Bought: Berry Bros & Rudd, 31st July 2018
87.28/100 – Whiskybase (average from 60 member votes)
For my 700th blog post I wanted to add sometimes special, and Daftmill distillery came to my rescue. When I started getting interested in whisky in 2013 Daftmill had been distilling spirit for 8 years but nothing had been released from the lowland distillery. Surely something would appear soon? But we had to wait until 2018 before the 12-year-old inaugural release hit the market. I can’t remember exactly how much it was advertised for (£300?) but the 629 bottles sold out very quickly. Formed from 3 barrels it had a cask strength of 55.8% and scores a very respectable 86.3/100 on Whiskybase from 37 votes.
In July 2018 the second release from Daftmill arrived at a more pocket-friendly £95. This ‘summer batch release’ was formed from 7 barrels and limited to 1665 bottles. According to Berry Bros & Rudd I got the last bottle they had in stock. The reverse label says, “distilled and filled in the summer of 2006, these ex-Bourbon barrels from Heaven Hill in Kentucky have waited patiently in the bottom storey of Warehouse No 1 for nearly 12 years”. The only thing daft about this release is that some shops are now listing it as £799. The current auction value is about £180.
Although diluted down to 46% my summer release from Daftmill scores a point more on Whiskybase than the older and stronger inaugural release. People really love this stuff, which must be very encouraging for the Cuthbert family who own and operate the distillery at their farm in Fife. Comments about the taste mention lemon zest, peaches, honey, shortbread, spices, fresh marzipan, mint, key lime pie, tangy oranges, greengages, toffee and a youthful floral complexity. Sounds delicious!
I can only find two YouTube videos about Daftmill distillery, both of which take a tour with the owner Francis Cuthbert in 2010. He’s interviewed by Charles MacLean for SingleMaltTv and then by Ralfy who gets to nose a 4-year-old barrel of spirit. Ralfy likened the aroma to the former lowland distillery Linlithgow, which Francis thought was a fair comparison. A comment on Whiskybase feels the summer release resembles Rosebank, so you get the impression that Daftmill whisky has fantastic lowland pedigree.
When you research Daftmill distillery on the internet it soon becomes clear how generous the owner Francis Cuthbert is with his time. He has given numerous people a tour of his facilities even though I don’t believe the distillery is officially open to the public. It’s a working farm after all and has been in the Cuthbert family for 6 generations. But among the lowing cows and fields of barley (they grow their own, which is malted elsewhere) there is a real passion for making whisky. I have a feeling the distillery will go from strength to strength.
Bought: Cadenhead, 5th December 2017
88.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2018
87.85/100 – Whiskybase (average from 89 member votes)
In 2015 I contacted Springbank distillery about paying £50 to become a life member of their ‘Springbank Society’. I’d get a badge, t-shirt and an opportunity to buy two special bottles per year, exclusive to society members. In the end I didn’t join because the online forum for Springbank members disappeared and the distillery was having a website meltdown. They make great whisky but my confidence in their Internet ability was in tatters. Since then I can’t say I’ve seen a ‘society only’ bottle of Springbank appear at auction so I’ve no idea if they got produced.
The basic Springbank 10yo and the cask strength 12yo are so good it’s taken me 5 years on my whisky journey before getting the 15yo. Clearly I didn’t need any ‘special releases’ for society members because the standard releases are more than enough for me. I decided to get the 15yo because several people on whisky forums said it was their favourite dram and I hadn’t bought a Springbank for a while. With a score of nearly 88/100 on Whiskybase this is clearly a fantastic 15yo. Comments include “very tasty” and “a big whisky with big flavours”. Other remarks online include “top of the line if you like sherry matured” and “refined and full of Campbeltown character”. What more can you ask for?
Jim Murray’s score of 88.5/100 in his Whisky Bible dates back to 2012 so you can take that with a pinch of salt. A review on Whiskybase says this latest version (tasted in 2018) is better than a previous version they tried a few years ago so perhaps Mr Murray would score it in the 90s now.
