Tag Archives: 43%

Blair Athol 12-year-old ‘Flora & Fauna’

Bought: The Whisky World, 28th August 2020

Ratings:

78/100 – Malt Whisky Companion 2015

83.09/100 – Whiskybase (average from 727 member votes)

If you’re ever fortunate enough to find yourself in Aberdeen (Scotland), the place I associate with Diageo’s ‘Flora & Fauna’ (F&F) range of single malts is the Atholl Hotel on King’s Gate. The bar is open to the public as well as paying guests. The hotel is set in a grand granite building in the wealthiest part of town so I’d recommend wearing a suit or posh frock, or perhaps both because it’s always cold in Aberdeen! The bar itself has a calm décor of light wood and subtle tartan fabrics with ample seating and the obligatory 60” TV stuck on the wall. The whisky selection isn’t vast (about 30 options including blends) but it’s dominated by F&F bottles, which take pride of place on the shelves at the back of the bar.

I was amused to read in Michael Jackson’s book ‘Malt Whisky Companion’ that he considers the Blair Athol 12yo to be a mid-afternoon drink. It makes me wonder what he recommends for breakfast! Mr Jackson says of the palate “spiced cake, candied lemon peel, lots of flavour development” and 78/100 puts this dram firmly in the “worth tasting” category.

Scoring slightly over 83/100 on Whiskybase from 727 votes makes the Blair Athol 12yo one of the highest scoring F&F bottlings still available today. There are plenty of people singing its praises. Comments online include “very decent whisky with a nice fruit component”, “impressive malt, very intense”, “mature, delicious and full of character” and “an extremely tasty all-rounder. Simply classic”.

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Nutty with sherried notes. Gentle peat. Crisp.

Palate: Good body, malty and sweet. Citrus and the peels thereof.

Finish: Peat smoke, syrup. Good sweetness, bittersweet, drying.

Here’s Swedish Whisky Girl on YouTube (August 2020) outside Blair Athol distillery in Pitlochry with her thoughts on the 12yo:

Glenlossie 10-year-old ‘Flora & Fauna’

Bought: The Whisky World, 28th August 2020

Ratings:

76/100 – Malt Whisky Companion 2015

91/100 – Whisky Bible 2006

81.6/100 – Whiskybase (average from 217 member votes)

I’ve never references the book ‘Malt Whisky Companion’ on my blog before. The author, Michael Jackson, sadly died in 2007 but he coined the term ‘Flora & Fauna’, which has stuck with the Diageo range ever since. My version of his book is the fully revised edition no.7 from 2015. I assume most of the words and reviews are Mr Jackson’s, including his thoughts on the Glenlossie 10yo. Scoring 76/100 is a reasonable score with the book saying “anything in the 70s is worth tasting, especially above 75”. The palate is described as “malty, dryish at first, then a range of sweeter, perfumy, spicy notes”. As a point of reference, the Aberfeldy 12yo also scores 76/100, the Glengoyne 10yo scores 74/100 and the Glenfiddich 12yo scores 77/100. One of my favourite whiskies of all time, the Scapa 12yo, also scores 76/100 so this Glenlossie must be fantastic! 🙂

Jim Murray’s review of the Glenlossie 10yo in his Whisky Bible 2006 probably dates from a similar time that Michael Jackson wrote his. Scoring 91/100 classifies this single malt as ‘brilliant’. Clearly Mr Murray is more impressed than Mr Jackson. The ‘brilliant’ score is explained with “first-class Speyside malt with excellent weight and good distance on the palate. Easily one of the best Flora & Fauna bottlings of them all”. Praise indeed! I hope bottle versions have remained consistent over time.

Scoring 81.6/100 on Whiskybase from over 200 votes is a good score. Comments are generally very favourable such as “very good flavor, rich and deep”, “for the fans of earthy stuff: buy a bottle before it’s too late” and “a very nice powerful and clear whisky” but also “all in all too unbalanced for my taste”. The last reviewer mentions a dislike for “tannins” which appear in the tasting notes below from Master of Malt. Clearly this is something to watch out for and not to everyone’s liking. But the Glenlossie 10yo gets enough thumbs-up to make me delighted I got it.

