Tag Archives: 43%

Glendronach 12-year-old ‘Original’

Bought: Auriol Wines, 1st September 2017

Ratings:
83.79/100 – Whiskybase (average from 906 member votes)
87/100 – Ralfy (of www.ralfy.com)
4/5 – Master of Malt (from 54 reviews)

The fact that the Glendronach 12yo has over 900 votes on Whiskybase is testament to how loved this dram is by whisky enthusiasts. Comments include “definitely worth recommending for those looking for a good introduction into the intense flavors of red fruits” and “this malt is a keeper of consistently high quality”. It may only be 12 years old and 43% but the maturation in both Pedro Ximénez & Oloroso casks bestows ‘sherry bomb’ qualities, all for a very reasonable price.

Scoring 4/5 on Master of Malt is very good and comments from 2017 include, “one of the best non cask-strength sherry casks I’ve ever had”, “smoother than Macallan 12 but with similar notes” and “good dram for the uninitiated to try”.

My exact bottle with code ‘LK11116’ isn’t on Whiskybase yet but I’ll add the link when it appears. The ‘LK’ part suggests it was bottled in 2016, which means it was distilled after Glendronach reopened in 2001. For those of you with Jim Murray’s ‘Whisky Bible 2018’ his review of the Glendronach 12yo ‘Original’ was added in 2011 and refers to a bottle distilled before Glendronach closed in 1995. Hence why I haven’t included his score. If he updates his review I’ll be sure to come back and add his comments.

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Rich cereals, struck match, raisin, cinnamon, caramelised sugar. Opens with some sweeter PX and lots of delicious raw ginger before becoming creamier with hazelnuts.
Palate: Fruits, peels, buttery. Pain au chocolat, a little marmalade on toast before becoming firmer and nuttier with spiced raisins.
Finish: Smoky toffee and nut brittle.

Here’s Ralfy on YouTube with his review of the Glendronach 12yo (June 2016):

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BenRiach 10-year-old

Bought: Auriol Wines, 11th August 2017

Ratings:
87.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
81.75/100 – Whiskybase (average from 129 member votes)
88/100 – Ralfy (of www.ralfy.com)

When my interest in whisky was rekindled in 2013 it came with an inherited love of Highland Park, Scapa, Talisker, Macallan and Linkwood. These were whiskies my uncles introduced me to, which I like but I felt it was important to try new things and discovered what truly tickles my palate. In the last 4 years I’ve tasted many great whiskies and BenRiach is right up there with them. I’d still say that Scapa and Talisker are in my top 5 but Springbank, Bunnahabhain and the outstanding Aberlour A’bunadh are fighting Highland Park, Macallan and Linkwood hard. Glendronach and BenRiach are knocking at the door of my affections, and they’re always a pleasure to sip.

Ralfy recently reviewed the BenRiach 10yo and gave it a fantastic 88/100. This is very similar to Jim Murray’s score of 87.5/100 in his Whisky Bible, which classifies this single malt as ‘very good to excellent whisky, definitely worth buying’. Jim Murray says, “a much fatter spirit than from any time when I worked those stills. The dry nose never quite decided where it is going. But there’s no doubting the creamy yet juicy credentials on the palate. Malty, with graceful fruit sugars chipping in delightfully.”

Scoring nearly 82/100 on Whiskybase is a very good score but almost what you’d expect for a 10-year-old. If I have one criticism about using a score from Whiskybase it’s that a lot of voters simply mark a whisky based on what would be expected for its age. This means that scores from experts like Ralfy and Mr Murray would get dragged down to something typical rather than exceptional.

Comments on ‘Master of Malt’ include “just classic Speyside, raisins, apples, cinnamon, oak, even a hint of peaches all work in harmony”, “really decent drop for the price”, “enjoyed this well enough, especially at 43% and non-chillfiltered” and “it’s a touch more sprightly than the 12yo but it’s somehow richer at the same time. Time and time again this distillery keeps coming up trumps.” I couldn’t agree more!

