Bought: World of Whisky (Heathrow), 27th June 2017
88/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
77/100 – Whiskybase (average from 2 member votes)
90/100 – Scotch Malt Whisky
I went to the ‘World of Whisky’ shop at Heathrow airport without any intension of buying a bottle of Hazelwood 18-year-old. I was aware of its existence from previous trips and I liked its art deco styling but I only wanted a bottle of Chita, until a salesman grabbed me. He’d obviously been told to give the Hazelwood 18yo the hard sell and I was invited to have a sample. Don’t mind if I do! Granted it was very pleasant but I just wanted a bottle of Chita (Japanese single grain). I must stick to my guns! Then the salesman said they only had two bottles of the Hazelwood left and indicated that stocks were selling out everywhere. Clearly I had “sucker” written all over me. Sadly it worked and I found myself saying, “I’ll take a bottle!” A combination of sales persistence, several more whisky samples and my collector’s gullibility had been my undoing. For the same price as the new and more interesting Balvenie 14yo ‘Peated’ (£65) I’d bought myself a 50cl, 18yo blend in a fancy bottle. Well done! The moral of this story is “stick to your plan” even if a slick salesman is plying you with free whisky.
Although 77/100 on Whiskybase sounds quite average it’s only from 2 votes so far. I’ve got a feeling it will level out around 80/100 after 20 votes. Having tasted it I’d say it was more like 82/100 from me but Jim Murray in his Whisky Bible scores the Hazelwood 18yo a fantastic 88/100. This classifies it as a ‘very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying’. I don’t feel so bad about being duped out of £65 now. Jim Murray’s review consists of:
Nose: top-notch dispersal of subtle notes: walnut cream cake with a pinch of vanilla. The malt is low key but distinctly Speyside-style in its clarity, despite the odd wisp of something a little heavy.
Taste: Creamy-textured. Soft ulmo honey gives way to the thickening vanilla and toffee.
Finish: bitters slightly at the turned-up ending
Comment: until the final furry moments, a genuine little, understated, charmer
Here’s Horst Luening of Whisky.com with his thoughts about the Hazelwood 18yo on YouTube (July 2017):
Bought: Whisky Auction, 24th May 2017
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:
Posted in Bell's
Tagged 1982, 1986, 40%, 43%, 50cl, 60th Birthday, 75cl, Bell's, Blend, British Royal Family, Decanter, NAS, Online Whisky Auction, Porcelain, Prince William, Queen Elizabeth II
Bought: Heathrow Airport, 2004/05
67/100 – Whisky Bible 2006
83.88/100 – Whiskybase (average from 54 member votes)
78/100 – Malt Maniacs (average from 9 maniac votes)
Status: Long since discontinued
I bought this bottle of Macallan ‘Twenties’ for my father’s 81st or 82nd birthday in 2004 or 2005. I can’t remember the exact year mostly because he’s had so many birthdays! He has his 94th this year but I wont be buying him any more whisky. Not long after I got him this Macallan he confessed that he didn’t really like whisky. Nobody had realised. He got at least 5 bottles for his 80th birthday. So the good news has been that my brother and I got to try this Macallan, so every cloud has a silver lining!
Macallan began introducing the Macallan ‘Decades’ series in 2001 and in 2004 they added this version of the ‘Twenties’ to represent the flavour of Macallan in the 1920s. Not that my father was drinking Macallan when he was born in 1923. As a Scottish baby they don’t start you on whisky until you’re at least 5. Ultimately there were 4 bottles in the series representing the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.
Although I quite like this Macallan, according to Jim Murray in his Whisky Bible of 2006 the ‘Twenties’ was his least favourite decade. 67/100 classifies it as “very unimpressive indeed” and Mr Murray says “Does absolutely nothing for me at all. Totally off-key, no finish. Nothing roaring about this one.” He scores the 1930s 91/100, the 1940s gets 81/100 and 1950s does best with 92/100.
The Malt Maniacs are a bit more complimentary with a reasonable mark of 78/100 but nearly 84/100 on Whiskybase from 54 votes is a very good score. Nevertheless comments are very up and down ranging from “a perfect recreation from the 1920s” to “not very good”. Expert sipper and reviewer Mark Dermul who scores the ‘Twenties’ 77/100 says “I am not really impressed. Too dry and a tad too sour to my taste.” And leaves the following tasting notes:
Nose: The sherry is immediately present on the nose. Apricots, oranges, pineapple, blackberries. Quite dry, to be honest. A bit of chocolate. Mild smokiness. Soft woodspice.
Taste: The attack is soft and gently spiced. Again all sweet sherry. The fruit is now of the dried variety. Chocolate returns. Does turn a bit sour, now.
Finish: The finish is soft and warm with a hint of nuts.
