Bought: Amazon, 6th April 2018
76/100 – Whisky Bible 2018
85/100 – Whiskyfun
89.58/100 – Whiskybase (average from 21 member votes)
96/100 and 91/100 – Scotch Test Dummies (YouYube video below)
In the Whisky Bible 2016 author Jim Murray’s rating of the Glendronach 21yo was a fantastic 91.5/100 and ended with “Memorable stuff”. In the 2017 issue of the Bible the 21yo had disappeared and in 2018 Mr Murray introduces his thoughts on the 21yo ‘Parliament’. All around him the status of Glendronach has been rising but he gives the 21yo a lowly score of 76/100 and remarks, “myopically one dimensional, rambles on and on, sulphur-tongued, bitter and does its best to leave a bad taste in the mouth whilst misrepresenting its magnificent land.” It’s worth noting that the 2017 Bible contained reviews of 27 different bottles of Glendronach but in 2018 that’s shrunk by more than half to 13. Perhaps Mr Murray has fallen out of love with this up-and-coming Highland distillery, because of the whisky or maybe something else entirely.
I’m reminded of the old joke ‘opinions are like arseholes – everyone has one’. But arseholes are generally very similar, whereas opinions can vary greatly. Mr Murray’s thoughts about the Glendronach 21yo are like a square peg in a round hole of shared opinion, if you pardon the mental image. I’ve found it impossible to discover anyone else who dislikes this whisky as much as he does. Most people adore it, which makes me wonder if Mr Murray had a bad sample. There are certainly lots of different batches of the ‘Parliament’. Mine was bottled on the 29th January 2018 so after the Whisky Bible 2018 went into print. Although Mr Murray’s opinion about the 21yo is a bit strange I respect him enough to breath a sigh of relief that it wasn’t directed at my batch.
89.58/100 on Whiskybase for my particular release of the Parliament is a fantastic score but quite typical of all the batches of this 21yo. A comment about the flavour says “elegant, expensive leathery notes, more olorosso built up on palate for boldness, spicy sherry coat with ample of creamy sugar laden of fruits.” Whiskyfun score the Parliament 85/100 in August 2017 with the comment “rather fine, just not too complex. And quite easy on the fruits”.
Here’s the Scotch Test Dummies with their review about the Glendronach 21yo on YouTube (Feb 2018) both of whom love this dram:
Bought: World of Whisky, 28th June 2018
84.55/100 – Whiskybase (average from 119 member votes)
The Aberlour ‘Casg Annamh’ (meaning ‘rare cask’) first appeared at the end of 2017. About 6 months later the legendary Aberlour A’bunadh almost doubled in price causing fans to froth at the mouth and swear allegiance to the likes of the Glenfarclas 105. Some quarters felt that the Casg Annamh had been introduced to replace the A’bunadh but this was mostly based on both whiskies having a batch number. A year after the launch of the Casg Annamh and it’s still only on Batch 0001. The A’bunadh has had 62 releases in 21 years, quite typically 3 or 4 releases per year in recent years (but only two in 2018, perhaps due to the price increase reducing sales). The big difference between the Casg Annamh and A’bunadh is the strength. The Casg Annamh is fixed at 48% and the A’bunadh is cask strength around 60%. Basically they’re two different beasts.
So how has the Casg Annamh done in its first year? 84.5/100 on Whiskybase is a very good score. It’s doing better than the standard Aberlour 16yo (83.2/100), which costs about £15 more than the Casg Annamh. By the time you get to the Aberlour 18yo (85.5/100) it’s over £80 so you might as well buy the A’bunadh. Comments online about the Casg Annamh include, “enjoyed this more than A’bunadh. Whereas A’bunadh is a whisky disguised by sherry, Casg Annamh is a whisky featuring sherry without covering up the other flavours within”, “it contains considerably younger whisky than the 15YO, but makes up for that by a higher level of first fill and a higher ABV” and “an excellent value dram which won’t disappoint any sherry cask enthusiast”.
You have to feel this new Aberlour has found its place in the market. Currently £60 for a litre at certain airports it’s good value for what it is. But after a year of ‘batch 1’ it’s definitely not a ‘rare cask’ as the Gaelic name implies.
Here’s Horst Luening of Whisky.com with his thoughts about the Aberlour ‘Casg Annamh’ on YouTube (May 2018):
Bought: Amazon, 16th April 2016
88/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
82.35/100 – Whiskybase (average from 354 member votes)
91/100 – Whisky Bitch (her video review below)
As a fan of the Glen Garioch Founder’s Reserve I jumped at the chance to get the 12yo when Amazon reduced it to £32. That’s cheap for any 12yo whisky let alone one as hefty as 48%. Once open the 12yo certainly is a lovely dram but I slightly prefer the Founder’s Reserve, which seems less ‘designed’. I tried the 12yo again when visiting the Glen Garioch distillery and it stood up well against the 15yo, which I also got to sample. It’s hard to go wrong with spicy dark fruits, vanilla and a hint of smoke when presented at 48%. Delicious!
