Tag Archives: 40%

Highland Park 1991 (Travel Retail)

Bought: Whisky Auction, 9th February 2017

Ratings:
85.33/100 – Whiskybase (average from 5 member votes)

Released in 2012, this Travel Retail exclusive was a replacement for the 1990 bottle. At the same time the 2001 came in to replace the 1998 release. Unlike the Highland Park (HP) 1990 the HP 1991 was limited to the Singapore market. This may explain why it didn’t appear in Jim Murray’s ‘Whisky Bible’. Strangely it took over 4 years after the release before the HP 1991 started to appear in UK auctions. I’ve heard of the slow boat from China but these bottles must have been on a tortoise from Singapore! Auction prices have ranged from £77.50 to a whopping £165, which is a lot for a 10-11yo HP. Nevertheless I foresee prices going up because this seems to be quite a rare bottle.

Scoring over 85/100 on Whiskybase is a very good score but the HP 1990, which the 1991 replaced, scores 86.44/100. The 1990 was bottled in 2010, which makes it slightly younger than the 1991. So being older doesn’t necessarily mean being better.

Tasting notes about the HP 1991 from ‘Scotch Malt Whisky’ say:

“Golden with glowing coppery tones, Vintage 1991 (40% ABV) has aromas of dried orange peel, vanilla with toasted cedar wood and rich fragrant spicy notes such as nutmeg, a hint of cloves and incense. Mouth-watering lemon and orange citrus flavours in the mouth, with sweet vanilla custard notes wrapped in subtle yet complex spices at the end. The finish is medium sweet with a lingering, smoky spiciness.”

Auchentoshan 12-year-old

Bought: Amazon, 12th March 2016

Ratings:
91.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
79.14/100 – Whiskybase (average from 111 member votes)

I must admit I tend to think of Auchentoshan whisky as being in the same bracket as Jura, Fettercairn and Speyburn in terms of quality. This might seem unfair until you look at the entry-level single malts each distillery produce and they get similar ratings online. One reviewer on Whiskybase for the Auchentoshan 12yo even says “very similar to Jura 10”. Other comments for the Auchentoshan 12yo include “Approachable”, “Enjoyable dram” and “worth spending some time otherwise will completely pass you by”. It’s this last remark that’s important because Ralfy (of www.ralfy.com) says in his YouTube review in 2009 to give this dram 15 minutes to open up. This allows the whisky to get over the E150 obstacle and let out its freshness and summery citrus notes.

One person who certainly enjoys the Auchentonshan 12yo is Jim Murray. Scoring 91.5/100 in his Whisky Bible classifies this Lowland single malt as “brilliant”. He says about the taste “oily and buttery; intense barley carrying delicate marzipan and vanilla” and concludes with “a delicious malt very much happier with itself than it has been for a while”.

Having tried the Auchentoshan 12yo I certainly enjoyed it but it doesn’t hold a candle to the Highland Park 12yo, which is cheaper, nor the Talisker 10yo, which is significantly more complex and rewarding. But every whisky enthusiast will at some time want to try an example from the Scottish Lowlands and the Auchentoshan 12yo is very approachable and pleasant.

Here’s Horst Luening of Whisky.com with his thoughts about the Auchentoshan 12yo on YouTube (July 2016):

Scottish Parliament 12-year-old

Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 10th January 2017

Ratings:
86.5/100 – Whiskybase (average from 2 member votes)

This mystery single malt was released to celebrate 1997’s reconstitution of the first Scottish parliament since 1707. I have a miniature but the 70cl version was a limited release of 5000. When it was sold on ‘Master of Malt’ it was listed as £27 but since selling out bottles have made between £25 and £110 at auction depending on condition. The bottle was produced by ‘Flavour of Scotland’ who are listed online as a consultancy and still active at their Glasgow address.

