Bought: Morrisons, 18th February 2018
74.25/100 – Whiskybase (average from 6 member votes)
Glen Keith distillery got going in Speyside in 1957, was mothballed in 1999 and reopened in June 2013. Owned by Chivas Brothers its output was destined for blending, forming part of Chivas Regal, Passport and 100 Pipers. There have been plenty of independent bottlings of Glen Keith single malt but very few official releases from the distillery. The first was in 1994 with the appearance of the ‘Glen Keith 1983’. Whiskybase list only 9 releases of single malt from the distillery with the ‘Distillery Edition’ being the most recent one in 2017. Of the previous 8, 3 were before the 1999 closure and 5 were after the 2013 reopening. All are over 10 years old and score from 81/100 (good) to 88/100 (excellent) on Whiskybase.
What isn’t over 10 years old or anywhere near it is the ‘Distillery Edition’. You have to think that a lot of the whisky in it is 3-4 years old since production started again in 2013. The good news is that there’s likely to be some vintage stuff in the mix from 1999 or earlier. Then E150 colorant is added to keep everything looking consistent (boo, hiss!). For a distillery NAS (no age statement) I would generally expect most of the liquid to be between 6-8 years old. Clearly that’s not the case with the ‘Distillery Edition’. But is that a bad thing? New distilleries such as Wolfburn have had great success with 3-year-old releases. Where Glen Keith score over Wolfburn is that they have old stock to mix with the new to help remove any rough, spirity edges.
Although the score on Whiskybase doesn’t promise much the comments online at Master of Malt and Amazon are surprisingly good. They include, “pleasantly surprised! Wasn’t expecting much for the price but is pretty decent”, “nice smooth whisky”, “a good dram for a nightcap” and “everything I like in a young Speyside. Light, slight fruitiness, nice sharp nose, nicely balanced.”
Tasting notes from Master of Malt:
Nose: Sweet and crisp with orchard fruits and a malty character. Toffee apples and banana skins linger.
Palate: Through oaked dryness and an oily note comes vanilla sweetness with helpings of apricot yoghurt, dried mango and nectarines. Suggestions of chocolate pudding, a slight grassiness and a little spice form the backdrop.
Finish: Subtle floral notes and new oak, with a little honey.
Not a review about the ‘Distillery Edition’ but here’s Ben of ‘A Dram A Day’ with a history of the Glen Keith distillery before he reviews an independent bottling:
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: Co-op Foods, 9th November 2017
The Co-operative chain of shops has been selling a 12-year-old Highland single malt for many years. Although the source distillery is a mystery there are some clues that point firmly at Dalmore. A whisky forum discussion in 2012 said the packaging mentions ‘The Black Isle’, which is synonymous with Dalmore. It was also said that Richard Patterson, who is the master blender for Whyte & Mackay, who own Dalmore, blended the dram. Another clue is the use of lots of colorant. Love it or hate it, Dalmore use a lot of E150.
In 2016 into 2017 the packaging for the Co-op 12yo changed but it still mentions ‘The Black Isle’, although strictly speaking this could also apply to the Glen Ord and Teaninich distilleries. There’s no mention of Richard Patterson but the colouring still screams ‘Dalmore’ (favourite dram of Oompa Loompas to maintain their complexion). It’s not going to be the same as the Dalmore 12yo, which is part-finished in 30-year-old Gonzalez Byass Matusalem oloroso sherry casks, but at half the price the Co-op 12yo is worth seeking out.
For an online review in 2015 Cambridge Wine Blogger says, “a golden, mahogany toffee colour, it has a complex nose of citrus, sandalwood and roasted spices; cooked mixed fruit, pastry shop, sweet vanilla and complex dark sherry flavours. Warming, assertive and persistent.” And concludes with, “good value and very good.”