Tasting notes from Master of Malt:
Nose: Fragrant with a certain richness. Notes of fruit salad and a hint of caramel, pineapple, guava and passion fruit lurk. There are notes of dried leather and old ropes. A hint of toffee sweetness and some granary toast.
Palate: Quite full and rich. There are notes of creamy fruit salad and more exotic fruit notes. There is palpable mastication from the oaked tannins with a hint of spice.
Finish: Fairly long with a gentle warmth.
Here’s Horst & Benedikt Luening of Whisky.com with their thoughts about the Springbank 15yo on YouTube (May 2017):
Bought: Marks & Spencer, 14th November 2017
94/100 – Whisky Bible 2018
88/100 – Whisky Wise (video review below)
81.6/100 – Whiskybase (average from 94 member votes)
When I started collecting in 2013 the only whisky available in the UK from India was from the Amrut distillery. John Distillery started life in Goa, India in 1992 and their ‘Paul John’ brand was first launched in London in October 2012. It took a few years before it crept into the majority of online British shops but it now seems to be here to stay. I’ve wanted an example from ‘Paul John’ for several years so I’m delighted to finally add the ‘Brilliance’ to my collection.
Brilliance is a non-peated, non chill-filtered single malt and Jim Murray, author of the Whisky Bible, absolutely loves it. He scores his first sample of Brilliance 94.5/100 but batch 3, bottled July 2016 scores an equally fantastic 94/100. My example is also batch 3 but bottled in October 2016. 94/100 classifies the Brilliance as a ‘superstar whisky that gives us all a reason to live’. Mr Murray says about the taste, “this was a malt designed to get the most out of the barley and here the juices arrive in force and early on. Much less copper than the first bottling, showing this relatively new distillery is moving on, but the spices and light mocha make a handsome contribution.” He summaries with, “it is impossible not to be impressed. Complexity is the key word here. And though it has moved on a little – mainly through tannin – from its earlier rendition, the layering and structure remains superb. The tail needs a little attention, but I’m being ultra-strict: this is excellent whisky and make no mistake.”
81.6/100 in Whiskybase is a very good score where comments include “a totally underrated whisky in my opinion. I like it a lot”, “Initially surprising soft, but soon followed by a real punch, with a lingering aftertaste. A real eye opener.”
Here’s Jason of Whisky Wise with his thoughts about the Paul John ‘Brilliance’ on YouTube (July 2017):
Bought: Aberdeen Whisky Shop, 14th September 2017
82/100 – Whisky Bible 2018
82.53/100 – Whiskybase (from 242 member votes)
87/100 – Ralfy (his video review below)
The Hielan’ (meaning ‘highland’) is the Glendronach distillery’s entry-level malt with a youthful age of 8 years. It’s still possible to find it for under £30 but its price is creeping up. I bought a miniature in a ‘tri’ pack along with the 12yo and 18yo. I’ll probably regret not getting the 70cl when I taste it because it sounds delicious, and the rejuvenated Glendronach is one of my favourite distilleries.
The Hielan’ gets a very similar mark in both the Whisky Bible and on Whiskybase. The Bible author Jim Murray says, “intense malt. But doesn’t quite feel as happy with the oil on show as it might”. 82/100 classifies the Hielan’ as “good whisky worth trying”. Mr Murray scores the 12yo ‘Original’ 86.5/100.
82.5/100 on Whiskybase is a very good score with comments of “simple GlenDronach, not very interesting. In this price category the 12 ‘Original’ is a better choice.” It’s a fair point because there isn’t a big enough price difference between the 8yo and 12yo Glendronach in most shops. The 12yo scores 83.8/100 on Whiskybase but Ralfy (YouTube video below) gives 87/100 to both the 8yo Hielan’ and 12yo ‘Original’. Clearly there’s not much in it.
Tasting notes from Master of Malt:
Nose: Honey’d malt, vanilla fudge and citrus peels. Slightly chocolate-y raisin notes and a little cinnamon.
Palate: More spice comes through on the palate, but the vanilla-rich buttery elements remain up front. Freshly baked biscuits topped with almonds and plump sultanas.