Scoring 86.5/100 on Whiskybase is a very good score albeit from only 2 member votes. The tasting notes below suggest the Scottish Parliament 12yo is probably a single malt from a mystery Highland distillery:

Nose: soft smoke & citrus with fresh fruit feature
Palate: soft and sweet with syrup and oak
Finish: sherried with hints of chocolate and spice

Macallan ‘Twenties’

Bought: Heathrow Airport, 2004/05

Ratings:
67/100 – Whisky Bible 2006
83.88/100 – Whiskybase (average from 54 member votes)
78/100 – Malt Maniacs (average from 9 maniac votes)

Status: Long since discontinued

I bought this bottle of Macallan ‘Twenties’ for my father’s 81st or 82nd birthday in 2004 or 2005. I can’t remember the exact year mostly because he’s had so many birthdays! He has his 94th this year but I wont be buying him any more whisky. Not long after I got him this Macallan he confessed that he didn’t really like whisky. Nobody had realised. He got at least 5 bottles for his 80th birthday. So the good news has been that my brother and I got to try this Macallan, so every cloud has a silver lining!

Macallan began introducing the Macallan ‘Decades’ series in 2001 and in 2004 they added this version of the ‘Twenties’ to represent the flavour of Macallan in the 1920s. Not that my father was drinking Macallan when he was born in 1923. As a Scottish baby they don’t start you on whisky until you’re at least 5. Ultimately there were 4 bottles in the series representing the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.

Although I quite like this Macallan, according to Jim Murray in his Whisky Bible of 2006 the ‘Twenties’ was his least favourite decade. 67/100 classifies it as “very unimpressive indeed” and Mr Murray says “Does absolutely nothing for me at all. Totally off-key, no finish. Nothing roaring about this one.” He scores the 1930s 91/100, the 1940s gets 81/100 and 1950s does best with 92/100.

The Malt Maniacs are a bit more complimentary with a reasonable mark of 78/100 but nearly 84/100 on Whiskybase from 54 votes is a very good score. Nevertheless comments are very up and down ranging from “a perfect recreation from the 1920s” to “not very good”. Expert sipper and reviewer Mark Dermul who scores the ‘Twenties’ 77/100 says “I am not really impressed. Too dry and a tad too sour to my taste.” And leaves the following tasting notes:

Nose: The sherry is immediately present on the nose. Apricots, oranges, pineapple, blackberries. Quite dry, to be honest. A bit of chocolate. Mild smokiness. Soft woodspice.
Taste: The attack is soft and gently spiced. Again all sweet sherry. The fruit is now of the dried variety. Chocolate returns. Does turn a bit sour, now.
Finish: The finish is soft and warm with a hint of nuts.

Speyside Cooperage 10-year-old

Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 10th January 2017

Ratings:
75.67/100 – Whiskybase (average from 3 member votes)

The Speyside Cooperage 10yo is a mystery malt from one of the many Speyside distilleries. Although I bought my miniature from an online auction I suspect the original place it was sold was the cooperage shop in Craigellachie, Banffshire. Apparently it’s the only cooperage in Scotland with a visitor centre. Speyside Cooperage is listed on Trip Advisor with a rating of 4.5/5 from 284 reviews so clearly a lot of people enjoy going there. The cooperage was founded in 1947 and has branches in Alloa, Kentucky and Ohio.

Looking through my miniature bottle to the back of the label I can see the code ‘AA/JIHH’. If this is a Gordon & MacPhail code (which I assume it is) then I know the ‘AA’ means it was bottled in 2011. A bottling from 2016 has the following tasting notes on Whiskybase:

Nose: spicy, mild, malty whisky with a touch of peat. Becomes richer with time.
Taste: Same as the nose. Creamier and sweeter into the finish
Finish: A touch of peat then leaning towards malty toasted-ness with some green-ish notes.

It receives the comment “a decent malt at a decent price”. Hopefully my miniature is similar but there’s no guarantee that Gordon & MacPhail have used the same Speyside distillery over the years. That’s all part of the mystery!