Here’s Tropical Scot with his review of the Co-op Highland 12-year-old on YouTube (Jan 2017):
Bought: Online Auction, 5th October 2017
85.65/100 – Whiskybase (from 8 member votes)
78/100 – Malt Maniacs (from 4 maniac votes)
This 40% Glen Ord 12yo was introduced in the mid 1990s (according to Malt Maniacs) and superseded in c.2005 by a square bottle version at a more potent 43%. I’ve wanted this distillery bottling of Glen Ord for a while because it was a classic of its day. There is certainly plenty of it about because it regularly appears in UK auctions where bottles make a modest £30-£60. The square bottle arguably contains better whisky than the earlier version from the 1990s but I was delighted to win this 100cl 40% for £42. After auction costs £55 doesn’t seem much for a whisky discontinued over 10 years ago and possibly bottled over 20 years ago. The whisky inside could have been distilled in the 1980s.
Scoring over 85/100 on Whiskybase is an excellent score, albeit only from 8 member votes. Someone leaves the comment, “quite a good and complex dram for its age. A good bottling from the past.” The 70cl version listed on Whiskybase was bottled in 2003 and scores a more modest 81/100 from 64 votes. Comments include “much better than I was expecting, not exciting or anything but easy to drink”, “just ok, certainly not offensive and even positively cordial”, and “this one goes excellent with a good coffee, a lovely malt from a nice distillery”.
Serge Valentin, one of the Malt Maniacs, scores the Glen Ord 12yo 76/100 with the comment “the new one in the rectangular bottle is much better, but this old version is rather amiable, after all”. The picture of his bottle shows it came with a square box, which is probably the early presentation from the mid 1990s. I suspect my 100cl with the round tube is from 2000+. Serge Valentin’s review can be found here.
Here’s Ben of ‘A Dram A Day’ with a history of the Glen Ord distillery and his thoughts on the square bottle of the 12yo:
Bought: Online Auction, 5th October 2017
85/100 – Whiskybase (from 1 member vote)
72/100 – Malt Maniacs (for 70cl 1993 version)
Kinclaith wasn’t a distillery in its own right as it was constructed in the grounds of the Strathclyde grain distillery in Glasgow, which makes it a Lowland whisky. Founded in 1957 Kinclaith was closed in 1975 and subsequently demolished. In its short 18-year life Kinclaith was used for blending (primarily in Long John) and never officially sold as single malt. Whiskybase only list 5 independent bottlers releasing Kinclaith as a single malt with Cadenhead starting in 1985 with a 20-year-old. If you have a spare €2,000 you can buy this bottle from a shop in Germany. Hmmm, perhaps not!
Whiskybase list the last independent bottling of Kinclaith by ‘The Whisky Talker’ in 2010, some 7 years ago. That’s hardly surprising since it’s over 40 years since Kinclaith ceased to be. Are there any casks left unopened I wonder? My 5cl by Gordon & MacPhail (G&M) was probably bottled in 1993 (as per the 70cl, making it 25/26yo) but there isn’t a code confirming this on the back of the bottle’s label. There was also a 70cl G&M bottle released in 1991. I’ve wanted a miniature Kinclaith by G&M for years but I’ve never see one with a good neck level. My bottle (pictured below) has liquid up to the shoulders, which is as good as it gets. At least it’s enough to provide a taste of this rare Lowland gem.
Tasting notes and comment from Whiskybase (translated from German):
Nose: Light oak, some water mint, hair spray, old copper coins, dried, tropical fruits (pineapple, papaya, apricot), Werther’s original, Grand Marnier, cotton candy and some burnt caramel. With time and air, the whiskey opens up and becomes more fruity and finer.
Taste: Sweetish and slightly creamy with lots of malt and light vanilla. In addition there are bright fruits and some lemon. Then becoming pepperier. Light tannins, a bit orange bitter and a hint of bitters. At the end, the bitter oak occupies the entire mouth.
Finish: Medium in the middle, woody, slightly bitter and with a fine malty sweetness. In between, the tropical fruits flash out of the nose. At the end some milk coffee.