Finish: Quite long, with Sherried fruit and ginger lasting.
Ralfy’s review on YouTube (August 2017):
Bought: Auriol Wines, 1st September 2017
85.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
82.6/100 – Whiskybase (average from 125 member votes)
4.5/5 – Master of Malt (average from 20 reviews)
When I think of ‘Glen Scotia’ I remember the dumpy green bottles of 8-year-old from the 1970s, or the colour-coated bottles when I started collecting whisky in 2013. I quite liked the look of the black 12yo, green 15yo, blue 18yo and burgundy 21yo but the poor ratings stopped me for buying any of them. The general consensus seemed to be that Glen Scotia had made a flavour and marketing boo-boo.
You wouldn’t think that NAS (non-age statement) would be the best direction for the Campbeltown distillery to go but that’s what happened with the arrival of the ‘Double Cask’ in 2015. It was a bit of a gamble but it seems to have paid off. Scoring 85.5/100 in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible classifies this dram as ‘very good to excellent whisky, definitely worth buying’. He summarises with “soft and easy drinking with an excellent early delivery spike of intensity. But a dull middle and finish. And dull has never been a word I have associated with this distillery. Ever.”
Scoring 82.6/100 on Whiskybase is a very good score with comments of “whoever likes the modern “designed” whisky style will probably enjoy this dram”, “nice daily dram, but not overly spectacular”, “a good whisky if a little vague” and “very fine Glen Scotia for around 40 EUR. Surprisingly good and affordable.”
From my own tasting of the Glen Scotia ‘Double Cask’ I can honestly say I like it. It’s certainly subtle but you wouldn’t expect anything else for the price. I enjoyed the “excellent early delivery” Jim Murray mentioned but then I got hit by that unique Campbeltown flavour on the palate. It’s not as intense as the Springbank 10yo but it’s there and very enjoyable. If I drank Campbeltown whisky regularly it wouldn’t seem that special but, as an occasional dram from a distinct Scottish region, the Glen Scotia is delightful.
Tasting notes from Master of Malt:
Nose: Vibrant fruit emerges first (peach flesh and green apple peels), followed by chewy vanilla fudge, a hint of salinity, then an array of oak-y spices including some char.
Palate: Opens with more fudge with a little dusting of powdered sugar. Powerful, oily and a touch herbaceous with some German brandy character.
Finish: Sherried notes come through more on the finish.
Here’s Horst Luening of Whisky.com with his thoughts about the Glen Scotia on YouYube (Aug 2015):
Bought: Master of Malt, 2nd August 2017
93/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
78.52/100 – Whiskybase (average from 33 member votes)
It seems the only reason this single grain from the Loch Lomond distillery isn’t single malt is because of the continuous distillation process, which is a ‘single grain’ thing. It’s exclusively made from malted barley, which ticks the single malt box. According to a Whiskybase member who visited the distillery, “it has aged for around 4-5 years in first fill bourbon casks (around 20 per cent of each batch) and the remaining 80 per cent come from refill bourbon casks.” On the back of the tube it says “soft fruits and creamy vanilla with a hint of smoke and peat.” Peat as well! Blimey! And at 46% this is far from being a typical budget single grain.
Scoring 78.5/100 on Whiskybase is the sort of score I’d expect to see for a good, if a bit young, single malt. How appropriate considering that’s what this Loch Lomond nearly is. Comments online include “nice, easy drinking, every day dram”, “a real surprise, never had such a malted grain style whisky before and to be honest – I like it” and “sweet & spicy and easy-drinking with an interesting malty twist”. No mention of peat though.
93/100 in the Whisky Bible means that Jim Murray thinks the Loch Lomond Single Grain is “brilliant”! He says about the taste, “the sugars on the nose are indicative of a sweet grain, for the delivery centres around the maple syrup lead. The oak is something like most anchors at work: barely visible to invisible”. He summaries with, “elegant grain; keeps the sweetness controlled”.