 

Dunglass (Littlemill) 5-year-old

Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 10th January 2017

Ratings:
77/100 – Whiskybase (average from 5 member votes)
69/100 – Malt Maniacs (average from 5 maniac votes)

Dunglass was the name given to an experimental whisky produced for one year in 1967 at the Littlemill distillery. Whiskybase only list 4 independent bottlings of Dunglass from 1967 and two distillery 5-year-olds labelled ‘Pure Malt’. As much as I’d like to think my Dunglass 5yo was bottled in 1972 as a ‘single malt’ (as it’s classified on Whiskybase) I know it’s not the rare stuff from 1967. According to one auction site that sold a Dunglass 5yo ‘Pure Malt’ (old term for a blend) it was bottled in the 1990s. I also discovered online (so it’s bound to be true) that ‘Dunglass’ was a name used by Amalgamated Distilled Products (ADP) when selling whisky in Italy. ADP bought the Littlemill distillery in 1982. So, joining the dots, I’d say the Dunglass 5yo is a blend from the 1980s/90s that used a trading name inherited from purchasing the Littlemill distillery. If anyone else knows more please comment below.

Just when I thought I’d got it sorted out I see the Malt Maniacs classify the Dunglass 5yo as a single malt from the 1970s. AAARGH!!! But one of the maniacs, Serge Valentin, says he isn’t 100% sure it’s the experimental Littlemill from 1967. So I stand by what I said, that this is a more recent whisky, unfortunately.

Scoring 77/100 on Whiskybase is a below-average score. One voter who scores it 62/100 leaves these notes, “Grass and freshly cut barley. First you have the feeling of pleasant sweetness on the tongue, but after a short time oily bitter notes come to the fore. For me, this very young Littlemill bottling is little attractive, perhaps this is the reason why there are not very many bottles available?”

Clearly this dram is more of a talking point than for drinking. It may not be the original Dunglass of 1967 but it keeps the memory alive. By all accounts the original Dunglass single malt wasn’t very good, which explains why the experiment only lasted a short time.

Tasting notes, Serge Valentin, Whiskyfun.com:
Nose: light and very grainy, as expected. Gets quite grassy (hay, heavily sugared iced tea). Dried flowers, caramel, hints of praline.
Mouth: aromatically weak, sweetish… Hints of lavender ice cream, pear juice, apple juice.
Finish: rather long, and slightly peppery

Incidentally, Dunglass is a hamlet in the lowlands of Scotland, south of Edinburgh, with a coast on the North Sea. Dunglass Castle is a ruin, constructed between 1400-1542. Obviously there wasn’t any urgency in medieval Scotland to build affordable housing. Apparently the poet Robert Burns said of Dunglass “the most romantic sweet place I ever saw” when visiting in 1787. In 1919 the Usher family came to the Dunglass Estate. An ancestor, Andrew Usher, co-founded the North British Distillery, which is a grain distillery still active today. Andrew Usher is sometimes referred to as the “father of Scotch Whisky” because he perfected the eventual blending of whisky, which he started in the 1840s. This is probably why ‘Dunglass’ was chosen as a whisky name.

Islay Mist 8-year-old

Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 10th January 2017

Ratings:
86.33/100 – Whiskybase (average from 3 member votes)

My auction miniature of the Islay Mist blend is certainly old but whether it’s the version mentioned on Whiskybase from the 1960s is debatable. I chose the rating because it’s the only one listed of seven versions of the 8yo that matches the text on my label saying “a unique blend of SCOTCH WHISKY” as opposed to starting “the unique blend…”

The current version of ‘Islay Mist’ is produced by MacDuff International, a blending company based in Glasgow, Scotland (established in 1992). Prior to this the blend was produced directly from the Laphroaig distillery, which is indicated on the label of my miniature as “D. Johnston & Co. (Laphroaig) Ltd.”. MacDuff International still list Islay Mist on their website as one of their whiskies along with Grand Macnish and Lauders.

MacDuff International say:
“Islay Mist Blended Scotch was originally created on the Scottish island of Islay in 1922 to celebrate the 21st birthday of Lord Margadale. It was thought that the local single malt Scotch, Laphroaig, might be too heavy for all the guests’ taste so this unique blend of Laphroaig with Speyside malts and grain whisky was born.”

