Bought: Amazon, 6th April 2018
76/100 – Whisky Bible 2018
85/100 – Whiskyfun
89.58/100 – Whiskybase (average from 21 member votes)
96/100 and 91/100 – Scotch Test Dummies (YouYube video below)
In the Whisky Bible 2016 author Jim Murray’s rating of the Glendronach 21yo was a fantastic 91.5/100 and ended with “Memorable stuff”. In the 2017 issue of the Bible the 21yo had disappeared and in 2018 Mr Murray introduces his thoughts on the 21yo ‘Parliament’. All around him the status of Glendronach has been rising but he gives the 21yo a lowly score of 76/100 and remarks, “myopically one dimensional, rambles on and on, sulphur-tongued, bitter and does its best to leave a bad taste in the mouth whilst misrepresenting its magnificent land.” It’s worth noting that the 2017 Bible contained reviews of 27 different bottles of Glendronach but in 2018 that’s shrunk by more than half to 13. Perhaps Mr Murray has fallen out of love with this up-and-coming Highland distillery, because of the whisky or maybe something else entirely.
I’m reminded of the old joke ‘opinions are like arseholes – everyone has one’. But arseholes are generally very similar, whereas opinions can vary greatly. Mr Murray’s thoughts about the Glendronach 21yo are like a square peg in a round hole of shared opinion, if you pardon the mental image. I’ve found it impossible to discover anyone else who dislikes this whisky as much as he does. Most people adore it, which makes me wonder if Mr Murray had a bad sample. There are certainly lots of different batches of the ‘Parliament’. Mine was bottled on the 29th January 2018 so after the Whisky Bible 2018 went into print. Although Mr Murray’s opinion about the 21yo is a bit strange I respect him enough to breath a sigh of relief that it wasn’t directed at my batch.
89.58/100 on Whiskybase for my particular release of the Parliament is a fantastic score but quite typical of all the batches of this 21yo. A comment about the flavour says “elegant, expensive leathery notes, more olorosso built up on palate for boldness, spicy sherry coat with ample of creamy sugar laden of fruits.” Whiskyfun score the Parliament 85/100 in August 2017 with the comment “rather fine, just not too complex. And quite easy on the fruits”.
Here’s the Scotch Test Dummies with their review about the Glendronach 21yo on YouTube (Feb 2018) both of whom love this dram:
Bought: Master of Malt, 2nd August 2017
5/5 – Amazon (from one review)
84.67/100 – Whiskybase (average from 3 member votes)
This is my 17th example from the Linkwood distillery but my first to be bottled by Signatory. Released in 2017 it’s a combination of two casks numbered 5943 and 5944. Although it’s not stated, the colour suggests ex-bourbon casks and probably refill rather than first-fill. Nearly 85/100 on Whiskybase is an excellent score. There are two almost identical 21yo releases by Signatory listed on Whiskybase, one from 2017 (casks 5940 & 5941) and another from 2016 (casks 5938 & 5939). They score 85/100 (1 vote) and 84.25/100 (6 votes) respectively, which are very good marks.
Ralfy on YouTube recently reviewed his first ever Linkwood in 8 years and 680 videos. He said that some people think that Linkwood is more for blends but he disagrees with that and so do I. Ralfy hits the nail on the head when he says that the fans of Linkwood are happy that the owners, Diageo, haven’t presented it as part of their distillery selection. It’s kept Linkwood’s profile low, which has allowed more independent bottlers to buy casks and kept prices down. This 21yo cost me £46, which is a fantastic price for the age. Imagine what it would be for a 21-year-old Lagavulin or Talisker? I never thought I’d see myself say this but – thank you Diageo!
Ratings online for my new Linkwood are few and far between but one person on Amazon gives it 5/5 stars and comments, “it is one to enjoy. I like it very much and think the money makes it a great deal!”
Tasting notes from Master of Malt:
Nose: Black tea and digestive biscuits. Walnuts and dates with a touch of dried hay.
Palate: Sugared peels, honey and a hearty kick of nutmeg.
Finish: Lingering dried flower fragrance.
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:
Bought: Amazon, 7th December 2016
91/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
85.24/100 – Whiskybase (average from 36 member votes)
Towards the end of 2014 John Dewar & Sons Ltd decided to repackage 5 of their distillery brands under the title of ‘Last Great Malts’, which were Aberfeldy, Aultmore, Craigellachie, Royal Brackla and The Deveron (see their YouTube promotional video here). They clearly took a lot of time and effort designing the packaging. I like the script used on the Craigellachie label and the smoked glass effect on The Deveron bottle. But I personally feel the Royal Brackla is the star of the show. The elegant bottle shape and regal looking label in blue and gold certainly give it the touch of glass a ‘Royal’ bottling deserves.