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: full of cereal and grist

Palate: good body with a decent sweetness and plenty of fruit with barley sugar and peppy oak

Finish: long with gristy tannins

Here’s Roy of Aqvavitae with his thoughts on the Glenlossie 10yo during his YouTube video about the Flora & Fauna range, April 2018:

Strathmill 12-year-old ‘Flora & Fauna’

Bought: The Whisky World, 28th August 2020

Ratings:

80.32/100 – Whiskybase (average from 203 member votes)

Firstly, thank you to everyone for helping my blog reach the milestone of 300,000 hits. Does this make me one of the greatest whisky writers of the present day? Of course not but it’s a bit of an ego boost to encourage me to keep going. I’d certainly like Whisky Den to reach its 10th anniversary in 2023. If this is your first visit, thank you for helping me towards the 400,000 hits landmark!

This Strathmill 12yo single malt starts a short mini-series of three whiskies from the Diageo ‘Flora & Fauna’ range. If you are unfamiliar with this name I thoroughly recommend watching the video below by Roy of Aqvavitae (the Strathmill 12yo is discussed at 9:38).

Strathmill is a Speyside distillery located in Keith, across the town from the better known Strathisla distillery. Founded in 1891 from a former flour and corn mill, Strathmill was originally called Glenisla-Glenlivet. The name Strathmill means ‘the mill in the valley’. The distillery wasn’t known for single malts as the output was used exclusively for blends such as J&B but in 1993 Oddbins released an expression distilled in 1980. This was the first single malt released from the distillery for nearly 90 years!

Output from Strathmill is primarily unpeated and ex-bourbon. The 12-year-old is of this ilk and a good example of the house style. Scoring just over 80/100 on Whiskybase is a reasonable mark but not one that suggests this will blow your mind or become your favourite tipple of all time. But if you’ve never tried Strathmill it’s a good place to start (Roy certainly likes it!). Comments online include “simple, but very pleasant, quite rich and dense for its years”, “pleasantly fresh and soft whisky with alternating acidity and sweetness of citrus fruits” and “all in all a nice enough whisky that will not offend anyone”.

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: quite soft yet very fruity. A hint of grassy greenness with a nuttiness, there are notes of cut herbs and apples, hints of cut hay.

Palate: silken smooth in delivery. Notes of winter spice and vanilla custard, there is a nutty oiliness which carries everything gentle.

Finish: soft and slightly herbal with a peppered delivery.

Here’s Roy of Aqvavitae with his thoughts about the Flora & Fauna range on YouTube (April 2018):

Auchnagie ‘Classic Selection’ (43%)

Bought: Master of Malt, 17th March 2020

Ratings:

78.27/100 – Whiskybase (average from 28 member votes)

Auchnagie is the sixth and final example in my ‘Classic Selection’ from The Lost Distillery Company (TLDC). The only one I’m missing from the seven lost distilleries TLDC have reproduced is the Jericho.

Auchnagie distillery ran for almost 100 years from 1812 to 1911. During that time it had seven different owners and was closed for lengthy periods. The distillery itself was located in the hamlet of Tulliemet, in the Ballinluig area of Perthshire, 6 miles south-east of Pitlochry, which makes it a Highland distillery. Peat used in production came from the nearby Loch Broom. This natural resource had been formed from moss and heather, which gave off a delicate floral note when fired. The final owners, who acquired the distillery on a long lease in 1890, were John Dewar & Sons. They went on to build Aberfeldy distillery in 1896-98. The potential of this new distillery is probably one of the reasons why John Dewar & Sons closed Auchnagie for good in 1911.

Scoring just over 78/100 on Whiskybase, the Auchnagie gets the lowest mark of all seven of the ‘Classic Selection’ by TLDC. Nevertheless, the three reviewers on Amazon give it 4.7/5 and seem to like it a lot. Comments online include, “a nice, easy / light starter for a tasting line-up – or otherwise an aperitif whisky”, “probably the best I’ve tasted from the TLDC line”, “I thought it was wonderful with an early full flavor of cedar ending with vanilla” and “a great dram at this price”.

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Digestive biscuit, banana and thick waves of honey.

Palate: Sponge cake (with yet more honey), rice pudding, dried apricot.

