Bought: Drink Supermarket, 12th June 2017
97.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
78.24/100 – Whiskybase (average from 133 member votes)
Jim Murray, author of the Whisky Bible, gave his 2016 ‘World Whisky of the Year’ award to the Crown Royal ‘Northern Harvest Rye’ (NHR) but specifically to bottle code L5083 N3. My bottle is code L5098 N5, whatever that means. The 5098 sounds quite close to the 5083 Jim Murray had but the N3 and N5 might refer to completely separate stills. Perhaps still number N5 is in a different building where it only has its pipes cleaned every 6 years and shares the premises with a donkey sanctuary. Don’t ask me, I just drink this shit!
After the award Crown Royal didn’t exactly rush to put their prices up in Canada and the US, although I believe it sold out everywhere for a while. Crown Royal knew the NHR was a $22 blend, and so did their market, which wouldn’t tolerate the stuff if it doubled in price. But in the UK we got massively stung and even 20+ months later it’s hard to find the NHR for less than £100 in whisky shops. Thankfully Drink Supermarket had it for £55, which convinced me it was time to grab a bottle, even though I know it’s unlikely to blow my mind (and it should only be £20!). I haven’t tried Canadian rye so I’m killing two birds with one stone with the NHR when I taste it AND get to denounce Jim Murray as a crackpot.
As I researched this blog post I watched the Whisky Vault’s review of the NHR on YouTube. In it they mention Mark Bylok’s blog (here) where he discusses the big variation across the different releases of NHR. He reviews 4 separate batches and gives them scores of 93/100, 88/100, 82/100 and 78/100. So Jim Murray’s bottle could have been 97.5/100 but my L5098 N5 may only be 60/100, such is the inconsistency across the NHR range. Thankfully most whisky producers try harder than Crown Royal to keep a standard flavour across their batches otherwise reading reviews would be pointless. But in the case of NHR, unless you have the same batch number of the bottle being reviewed, take everything that’s said with a pinch of salt.
Here are the Scotch Test Dummies on YouTube with their thoughts about the Crown Royal NHR, which they reviewed before Jim Murray’s award. Since then a lot of reviews have been tainted by an anti-Murray bias so it’s nice to see an honest summary and an above average rating of 88/100 (Aug 2015). I’m not sure what batch it is though:
Bought: Whisky Exchange, 28th September 2016
86/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
82/100 – Whisky Whistle (video review below)
78.06/100 – Whiskybase (average from 20 member votes)
Before Crown Royal shot to fame when Jim Murray awarded the ‘Northern Harvest Rye’ edition his Whisky of the Year 2016 I was mainly interested in the bottle shape. It’s curvy, chunky and would look good on the sideboard. Whether the Harvest Rye deserved 97.5/100 is debatable but the ‘Black’ scores a more modest 86/100, which classifies it as “very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying”. Jim Murray says “not for the squeamish: a Canadian that goes for it with bold strokes from the off which makes it a whisky worth discovering. The finish needs a rethink, though.”
78.06/100 on Whiskybase might not sound all that great but the ‘Northern Harvest Rye’ has a very similar score with 78.54/100 from 98 votes. The standard ‘Fine De Luxe’ can only muster 72.5/100 from 81 votes so I’m confident that the Black is a step up from that.
Here’s Whisky Whistle with his review on You Tube (December 2015):
Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 10th May 2016
93/100 – Whisky Bible 2016
85.85/100 – Whiskybase (average from 199 member votes)
92/100 – Ralfy (of www.ralfy.com)
It’s 18 month since I blogged about getting a miniature of this famous Longmorn 15yo but it was only a matter of time before I got the full 70cl. This classic came and went before I started collecting whisky but now the subsequent 16yo has gone only to be replaced by the all-too-predictable NAS (non-aged statement) the Distiller’s Choice. I can understand why big names like Macallan and Glenlivet have changed to NAS because of the demand on their older stock but Longmorn? Really? Perhaps it’s because Chivas Regal need more and more mature Longmorn to go into their blend. Or maybe I don’t fully understand the reasons behind changing to NAS. Will I ever?
I mentioned Ralfy’s review in my previous blog about the 5cl but I’ll embed it this time so it’s easier to view. He talks about it as a drinker’s dram rather than for a collector and it seems that prices at auction back this up. Although one member of Whiskybase says the Longmorn 15yo cost just over £20 about 7-8 years ago it can be acquired for £45-£50 at auction now, which is a fairly average price for a new 15yo single malt. It may be a slow-burner as an investment but to Ralfy and many others, this is a dram to be drunk.