Unlike with the Aberfeldy 21yo, before 2014 there wasn’t a distillery release of a 21-year-old Royal Brackla. In fact Whiskybase only list 13 distillery releases from Royal Brackla in total. It’s nice to be getting something so rare! Jim Murray, author of the Whisky Bible, thinks this new 21yo is ‘brilliant’ with a score of 91/100. He says of the taste, “silky malt, with a shade of coastal salt ensuring the full flavours are wrung out”. He concludes with “now that’s much more like it!”
Scoring over 85/100 on Whiskybase is a high mark and suggests it’s not only Jim Murray that thinks this new Royal Brackla is brilliant. Comments include “well put together and tastes more like 46% than 40%” and “a single malt blend that’s working well”.
Tasting notes from Master of Malt:
Nose: Vanilla crème, some sweet and slightly sharp fresh berries and gooseberries – much fruitier than the 12 & 16 year olds.
Palate: Chocolate flake with just a few dark spices adding complexity.
Finish: The green edge seen in the other expressions seems to appear on the finish with cocoa, chocolate sponge and cream.
Overall: Opulent fruits and spices.
Here’s Horst Luening of Whisky.com with his thoughts on the Royal Brackla 21yo (November 2015):
Bought: Prize from Lady of the Glen, 16th November 2016
86/100 – Whiskybase (average from 2 member votes)
When you search Whiskybase for Glenturret there are only 236 bottles listed, which isn’t that many. 84 are from the distillery so the majority are by independent bottlers such as ‘Lady of the Glen’. Glenlivet have 1203 bottles listed on Whiskybase, Glendiffich have 412 and Glenmorangie 350. Glenturret maybe considered more of a blending malt but 60 independent bottlers have managed to get casks and a mention on Whiskybase. Signatory have released the most with 61, Gordon & MacPhail have 22 and the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) are third with 19.
Gregor Hannah started ‘Lady of the Glen’ in 2012. Unlike some independent bottlers you can buy directly from ‘Lady of the Glen’ on their website here. There’s usually 2 or 3 different bottlings available at any given time. As I post this blog there are still 6 bottles of the Glenturret 21yo left out of a small run of 198. It’s also currently available on The Whisky Barrel. Distilled in a bourbon cask in 1994, it was bottled in 2016 at a cask strength of 54.6%. Very typical of ‘Lady of the Glen’ it has no added colour and hasn’t been chill filtered.
Tasting notes from ‘Lady of the Glen’:
Nose: heavy toffee and yellow fruits of melon and mango peel
Palate: Honey suckle, herby and crisp with papaya and honey
Finish: Fresh and light with notes with grassy hay notes
Bought: Nickolls & Perks, 22nd January 2016
93/100 – Whisky Bible 2014
87.79/100 – Whiskybase (average from 16 member votes)
Port Dundas single grain distillery closed in 2010 but whoever bought up the old stock isn’t selling off the most recent casks for bottling. Why would they since vintage casks from a closed distillery are far more likely to bring a profit. This 21-year-old was one of the youngest examples of Port Dundas mentioned in the Whisky Bible 2014 with 5 of the 9 listed being 30+ years old.
Jim Murray, author of the Whisky Bible, really rates this Port Dundas 1992. 93/100 categorises it as “brilliant” and Mr Murray says of the taste “although the oak has dug in and makes an early impact, the spreading of what appears to be soft corn oils helps the ever-intensifying sugars to see off the underlying toastiness.” He summarises with “astonishingly invigorating. Leaps from the glass with intent and purpose. Wonderful!”
Scoring nearly 88/100 on Whiskybase is a fantastic score. Voters include comments of “absolutely stunning single grain!” , “so very well balanced, no off notes, not too grainy, not too sweet. I love this! This one easily beats most single malts in its price range.” And “bulls eye, this Port Dundas. Quite a complex grain! Recommended.”
Port Dundas is a very good introduction to single grain whisky, and a big step up from an entry level £20 bottle of Cameron Brig. But it seems that having a sweet tooth would be an advantage.
Bought: Amazon, 22nd January 2015
83/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
85.5/100 – Whiskybase (average from 224 member votes)
Although 83/100 in the Whisky Bible might not sound amazing it still classifies this mature single malt as “good whisky worth trying”. The author’s review reads “a chorus of sweet, honied malt and mildly spiced, teasing fruit on the fabulous mouth arrival and the middle compensates for the few blips.”
85.5/100 on Whiskybase is an excellent mark. A few reviewers express disappointment at a lack of depth, which they were expecting from 21 years of maturation, but others found it opened out nicely and had a good level of complexity. It sounds like the sort of whisky that needs a bit of getting used to in terms of adding water and giving it time to breath.