Finish: A subtle lick of baking spice appears on the finish.

Here’s Whiskey Vault with their thoughts about the Auchnagie on YouTube, December 2018:

Stratheden ‘Classic Selection’ (43%) – (aka Auchtermuchty)

Bought: Amazon, 31st July 2020

Ratings:

79.82/100 – Whiskybase (average from 21 member votes)

When my blog falls silent for weeks or months at a time it’s usually because my next whisky to write about doesn’t inspire me. Stratheden is my fifth example from The Lost Distillery Company (TLDC). I’m beginning to wish I’d put all 6 miniatures into one blog rather than writing about them individually. But each whisky has its own merits, and they’re meant to represent flavour profiles from long-dead distilleries by mixing malts that exist today. It’s a hard task to do and TLCD should be applauded for their efforts. I, on the other hand, deserve a slap for my procrastination.

Stratheden distillery was founded in 1829 in the centre of Auchtermuchty, a wee village in Fife in the lowlands of Scotland (current population is just over 2,000). If you ask any Scot what their 3 favourite places in Scotland are to pronounce, almost all will include Auchtermuchty. It’s just a great word to say. Go on, say it! When you reach a ‘ch’ you have to sound like you’re clearing your throat. If you say it 5 times you need to gargle with a dram to recover. Sadly the distillery closed in 1926 when Prohibition in the US removing the distillery’s biggest market but it had been struggling for quite a number of years before that. A great lost to Auchtermuchty, as well as throat lozenge salesmen.

This Stratheden blended malt gets two 5 star reviews on Amazon, which isn’t a great deal of interest but it’s better than none at all. Reaching nearly 80/100 on Whiskybase from 21 votes is a reasonable score. Comments online include “very pleasant whisky with a long taste in the mouth and a super pleasant sensation of light smoke”, “not a complex whisky, but it has an interesting taste at a reasonable price” and “an easy drinkable fresh whisky”.

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Old oak furniture, juicy orange and a touch of vibrant pineapple.

Palate: Rounded oak once again, with caramel and salted popcorn in support.

Finish: Slightly smokey, though fruit notes still sit at the core.

Here’s Whisky Vault with their review of the Stratheden (YouTube, Oct 2018):

Towiemore ‘Classic Selection’ (43%)

Bought: Amazon, 31st July 2020

Ratings:

79.95/100 – Whiskybase (average from 42 member votes)

Another example from The Lost Distillery Company (TLDC), Towiemore was a Speyside distillery that ran from 1897 to 1931. It didn’t have a very auspicious start, coincided with the Pattinson’s whisky crash of 1898, which saw the end of the Victorian whisky boom. Nevertheless Towiemore built up a good reputation both for blending and as a pure malt. By 1920 the company sponsored the first single-engine aircraft to fly between England and Australia, taking 206 days, must like the old Virgin train journey between London and Manchester. Sadly the distillery was put out of business in 1931 when its water source from the Towie Burn was contaminated by a nearby lime factory.

Built in the parish of Botriphnie, 7 miles from Dufftown, there’s no shortage of modern distilleries nearby to recreate a Towiemore dram. Although technically Speyside, Towiemore was on the road to Keith and was said to have a light and sweet Highland style. Perhaps Strathisla is a key part of the mix, with Glenfiddich, Kininvie and Balvenie being the closest Speyside distilleries to the south-west. But what malts have been vatted together to produce the modern Towiemore, TLDC are keeping a secret.

Comments online include “not bad, but not outstanding, though quite unique.”, “an interesting concept, but at the end of it all there has to be a good product; and this is a delightful” and “what a gem of a whisky, Speyside style, with a light touch of smoke but really smooth in the mouth”.

Scoring nearly 80/100 on Whiskybase, Towiemore isn’t the best performing whisky by TLDC but it’s certainly an interesting one to try and clearly has its fans.

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Juicy white peach and raspberries, with underlying hints of oily walnut.

Palate: Caramelised banana and apple, with a layer of salted butter.

Finish: Christmas spices and toasted almonds.

