Tag Archives: 54%

Strathearn – Private Cask Club, Cask 005

Bought: Online auction, 8th October 2018

Ratings:
Listed on Whiskybase here but no rating as yet.

Strathearn is another relatively new distillery, which has the claim to fame of the smallest in Scotland. It’s certainly the only one I’ve seen described as a ‘micro’ distillery. Situated in the southern highlands, Strathearn got planning permission at the start of 2013 and on the 18th October of that year the first cask was filled. The bottle of single malt I purchased at auction was distilled 12 days later on the 30th October and placed in cask no.005. Production comes from 2 stills – an 800 litre wash and a 400 litre charge. Rather than use the industry standard 200 litre barrels Strathearn have opted for the 50 litre ‘octave’. Hardly surprising since a typical spirit run is only 100 litres.

Strathearn use their own maris otter barley in the whisky making process. Well it is a farm after all. Initially they distilled into American oak and French oak barrels but recent releases have young spirit maturing in mulberry, chestnut and even peated acacia wood casks. By early 2017 Strathearn had withdrawn 12 products because of issues with the SWA (Scotch Whisky Association). Thankfully this doesn’t seem to be holding them back with their experimenting. Long may that continue!

Towards the end of 2016 Strathearn’s inaugural release was done by auction through Whisky Auctioneer. I followed it with interest but even the cheapest bottle at £315 was about £200 more than I would have considered paying, especially at 50cl rather than 70cl. Bottle no.1 went for a staggering £4,150. Interestingly the pictures of the bottles on the auction site had a blank space where the cask number should go. You would assume it was cask no.001 but the distilling date was 11th December 2013, nearly 2 months after the first barrel was filled. I can only assume this is because all the early casks were bought by the distillery’s ‘Private Cask Club’. My bottle from cask no.005 is the earliest example of distilling from Strathearn that I’ve seen on the market.

After the inaugural release it seemed the only way to own a bottle of Strathearn was by being a Private Cask Club member or finding a bottle at auction. By 2018 (if not 2017) Strathearn made a bottle of single malt available from their online shop but at £145 for 50cl it was still a bit steep. Thankfully more private casks were being bottled and appearing at auction where a typical price was £65-£80 for 70cl. Time to make a purchase!

The good thing about using smaller barrels is that there is a bigger surface to surface ratio between spirit and wood compared to a bigger barrel. This might not necessarily make the spirit taste older than its years if it comes from a smaller cask than the industry standard but it can influence the taste. My bottle is less than 4 years old but the spirit has drawn an amazing colour from the French oak, along with an augmented flavour:

Nose: Very fruity with spices (cinnamon/ginger/nutmeg), hint of pepper, honey and some citrus.

Taste: The sweetness and spices come through with a creamy fruit yoghurt at play in the background. Elements of the French oak wood become clearer, which were hinted at in the nose.

Finish: A good length with a pleasant warmth of after-spices and almost a floral tinge.

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Scapa 1980 25-year-old – 500th blog post!

Bought: Whisky Please, 10th December 2015

Ratings:
89.4/100 – Whiskybase (average from 17 member votes)
88/100 – Malt Maniacs (from 2 maniac votes)

It’s purely by chance that my 500th blog post is about one of the best whiskies in my collection. As much as I love Highland Park I have a soft spot for their Orkney neighbour Scapa. Whiskybase list 203 distillery releases from Highland Park but only 16 from Scapa, such is the rarity of direct bottlings. Of the 16 bottles the 25yo gets the best rating with an amazing 89.4/100.

Only 2000 bottles of this Scapa 25yo were released in 2005 but you can still see them popping up in auctions and shops quite regularly. Here is how the 25yo compares against other familiar Scapa releases on Whiskybase:

  • 89.4/100 – Scapa 25-year-old
  • 82.63/100 – Scapa 16-year-old ‘The Orcadian’
  • 81.58/100 – Scapa 14-year-old
  • 81.14/100 – Scapa 12-year-old
  • 79.14/100 – Scapa ‘Skiren’

Talk about being ‘head and shoulders’ above the rest! A member of Whiskybase describes the 25yo’s taste as “spicy and malty aroma, cinnamon, pepper, oat porridge, vanilla, red apples, lemon, floral honey, tea and dry hay. Marzipan sweet taste, eucalyptus, pepper, malt, vanilla and walnuts. Medium long and malty end.” Another member summarises with “this is an absolute powerful Scapa with the knowing sweet and malty notes and even the sea breeze in the background. A complex and powerful experience and you might be sure, close your eyes, take a sip and you’ll be on Orkney.”

Scapa 1980 25yo 70cl