Tasting notes from Master of Malt:
Nose: Plenty of sweet, fruity grain character here. Citrus peels, icing sugar, a little bit of grassiness.
Palate: Pineapple starts to develop on the palate, with a touch or two of oak spice keeping it from becoming overly sweet.
Finish: Continued fruity freshness.
Bought: Lockett Bros, 19th April 2017
90.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
90/100 – Ralfy (of www.ralfy.com) – his video review below
86.78/100 – Whiskybase (average from 560 member votes)
My previous bottle of ‘Kilkerran’ by the Glengyle distillery was the ‘Work in Progress 5’ (bourbon casks), which I bought at the end of 2013. Back then my blog mused about the possibility of a 10-year-old release in 2014 but we had to wait until 2016 for the appearance of the first age statement. Glengyle filled the gap in 2014 and 2015 with a ‘Work in Progress’ 6 and 7. It was certainly worth the wait because whisky lovers went mad for the Kilkerran 12yo when it appeared in 2016. It was arguably the best budget single malt release of the year. I was a bit slow off the mark but thankfully managed to pick up the 2016 version of the bottling in early 2017. Since then Glengyle have released the 12yo again and it looks set to be a regular release from now on.
Over the years critics generally said that the bourbon cask version of the ‘Work in Progress’ was marginally better than the sherry. You have to suspect that Glengyle picked up on this, which is why they made the 12yo 70% bourbon and 30% sherry. Scoring nearly 87/100 on Whiskybase is a fantastic score. And from 560 members this suggests the Kilkerran 12yo is very much a whisky drinker’s whisky. Comments include “pleasant standard at a reasonable price”, “a surprisingly tasty drama considering the price and age” and “beautifully made no-nonsense Campbeltown whisky”.
Scoring 90.5/100 in Jim Murray’s ‘Whisky Bible 2017’ classifies the Kilkerran 12yo as ‘brilliant’. The author comments about the taste “despite the dozen years in cask, this still retains a degree of youth about it. But the malts are confident and take advantage of the overall lack of body to spread out and blossom”. He summarises with, “a malt far more confident at this age than some of the previous, younger, bottlings from a few years back. Has a fragile feel to it and the air of a malt which must be treated gently and with respect.”
90/100 from Ralfy is one of his highest scores. Here are his thoughts about the Kilkerran 12yo on YouTube (Oct 2016):
Bought: CASC, Aberdeen, 28th June 2017
83.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
9.5/100 – Whisky Wednesday (video review below)
0/100 – Whiskybase (awaiting votes for my exact bottling)
It would be unfair to call the Glendronach ‘Allardice’ 18yo the poor man’s Macallan 18yo ‘Sherry cask’, so I wont. But I just did. There are certainly several comparisons between the two floating around on the Internet but not recently. Not since the Macallan 18yo shot up to £300. Which leaves the Glendronach 18yo with the accolade ‘probably the best sherry cask 18yo for under £100’. It’s certainly a top contender.
You would think that gathering information about my Glendronach ‘Allardice’ would be easy until you realise that the distillery was closed in 1996 to 2001. If we assume that no whisky was produced in 1996 this means the distillery ran out of 18-year-old casks after 2013. It’s now a well documented fact that Glendronach have kept their core range going long after the age stated on the label such that bottles of Allardice contain 19yo whisky in 2014, 20yo in 2015, etc. My bottle of Allardice 18yo is dated 6th October 2016 so it’s most likely a 21yo. Perhaps reviews for the 21yo ‘Parliament’ would be more appropriate? Except the ‘Parliament’ is 48% and matured in Oloroso & Pedro Ximénez sherry casks where as the ‘Allardice’ is 46% and matured purely in Oloroso casks. They’re two different beasts!
Jim Murray’s score of 83.5/100 in his Whisky Bible dates from 2010, back when the Allardice was a genuine 18yo. Although there are currently no ratings on Whiskybase for my exact bottle the previous release from May 2016 scores 89.44/100 from 11 votes and the following release in April 2017 scores 89/100 from 7 votes. I’m confident that my bottle would be 89/100. And for comparison, the Macallan 18yo ‘Sherry Cask’ 2016 scores 88.79/100 from 59 votes. Perhaps the ‘poor man’ is actually the person who spent the small fortune on the Macallan!