Here’s Ralfy on YouTube with his review of the BenRiach 10yo (July 2017):

Glenlochy 1980 25-year-old (Signatory)

Bought: Online Auction, 10th August 2017

Ratings:
89.38/100 – Whiskybase (average from 18 member votes)

Glenlochy distillery, Inverlochy, Fort William, began production in 1901 and closed completely in 1983. During those 82 years the distillery had been closed several times meaning it had only been active for about 60 years. Unfortunately the closure in 1983 was the end of the distillery and the buildings were eventually converted into a guesthouse and flats. When active all the Glenlochy spirit went into blends, which were Johnnie Walker, Dewar’s, Haig, White Horse and Queen Ann. It’s only after the distillery closed in 1983 and casks were sold off that they start to be bottled as single malt. The Scotch Malt Whisky Society released the earliest bottling mentioned on Whiskybase in 1988.

Scoring almost 90/100 from 18 votes on Whiskybase is a fantastic mark. It’s nice to know when you’re spending a small fortune on a single malt that it’s the equal to a classic Macallan or illustrious Ardbeg. But to be fair to the Glenlochy, the distillery may have closed 34 years ago but this amazing bottle cost less at auction than a new Macallan 18yo would today. Only 229 bottles were produced of this rare Glenlochy and I have bottle number 104. Tasting notes provided on Whiskybase from a member scoring this Glenlochy 91/100 with the comment, “unique and characterful” are:

Nose: Sweet, mineral, fresh, herbs, grassy, caramel
Taste: Fruity (apples, oranges, pears, peaches), fresh, herbs, dry, caramel, honey
Finish: Long, sweet, spicy, herbs, caramel, nutty

John “Whiskyman” Loftus in his video below is drinking a Glenlochy, which was also distilled in 1980 but 24-years-old rather than 25. Bottled by Duncan Taylor at a cask strength of 61.2% it scores 89.8/100 on Whiskybase from 22 votes. This is a very similar score to my Glenlochy 25yo by Signatory so clearly they’re both good examples from the distillery. John also gives us a bit of history about the distillery.

Linkwood 1995 21-year-old (Signatory)

Bought: Master of Malt, 2nd August 2017

Ratings:
5/5 – Amazon (from one review)
84.67/100 – Whiskybase (average from 3 member votes)

This is my 17th example from the Linkwood distillery but my first to be bottled by Signatory. Released in 2017 it’s a combination of two casks numbered 5943 and 5944. Although it’s not stated, the colour suggests ex-bourbon casks and probably refill rather than first-fill. Nearly 85/100 on Whiskybase is an excellent score. There are two almost identical 21yo releases by Signatory listed on Whiskybase, one from 2017 (casks 5940 & 5941) and another from 2016 (casks 5938 & 5939). They score 85/100 (1 vote) and 84.25/100 (6 votes) respectively, which are very good marks.

Ralfy on YouTube recently reviewed his first ever Linkwood in 8 years and 680 videos. He said that some people think that Linkwood is more for blends but he disagrees with that and so do I. Ralfy hits the nail on the head when he says that the fans of Linkwood are happy that the owners, Diageo, haven’t presented it as part of their distillery selection. It’s kept Linkwood’s profile low, which has allowed more independent bottlers to buy casks and kept prices down. This 21yo cost me £46, which is a fantastic price for the age. Imagine what it would be for a 21-year-old Lagavulin or Talisker? I never thought I’d see myself say this but – thank you Diageo!

Ratings online for my new Linkwood are few and far between but one person on Amazon gives it 5/5 stars and comments, “it is one to enjoy. I like it very much and think the money makes it a great deal!”

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Black tea and digestive biscuits. Walnuts and dates with a touch of dried hay.
Palate: Sugared peels, honey and a hearty kick of nutmeg.
Finish: Lingering dried flower fragrance.