Here’s The Whisky Family with their thoughts about the Towiemore on YouTube (March 2018):

Gerston ‘Classic Selection’ (43%)


Bought: Amazon, 31st July 2020

Ratings:

81.22/100 – Whiskybase (average from 25 member votes)

Gerston distillery, of which there were two incarnations, was founded in 1796 by Francis Swanson on his farm near the Thurso river at Halkirk. In modern terms it’s not far from Old Pulteney distillery in Wick but not as far north as Wolfburn distillery on the north coast of Scotland. Halkirk is only 14 miles south of Wolf Burn. In 1825 Francis handed the business over to his son James who ran it until 1872 when it was sold. By 1875 Gerston distillery was closed and eventually demolished in 1882. 76 years as a successful family run business then 10 years to be destroyed. It goes to show how much pride and care people take when it’s something they or their family started. This reminds me, I must buy some more Glenfarclas!

There was a second Gerston distillery, 1886 to 1914 but ‘The Lost Distillery Company’ (TLDC) focus their attention on the original incarnation with this intriguing vatted malt, which blends together modern whisky in an attempt to recreate the Gerston single malt experience. The distillery used local peat, which had quite a briny, salty edge to it as a consequence of repeated glacial cover during the Ice Age. TLDC mention smoke and salt in their tasting notes but not peat (nor does any other review I can find) so it must be quite subtle (more sweet peat than medicinal). It sounds like Old Pulteney could be a significant contributor to the mix with the salt and brine.

Scoring 81.22/100 on Whiskybase is a reasonable score for the Gerston. In fact it’s almost identical to the 81.23/100 score for the standard Old Pulteney 12yo, so you know what to expect. Comments online include “love the bottle, light colour but packs a punch, sweet nose then a salty taste of the sea” and “pleased with this whisky, sweet and salty. Interesting story behind this product, keen to try more in the range.”

It is said that at its peak Gerston whisky was purchased by Lord Thurso of Thurso Castle and introduced to prominent politicians such as Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel. Other notable consumers included the Duke of Wellington and the Archbishop of York, so you’re in interesting company when you take a sip. Aaaaah, to have a time machine!

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: New leather, dried barley, charred oak and apple turnover.

Palate: Peanut brittle, olive oil, mint leaf and more pastry notes.

Finish: A subtly salty kick on the finish.

Here’s ‘Whisky Wednesday’ with his thoughts about the Gerston miniature on YouTube (July 2017):

Highland Park ‘Saltire’ 13-year-old 2nd Edition

Bought: Highland Park Shop, 11th November 2019

Ratings:

86.87/100 – Whiskybase (average from 32 member votes)

Here we have the second release of the Highland Park ‘Saltire’, distilled in 2006 and bottled in 2019. Unlike the first release (distilled 2004, bottled 2018), which was limited to 734 bottles, the second release appears to be going on forever. At the time of writing ‘The Whisky Barrel’ shop are selling a bottle of the ‘Saltire’ 2nd edition for £300 but you can still buy it direct from Highland Park for £55. Auction prices are typically between £40-£50 with the 1st edition getting around the £300 mark.

Both releases of the ‘Saltire’ are 43% but it’s not just the limited number of bottles that make the first edition more expensive. It’s hand-signed by retired Formula 1 racing driver David Coulthard MBE, who Highland Park collaborated with to create the releases. For every bottle sold a percentage of the sale goes to the communities and charities in Dumfries and Galloway where David grew up. The ‘Saltire’ itself references the Scottish flag David had on his racing helmet during his F1 career. It’s a shame it’s not better used in the packaging design, which is rather drab and uninteresting. Speaking of which, the 1st edition has a tube but the 2nd edition is nude, no box, nothing. You can’t expect an extra bit of cardboard for £55, you greedy scamp!

Another thing that seems to be unique about the ‘Saltire’ is that it appears to be the only 13-year-old distillery release that isn’t cask strength. But that rather boring fact is probably only interesting to Highland Park collectors, if even them! The 43% might be a bit wimpy but that’s not stopped 32 voters on Whiskybase giving the 2nd edition a very respectable score of 86.87/100. I certainly supported David Coulthard when he was racing and I enjoy Highland Park whiskies, so getting a bottle of ‘Saltire’ is a win-win for me.

Official tasting notes say to expect caramelised mango, sun-ripened lemons, root ginger, silky vanilla, spicy cinnamon and aromatic smoky peat.

