Tag Archives: 42%

Johnnie Walker Black Label ‘Islay Origin’ 12-year-old, 1 litre

Bought: World of Whisky at Heathrow, 22nd February 2020


83.71/100 – Whiskybase (average from 9 member votes)

If you find yourself in an airport duty free shop and you spot a new whisky you fancy for £30 (or your currency equivalent) I have two words for you – “BUY IT!” I failed to do this with a new range of Glen Grant and I’ve been kicking myself ever since. So when I saw Johnnie Walker (JW) had released four new versions of their 12yo, £30 each for 1 litre bottles, my eyes lit up. With my 5% travel discount from ‘RED by Dufry’ this made it £28.50 per bottle. Since then the price has gone up to £35 at the airports and as much as £52 from online whisky shops (although £45 on Amazon). A bottle at auction went for as much as £55!

I only wanted to buy one of the four bottles, which were divided into the Scottish whisky regions of Speyside, Islay, Highland and Lowland. I’ve been in the malt game long enough to know that Islay is the one for me. Even if it’s mediocre the Islay flavours are going to be interesting. If any of the other regions are mediocre then there’s a chance they’ll be boring, which nobody wants. But with tasting notes that include iodine, sherry, smoke, toffee, red fruits, meaty and full, it sounds like Laphroaig and Bunnahabhain with a few other Islay classics thrown in for good measure. It’s also a vatted/blended malt (like the JW 15yo Green) so no grain in the mix to confuse matters.

Scoring nearly 84/100 on Whiskybase is a reasonable score but only from 9 member votes so far. Over on Amazon the rating is 4.6/5 from 88 global votes but only 3 written reviews from the UK. Most are from Germany where JW must be more popular or simply more available. Indeed Whiskybase list 4 suppliers of this Islay Johnnie Walker, the majority of which are in Germany and none in the UK. Comments online include, “perfectly balanced sweet peated entry level, yet complex”, “lovely and very good value” and “like eating toffee apples at a bonfire. Would recommend to anyone.”

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Iodine, toffee, orange, you’d swear there was some sherry here though apparently there isn’t.

Palate: In the mouth it’s peppery with dried fruit, fresh red fruits and honey, with the smoke lingering but not dominating. Meaty and full.

Finish: Smoke and a little toffee.

P&M Pure Malt from Corsica

Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 3rd February 2016

91/100 – Whisky Bible 2009
65.67/100 – Whiskybase (from 3 member votes)

Now here’s an interesting whisky, and one that causes extremes of opinion. I spotted it in an online auction and the word “Corsica” caught my eye. Although I already have a whisky example from France, the island of Corsica is big enough to earn its own pin as part of my European whisky map. And we all know how different an island’s whisky can be to that of the mainland when you consider Orkney, Skye and Islay.

Whiskybase have categorised this ‘pure malt’ as a grain although it’s described as a ‘malt’ in Charlie Maclean’s ‘World Whisky’ book. I doubt it’s a single grain but whether it’s single malt is unclear. The Distillerie Mavela in Corsica started out as a brewery in 1996 but soon moved into whisky production. My bottle roughly dates between 2005 and 2008. The distillery has produced 7-year-old single malts since 2011.

Less than 66/100 on Whiskybase isn’t a great score but since nobody has left any tasting notes it’s unclear what the voters actually thought of the whisky. Jim Murray’s 91/100 in his Whisky Bible 2009 classifies this whisky as “brilliant”. He describes the taste as “amazingly sharp and mouth-watering. There are flavours new to me here – and that doesn’t happen often” and summarises with “an outstanding whisky which, being French, seems to offer a style that is entirely different from anything else around. I have been told there is chestnut within the grist which, strictly speaking, means this is not whisky as we know it.” And concludes with “delicious dram”.

If I’d only had Whiskybase to go on I wouldn’t have bought this whisky but, thanks to Jim Murray, I’m intrigued to discover the unique Corsicaness of this chestnut-infused malt.

P&M Pure Malt Corsica NAS 70cl

Girvan Patent Still No.4 Apps

Bought: Waitrose, 11th November 2015

87/100 – Whisky Bible 2016
73.62/100 – Whiskybase (average from 15 member votes)

I must admit I did very little research into this single grain whisky by Girvan before buying it. I checked my copy of the Whisky Bible and 87/100 sounded perfectly acceptable to me. That categorises this dram as “very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying” so I did. The author, Jim Murray, describes this bottle as “a first look at probably the lightest of all Scotland grain whiskies. A little cream soda sweetens a soft, rather sweet, but spineless affair. The vanillas get a good unmolested outing too.”

Hmmm, that doesn’t sound like a “very good to excellent whisky” to me. Perhaps the score of 87/100 should have been 78/100! Sadly the only written reviews on Whiskybase are in German but 73.62/100 isn’t a brilliant mark. I know some people use grain whisky for cocktails or add a mixer to them but not when bottles cost £40 like this Girvan. Saying that, the Haig Club was originally £50 and that was designed to look good on a shelf in a cocktail bar. But if I spent £40 on a bottle of whisky, grain or not, I want to drink it au natural and have a good experience.