Scoring 88/100 in the Whisky Bible classifies the Glen Garioch 12yo as a ‘very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying’. The author, Jim Murray, says of the taste “sticking, broadly, to the winning course of the original 43% version, though here there is a fraction more toffee at the expense of the smoke.” The Founder’s Reserve scores 87.5/100 in the Bible and the 15yo 86.5/100 so not much in it.
Getting over 82/100 on Whiskybase is a very good mark. The Founder’s Reserve scores 80.6/100. Comments for the 12yo include “very solid uncommercial style and very nice strength for a standard bottling”, “well crafted….perfect daily dram” and “overall it’s good, enjoyable and showing complexity”.
The Glen Garioch 12yo is a hearty Highland hidden gem that’s well worth seeking out.
Here’s the Whisky Bitch with her thoughts on YouTube about the Glen Garioch 12yo (May 2012):
Bought: Master of Malt, 3rd August 2016
87.08/100 – Whiskybase (average from 81 member votes)
As a fan of Talisker I’ve wanted the ‘Friends of the Classic Malts’ (FotCM) for a while but I felt the cost was too high for yet another NAS (non-age statement). Thankfully ‘Master of Malt’ do a 3ml sample, which is good enough for a small taster. To Talisker’s credit this version of FotCM, released in 2013, is 48%, which is a bit stronger than their standard 45.8%. The previous version of the FotCM, releases in 2007, was a 12yo but it too was 45.8%. Age or NAS? Whiskybase members rate the 12yo 85/100 and my more potent NAS two points more at 87/100.
So what do people think of this Talisker? Serge Valentin of Whiskyfun.com thinks it tastes like aged gin and prefers the Talisker Storms. Nevertheless he scores it a respectable 80/100. Whiskybase comments include “a truly unusual whisky! Spicy wood, that indefinable acidic flavour and an unusual freshness in taste make this interesting drops into something special. A thoroughly delicious whisky and a new experience for me.” But also “it’s almost a liqueur. If you like utterly sweet drams, than you may want to purchase this. I find it somewhat uninteresting.”
The main reason I didn’t track down a full bottle for £80 is because, as someone says on Whiskybase, “compared to the Ten: Stick with the Ten.” I love the Talisker 10yo so much there’s a good chance I’d be disappointed. I certainly was when I tried the 18yo and found I preferred the 10yo. Perhaps the 10yo is my perfect Talisker? A side-by-side comparison with this latest FotCM is on the cards!
Bought: The Whisky Shop, 13th April 2016
86.59/100 – Whiskybase (average from 216 member votes)
89/100 – Ralfy (his YouTube video below)
I don’t know much German but one thing whisky has taught me is that “mit farbstoff” means “with colorant”. Quite why Lagavulin continue to feel the need to add colour is beyond me. It’s not as if they use clear bottles so you can instantly see how light the whisky would be if it were free of E150. You’d think after 200 years of experience they’d trust their casks to do the natural dye job. But Lagavulin is owned by Diageo where ‘consistency’ is more important than ‘craft’.
The Lagavulin 8yo has been balanced off at 48%, which is suspiciously the same as the Laphroaig Quarter Cask (recently available on Amazon for £25 and free postage, half the price of the Lagavulin). You have to wonder if the folk at Lagavulin tried the QC and thought it had a good level of strength and flavour, which it does. With 20,000 bottles of the Lagavulin 8yo, it’s a ‘limited edition’ but only just in my opinion.
86.59/100 on Whiskybase is an excellent mark and almost 1.5 points ahead of the Laphroaig Quarter Cask. Does that really mean anything? Probably not, other than they’re both good and if you already like each distillery’s offerings you’ll enjoy the QC or the 8yo. Comments for the Lagavulin include “great malt and all the respect for it having an age statement”, “a real belter despite its young age” and “it’s clean and crisp, basically the essence of what Lagavulin’s distillate in capable of. Closing my eyes I feel taken back to my 2014 warehouse tour.”
Here’s Ralfy’s review on You Tube (May 2016):
Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 3rd November 2015
86.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
82.25/100 – Whiskybase (average from 6 member votes)
As it says on the Reisetbauer distillery website, this is the first 12-year-old whisky from Austria. They go on to say “this single malt whisky is convincing on the palate with wonderful notes of chocolate and coca and a very dense, fruity aroma of malt. Its maturation in Trockenbeerenauslese casks gives it a dry and sweet character with a slightly smoky note.” Trockenbeerenauslese is a German language wine term for a medium to full-body dessert wine.