Glenfiddich ‘IPA’

Bought: Tesco, 2nd August 2017

Ratings:
86/100 – Whisky Bible 2018
81.3/100 – Whiskybase (average from 197 member votes)

As it says on the back of the tube “a Glenfiddich whisky finished in IPA craft beer casks, something never done in the industry before”. I don’t see many other distilleries falling over themselves to do it again. But credit to Glenfiddich for trying something different, especially as experimentation is not something generally associated with the distillery. One common remark about the new ‘IPA’ is that the actual ale element is hard to detect on the pallet. This is not surprising given the whisky is only ‘finished’ in it rather than matured from birth to bottle. Unlike using sherry or wine maturation, ale has a similar creation process to the early stages of whisky, so it’s going to be difficult for it to stand out.

I’ve been interested in pairing beer with whisky (separate glasses rather than mixing) for several years and this is where the Glenfiddich IPA scores extra points from me. I’ve seen this combination referred to as a ‘half and half’ online but I remember it as a ‘pint and a nip’ when I was a lad. Old chaps in workingman’s pubs would choose a blend rather than a single malt to go with a beer but these days the chaser can be whatever our wallets can afford. Ralfy (of www.ralfy.com) discusses pairing beer with whisky here on YouTube. The blog ‘In Search Of the Perfect Chaser’ also gives some combination examples.

Scoring over 81/100 on Whiskybase is a very good mark especially when you consider that the standard 12yo only scores 76/100 from 874 votes. The IPA scores exactly the same as the standard Glenfiddich 15yo, which gets 81.3/100 from 463 votes. Not bad for an experimental non-age statement. Comments online for the IPA include “lovely IPA odour with generous hints of toffee”, “fresh, fruity and full of citrus with a nice small touch of hops right at the end” and “probably won’t buy again due to the price but it was certainly worth trying once”. I agree with the last remark because it was on my wishlist for a very long time before I parted with £45 to get it.

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: An elegant harmony of fresh green apple, William’s pear and spring blossom. Complimented with Aromatic hops and fresh herbs.
Palate: Vibrant with a zesty citrus note followed by creamy vanilla and a hint of fresh hops.
Finish: Enduring sweetness with an echo of green hops.

Here’s Vin PF of ‘No Nonsense Whisky’ with his thoughts about the IPA on YouTube (August 2017):

The Chita, Japanese single grain

Bought: World of Whisky (Heathrow), 27th June 2017

Ratings:
79/100 – Whiskybase (average from 16 member votes)
3.6/5 – Distiller.com (average from 53 votes)

When it comes to understanding Japanese whisky distilleries and their brands I’m forever getting my Nikkas in a twist! So when I spotted this new Chita single grain I decided it was time to get my knowledge up to speed. Is ‘Chita’ a distillery or just a brand name? Well it’s a distillery founded in 1972 and owned by Suntory. As such its principal use is in Suntory blends, e.g., the Hibiki. Suntory own the Yamazaki and Hakushu distilleries, which provide the single malts that blend with the Chita grain to create such products as the Hibiki ‘Harmony’.

My curiosity didn’t end there and I wondered if there were any other grain distilleries in Japan. Miyagikyo distillery, owned by Nikka, have Coffey stills used for grain distillation for Nikka malts, and the Fuji Gotemba distillery also produce grain whisky. Of the 9 distilleries in Japan, Chita appears to be the only one that’s sole purpose is to produce single grain. During my search I found two other single grain distilleries, which have sadly now closed, the Nishinomiya Distillery (closed in 1999, owned by Nikka) and Kawasaki Distillery (ceased whisky production c.2006).

The new Chita single grain whisky, 43%, has been matured in a combination of sherry, bourbon and wine casks. Reviews on Whiskybase and Distiller.com are above average with comments of “for a grain whisky, it has substantial complexity”, “a grain whisky that in my view progresses nicely from nose to finish”, “seems like a quality pour” and “if you like the sweetness and smoothness of Hibiki, this is your whisky”.

I suspect that Jim Murray, author of the ‘Whisky Bible’, reviewed this single grain for his 2016 edition when it was only available in Japan. His description and 43% volume certainly match the bottle now available in the UK. He scores it 92.5/100, which classifies it as “brilliant”.

Tasting notes from ‘Master of Malt’:

Nose: Honeydew melon, citrus and honey’d cereal.
Palate: Vanilla sponge cake and more honey. A touch of orchard blossom.
Finish: Medium length, rather zesty.