My boxed bottle came with the book “101 World Whiskies to Try Before You Die” which, not surprisingly, includes the Glenfarclas 21-year-old. For £55, including the book and free delivery from Amazon (another ‘Daily Deal’) it was a bargain. Even at its normal price of £70, it’s hard to find another 21yo single malt at such good value.
Bought: Drink Supermarket, 4th December 2014
97.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
87.52/100 – Whiskybase (average from 69 member votes)
9/10 – Whisky Wednesday (video below)
I bought this bottle of Old Pulteney 21yo on Black Friday when Drink Supermarket was offering 20% off their normal prices. Fantastic news you might think but it almost killed my interest in buying whisky thereafter. Whisky is expensive stuff, so when you can get it for less you don’t want to pay full price again, if you can avoid it. Unfortunately, only buying whisky on one discount day per year isn’t an option my addiction will allow.
Like the Ardbeg Uigeadail I last blogged about, the Old Pulteney 21yo is one of those rare whiskies that scores top marks in the Whisky Bible. Jim Murray’s review dates back to 2012 where he gives the nose full marks of 25/25. The taste scores highly too with the comment “nerve-tingling journey of barley at varying intensity and then a slow but magnificently complete delivery of spice.” The Bible concludes with “absolutely exploding from the glass with vitality, charisma and class”.
The Old Pulteney 21yo was awarded “World Whisky of the Year” in the Whisky Bible 2012, which instantly set it up to be shot down. I’ve read several reviews that say “not the best whisky I’ve tasted” but that’s hardly surprising. It’s like being told you’re about to see the funniest comedian in the world so the instant reaction is “go on then, make me laugh!” But there’s no denying the quality of this single malt. A whisky no collection should be without, or an enthusiast should fail to try.
Here’s Jo of ‘Whisky Wednesday’ with his review on You Tube (July 2015):
Bought – Best of Whisky, Holland, 26th August 2014
92/100 – Whisky Bible 2014
88/100 – Malt Maniacs (average from 3 reviews)
There I was, minding my own business, when I spotted someone on a whisky forum saying they ordering Scotch from Holland. Until then I’d only ever bought whisky from within the UK but I was aware there were bargains to be had on mainland Europe. I contacted the said forum member and he confirmed how easy it was to order alcohol from Holland. He mentioned he was getting the Aberfeldy 21yo £30 less than the cheapest UK price, so I had to have a look! Wouldn’t you?! I only selected 5 bottles but, even adding in €16 for delivery I saved £100 compared to UK prices. Another added bonus of buying from abroad was getting whiskies that aren’t available in the UK. These were a Highland Park 1994 and 10yo which I’ll be blogging about soon.
With the price of Aberfeldy whisky in the UK I wasn’t expecting to upgrade my miniature of the 12yo I got last year, so getting the 21yo was a nice surprise. It’s the first whisky in my collection to come in a plush box with a satin-like interior. Fancy! Jim Murray describes the smell of this dram in his Whisky Bible as “superb!” then says of the taste “uniquely nutty delivery screams “Aberfeldy!”; creamy texture without losing complexity. Out of the oils vanilla rises cleanly”. He summaries with “a distillery I have long held in very high esteem here gives a pretty clear view as to why.” And on that note I would say my hunt for the perfect Aberfeldy has come to an end. That’s just as well because there’s plenty more distilleries to sip around!
Here’s Horst Luening of Whisky.com with his thoughts on YouTube (Jan 2015):
Bought – Highland Park Distillery, 14th August 2014
82.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2014
89/100 – Malt Maniacs (average from 9 reviews)
When you look at the Whisky Bible rating of 82.5/100 you’d be forgive for thinking this was a good whisky yet nothing special. But the Malt Maniacs score this 21yo 89/100 and they only gave the HP 18yo 88/100, when the Whisky Bible scores it an amazing 95.5/100! Here we have the wonderful world of opinions. Stick 3 whisky drinkers in a room with one bottle to try and you’ll get at least 4 opinions. And if they try the bottle again after a week of letting it breath, opinions will change – some for the better, some for the worse.
In fairness, the rating for this HP 21yo is a little more clear-cut. Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible score of 82.5/100 would have been higher if it weren’t for his sulphur sensitivity. As he says “bad news: a sulphured sherry butt has found its way into this bottling”. When I think how rare it is to see reviews mentioning sulphur, I’m beginning to wonder if Jim Murray’s taste buds no longer reflect those of your typical whisky drinker. After relying on the Whisky Bible for so long, I may start changing my source for reviews to such places like Whiskybase and Malt Maniacs, where ratings are an average from numerous voters, not just a single opinion.
Here’s ‘Malt Reviews’ on You Tube with their thoughts (August 2015):