue Sigue Sputnik!
Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 20th May 2015
87.67/100 – Whiskybase (average from 5 member votes)
86/100 – Malt Maniacs (average from 4 member votes)
This is my 400th blog post! So much whisky, so little time!
When I bought this miniature at auction for £4.75 a 75cl bottle was selling on ‘The Whisky Exchange’ for £199. 3 months later and it still hasn’t been sold. That doesn’t surprise me. As a reviewer on Whiskybase says of Linkwood “an underestimated distillery in my view”. The Linkwood distillery quietly goes along producing excellent whisky. Not that a full bottle is worth £199, hence why it hasn’t sold. But, saying that, similar bottles sell at auction between £100-£130 so it’s not cheap. Add commission, insurance, VAT and postage, and an auction purchase is costing over £150. I think I’ll stick with my miniature.
Scoring over 87/100 on Whiskybase and 86/100 on Malt Maniacs suggest this whisky is an excellent Speysider. Tasting notes from MaltMartin on Whiskybase include “yellow apples. Mango and papaya. Custard. Cake mix. Polished oak.” Sounds intriguing!
Although the auction house described this bottle as from the 1980s, Malt Maniacs believe it was first issued in 1975. Another whisky that spans the decades!
Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 20th May 2015
85/100 – Whisky Bible 2006 (for ‘new’ version)
85.25/100 – Whiskybase (average from 6 member votes)
There seems to be a bit of confusion about the decade this bottle comes from. Serge Valentin of Whiskyfun reviews a similar NAS (non-aged statement) bottle from the 1970s and ‘The Whisky Exchange’ once sold a bottle they think was from the 1980s. My assumption is that the bottlers, Gordon & MacPhail (G&M), had the same label across the 2 decades. Based on the condition of my miniature Balblair, it seems more 80s than 70s. It’s the mullet and shoulder pads that gave it away.
It’s a shame Jim Murray didn’t start publishing his ‘Whisky Bible’ before 2004. I would have been interested in his opinion. The G&M 10yo he reviews in 2006 gets 85/100, which classifies it as “very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying”. Mr Murray says only 5 words “a chewy, clean, malty dram”. What more can you ask for! Perhaps 46% instead of 40%, and a yacht in the Caribbean. But was this Balblair 10yo better or worse back in the 1980s? 85.25/100 on Whiskybase seems to suggest it was better. I’ve noticed that Jim Murray is more generous with his scoring than the members of Whiskybase, so getting over 85 is an excellent mark from them. Shame I only have 5ml. If you happen to find a bigger bottle at auction, brace yourself for that big, clean, malty chew!
Malt Han’s tasting comments from Whiskybase:
“Malty and fruity aroma, orange, ripe melon, banana, vanilla, peat, oak, prunes and cinnamon. Vanilla sweet taste, liquorice, mint, malt, apples, orange marmalade and almonds. Medium long, fruity and spicy end.”
Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 24th February 2015
82.57/100 – Whiskybase (average from 9 member votes)
I bought these two miniatures (5cl and 3cl) of the Blair Athol at auction, mainly because nobody else was going to, and I needed a few more bottles to justify the cost of postage. Having seen the Blair Athol 8yo sell at auction before, I knew I wouldn’t have much, or any competition. Sadly, it’s never been a single malt to set the world on fire or attract much interest.
I had to take a guess on Whiskybase as to which Blair Athol 8yo my purchases are. I believe the bottles date back to the 1980s. There is no mention of an 8yo Blair Athol in the Whisky Bible, even as far back as 2006. Clearly the distillery realised they were flogging a dead horse and decided to change to a different version.
I have quite a soft spot for Blair Athol, even if I have no great experience of the whisky produced there. The distillery is based in the heart of Pitlochry, where I visited family, and enjoyed many a happy holiday there in the 1970s and 80s. I intend to visit the distillery one day, and take a trip down memory lane with a tour of the town. If the whisky is as delightful as the surrounding countryside, I’ll be in for a treat!
Posted in Blair Athol
Tagged 1980s, 3cl, 40%, 5cl, 8yo, Blair Athol, Highland, Highlands, Online Whisky Auction, Pitlochry, Single Malt
Bought – Online Whisky Auction, 22nd December 2013
81/100 – Malt Maniacs (from 1 review)
I’ve been thinking that my collection is complete and I own a single malt from every active Scottish distillery but this Glen Scotia could be a fly in the ointment. Until recently I believed if anything was called ‘pure malt’ it was one of the old ways of describing a blend. I then kept stumbling across vintage bottles of Glen Scotia from the 1980s in auctions and certain online shops where ‘pure malt’ was being labelled as ‘single malt’. I then read on Malt Madness that both blends and single malts are effectively ‘pure malt’. CONFUSED!
I’ve attempted to find out if Glen Scotia were issuing a blend around the 1980s and, if so, what they called it but I’ve drawn a blank. I’ve had to take a guess with the rating from Malt Maniacs because my bottle looks like the 8yo from the 1980s but it’s missing the 8yo label. I may have to bite the bullet and buy another example of Glen Scotia where it clearly states “single malt” on it.
Bought – Online Whisky Auction, 4th December 2013
85/100 – Whisky Fun (October 2005)
78/100 – Malt Maniacs (average from 6 reviewers)
Usually it’s very difficult to trace an old bottle of whisky back to when it was first produced (if it doesn’t have a distillation date on the label) but, thanks to Whisky Fun and Malt Maniacs, I was able to identify this bottle as ‘late 1980s’. Saying that, I don’t know when this version of Bladnoch stopped being produced – damn! But, as Bladnoch was closed in 1993, and not reopened again until 2000, I know this bottle wasn’t produced after 1993.
This is my 2nd example from Bladnoch distillery, my first being an 11-year-old distilled in 2001 shortly after Bladnoch was relaunched under new management. It will be interesting to compare the new with the old. The Whisky Fun review of this 1980s bottle says “Excellent, very typically Bladnoch, I’d say”. So it’s nice to know this small bottle provides a taste history of what Bladnoch used to be like.