Bell’s Decanters: Prince William’s birth (1982) and Queen’s 60th birthday (1986)

Bought: Whisky Auction, 24th May 2017

Ratings:
Birth of Prince William, 1982:
82/100 – Whiskybase (from 1 member vote)

Queen Elizabeth’s 60th Birthday 1986:
Not rated yet but listed on Whiskybase here.

Bell’s Decanters have arrived in my collection and the men in white coats are coming to take me away. Did I just go insane? But no whisky collection would be complete without one, even if the majority of people consider them to be a bit naff. This is probably why they don’t make much money at auction. I paid £11 for Prince William and £18 for the Queen’s 60th. Empty bottles sell for a similar price on Ebay. It seems weird to say they’re “yesterday’s antique” when they only appeared in the 1980s. Perhaps one day their value will bounce back but there seems to be a lot of them about. It’s time to buy them all up and smash them! Let’s reduce the numbers. I’m sure the royal family won’t mind.

The Bell’s decanter first appeared in the 1920s when it was made from blue glass and designed in a more traditional decanter shape. By the late 1930s the bottle began to take on a more bell-like appearance and was made from porcelain. By the 1950s Royal Doulton, a famous British porcelain manufacturer began making the Bell’s decanter in the brown and gold design seen in Ralfy’s video below. By 1960 Stode had taken over production and then in 1966 it was Wade of Stoke. The Christmas decanters (often seen at auction) began life in 1988, which is also the year the decanters started containing ‘Bell’s Extra Special Blended Scotch Whisky’. Prior to that it wasn’t extra special at all!

Both my examples are royal commemorative decanters, which Bell’s first produced for the marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana in 1981. This was also the first time that white porcelain had been used and all the stock sold out in a matter of months. Given this fact it’s hardly surprising that Bell’s decided to continue the royal theme with a second decanter release in 1982 for the birthday of Prince William. A 3rd release in 1984 commemorated the birth of Prince Harry and a 4th and 5th release in 1986 marked Queen Elizabeth’s 60th birthday and the wedding of Prince Andrew and Miss Sarah Ferguson. Since then Bell’s have done several more regal releases.

I’ve heard Ralfy (of www.ralfy.com) describe himself as eccentric many times but he always comes across as being quite normal. Nevertheless he sometimes shows eccentricity with his purchases and he’s currently the only person I can find that’s done a review of a Bell’s decanter on YouTube. Here’s Ralfy’s decanter advice from October 2012:

Johnnie Walker Green Label (2015 -)

Bought: World Duty Free, 22nd March 2016

Ratings:
82.67/100 – Whiskybase (average from 8 member votes) for 100cl version
84/100 – Ralfy (of www.ralfy.com)

The Johnnie Walker ‘Green Label’ first appeared in 2005 but by 2013 it was discontinued everywhere other than in Asia. In 2015 it returned (hurray!) with a limited edition to mark its 10-year anniversary. But rather than disappear again it has remained due to popular demand, and by having enough stock of the whisky that go into this blended malt. As it states on the box this is a vatting together of Talisker, Linkwood, Cragganmore and Caol Ila, which all have to be a minimum of 15 years old. And with no grain whisky to interfere with the mix you get to play a guessing game as to which of these 4 classic single malts you can spot in the taste.

Even though it’s been 2 years since the Green Label (GL) returned I see that Jim Murray’s ‘Whisky Bible’ book still contains his review from many years ago (95/100) so I haven’t included that. 82.6/100 on Whiskybase is for my 100cl version but the 70cl scores higher with 83.4/100 from 76 votes (it’s the same stuff in both bottles). That’s a pretty good score. Comments include “no big challenge, no need of too much attention. Simple but decent”, “what it lacks is a bit of power, but then again, the balance between subtle smoke and sweetness is well-done” and “initial taste is very good and promising, but the body never delivers. And it’s just downhill from there, with an almost non existing finish.”