Comments: Old-school Malt! I would have thought the Lowlander to be much easier because of its geographical origin. The tropical fruits are great, but cannot prevail over the bitter oak. This is also a bit too bitter and too dominant for me.
Posted in Kinclaith (closed 1975)
Tagged 1990s, 40%, 5cl, Gordon & MacPhail, Kinclaith, Kinclaith (closed 1975), Lowland, Lowlands, NAS, Online Whisky Auction, Single Malt
Bought: Morrisons, 11th September 2017
77.34/100 – Whiskybase (average from 34 member votes)
81/100 – Malt Box (video below)
I must confess I haven’t finished my bottle of Glen Moray ‘Elgin Classic’ from 2013 but when Morrisons supermarket reduced this newer version to £16 I couldn’t resist. It might be NAS (no age statement) but the distillery isn’t a mystery and it can hold its own for flavour against whiskies at double the price. I love this stuff, even if I haven’t had many occasions to finish its predecessor. The best time to drink it is when you fancy a dram but you don’t have time to give it a lot of attention. Perhaps when watching a movie or sharing it with someone who likes a whisky but isn’t a connoisseur.
Scoring just over 77/100 on Whiskybase might not sound like a great score but it’s over a point ahead of the previous version, which scores 76/100 from 51 votes. Comments online include “a very drinkable single malt at a fair price”, “young and quite harsh”, “it’s entirely acceptable to the average palate and even the Whisky expert would probably find it not without merit” and “I enjoy its crisp citrus and lemony flavours on ice with a splash of water”. Ice? Why not! It’s not as if you’ll be losing the complexity by chilling your taste buds. Several people consider the Glen Moray ‘Elgin Classic’ to be a very refreshing summer dram.
Tasting notes from Master of Malt:
Nose: Light, fresh. Grist. Nutty, floral. Dried grass. Slightly fruity.
Palate: Oak, gentle. Well balanced, walnut, grist. Citrus, lemon sponge.
Finish: Tangy citrus, spicy fruitcake.
Here’s Andy from ‘Malt Box’ with his thoughts about this Glen Moray (Sept 2017):
Source: Family Gift, late 1990s
88/100 – Whiskybase (average from 13 member votes)
This highly acclaimed Macallan 10yo was a gift from my uncle Hamish and added to the family collection in the late 1990s. I believe the style of bottling was first introduced in the mid 1990s and carried on until the launch of the ‘Fine Oak’ range in 2004. Before 2004 the standard Macallan was all ‘sherry oak’ so there wasn’t a need to make a distinction on the label. After 2004 bottles were clearly labelled either ‘Sherry Oak’ or ‘Fine Oak’.
It’s hard to believe that back in the 1990s supermarkets would sometimes discount this Macallan 10yo to less than £20. Today it typically sells at auction for about £200 and retails closer to £300. It’s good but it’s not that good. Exclusively matured in selected sherry oak casks from Jarez the box features an autumnal scene of Easter Elchies house, Craigellachie, Speyside, which is the ‘Home of the Macallan’.
Scoring 88/100 on Whiskybase is an excellent score and only about a point less than what you’d expect the Macallan 18yo to get. I’ve tasted this Macallan 10yo many times and I wouldn’t say it was that good but it’s definitely a fine dram. It’s more of an 85/100 from me.
Tasting notes from ‘Ormiston Whisky’:
Nose: Matured, sherry notes, raisins, rich, vanilla, caramel, fudge, slightly pungy.
Taste: Sweet with lovely fruity layers, clear wood spices (nutmeg, cinnamon etc.) some black pepper as well.
Finish: Soothing with some tutti frutti sherry notes.