Here’s ‘Whisky Shared’ with his thoughts about the HP Saltire on YouTube (Sept 2020). Please note this is an age-restricted video so you may have to be logged into YouTube to view it:

 

Lossit ‘Classic Selection’ (43%)

Bought: Amazon, 31st July 2020

Ratings:
80.57/100 – Whiskybase (average from 76 member votes)

Given the popularity of Islay whisky it’s not surprising that ‘The Lost Whisky Company’ (TLWC) wanted to add a closed distillery from the island to their range. Lossit was a farm distillery on Islay that operated between 1817 and 1867. There’s an area called Lossit on the west side of the island to this day, and a Lossit Point, Lossit Bay, Lossit Burn….you get the picture. There’s still a lotta Lossit! Where the farm distillery used to be is now part of the Dunlossit estate, with the nearest active distillery being Caol Ila.

As a farm, Lossit was able to use its own barley for the creation of whisky, which was very useful on an island in the first half of the 19th century. The distillery is described as being a founding father of Islay’s legal whisky trade that saw the number of distilleries on the island increase from 6 to 12 (similar number to today) between 1824 and 1830. By 1831 Lossit was the most productive of Islay’s distilleries (over 78,000 litres that year) beating such rivals as Bowmore and Lagavulin. Wimps!

You have to think that the Lossit blended malt created by TLWC takes most, if not all its whisky from Islay distilleries. The official summary of the dram says “the freshness of a Kilchoman Machir Bay and the austere poise of an old Glendullan (with smoke added)”, which sounds quite intriguing. Comments about the Lossit whisky online include “a sweet blend, velvety, but basic too”, “very approachable as it’s peated but also light and sweet with almond and vanilla undertones” and “it was delightfully peaty along with some of that thick sweetness characteristic of a good, young Islay malt”

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Damp oak, earthy peat and a hearty helping of milk chocolate.

Palate: Cigar box, buttered crumpets, sea salt light hints of basil.

Finish: Remains packed with vanilla and peat.

Here’s Whisky Wednesday with their thoughts about the Lossit on YouTube (July 2017):

Dalaruan ‘Classic Selection’ (43%)

Bought: Amazon, 31st July 2020

Ratings:
83.83/100 – Whiskybase (average from 26 member votes)

I first came across ‘The Lost Distillery Company’ (TLDC) in 2014 not long after the company had been founded the previous year. This was before the evils of Brexit when the British pound was strong against the Euro and peaked in 2015 at over 1.40€ to £1 before the moronic referendum. 70cl bottles by TLDC could be bought from Holland for the equivalent of £25 when they were about £35 in the UK. I was tempted but resisted. I wasn’t sure how serious to take vatted malts created to taste like whisky from bygone distilleries. Whose to say how accurate they are. It sounded more like a light-hearted novelty but a tempting one nonetheless.

When in doubt try a sample, dram, or a miniature if you can find one. You can always commit to a full bottle thereafter if the whisky meets with your approval. TLDC have their heads screwed on because they’ve had miniatures of their whisky available for quite a while. For £35.99 from Amazon (£6 each per 5cl) I bought the ‘Discovery Selection’, which included this Dalaruan, along with Lossit, Gerston, Towiemore, Stratheden and Auchnagie.

Dalaruan is an interesting one for fans of Glen Scotia, Kilkerran and Springbank because it was a Campbeltown distillery. You have to think a recreation of Dalaruan will contain a mix of the existing Campbeltown output, much like The Gauldrons by Douglas Laing that I recently acquired (a topic for a future post). TLDC discuss the history of Dalaruan here and mention on the bottle that it ran from 1825 to 1925 but I have other sources that say 1824 to 1922. Not that it makes much odds. It’s not coming back, especially as there’s a housing estate built where the distillery used to be. As a fan of the Campbeltown profile I’ll be interested to see what TLDC have recreated for Dalaruan after nearly 100 years since its closure. I may have to buy a 70cl bottle!

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Earthy/herbaceous peat smoke, paired with juicy orchard fruit.

Palate: The smoke notes become more coastal on the palate. Remains filled with apple and apricot in the background.

Finish: Herbaceous once again, with a touch of sea breeze.