Here’s Whisky Wednesday with their thoughts about the Glendronach ‘Allardice’ 18yo in May 2017, which is recent enough that it could relate to my exact bottle:
Bought: Morrison & Mackay, 21st June 2017
81/100 – Whiskybase (from 1 member vote)
6/10 – Whisky Loving
This Mortlach 2006, 20cl, forms part of the Càrn Mòr Vintage Collection produced by the Scottish Liqueur Centre (now Morrison & Mackay) between 2009 and 2012. Distilled in 2006 and bottled in 2012 (c.6yo), it was the second 20cl to represent the year of 2006. The first was a Glentauchers issued in 2009. Mortlach 2006 is a limited edition of 720, cask 9, non-chill filtered, no added colour and 46%.
Although this small bottle of Mortlach came out in 2012 it’s still available on the Morrison & Mackay website for a mere £10. It’s also being sold at Robert Graham and Whisky Castle so it goes to show how long 720 bottles can sometimes take to sell. Perhaps it’s the presentation, 20cl size, or coming from a less known independent bottler that’s kept it lingering on the shelves for so long.
Mortlach has its fans so why hasn’t this bottle sold out? I strongly suspect it’s because of its light colour, which screams ‘refill cask’. What makes Mortlach delightful is spending time in a first-fill sherry cask, soaking up all those wonderful fruity juices and acquiring a beautifully rounded flavour. Seeing a light Mortlach doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad, you just know it’s not going to be as good as it can be.
81/100 on Whiskybase from one member is a good score but 6/10 from Whisky Loving seems rather low. They say of the palate “rough notes. Citrus and some orchard fruits. Fruity and sweet. Vanilla and almost floral notes”. They also mentioned vanilla on the nose, which makes me slightly concerned that it comes from an ex-bourbon barrel. My book on distilleries, published in 2010, makes no mention of ‘vanilla’ in the house style of Mortlach and says they exclusively use ex-sherry casks. But there have been some ex-bourbon releases recently from independent bottlers that suggest Mortlach are now mixing their barrels. It’s a shame the cask type used for this Mortlach 2006 wasn’t disclosed but it is what it is. For me it’s my 24th and final bottle to complete the Càrn Mòr Vintage Collection. Phew!
Bought: Morrison & Mackay, 21st June 2017
80/100 – Whiskybase (from 1 member vote)
Glen Moray 1992 forms part of the Càrn Mòr Vintage Collection produced by the Scottish Liqueur Centre (now Morrison & Mackay) between 2009 and 2012. Distilled in 1992 and bottled in 2012, this c.20yo was the second 20cl to represent the year of 1992. The first was a Glenallachie issued in 2009. The Glen Moray 1992 is a limited edition of 480, cask PP001, non-chill filtered, no added colour and 46%.
80/100 on Whiskybase is a good score albeit from only one vote. This Glen Moray is finished in a port cask, which makes it quite unique (more so in 2012). Of the 640 releases of Glen Moray listed on Whiskybase only 6 of them have a port cask finish (although some may be missing the word “port” in their title). The earliest release is from 2009, which is a 14yo cask strength scoring 90.5/100. A distillery bottled 17yo ‘port wood finish’ at 40% scores 87.2/100 from 7 votes, which is an excellent score. I’ve got a good feeling that when more votes come in for my 20yo at 46% they will be greater than 80/100 rather than less. It seems that a Glen Moray with a bit of age goes nicely with some port maturation.
In 2018 I intend to visit the Glen Moray distillery, which is within easy walking distance of Elgin town centre. Elgin is also where the Gordon & MacPhail shop is situated so I’d better make sure I take a full wallet! Glen Moray have a ‘bottle your own’ option at the distillery shop, which is not to be missed. In recent years they’ve been quite experimental with their cask finishes. Not only port and chardonnay but also cider, which sounds intriguing!