Posted in Macallan
Tagged 1920s, 2004, 40%, 50cl, Decades, Macallan, NAS, Speyside, Travel Series, Twenties, World of Whisky
Bought: Telser Distillery, 7th November 2016
94.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
77/100 – Whiskybase (from 1 member vote)
The Telser distillery in Liechtenstein was founded in 1880 and has stayed with the Telser family for 4 generations. The distillery produces a variety of spirits with whisky first appearing in 2006. Whiskybase list 15 releases so far. The distillery typically does two releases per year, totally about 1000 bottles. Not surprisingly these can sell out quite quickly.
Telser sell to the Swiss, Austrian and German markets, which are big enough to keep any small distillery busy. To date Telser don’t have a UK distributor but I noticed on their Facebook page in June 2016 that the Golf Inn, St Andrews, Scotland, now stocked a bottle of their single malt. It was seeing this that prompted me to contact the distillery. Marcel Telser was extremely helpful and eventually I had the latest single malt shipped over from a stockist in Austria.
Scoring 94.5/100 in the Whisky Bible classifies this malt as a ‘superstar whisky that gives us all a reason to live’. The author, Jim Murray, says about the taste, “superb delivery with that same firm grape, initially firm, slightly tart and salivating but then softened massively by the texture of the intense malt”. He concludes with “the Burgundian edge to this is clean and almost fascinating: this distillery does Pinot Noir-matured malt probably better than any other in the world. A big treat from a small country.”
The score from Jim Murray is no fluke. The ‘Telsington I’ scored 94/100 when it appeared in the Whisky Bible 2010 and there have since been 6 more Telsington releases, all in locally sourced Pinot Noir casks. Telser also did two rye releases, one of which was finished in Laphroaig casks and scores an excellent 83.5/100 on Whiskybase. It’s still available from a German shop for a very reasonable €62.90. Sadly they don’t ship to the UK. Damn!
Lastly, I absolutely love the unique diamond bottle shape that Telser use. I also couldn’t resist the cute triangular 10cl, which I’ll use for tasting so I can keep the 50cl version unopened in my collection.
Bought: Master of Malt, 3rd August 2016
92.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
82.2/100 – Whiskybase (average from 7 member votes)
Teerenpeli is a family run distillery in Finland that began life in 2002. Limited releases aged 5 and 6 years were followed by an 8yo in 2011. My ‘Karhi’ was one of three new releases from the distillery in 2015, which included a 10yo and the ‘Rasi’. Here’s how they score on Whiskybase:
- 82.2/100 – Karhi
- 80.25/100 – Rasi (from 6 member votes)
- 79.67/100 – 10-year-old (from 3 member votes)
The Karhi seems to be the best of the three. It is matured in bourbon casks before spending a year finishing in Madeira wine casks. Tasting notes on ‘Master of Malt’ say “sweet and herbaceous with notes of peppermint cream, dark chocolate and cooking spices.”
This example from Finland takes my ‘world of whisky’ total up to 25 different countries outside of Scotland.
Here’s Horst Luening of Whisky.com with his thoughts about the Karhi on YouTube (June 2017):
Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 9th December 2015
76/100 – Whiskybase (from 1 member vote)
Icelandic whisky is coming – brace yourself! Two distilleries that I’m aware of were established in 2009, the Eimverk Distillery that produces ‘Flóki’ and Thoran distillery where it’s possible to purchase your own cask. Admittedly I wasn’t aware of either distillery until I spotted this bottle of Flóki in a UK auction. At the moment it’s the only place to find it in the UK and I’d never seen it in any previous online auctions.
This young spirit isn’t officially whisky yet as it’s been bottled up before its 3rd birthday. Young distilleries sometimes do this to whet the appetites of future whisky customers but there’s always a risk that the lack of maturity puts tasters off. 76/100 from one voter on Whiskybase is a reasonable score though and I was fortunate to find a review by Ted of Whisky Waffle. In it he says of the nose “really curious; it’s really, really floral and fruity (pineapple, mandarin, pear) with a slightly salted caramel edge that keeps you sniffing” and describes the taste “the Flóki is sharp, slightly bitter and prickly. It pretty much jumps off its longship and starts jabbing away with its spear, although part of the reason for that is probably the 47% strength. The finish coats the tongue with that raw, grassy, hay-like quality that seems common amongst very young whiskies, followed by a lick of spicy fruitiness.” Ted’s complete thoughts and review can be found here.
Here’s Ben Bowers of ‘A Dram a Day’ with his review on You Tube (June 2016):
Bought: The Whisky Shop, 27th October 2015
92/100 – Whisky Bible 2016
86/100 – Whiskybase (from 1 member vote)
I like the idea of a ‘Living Cask’. Initially I thought it was a bit of a gimmick until I read more about it. It’s a vatting together of malts where part of the cask is drawn off and bottled up before more malt is added, so some of the whisky lives on, mixed with the new. The ‘Living Cask’ concept is used here by Richard Joynson, the owner and founder of Loch Fynes Whisky, which he opened in Inveraray, West Scotland, in 1993.