Nearly 86/100 on Whiskybase is an excellent score where reviewers leave comments of “a well balanced and very fruity dram”, “very nice indeed” and “relentlessly charming and sadly missed”. Ralfy’s 92/100 is one of his highest ever scores and 93/100 in the Whisky Bible classifies it as “brilliant”. The author, Jim Murray, says of the taste “your mouth aches from the enormity of the complexity, whilst your tongue wipes grooves into the roof of your mouth. Just about flawless bitter-sweet balance, the intensity of the malt is enormous yet – even after 15 years – it maintains a cut-grass Speyside character.”
Here’s Ralfy’s review on You Tube from November 2013:
Bought: Best of Whisky, Holland, 2nd February 2015
86.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2014
74/100 – Whiskybase (average from 2 member votes)
I had to go back to the Whisky Bible 2014 for a review as this bottle of Ancient Age is missing in the 2015 edition. It looks like this 45% bourbon has been replaced by a 40% version which Jim Murray, the bible author, only scores 74.5/100 with the comment “basic: no frills and certainly no thrills”. I’m glad I have the older, better version! Although, in the Whisky Bible 2015 there are 3 versions of ‘Ancient Age’ all of which score over 90/100! Clearly Mr Murray likes where the distillery is going with its brewing.
My bottle of Ancient Age gets the bible remark of “a quite beautiful tapestry of lively spice and rich, sweetened tannins arrive from the first moment…and last most of the course. More than just a passing nod to this distillery’s glory.” And 86.5/100 classifies this bourbon as “very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying”.
Bought: Amazon, 5th December 2014
83.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2013
86/100 – Ralfy – His YouTube review here (April 2009)
The very first whisky book I got that started my collecting crazy was Ian Buxton’s ‘101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die’. My initial idea was to acquire all 101 until I realised that some were impossible to purchase in the UK. Clearly the author never meant for anyone to take his title seriously. And with another book mentioning 1001 whiskies, my liver is thankful I failed before adding a further 900!
Now, where was I?! Ah yes, the Yoichi 10yo is the last whisky mentioned in the 101 book. I might not have all of them but I feel a sense of completion by having the very last one. The history of the distillery is worth a read but Ian Buxton finishes with his tasting notes, which are:
Nose: Bold and direct, with peat evident. Light citrus notes.
Taste: Minty chocolate and orange oil. Creamy mouth feel and delicate peat smoke.
Finish: Sweetness, peat and some antiseptic notes in alternate waves.
I will look out for these when I try it.
I had to go back to the Whisky Bible 2013 to find the Yoichi 10yo, so it is probably a different batch to the version I have. Jim Murray expresses shock that the release he tastes isn’t as good as he’s tried in the past and concludes with “Pleasant. Drinkable. But dull.” In the 2009 edition of the Bible there were numerous batches of the 10yo listed, with the most recent scoring 89/100. I’m curious to see where my bottle falls in the varying scale of Yoichi, and is its demise from the Bible a sign that it’s been discontinued?! Surely not another distillery moving to non-age statement releases?!
Bought – ASDA, 24th October 2014
92.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
81.79/100 – Whiskybase (average from 84 member votes)
89/100 – Ralfy, Buffalo Trace Review, YouTube (October 2010)
The Whisky Bible 2015 doesn’t have much to say about this standard version of Buffalo Trace, which is hardly surprising given the 6 pages dedicated to all the other distillery releases. For the author, Jim Murray, to try so many variations of Buffalo Trace, he obviously thinks this bourbon is a worthwhile sipper. 92.5/100 classifies this whiskey as “brilliant!” with a comment of “easily one of the lightest BTs I have tasted in a very long while”.
Nearly 82/100 on Whiskybase is an excellent mark when you consider this bourbon can be found in the UK for less than £20 (even cheaper elsewhere in Europe). Reviews include comments of “standard, but a quality bourbon. Nose itself deserves very high marks”, “overall very smooth. The hits of vanilla and caramel go together with the nuttiness of the finish” and “highly recommend for most bourbon cocktails. Very versatile.”
If you’re a Jack Daniels drinker that wants to try something different, or never tried bourbon before, then Buffalo Trace is certainly worth getting hold of.