Perhaps disliking this bottle of Girvan is a German thing. The only video review I could find is the one below by Horst Luening, the master taster at Whisky.com. He admits he doesn’t usually like grain whiskies because they have a tendency to be bitter and tasteless. This is due to the overuse of casks, which can be refilled 10 times before being dispensed with. By the tenth time there is little or no flavour to be gained from the wood (sherry, bourbon, etc) other than tannins, which leave a bitter taste. I get his point but surely Girvan aren’t so stupid as to bottle something up from a 10th refill cask? You’d hope they’d have the sense to bottle from a fresh cask and send subsequent refills for blending. Has Horst prejudged I wonder?

You Tube review by Horst Luening:

Girvan Patent Still No.4 Apps NAS 70cl

Danica ‘Peated’ Danish Single Malt

Bought: Whiskysite, Holland, 26th October 2015

84.33/100 – Whiskybase (average from 5 member votes)

I believe I’m correct in saying that 2016 is the first year the Braunstein brewery (who produce the ‘Danica’) have had entries in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible. The company started as a microbrewery in 2005 producing beer and expanding into whisky making the following year. In 2013 the distillery’s ‘Braun Steins’ whisky won an award at the ‘International Wine and Spirit Competition’ (IWSC). Unfortunately the three whiskies mentioned in the Whisky Bible 2016 don’t include the ‘Danica’ but score respectable marks in the 80s (out of 100).

I’ve been unable to find a UK source for Danish whisky and it’s only in the last 6 months that Dutch shops (which ship to the UK) have started stocking it. Before buying I checked with Danish whisky reviewer Daniel Jakobsen if he recommended the Danica. He’d only tried the peated version, which he said was OK. That, combined with a excellent score on Whiskybase, was good enough for me! And with that I tick Denmark off my world map of whisky.

Here’s Ben of ‘A Dram a Day’ on You Tube with his review (April 2016):

Fettercairn ‘Fasque’

Bought – Tesco, 24th September 2013

79.08/100 – Whiskybase (average from 15 member votes)

I was all set to buy a bottle of Fettercairn 2002 10yo ‘Old Malt Cask’ from ‘The Green Welly Stop’ for £16.10 (20cl) when I spotted this bottle of Fasque in Tesco. What is this stuff?! I had a look for reviews but I didn’t find any that I thought were reliable. Several people were asking about it on forums and were being put off buying it by responses saying it was terrible, then admitting that they’d never tasted it. I can understand that sort of attitude if everyone has been reading the Whisky Bible about Fettercairn. Jim Murray isn’t a fan unless it’s the 40-year-old version which he gives 92/100. But most of us aren’t prepared to sell our car for a bottle of Fettercairn so we need to find alternatives to experience what this distillery has to offer. To clearly express Jim’s love of Fettercairn he gives the ‘1824’ version 69/100 and says of it “by Fettercairn standards, not a bad offering.” Damned with faint praise.

My brother informs me that Fettercairn specifically make the Fasque for Tesco. Whether this is true I’m not sure but my brother is usually spot on. Forum discussions have confirmed that Tesco stocked the Fasque in 2012 so they’ve obviously thought it worthwhile to buy in again for 2013. I know from other distilleries, like Deanston supplying Marks & Spencer, that it’s not in the distillery’s interest to piss-off a supermarket by sending them meths in sheep’s clothing. On that basis, I’ll drink the Fasque with an open mind rather than tainted by Jim Murray’s dislike of Fettercairn and forum guessers’ inexperienced views.

Here’s Whiskey Vault on YouTube with their thoughts about the Fettercairn Fasque (Dec 2016):

Fettercairn Fasque 70cl


Bought – Morrisons, 2nd September 2013

Sadly no review from the Whisky Bible or Ralfy for this one so I’m out on a wing and a prayer. In general the versions of the Ledaig score pretty well in the bible with the 12yo going as high as 90/100. Two versions of the 10yo get in the mid eighties but one unfortunately only crawls in with 63/100. Let’s hope this NAS hasn’t got some of the latter in it! But what attracted me to this particular bottle was a) it’s price (less than £20 for a full 70cl) and b) general comments on forums that it was a good entry-level malt. Not necessarily sophisticated but at the same time you’re not going to spit it out over the cat. Unless you’re wanting a mad malty moggy eating your face in gratitude! 🙂

Update (January 2016) – Unfortunately this Ledaig has been discontinued but bottles are still available in certain stores as well as at auction. Whiskybase list it here where it scores a respectable 76.71 from 37 member votes. Below is a video review by Mark Dermul about this Ledaig and I agree with him that it’s extremely drinkable!

Ledaig NAS 70cl