Here’s the Scotch Test Dummies with their review of the modern Islay Mist 8yo (January 2017):

Glen Flagler ‘Rare All-Malt’ 100% Pot Still 5-year-old

Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 10th January 2017

Ratings:
83.31/100 – Whiskybase (average from 34 member votes)

Glen Flagler (or Glenflagler) was one of several single malts produced at the Moffat distillery in Airdrie from the mid 1965 to 1985. Inver House Distillers Ltd created the distillery on the site of the derelict Moffat Mill paper mills. Even though distilling stopped in the mid 1980s Inver House still use the site for warehousing and as their head office to this day.

Before buying an example of Glen Flagler I had to sort out which old bottles were single malt as opposed to blended malt. Apparently Inver House continued to produce the Glen Flagler as a blend name after production of the single malt stopped. There’s a lot of confusion out on the Internet, or if not confusion then avoiding the problem by not saying if a bottle is ‘single malt’ or ‘blend’. Eventually enough places I looked said that if the Glen Flagler bottle has ‘pure malt’ on it then it’s a blend. Often auction houses wont mention this and as a result the blend version can achieve prices similar to the single malt. The Glen Flagler distillation from 1965 to 1985 used pot stills so if the label doesn’t mention ‘pure malt’ and says ‘100% pot still’ it should be single malt (I hope!).

Scoring over 83/100 on Whiskybase is very respectable where comments include “nothing to write home about but nice to try all the same”, “really unusual but I like that”, “don’t expect the earth to move, but not a bad whisky at all. Aperitif style whisky for late summer afternoons.”

Tasting notes included on Whiskybase:
Nose: Very light and not particularly expressive. A little grapefruit, lemon and dried grass and something nutty.
Taste: Bitter and woody (surprising at this age). Quite mouth filling and fat. A little honey and biscuit
Finish: Longer than expected, approaching medium.

Tasgall 30-year-old

Bought: ASDA, 4th January 2017

Ratings:
76/100 – Whiskybase (average from 2 member votes)
4/5 Stars – ASDA Website (average from 3 reviews)

‘Tasgall’ was the name ASDA superstore gave to its own brand of blended whisky, which appeared on the shelves in 2014. I was one of the first to mention Tasgall on whisky forums, where it soon became apparent that there was very little interest in this new blend. Priced at £60 for the 30yo and £50 for the 25yo, the Tasgall was more expensive than similar bottlings by Aldi and Lidl, which may explain the lack of interest. Towards the end of 2016 the inevitable happened and ASDA labelled the Tasgall ‘reduced to clear’, first by £10, then by half. The Tasgall is no longer listed on the ASDA website. Discontinued? It looks very like it.

The official tasting notes for the Tasgall 30yo say “full bodied and velvety smooth with rich fruitcake, honey and oak tannin flavours enveloped in a vanilla sweetness with delicate spice and floral notes”. The blend is formed from a combination of Highland and Speyside malts mixed with Lowland grain.

Scoring 76/100 on Whiskybase is a reasonable score for the Tasgall 30yo but as a point of reference, all 6 versions of Lidl’s Glenalba blend score 81/100 or more. That’s the sort of competition the Tasgall had. Nevertheless, comments on the ASDA website were quite favourable including “very rich and complex” and “this is a sensibly considered product which will give a strong sense of luxury to anyone who usually enjoys a regular blended whisky.” Curiously one reviewer mentions “rich peaty undertones”, which aren’t in the tasting notes. A later review says “no hint of peat”. Perhaps batch variations sometimes included a peat flavour from the Highland malt element. Or maybe someone’s taste buds were playing tricks on them.

On the tube and label of the Tasgall 30yo it says “exceptionally rare”. Nothing that sits on a supermarket shelf for 2 years is exceptionally rare but now that it’s gone bottles will be getting rarer. As an obscure blend it is unlikely to make a good investment but if you were fortunate enough to buy one of the last bottles for £25 it should soon double its money at auction. But after commission, postage, etc., you’d be better off drinking it or giving it as a present to a blend lover. I’m sure they’d appreciate it.

Royal Brackla 21-year-old

Bought: Amazon, 7th December 2016

Ratings:
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):