Bought: Whisky Auction, 24th October 2014
93/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
85.58 – Whiskybase (average from 122 member votes)
92/100 – Ralfy – His review on YouTube (November 2013)
I’ve been wanting a bottle of the classic Longmorn 15yo since I started my whisky collection in July 2013. Unfortunately it had been discontinued and replaced with a 16yo. Word on the whisky walkway revealed that the 16yo was no patch on the delicious 15yo, which Jim Murray describes in his Whisky Bible as “an all-time Speyside great!”
It’s still possible to get the Longmorn 15yo 70cl at auction for £60-£70 but I was happy to get a miniature for £3 to give me a taste of this former champion. The Whisky Bible’s score of 93/100 classifies this malt as “Brilliant” with the new 16yo scoring 84.5/100, which is “good whisky worth trying”. The Whiskybase score of 85.58 is very high, especially from 122 votes but the 16yo isn’t far behind with 83.73/100 from 156 votes. Not that it’s fair to compare the two since they’re completely different whiskies. The Longmorn 16yo has fans but at nearly £50 per bottle, you’d want to know it was similar or better than what it replaced. Apparently new releases of the 16yo are improving but, if you get a bottle of the old 15, savour and enjoy!
Bought – Morrisons, 22nd October 2014
89/100 – Whisky Bible 2014
79.31 – Whiskybase (average from 95 member votes)
Having not tried Bulleit before, Morrisons’s tempting offer of £22 suckered me in. As low as that might seem, the same bottle is selling in Holland for €21.60 (£17), so it’s hardly the bargain of the year. Nevertheless it’s a new bourbon to my growing American collection.
There was a 40% version of the ‘Frontier Whiskey’ but this is the stronger 45%. Not that ‘stronger’ always means better. The Whiskybase members have the 40% version scoring 80.63/100 and my 45% bottle languishing behind with less than 79.5/100. But hardly much of a difference to notice. Comments include “great nose, and ok mouth and a poor finish” and “pleasant enough dram – quite a short, stocky after taste leaving the tongue with a pleasant coating”.
The Whisky Bible 2014 has less to say about this whiskey than the 2013 edition, then in 2015 the whiskey has vanished, suggesting it’s been discontinued. I’ll be surprised if it has! Jim Murray summaries his review in the Bible with “a very easy going bourbon which makes the most of any rye in the recipe. Dangerously drinkable.”
Here are the Scotch Test Dummies with their YouTube review (Dec 2015) where they rather enjoy the Bulleit ‘Frontier Whisky’ (86/100):
Bought – ASDA, 15th October 2014
88/100 – The Whisky Bitch – YouTube (January 2012)
One annoying thing about buying a whisky miniature is, you often don’t get all the information found on a bigger bottle. Take for example this ‘Single Barrel’ by Jack Daniels. There are 5 different versions reviewed in the Whisky Bible 2014, each with different cask numbers. This information would be written on a 70cl bottle but it’s missing on a 5cl. Hardly surprising given the shortage of space. And it’s my fault for being such a cheapskate and not spending £45 on a bigger bottle!
The good news is, of the 5 versions of the Single Barrel in the Whisky Bible, the lowest scores 86/100 and the highest 93.5/100. In other words, according to the author, there’s no such thing as a bad version of this bourbon. This is backed-up by the different versions of the Single Barrel reviewed on Whiskybase, all with scores in the 80s. Whichever barrel my miniature came from, it should be good.
I first discovered the Single Barrel when hunting for a present for a Jack Daniel’s No.7 fan. And this is exactly the sort of market the Single Barrel is designed for. So, if you have a friend or relative that loves Jack Daniel’s No.7, but you wish to get them something different (and better) for Christmas, then the Single Barrel is the bottle of choice. And, if you’re lucky, they’ll share it with you! 🙂
Bought – Whisky Broker, 29th November 2013
85/100 – Whiskybase (from one member vote)
Another bottle from the small, independent bottler The Whisky Broker. Details about this whisky from their website:
“This Speyside whisky, distilled on 17th December 1991 at Auchroisk Distillery, has been matured in oak casks for over 21 years.. On the 3rd June 2013, refill bourbon barrel numbers 102220 and 102221, were transferred into a second fill sherry hogshead (formerly containing Tomatin, sold on this website). The whisky was further matured until 28th October, when it was bottled at cask strength, aged 21 years.
This whisky has been lightly filtered to remove large particles of wood sediment from the cask, but may still contain small traces, which are visible only when bottle is left standing for a period of time.
Each bottle is individually numbered (mine is No.14 of 171).
Refill Bourbon barrels 102220 & 102221
Distilled 17th December 1991
Bottled 28th October 2013
The cask yielded 171 bottles at a cask strength of 45.0% vol.”