Although ratings appear to be good the new GL clearly has its faults, especially to those who tried the previous incarnation. When Ralfy did his first YouTube review of the GL in 2010 he scored it a fantastic 89/100 but in his re-review in 2016 (below) he’s downgraded it to 84/100. He felt it had been slightly sanitised since his last review. ‘Malts of Montreal’ says in his YouTube review of September 2015 (here) that the old version was more smoky and peaty whereas the new GL is sweeter. This could well upset the Coal Ila and Talisker fans and I certainly didn’t taste as much Talisker as I was hoping when I tried it. But overall, without comparison to the previous version, the Johnnie Walker Green Label is a good blended malt and an enjoyable experience on the palate.

Ralfy’s thoughts on YouTube (April 2016):

Blackpool Trams (Glen Albyn) 12-year-old ‘Dreadnought No.59’

Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 10th January 2017

Ratings:
None I can find.

It took me a while to find out that this miniature is by the independent bottler ‘Signatory’. They’re not mentioned on the label but sometimes the bottle appears at auction in a Signatory box (mine didn’t). It was bottled in 1993 as number 2 of a series of four tram-themed miniatures for ‘The Wee Dram’ in Blackpool. I’ve been unable to find out what ‘The Wee Dram’ was but I’m assuming it was a shop, or possibly a pub. It’s not the current ‘Wee Dram’ shop located 90 miles away in Bakewell because that only dates back to 1998.

Although I’ve been unable to find a review about this specific bottle I have a similar mini Glen Albyn 12yo by Signatory bottled in 1993. Unfortunately it doesn’t fair very well where a reviewer says “one of those notorious bad casks of Signatory in the past.” It makes you realise that some whisky has more value in a collection than to a whisky drinker.

The four trams in the series of miniatures were:

No.1 – Longmorn 12yo ‘Blackpool Trams standard car no.40’ (on Whiskybase here)
No.2 – Glen Albyn 12yo ‘Blackpool Trams Dreadnought No.59’
No.3 – Glenury Royal 14yo ‘Bolton Tram no.66’ (on Whiskybase here)
No.4 – Glenturret 14yo ‘Edinburgh Car’

Although this was billed at ‘series 1’ there wasn’t a second series. A list of Signatory miniatures including the Tram series can be found here.

Macallan 15-year-old ‘Fine Oak’

Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 9th January 2017

Ratings:
79.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
84.12/100 – Whiskybase (average from 173 member votes)

When Macallan discontinued the 10yo, 12yo and 15yo age statements in 2013 it was the 15yo that vanished from the UK shops first (High Street and online). As old stock of the 10yo and 12yo dribbled back onto the market the 15yo has remained elusive, although I believe it’s been easier to obtain in the US and Canada. Thankfully bottles regularly appear in online auctions, which is where I purchased mine. But was it worth it as a drinking dram?

Jim Murray, author of the whisky bible, wasn’t overly impressed with this final version of the 15yo ‘Fine Oak’. In 2009 he scored the previous version 94/100 but in 2012 he added my new bottling with a score of 79.5/100, which classifies it as “average and usually pleasant though sometimes flawed”. He says, “As the stock of the Fine Oak 12 rises, so its 15yo brother, once one of my Favourite drams, falls. Plenty to enjoy, but a few sulphur stains remove the gloss.”

Although 84/100 on Whiskybase is a good score it seems that a lot of Macallan fans are left feeling disappointed with the 15yo Fine Oak. Comments include “appealing, intensely sweet with good infusion of multiple oaks, complex and alluring”, “pretty drinkable and also enjoyable but not really great either”, “I expected much more for this Macallan, so felt disappointed” and “too much wood influence? Not a brilliant whisky for that price.”

As the 15yo Fine Oak drifts into whisky history you feel it will always have its fans, such is the appeal of The Macallan but perhaps this wasn’t their finest hour. It’s worth noting that none of the comments on Whiskybase mention ‘sulphur’ and the previous version of the Fine Oak scores less with 83.25/100 (from 58 votes), which Jim Murray gives 94/100. So make of that what you will.

Here’s ‘Whisky in the 6’ from Canada with their review of the 15yo Fine Oak on YouTube (January 2016):