Bought: Tesco, 22nd May 2017
81.61/100 – Whiskybase (average from 20 member votes)
Although all that’s really changed about the Highland Park 12yo in 2017 is the bottle style, packaging and calling it ‘Viking Honour’ it’s an opportunity for new reviews to appear to discuss this classic old Orkney favourite. In fairness, distillery standards such as the HP 12yo do change over time, so we shouldn’t assume the taste and quality remains the same forever and ever. But an old reviewer’s 85/100 might be a new reviewer’s 80/100 even of the same whisky, such is the randomness of ratings.
After 1152 votes on Whiskybase the old style HP 12yo (bottled since 2007) scored a very decent 82.24/100. It’s early days yet but ‘Viking Honour’ is lagging behind slightly. As I discussed in my last blog about the HP12, the Whiskybase ratings for the previous incarnations of the HP12 have shown a consistent downward trend. Is this true or do whisky drinkers look back on old bottlings of Highland Park with nostalgia and rose-tinted glasses?
Comments for ‘Viking Honour’ on Master of Malt are quite amusing, especially if Highland Park only changed the packaging and not the whisky. We have a mixed bag of remarks – “very smooth. I liked it”, “not an improvement and a big disappointment”, “sweet with a delicate smoky after taste which all in all is very agreeable”, “rubbish compared to the original”, “very smooth and slightly peaty”, “absolutely zero smoke or peat”. Has the whisky actually changed or is this a case of unreliable taste buds?
Tasting notes from Master of Malt, which interestingly don’t mention any smoke or peat but I believe these notes have not been updated since the previous HP12:
Nose: Fresh, clean and very aromatic. Floral notes abound the senses with a light grassiness. Notes of creamy Manuka honey and a touch of juicy citrus with cream and a well-balanced sweetness.
Palate: Rather full with a pleasant depth. Lurking somewhere in the substratum a grilled orange lies. Notes of granary toast and green tea with jasmine. A touch of sweetness.
Finish: Quite long with peppery spice and wood shavings.
Here’s Martin Markvardsen, senior brand ambassador for Highland Park, giving us his thoughts about the new 12yo ‘Viking Honour’. He mentions peat and smoke and talks about the new dram as if it were the typical HP 12yo profile (Sept 2017):
Bought: Auriol Wines, 11th August 2017
80.26/100 – Whiskybase (average from 33 member votes)
Scapa distillery say about the Glansa on the box and bottle, “taking our signature smooth fruity single malt, which is aged in American oak, this expression is then rested in peated casks creating richness and depth, with notes of warm, heather-honey and soft fruits giving way to a subtle smoky finish.” They also include that it’s batch GL01 and bottled in August 2016. Over a year later and there hasn’t been a new batch, unlike the Skiren released in 2015, which is now on batch 8. It looks like the Glansa is a bit of a one-off.
I saw one comment online suggesting that finishing the Glansa in peated casks (probably from Islay) was a bit of a cheat. This was a weird remark because cask finishing has been common practice for a long time and there are many examples of excellent whisky finished in peated casks. The comment also misses the point – this is a rare release from a fantastic distillery that is trying something different. Those that know the Scapa signature will also know that adding peat should harmonise well. And for Scapa fans it’s a good sign that the distillery is still alive and not close to closing down as it has done in the recent past.
Comments online include “a nice balance between the sweetness of fruit and the smoke/peat”, “delicious stuff, better than many a standard” and “better than Skiren”. The scores back up the last comment where the Skiren comes in at 79.86/100 on Whiskybase, fractionally below the Glansa. Not that there’s much in it but it sounds like the Glansa is a good addition to the history of the Scapa distillery. Long may it continue!
Tasting notes from Master of Malt:
Nose: Fruity sweet notes of soft peach, pineapple, vanilla intermingled with subtle bonfire smoke.
Palate: Peach and ripe flavours and creamy caramel toffee and vanilla balanced perfectly with soft smoke.
Finish: Very long with a markedly smoky finish.
Here’s Horst Luening of Whisky.com with his thoughts about the Scapa Glansa (Dec 2016):
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: