Bought: Aberdeen Whisky Shop, 27th March 2017
80/100 – Whiskybase (from 1 member vote)
I do love the Aberdeen Whisky Shop. It’s a nice wee shop in my home town with great staff but….OMG, the website! It’s been sitting there with one page saying, “online shop coming soon” since about 2013. But this is a perfect example of how crazy the whisky market has gone in recent years. The statement “you must be online to make money” doesn’t apply to whisky. If you have a shop in the centre of Scotland’s third largest city you get enough walk-in trade to make ‘online’ become ‘on hold’ until market forces change. But it is frustrating if you find the Aberdeen Whisky Shop online and you don’t live anywhere near the city. At least they give regular updates about new stock via their Facebook page.
I hadn’t intended on buying this Glen Garioch but I was in the shop, it was there, and the rest is history. Generally I’m not a fan of immature whisky but after visiting Glen Garioch in 2016 I was keen to get more examples from the distillery. Distilled in 2011 and bottles in 2017 this 5-year-old was limited to 665 bottles. It has no added colour, and it’s non-chillfiltered but it’s a shame it isn’t cask strength. I suppose it’s a lot to ask for a mere £36 and 46% is a decent enough potency. Definitely one to be drunk as I don’t see this making much as an investment. The bottles aren’t individually numbered and it comes from 2 bourbon barrels rather than single cask. There’s no box and the label is very basic, which all says, “drink me” rather than “keep me for 10 years then sell me”. The independent bottlers Morrison & Mackay that make this whisky certainly know their marketing.
Tasting notes from Master of Malt:
Nose: Coconut, white oak spice, vanilla-forward barley.
Palate: Freshly cut grass, mint leaf and more sweet coconut notes.
Finish: Soft citrus and toasty oak.
Posted in Glen Garioch
Tagged 2011, 46%, 5yo, 70cl, Aberdeen Whisky Shop, Carn Mor, Glen Garioch, Highland, Highlands, Single Malt, Strictly Limited
Bought: CASC, Aberdeen, 24th March 2016
87.4/100 – Whiskybase (average from 7 member votes)
The independent bottler Signatory Vintage (SV) seem to be dominating the market with releases from the closed Imperial distillery. In 2016, according to the whiskies listed on Whiskybase, big independent bottlers Gordon & MacPhail released one bottle of Imperial, as did Duncan Taylor, whereas SV released 16. These were either single cask bottlings or a combination of two or three casks. So you have to think that SV bought up a lot of old stock from the Imperial distillery, which was demolished in 2013 but production had been mothballed since 1998.
Not only does SV have a lot of old casks from Imperial, they seem to be exclusively from whisky distilled in 1995. They’ve been releasing numerous bottles from this year since 2011, either at cask strength or 46%, and always un-chillfiltered and natural colour. Other independent bottlers have Imperial casks post-1995 showing that the distillery was still producing whisky as late as the fateful 1998. So it won’t be long before the youngest new bottlings will be a minimum of 20 years old. Collectable? Definitely but maybe not returning a profit for a while given the way SV are flooding the market. It’s almost as if they know there’s a whisky boom!
Having tasted this bottle of Imperial (I have a 19yo as my investment) I would agree with the excellent score on Whiskybase. This is a fantastic old Speysider. It’s a great shame it’s gone but SV are certainly making sure it’s not difficult to get hold of, for now. I suspect that prices may follow a similar rise to bottles of Littlemill (dismantled in 1997), which were quite reasonable a few years ago but are now rare and £200+.
Tasting notes left on Whiskybase:
Nose: Apple, almond, caramel, vanilla, honey, citrus and a whiff of smoke.
Taste: Honey, hazelnut, caramel, citrus, beeswax, white pepper and vanilla.
Finish: Caramel, hazelnut, honey, vanilla and chestnut.
Posted in Imperial (demolished 2013)
Tagged 18yo, 1995, 46%, 50284, 50285, 70cl, CASC Aberdeen, Imperial, Signatory, Single Malt, Speyside
Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 10th January 2017
88/100 – Whisky Bible 2006
81/100 – Whiskybase (from 1 member vote)
81/100 – Serge Valentin of Whiskyfun.com
You wouldn’t look at “Poit Dhubh” and think it was pronounced “Potch Ghoo” but it is. That’s the wonders of the Gaelic language for you. As it proudly states on the back of the 70cl bottle “malt whisky specially produced for the Gaelic speaking islands of the Scottish Hebrides and for connoisseurs throughout the world”. It goes on to say that Poit Dhubh (meaning ‘black pot’, a term for an illicit still) is not chill-filtered to ensure the “oils contribute to its rare and soft, distinguishing flavour”. Marketing also states that its entirely natural so no added caramel either. And at 46% this whisky is looking worthy of 88/100 in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2006, which classifies the Poit Dhubh as “very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying”.
The Poit Dhubh 12yo is still produced today by Pràban na Linne Limited (The Gaelic Whisky Company) along with an 8yo and 21yo. They also do the blends ‘Té Bheag’ and ‘Mac Na Mara’. The current Poit Dhubh is still natural but 43% compared to my older 46% version. Quite when the 46% bottle dates from is unclear (2005?) but there are 10 different versions of the Poit Dhubh 12yo listed on Whiskybase. Strangely Whiskybase categorise my bottle as ‘single malt’ but elsewhere it’s described as vatted or blended malt (as is the current 43% version). Scotch Whisky Auctions sold a bottle of Poit Dhubh 12yo, 46%, in July 2014, which they summarised as “vatted malt (technically a combination of several single malts). Talisker comprises the majority of the malt, reflecting the provenance of its parent company, which is based on the Isle of Skye. The remainder of the blend is composed of various Speyside malts.”
Serge Valentin of Whiskyfun.com gives the Poit Dhubh 12yo 46% a very good 81/100 and remarks, “I think it’s the best Poit Dhubh I ever had, but I think I only had three or four before. Good stuff but at the same price, why not buy the genuine single malt from that island?” [Talisker]. His tasting notes consist of:
Nose: Dry whisky. Notes of wet chalk, very faint smoke, paper, lager beer and lemon-sprinkled porridge, then sea air. More smoke but also more notes of old wood (barrel) after a moment.
Taste: I don’t know if it’s my mind playing tricks to me but it does taste like Talisker (Pràban na Linne are on Skye.) ‘Smoked oranges’, pepper, salt, lime and kippers.
Finish: Rather long, more on lemon.
Here’s Ralfy with his review of the more modern 43% version of the Poit Dhubh 12yo, which he scores a fantastic 89/100 (May 2010):
Bought: Aberdeen Whisky Shop, 11th September 2015
95.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
83.14/100 – Whiskybase (average from 525 member votes)
If I were to list my top 10 whiskies to have in the sideboard the BenRiach 12yo would be one of them. It ticks the boxes for quality and budget, which make it ideal as a regular sipper. But saying that I see prices are on the increase. I bought my bottle for £32.50 but 18 months later it’s up to £41.50. A sign of the times or is BenRiach becoming more exclusive?
Scoring 95.5/100 in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible is a fantastic score and classifies this quality 12yo as a “superstar whisky that gives us all a reason to live”. In the author’s opinion it beats other standard distillery 12yos such as the Glenfiddich (85.5/100), Old Pulteney (90.5/100), Highland Park (78/100), Glendronach (92/100), Glenfarclas (94/100), Glengoyne (91.5/100) and even the new and acclaimed Glen Grant (95/100). Mr Murray says about the BenRiach taste “quite magnificent! How I pray whiskies to be on delivery, but find they so rarely are. Some caramels are caught up in the genteel squabble between the grape juice and the rich barley.” He concludes with “a celebration of a malt whisky in more ways than you could believe.”
Scoring just over 83/100 on Whiskybase is a very good mark but not to the same degree as the Whisky Bible. Comments include “beautiful entrance to sherried single malts”, “a pleasant whisky with an easy-to-drink character” and “this is a seriously good core range whisky and considering the price, it’s a great bang for the buck.”
Here’s Horst Luening of Whisky.com with his thoughts on YouTube (December 2014):
Bought: Auriol Wines, 10th October 2016
92.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
85/100 – Whiskybase (from one member vote)
The main reason I bought this single malt by the English Whisky Co was because my local off licence were selling it for a lot less than anywhere online. Will it be a good investment? Probably not, so I’ll be drinking this one eventually.
‘Chapter 7’ refers to the rum cask finish and there are currently 8 versions listed on Whiskybase. My version is formed from a combination of casks 460, 462, 463 and 464 and bottled at 46%. Scoring 85/100 on Whiskybase is a great score, albeit from only one rating. At least it’s better than a cask strength version (59.9%) from the same casks, which scores a rather disappointing 76/100 from one vote.
There’s a mistake in the Whisky Bible 2017 (one of many) where the author’s review has the correct title and distillation dates (May 2009 to Feb 2016) but the casks listed match those of a Chapter 14 release. Putting that to one side the score of 92.5/100 classifies this Chapter 7 as “brilliant”. Jim Murray says of the taste “startling clarity on delivery: a crispness reminiscent slightly of a youthful Glen Grant as the malt really does begin to magnify its intensity.” He summarises with “you’d be hard pressed to find a better whisky to kick start an evening and tune up the taste buds before dinner.”
Of the 5 versions of Chapter 7 listed in the Whisky Bible, none score less than 91.5/100. If my taste is similar to Jim Murray’s then this is going to be a very enjoyable dram!
Here’s ‘The Good Dram Show’ on You Tube with an earlier version of my Chapter 7 (posted September 2014):
Bought: Auriol Wines, 10th October 2016
85.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
79.34/100 – Whiskybase (average from 242 member votes)
Whiskybase have a record of 13 different releases of this Teeling blend from November 2013 to April 2016 but this doesn’t include the version in the Whisky Bible dated November 2015. My version was bottled in September 2015. It’s listed on Whiskybase here but with only 9 votes I’ve decided to take the score from the default bottle with over 240 votes. It seems fairer and it’s all going to be very similar stuff.
85.5/100 in the Whisky Bible classifies this blend as “very good to excellent whiskey definitely worth buying”. The author, Jim Murray, says “an attractive malt, showing both its rum qualities and, sadly, a slight strain of tired oak.” He goes on to talk about the bitterness that comes from maturing in rum casks and concludes with “still, the delivery offers much to enjoy.”
The score on Whiskybase is quite average where comments include “good weight on the palate, mild on the tongue with toasted sweet malt and citrus peel”, “light Irish blend, although the rum is only recognized with the cane sugar” and “it’s a good blend but the finish bothers me a bit it taste too young and spicy”.
Here’s Whisky Wednesday with their review on You Tube where the Teeling ‘Small Batch’ scores an excellent 8/10 (April 2014):
Bought: Whisky Exchange, 28th September 2016
92.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
84.35/100 – Whiskybase (average from 22 member vote)
The Tomatin ‘Port Casks’ 14yo first appeared in 2014 in the old, basic bottle shape. In 2016 the whole Tomatin age statement range got redressed in a new style of bottle. I love this new look but to keep costs down I only got a miniature of this 14yo. The tasting notes provided by Tomatin have stayed the same so it seems the liquid inside is the same formula as the old 2014 bottling, which means I can quote old reviews for the new version. The score of 92.5/100 in the Whisky Bible ranks this single malt as “brilliant” and the author says about the taste “salivating, as a Tomatin delivery so often is. But here we get all juiced up by succulent fruit, helped along by glazed muscovado.”
84.35/100 on Whiskybase is a fantastic score and refers to the new 2016 version. The 2014 bottle scores 82.59/100 so perhaps Tomatin have made some improvements to the Port Casks mix, or maybe the lovely bottle enhances the drinker’s enjoyment of the contents. It’s surprising how subtle things like that can make a difference to how something tastes. A quality presentation makes you anticipate a quality product.
Here are the tasting notes from Master of Malt:
Nose: Quite a powerful nose. Big bunches of red berries and grapes. Vanilla, oak and hints of white pepper.
Palate: Dark chocolate dipped in strawberries. Crushed almonds, walnuts, Victoria sponge (with jam and cream in the middle) and a centre of oak.
Finish: Fruity on the finish.
Scotch Test Dummies review the old-style 2014 version (January 2015):
Bought: Auriol Wines, 8th August 2016
89.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2016
84.19/100 – Whiskybase (average from 18 member votes)
The look of BenRiach that we know today started when the company was taken over in 2004 by a consortium of businessmen lead by whisky veteran Billy Walker. In June 2016 the sale of BenRiach along with Glendronach and Glenglassaugh distilleries was confirmed. Although the new owners say they intend to keep things pretty much as they are, fans of these distilleries might be a little concerned. It could mean good news for collectors if standards slip and bottles bought today are classics of the future but I’ll be sad if the qualify of the whisky diminishes from any of these distilleries. I might collect whisky but I firmly wear my drinker’s hat when buying bottles of BenRiach and Glendronach. Their current output is some of the best single malt on the market in my opinion.
My 15yo Tawny Port appeared in 2012 and 89.5/100 in the Whisky Bible classifies it as “very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying”. The author, Jim Murray, says of the taste “comes together on the pallet with a rare degree of grace. The kicking expected from the fruit never materialises and instead there is a soft malt and firm fruit double whammy; the fruit and nut chocolate arrives earlier than expected.” He concludes with “now that really is the perfect late night dram”.
Over 84/100 on Whiskybase is a very good score. Here are the tasting notes from the guys at Master of Malt:
Nose: Aromatic, port wood notes at the fore developing into a phenolic element, a little bitumen perhaps.
Palate: Sweet and firm, grape and oily smoke, sweetness develops, grapey.
Finish: Oak, smoke and a touch more phenol.
Bought: Master of Malt, 3rd August 2016
96/100 – Whisky Bible 2011
8.5/100 – Jo from Whisky Wednesday (video below)
84.83/100 – Whiskybase (average from 25 member votes)
Big Peat first appeared in the Whisky Bible in 2011 with a fantastic score of 96/100. In the latest edition batch 30 scores 92/100 and batch 31 scores 90.5/100, which means quality has slipped a little (according to the author) but not by much. Unfortunately my 20cl bottle doesn’t have a batch number on it but according to Whiskybase this quarter bottle first appeared in 2009. I’m hoping my version dates back to that time and the epic 96/100. The author concludes with “had the Caol Ila been reduces slightly, and with it the oils, this might well have been World Whisky of the Year”. Praise indeed.
Big Peat is a vatting together of Islay single malts. Douglas Laing who make Big Peat describe it as “Caol Ila spirit bringing sweetness, Bowmore the perfect balance, Ardbeg the medicinal, earthy quality and Port Ellen, a degree of elegance”. But as the price of Port Ellen rises you have to think there’s very little going into the Big Peat mix. I bet I won’t be able to identify it. Nevertheless Big Peat is a classic of its time and a dram that every whisky enthusiast should try eventually.
20cl tasting notes provided on Whiskybase:
Nose: Earthy, mossy and briney. That smoked kipper quality. Some ripe fruits lurk.
Taste: The smoke coats and fills the mouth. A decent oak roasted salmon oiliness. Leaves a little salt as well.
Finish: Long with plenty of smoke and sweet honey.
Here’s Jo from Whisky Wednesday with his review on You Tube (June 2015):
Posted in Big Peat
Tagged 20cl, 46%, Ardbeg, Big Peat, Bowmore, Caol Ila, Douglas Laing & Co Ltd, Islay, Master of Malt, NAS, Port Ellen, Port Ellen (closed 1983), Vatted Malt
Bought: Master of Malt, 3rd August 2016
82.67/100 – Whiskybase (average from 5 member votes)
According to Whiskybase, Berry Bros & Rudd have bottled 6 versions of North British single grain and my example comes third in the five to be rated. Top of the list is a 50-year-old released in 2012 that scores 91/100. You often see old single grains getting extremely high marks but 82.67/100 for my 12yo is a very good score. Although one member describes it as “hollow” and not far off the Haig Club, another member says “super nice aperitif whisky” and leaves these tasting notes:
Nose: fruity, orange, floral, grass and hay, vanilla, nutty and peppery (black)
Taste: dry, spicy, peppery
Finish: medium long dry
It’s nice to add a new single grain distillery to my collection. Most of my existing examples are from closed distilleries. It seems the Scottish whisky industry have reduced the number of grain distilleries over the years and increased the output at those that remain. All in the name of efficiency and maximising revenue. North British distillery produces 65,000,000 litres per year, second only to Cameronbridge, which churns out 120,000,000 litres.
In 2015 the North British distillery hit a milestone of 2.5 billion litres of spirit since being established in 1885. That’s about 25% of Blagdon Lake, a reservoir south of Bristol in Somerset. No, I’ve never heard of it either but it was the first thing I could find on Google to try and give a sense of scale. Basically it’s a lot of alcohol, which is more than can be said for my 3cl sample!