Jim Murray, author of the Whisky Bible, has loved nearly every versions of the Living Cask he’s reviewed over the years. The ‘Anniversary Offering’ listed in the 2006 Bible only scored 79/100 but most other versions score 90/100 or above. In the 2016 Bible the taste of my Batch 1 reads “a volley of intense sugars, further enlivened by prickly spice makes for a memorable kick off. The smoke continues to drift and offer anchor; unusually, the texture actually becomes silkier as the flavours develop.” Mr Murray concludes with “absolutely charming” and 92/100 classifies this dram as “brilliant”.
This vatted malt, gimmick or not, certainly gets good reviews. Whether that justifies a price tag of £42 given it’s only 50cl rather than 70cl is debatable especially when you consider the many wonderful single malts you can buy for a similar price. But if you’ve tried all those and fancy something different, the Living Cask certainly ticks the boxes for uniqueness and quality.
Bought: Waitrose, 14th July 2015
89/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
89/100 – Ralfy of www.ralfy.com (his video below from Oct 2011)
83.92/100 – Whiskybase (average from 14 member votes)
Here’s a Japanese blend that’s been teasing me on the shelves of my local Waitrose supermarket for what seems like years. As Ralfy says in his video below, it’s the bottle shape that first catches your eye and you wonder if the content is any good. Apparently it is! Jim Murray’s score of 89/100 in his Whisky Bible classifies this dram as “very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying” and his review consists of “a sensual whisky full of lightly sugared riches”.
Both Ralfy and Jim Murray’s reviews date back to 2011 so I’m hoping my bottle from 2015 contains a whisky of similar class and quality. Getting nearly 84/100 on Whiskybase is excellent, and this mark is specific to the 50cl bottling (the one I have). Ralfy reviews the 70cl, which gets 83/100 on Whiskybase (but admittedly from 173 votes compared to 14 for the smaller 50cl). In general it seems this whisky is a nice little sipper and the bottle looks good on the sideboard too!
Bought: Amazon, 6th June 2015
93/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
90/100 – Ralfy – His You Tube review below from February 2012
82.2/100 – Whiskybase (average from 73 member votes)
Here’s another excellent blended whisky by Compass Box. I’ve tried the ‘Glasgow’ version, which is also fantastic. 93/100 in the Whisky Bible categorises this dram as “brilliant” and the author, Jim Murray, says “a beautiful young thing this blend: nubile, naked and dangerously come hither.” It’s just as well he’s not talking about the Glasgow version. To be naked on Sauchiehall Street on a Saturday night is taking danger to a whole new level!
If Ralfy gives a whisky 90/100 it’s time to sit up and take notice. With words like “cauliflower” and “egg” in his tasting notes it comes as no surprise when he says this bottle of Compass Box is complex. Here is his video:
Bought: Whisky Broker, 20th April 2015
61.79/100 – Whiskybase (average from 21 member votes)
I like it when an independent bottler tries something different, and this is the case with the Whisky Broker and his release of the ‘underproof’ (29.5%) ‘Spirit of the Highlands’ from the Ben Nevis distillery. The law states that for a spirit to be called whisky it has to be matured for at least 3 years and be a minimum of 40%. The Glenglassaugh distillery released several bottlings as ‘spirit drinks’ rather than ‘whisky’ when they were younger than 3-years-old. But there’s no lack of maturity with this juice from Ben Nevis. Distilled on March 1966, it started its life before England won the world cup, and before I was born!
I always think it’s difficult to rate something that doesn’t fall into a category where you know the rules. Nevertheless, we all know what we like and dislike. Usually with whisky, adding a touch of water can help open up the flavours, but at 29.5%, you don’t want to weaken it any further. Comments on Whiskybase suggest that the nose is good but the taste lets this spirit down. Bitterness prevails mixed with oak juice. I can’t imagine that sucking on an old oak tree would be very pleasant!
Some experienced whisky drinkers mix their whiskies. I’ve seen Ralfy on You Tube do this several times, where he takes a better whisky to enhance a lesser one, or adds a dash of ‘cask strength’ whisky to another that needs a boost of alcohol. Several Whiskybase reviewers mention mixing this 49yo with something else. One uses a Bowmore Tempest (55.1%) and another uses a Ben Nevis 1991 (58%), with good results. I will have to start experimenting!
Posted in Ben Nevis
Tagged 1966, 29.5%, 49yo, 50cl, 5cl, Ben Nevis, Highland, Highlands, Spirit Drink, Spirit of the Highlands, Whisky Broker