Bought: Aldi, 14th November 2017
81/100 – Ralfy (of www.ralfy.com)
81.5/100 – Whiskybase (from 4 member votes)
If your local Aldi store is anything like mine then going there is never a pleasant experience. Like most men I’m not a fan of queuing but that seems to be a prerequisit hobby for those who shop at Aldi. There are no self-service or ‘basket only’ checkouts so I always find myself stuck behind several people with trolleys overflowing with shopping as if they were preparing for a holocaust. But each year, just before Christmas, Aldi release a mystery single malt under the guise of ‘Glen Marnoch’, which is very old but for very little money. The 2016 release of Glen Marnoch 28yo had a beautiful deep sherry colour, which I believe was natural, and received critical acclaim. Sadly I missed it but I didn’t want to lose out for another year!
There were 11,000 bottles released of the Glen Marnoch 29yo. This got me wondering – how many barrels would you need for that sort of output? The most commonly used barrel in the whisky industry is a butt, which contains between 475 and 500ltrs. After a minimum of 29 years the angels would have their share so let’s be generous and say each barrel contained 475 litres. 11,000 bottles at 70cl is 7,700 litres, which is just over 16 barrels. That doesn’t sound like a lot but how many distilleries have 16 barrels of 29yo whisky kicking about that they could make a profit from if Aldi want to sell it at £40 a bottle? In truth I don’t know but you have to think there aren’t many candidates. At that price it’s likely that the source distillery is known more for quantity than quality. Someone suggests on Whiskybase that it’s Glen Moray, which is certainly a possibility.
Nose: candied orchard fruits, honey, grassy-yeast, bourbon cask influences
Taste: honeyed cereal notes, vanilla, warming sweet lemon
Finish: quite short
The Glen Marnoch 28yo released in 2016 scores 88/100 on Whiskybase from 7 member reviews so the 29yo is lagging behind with 81.5/100. What the 29yo has in its favour over the 28yo is a review from the legendary Ralfy. Either he didn’t taste the 28yo or it scored less than 80/100 so unworthy of a review in his opinion. He gives the 29yo a respectable 81/100. Here is Ralfy with his thoughts about the Glen Marnoch 29yo on YouTube (Dec 2017):
Bought: Whisky Broker, 25th May 2016
84.33/100 – Whiskybase (from 5 member votes)
My only other example from the closed Dumbarton grain distillery is a 1961 Signatory Vintage miniature I bought at auction in May 2015, which cost a small fortune. After winning it I discovered on Whiskybase and Malt Maniacs that it was one of the worse whiskies in my collection. Since then I’ve been trying to get another example of Dumbarton that wont make me screw up my face if I decide to drink it. I narrowly missed out on a 25-year-old, 70cl, being sold by Edencroft for £110 in autumn 2015. Since then a similar example by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) regularly appears at auction for a comparable price. Therefore you can imagine my surprise when I found this 29-year-old Dumbarton being sold as new for £60 by the independent bottler Whisky Broker. Before it had sold out a bottle had been ‘flipped’ at auction for £140.
Dumbarton distillery opened in 1938 and closed in 2002, gradually being demolished between 2006 and 2008. As you can see from the aerial view below, there’s not much left of it. The output was mainly for the Ballantine’s blend but the distillery also produced the Inverleven and extremely rare Lomond single malts (not to be confused with ‘Loch Lomond’, a distillery further north).
84.33/100 on Whiskybase is a very good mark. This is clearly a significantly better example of Dumbarton single grain than my miniature. An upgrade successfully achieved!
Here’s a fly-over of what’s left of the Dumbarton distillery (Sept 2015):
Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 20th May 2015
78/100 – Whiskybase (based on 2 member votes)
21/100 – Malt Maniacs (based on 7 member votes)
Whisky auctions – I hate them but I keep going back to them like a fly to a cowpat. May 2015 and I’m at it again with another auction of whisky miniatures. I was specifically after examples from closed distilleries missing from my collection. I did my research and worked out a sensible top price for bottles of Glen Flagler, Glenury Royal, Glen Mhor, Millburn, Port Ellen and St Magdalene. As the auction came to a close I’d been outbid on all but a bottle of Dumbarton, a grain distillery closed in 2002. Hurray! At least I’d won something.
Unfortunately my celebration was short lived when I started to hunt for reviews of this vintage dram. My first port of call was Whiskybase. 78/100 might not sound bad but the only scorer to leave a review summarises with “extremely chemical and totally undrinkable” and finished with “a true collector’s item, not to be opened.” It was time for a second opinion so I tracked the bottle down on the Malt Maniacs’ database. OMG, even worse! With an average score of 21/100 from 7 maniac votes, that’s the lowest rating I’ve ever seen for a whisky.
Even though I collect whisky, I still believe that, ultimately, whisky should be drunk. It seems that statement doesn’t apply to this Dumbarton. Other examples from the distillery score very highly in the Whisky Bible and on Malt Maniacs, so it’s not as if this miniature by Signatory is a fair example of what a Dumbarton tastes like. There’s no point in drinking it but, as a rare example from a closed distillery, it should do well as an investment. In 20 years time, when my blog has died and reviews are hard to find, I’ll sell it for £1,000s and buy a holiday home in France.
Bought – Whisky Broker, 29th November 2013
86/100 – Whiskybase (average from 6 member votes)
My Christmas day blog post. You’d think I’d have something better to do than this?! But if one of the 3 wise men going to visit Jesus had been a Scot, you can be certain he’d have taken a whisky with him to wet the baby’s head with Joseph. A dram at Christmas to a Scot is like haggis on Burns night. It just is, OK!!! 🙂
I’ve always said I don’t get tempted by the age of a whisky but, I lied. I’ve read and heard several reports over the years that, in general, the best age for a whisky, much like we humans, is in the mid to late teens. Sometimes there can be a magical 25-year-old malt, or a 40yo, etc., but, even when you find them, they command far too much money when you compare their price and quality to a good 15yo. Then I spot this 29yo Tormore, a full 70cl bottle, for £65 from the Whisky Broker. No reviews so it’s a bit of a punt but if one of the bigger independent bottlers were selling it we’d be talking £100+. It seems a bargain, and a chance to taste something with plenty of maturity.
The problem with getting an expensive bottle with lots of age is, can I bring myself to drink it?! The temptation is to hide it away for 10 to 20 years and then sell it for a fortune. Except, I don’t think this is a collector’s piece. For one thing it would be easy to fake the original seal so if I tried to sell it in 20 years, nobody will be sure that the whisky inside is genuine. OK, I’ve convinced myself to drink it – YES! 🙂 And I’ve recently acquired a 10yo Tormore so I’ll have something young from the distillery to compare against.