Bought: Online Auction, 10th August 2017
81.33/100 – Whiskybase (average from 3 member votes)
Rugby – something Scotland used to be good at. It’s sad that there are young Scottish adults walking the earth today that weren’t born when Scotland was a proud rugby country. Scotland haven’t won the Nations Championship since 1999, the year before Italy were asked to join to make it the ‘6 Nations Championship’ that we have today. Perhaps the Scots are allergic to Italians? The ‘Grand Slam’ is where a team manages to win the championship by beating all the other teams. The last time Scotland achieved this was in 1990, finishing on the 17th March with a 13-7 win against England at Murrayfield in Edinburgh. I watched it on TV and enjoyed every minute of it, except the England try, which was definitely offside!
After the dust had settled in 1990 Glenmorangie decided to release a commemorative version of their standard 10yo. On the reverse label it includes the signatures of the victorious Scottish team. Scoring just over 81/100 on Whiskybase is what you’d expect for a 10-year-old Glenmorangie from that period. Personally I’d rate it higher at about 85/100 but then I am a big fan of the Glenmorangie 10yo from the early to mid 90s, even though it’s 40% rather than the 43% of the modern incarnation.
I rarely give investment tips but here’s one for the ‘Grand Slam Dram’. As far as I can tell the bottle wasn’t originally sold with any packaging. The majority of bottles sold at auction come without any and typically make about £80. I noticed that some cunning person had paired their ‘Grand Slam Dram’ bottle with a tube from roughly the right period, which sold for £160. It goes to show that people are prepared to pay extra for packaging (weird – I know!). I bought my bottle for £80 and picked up an empty tin from the early 1990s from Ebay for £5. I can’t guarantee I’ll double my money if I ever sell it because auctions can be fickle but I’ll definitely make a profit on the tin.
Here’s a 15-minute documentary from 2010 to mark 20 years since the final Grand Slam match between Scotland and England, Murrayfield, 17th March 1990:
Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 20th July 2016
None but listed on Whiskybase here.
Here’s a word of warning to anyone considering buying an opaque bottle in an online auction. If there’s no mention in the description of the ‘fill level’ then email the auction house and ask them. Some online auctions will say “good audible level” in a bottle’s details or something to let you know how much liquid you’re getting. Unfortunately that’s not the case for Just Whisky Auction where I bought this Glasgow 1990 blend. They said nothing, which made me assume it was as good as new with whisky right up to the neck – wrong! As I was preparing my bottle for the photo below I realised the liquid inside was quite low. If Just Whisky Auction simply didn’t check the fill level it makes you wonder what else they’re not analysing, which is how fakes slip through the net at auctions.
I’ve been unable to find any reviews about this blend, which is hardly surprising considering its age and lack of pedigree. But I bought it for sentimental reasons rather than tasting a great dram. Back in 1990, when I was young and charming, I spent a few summer days with my brother who was at Glasgow University. The World Cup football tournament was in full swing and Scotland were due to play Sweden in a group match. My brother and I watched it on a big screen in the university union. This was my first experience of ‘old firm’ fans and it was quite hilarious. Everyone in the room was supporting Scotland but when a Celtic player got the ball the Rangers fans would boo followed by laughter, and vice versa. In the end Scotland won 2-1 and everyone went home happy.
Not only does this bottle bring back personal memories but it marked a significant point in Glasgow’s life. By the 1970s Glasgow was a complete bog hole but in the 1980s it had a facelift and by 1990 it was somewhere worth visiting. The award of ‘European City of Culture’ was the icing on the cake and announced to the world that Glasgow had something to offer other than incomprehensible tramps and the stink of the Clyde. Since then it’s never looked back and it’s a city that Scotland can be proud of, rather than the embarrassing uncle you hope wont turn up to the party.
Bought: Scotch Malt Whisky Society, 30th November 2015
92/100 – Whiskybase (from 1 member vote)
Bladnoch closed in 1993. In 1994 dynamic Irishman Raymond Armstrong spotted the mothballed distillery when he was on holiday in the Lowlands and he decided to buy it. Lots of work had to be done, which meant whisky production didn’t start again until 2000. Sadly the distillery went into liquidation in 2014 putting the future of Bladnoch in the balance. Thankfully a successful Australian businessman, David Prior bought Bladnoch in July 2015. In September he announced on the distillery’s Facebook page (which hadn’t been updated in over 2 years) that he’d appointed Ian Macmillan as the new master distiller and blender. Another announcement on 24th December proclaimed the arrival of new single malts in 2016. The future is looking good for Bladnoch once more!
Having said all that about the distillery’s recent history, my bottle by the SMWS entitled ‘Alfresco brunch’ was distilled in 1990, back when Bladnoch were under the ownership of United Distilleries. Someone clearly loves it on Whiskybase with a vote of 92/100. The house style is light-bodied, dry, fruity, fresh, floral and grassy. The SMWS description below mentions a meadow, so there’s the grass element, but bacon, gingerbread and salami don’t sound overly typical of a standard Bladnoch. It goes to show how varied each cask can be!
“We were having a Picnic Brunch in a meadow; the sun had almost burnt off the morning dew and we were looking forward to a glorious day outside. Out of the basket came smoked salmon, gravlax and a bowl of fresh watermelon and Cantaloupe salad with mint and basil vinaigrette. The taste was satisfyingly sweet, like dipping a wooden spoon into a jar of heather honey or a glass of delicious viscous mead. Just a drop of water and meaty aromas appeared; eggs Benedict with bacon, gingerbread pancakes with Parma ham and the taste turned into a spicy salami pizza.”