82.25/100 is a very good score, especially when one voter marks this whisky down with 73/100 and says “this doesn’t taste like a Whisky, it’s a Grappa with some special off-notes. Dominated by the wine casks used”. I’ve never tried Grappa so I can’t judge until I do. Another voter says “a perfect whisky”. The Grappa guy is in the minority, thankfully. If the criticism is purely based on an unfamiliar taste you have to keep in mind how far apart some Islay malts are from Speyside ones. They’re both whisky but the peaty, sometimes medicinal qualities of certain Islay single malts takes time to get used to. The use of wine casks in the whisky industry is becoming more prevalent. As it increases people will get used to it and accept it as another variant in the wonderful spectrum of whisky flavours.
86.5/100 in the Whisky Bible 2017 classifies this German single malt as “very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying”.
Bought: The Whisky Shop, 17th June 2015
94/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
85/100 – Ralfy – His review on You Tube here (April 2012)
87.98/100 – Whiskybase (average from 272 member votes)
94/100 from Jim Murray in his Whisky Bible classifies this single malt from Islay as a “superstar whisky that gives us all a reason to live”. That’s assuming you like throat sweets of course. In his review Mr Murray says of the taste “perhaps it’s the big leg-up from the rampant hickory, but the peat here offers a vague Fisherman’s Friend cough sweet quality far more usually associated with Bowmore, except here it comes in a milder, Demerara-sweetened form with a few strands of liquorice helping that hickory to a gentler level.” He summarises with “this is Laphroaig’s replacement for the woefully inadequate and gutless 15-year-old. And talk about taking a giant step in the right direction. Absolutely brimming with character and panache, from the first molecules escaping the bottle as you pour to the very final ember dying on the middle of your tongue.”
It’s interesting what Jim Murray has to say about the former 15yo because, whatever your opinion of it, bottles can make over £200 at auction. Now that the 18yo has been discontinued you have to wonder what it will be like as an investment. Perhaps bottles will be selling for £300+ in the not-to-distant future.
Watch out for that TCP taste, which is mentioned both on Whiskybase and by Ralfy. Unfortunately so is the presence of added colourant. Ralfy has a rant about this and in summary he says the whisky is “decent but not great”. Nevertheless 85/100 is an excellent mark from him. Nearly 88/100 on Whiskybase is very high with comments of “a strong showing by Laphroaig. I like this one much better than the new (and old) 15yo” and “very smooth and silky. Like it a lot! This is a very elegant expression with a nice strength!”
Bought: Amazon, 2nd April 2015
84.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
83.83/100 – Whiskybase (average from 352 member votes)
A few months ago I got an email from my local whisky shop saying that the Longmorn 16yo was being discontinued with immediate effect. Even then, at over £50 and so-so reviews, I wasn’t going to rush out and procure a bottle. It took a ‘lightening deal’ on Amazon with a big discount and free postage to tempt me. Only then did I start to look properly at reviews of the 16yo.
The Longmorn 16yo replaced the highly respected 15yo, so it had a tough act to follow. The Whisky Bible rates the 15yo as 93/100 but the lower score for the 16yo dates back to the author’s tasting in 2008. The blending of a single malt can change a great deal in 7 years. Recent reviews of the 16yo suggest that it has improved, so it seems a shame that it’s being discontinued. The replacement is an NAS (non-age statement) called ‘The Distiller’s Choice” and is currently scoring less than 81/100 on Whiskybase. I wont be bothering to buy it.
Here’s the Whisky Vault comparing a newer version of the Longmorn 16 with my older version (Aug 2017):
Bought – Justminiatures, 13th November 2013
87.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2013
86/100 – Ralfy, of http://www.ralfy.com
Review video: – Ralfy – Glen Garioch Founder’s Reserve – YouTube
Over 4 years since Ralfy’s review and the good news is that this Founder’s Reserve is still bottled at 48%. Unfortunately there remains no mention on the bottle of “natural colour”. Oh well, maybe one day! The Whisky Bible 2013 rating suggests that standards have remained much the same but it’s not always that Jim Murray and Ralfy agree. That’s the joy about whisky – one person’s jam is another person’s marmite. Actually, it’s a pain in the backside because no two sets of tastebuds are the same. So you can’t be certain you’ll like a whisky just because someone else says it’s delicious, such is the complexity of a whisky’s taste. Reviews can help as a guide but it’s up to everyone’s individual taste to discover what they like.
Bought – Tesco, 24th July 2013
96/100 – Whisky Bible 2013
90/100 – Ralfy, of www.ralfy.com
Review: – Ralfy – Laphroaig Quarter Cask – YouTube