Posted in Bladnoch
Tagged 1990, 25yo, 50.71, 58.2%, 70cl, Alfresco brunch, Bladnoch, Cask Strength, Lowland, Lowlands, Scotch Malt Whisky Society, Single Cask, Single Malt, SMWS
Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 19th June 2015
71/100 – Whiskybase (from 1 member vote)
I like finding whisky bottlings at auction that have a bit of history, or capture a moment in time. This is the case with ‘The Whisky of 1990’. To quote details I found online: “to celebrate Glasgow as the Cultural Capital of Europe 1990, Whyte & Mackay distillers Ltd have created this unique limited edition whisky. The specially commissioned painting on the label of The Whisky of 1990 is by distinguished Glasgow artist Archie Forrest. Born in 1950, he is a graduate of the Glasgow school of Art and a regular exhibitor in major exhibitions.”
If you’re interested in art (perhaps even the Glasgow Boys) as well as whisky then you might like to track this bottle down at an auction. The good news is that a full 70cl bottle can still be spotted selling for £30 or less. During my research I found one that had gone for as little as £18. Perhaps that’s because, art or no art, it was never that good a whisky. I will try my 3cl bottle to find out and keep the 5cl for posterity.
Bought: Whiskysite, Holland, 23th May 2015
90/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
86.32/100 – Whiskybase (average from 58 member votes)
This 20-year-old Highland Park is the oldest of the affordable ‘year’ series for ‘Travel Retail’ that came out before the current Warrior Series. The other years are 1994, 1998 and 2001. At least, those are the ones still available and don’t cost a fortune. The Whisky Bible mentions a 1978 for ‘Travel Retail’ with a fantastic score of 95.5/100 but Whiskybase only list it in European shops outside the UK (here), and starting at €619 (£450). I could get a bottle from Holland for €650 but only if I go insane, or win the lottery.
Jim Murray in his Whisky Bible is very complimentary about the HP 1990. He says of the taste “sublime delivery: an almost perfect degree of oil to let the honey slither into its rightful place at the head of the flavour queue with toffee vanilla not far behind.” About the finish he adds “long, with a buzzing smokiness”. 90/100 puts this whisky in the category of “brilliant”.
Over 86/100 on Whiskybase is an excellent mark. Comments from reviewers include “a pleasant whisky with enough depth to stay interesting for a while.” And “this is a great HP expression. Not a bad thing to say about this, a quality dram.”
Here’s Frozen Summers with their thoughts on YouTube (March 2016):
Bought – The Whisky Exchange, 27th August 2014
86.5/100 – Whiskybase (average from 12 member votes)
Sometimes finding a whisky bargain is all about being in the right place at the right time. I’ve been wanting a whisky example from Signatory’s ‘Cask Strength Collection’ for many months but even the youngest bottlings start around £60. For anything over 20-years-old you’d expect to pay £80+. One evening I was browsing online for whisky prices, working my way down from 25yo, dreaming about winning the lottery so I could afford some of the bottles I found. That is until I chanced upon the Glen Elgin 22yo priced at £40.75 from ‘The Whisky Exchange’. I practically fell off my chair! Initially I thought it was a mistake, especially as ‘Master of Malt’ were selling the same bottle for £88.25, which is the price you’d expect for a whisky of this quality and vintage.
I probably should have ordered two or more bottles but I limited myself to one and emailed a few whisky contacts so they could cash in on the bargain whilst stocks lasted. It was sold out in a matter of days. But it goes to show that if you’re after a bargain, it’s worth periodically checking what’s out there on the internet. Even Amazon sometimes have bargains, including free postage, that beat prices to be found from online whisky shops.
Posted in Glen Elgin
Tagged 1990, 22yo, 52.5%, 70cl, Cask Strength, Cask Strength Collection, Glen Elgin, Signatory, Single Malt, Speyside, Whisky Exchange
Bought – Justminiatures, 13th November 2013
A discontinued version of Tamnavulin from the Connoisseurs Choice range by Gordon & MacPhail. The ‘Tasting Notes’ for this whisky from the Gordon & MacPhail website says:
AROMA without water
A malty freshness, floral notes, hints of fresh grass, a delicate smoke intertwines and sweetness – marshmallows.
TASTE without water
Soft with a rounded spice, some sweetness, hints of stewed apples.
AROMA with water
Fresher and more fruity, suntle citrus edge – lemons and limes. With a hint of a spice lingering in the background.
TASTE with water
Initially citrus fruit influences – orange rind. A sweetness remains. Well rounded and delicate.
This malt used to be sold at ‘Master of Malt’ where one purchaser gave it a glowing review and 4.5/5 stars. Sounds good to me! 🙂
Bought – Single Malts Direct, 3rd October 2013
79/100 – Whiskybase (average from 2 member votes)
This Strathmill is part of the 24 x 20cl bottles that make up the Carn Mor Vintage Collection. Distilled in 1990 and bottled in 2009, it’s from a limited edition of 1260, Cask No: 2400. Non-chill filtered, no added colour and 46%, so the makings of something very delightful! 79/100 on Whiskybase is a reasonable score but I would have hoped for something higher from a 19yo.