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: Glen Garioch Distillery Shop, 12th September 2016
89.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
82.82/100 – Whiskybase (average from 24 member votes)
I bought this bottle of Glen Garioch from the distillery shop following my tour in September 2016. My blog about this visit can be found here. Initially I fancied buying a hand-filled bottle but at £135 a pop it seemed rather extravagant. The pre-packaged 1997 ‘Batch 12’ was a more pocket friendly £51. Bottled in 2012 it’s 14-15 years old and cask strength at 56.7%. I’d seen it at airports and online so I knew it wasn’t very exclusive but I wanted a memento of my visit and 1997 was a significant year for Glen Garioch. The distillery fell silent in 1995 but started production again in 1997 so a bottle from that year celebrates the rebirth of a historic and treasured Aberdeenshire business.
Scoring 89.5/100 in the Whisky Bible classifies this dynamic dram from Glen Garioch as a ‘very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying’. It’s only 0.5 points away from being ‘brilliant’ according to the author, Jim Murray. His review consists of “I have to say: I have long been a bit of a voice in the wilderness among whisky professionals as to regards this distillery. This not so subtly muscled malt does my case no harm whatsoever.”
Reaching nearly 83/100 on Whiskybase suggests a very good single malt. Comments about the Glen Garioch 1997 include “very tasty, nice bourbon-barrel whisky”, “I liked it a lot” and “a very clean and fresh Glen Garioch, on sweet barley and tasting rather young”.
Tasting notes from Master of Malt (where it’s still available for £75.65):
Nose: Creamy and sweet, with notes of vanilla ice cream and banana fritters.
Palate: A kick of cinnamon and pepper, but this remains firmly in ‘caramel and orchard fruit’ country.
Finish: Apple turnovers dusted with brown sugar.
Here’s Horst Luening of Whisky.com with his thoughts about this Glen Garioch 1997 (August 2015):
Posted in Glen Garioch
Tagged 1997, 56.7%, 70cl, Batch 12, Cask Strength, Glen Garioch, Glen Garioch Distillery Shop, Highland, Highlands, NAS, Oldmeldrum, Single Malt, Vintage Batch 12
Bought: SMWS, 6th May 2016
88/100 – Whiskybase (from 1 member vote)
Those who have read my SMWS Review (Scotch Malt Whisky Society) wont be surprised to hear that this Bunnahabhain will be my last ever SMWS bottle in my collection. Although the majority of what this illustrious independent bottler produce is excellent it was their customer service that let them down and I allowed my membership to expire last year. Nevertheless the opportunity to get a cask-strength Bunnahabhain was too good to resist, so I purchased 10.93 entitled ‘Sweet but Dangerous’ before leaving the society.
I love the standard 46.3% bottling of the Bunnahabhain 12yo, perhaps a little too much, which is why this 9yo by the SMWS failed to impress me. The distillery’s 12yo is mature, refined, smooth and well crafted. Unfortunately this 9yo has none of those qualities and at 61.8% it was very difficult to tame. Maybe I didn’t get the water right, or perhaps it will improve over time as it sits in an open bottle. It wasn’t bad but I wouldn’t go as far as scoring it 88/100 as one member does on Whiskybase. For me it was more like an 85/100 compared to 90/100 for the standard 12yo.
Here are the tasting notes as provided by the SMWS for the Bunnahabhain ‘Sweet and Dangerous’ 9yo:
“Flavour profile: Peated
The nose took us to a beach bonfire – peat smoke, heather, gorse, salty sea air and moules marinières – but one panellist had his own barbeque in a hospital car-park. With water, we imagined coal-tar, liquorice and teriyaki-glazed ribs, an Islay High Street in winter and Dick Van Dyke’s chimney-sweep cap. The neat palate was enormous – deep smoke, chewy dark toffee, mechanics overalls, a disinfected operating theatre, hints of farmyard and pork and apple sausages roasting on a smoky barbeque. The reduced palate – liquorice and clove confectionery – sweet but dangerous (like Mary Poppins!) – and all enjoyed down-wind of an Islay pagoda.
Drinking tip: At a beach bonfire – or while watching a certain movie.”
Bought: Ardbeg Shop, 26th March 2017
86.37/100 – Whiskybase (average from 193 member votes)
Ardbeg Day is here, and so too is my blog post about the Kelpie Committee Release. This is the second year I’ve been a committee member and endured the 8am bun fight in March to secure a bottle. At least this time the Ardbeg website didn’t go into meltdown. The March release shares the same name as the June release but it’s a higher strength and much more limited in numbers. Each year the price creeps up by a few pounds. This year I paid £89 but it quickly sells out and bottles instantly start making between £130-£140 at auction. Use this knowledge for future releases to tell your partner it’s an investment 😉 but privately you know you’ll be drinking it.
Here is how the previous four ‘Ardbeg Day’ committee releases have faired on Whiskybase:
- Dark Cove (2016) – 87.94/100 from 273 votes
- Perpetuum (2015) – 86.72/100 from 234 votes
- Auriverdes (2014) – 85.7/100 from 616 votes
- Ardbog (2013) – 87.36/100 from 738 votes
After the success of the Dark Cove last year I’m not surprised that the rating for the Kelpie has dipped. With 86.37/100 it’s currently 4th out of the last 5 releases but that’s still an excellent score. Comments left on Whiskybase about the Kelpie include “rather clean and certainly not bad, but there is nothing exciting about it”, “solid whisky, with some unpolished but pleasant smells and flavours” and “a big and unapologetic Ardbeg”.
Here’s Great Drams on YouTube with their thoughts about the Ardbeg Kelpie (May 2017):
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: Whisky Auction, 9th February 2017
85.33/100 – Whiskybase (average from 5 member votes)
Released in 2012, this Travel Retail exclusive was a replacement for the 1990 bottle. At the same time the 2001 came in to replace the 1998 release. Unlike the Highland Park (HP) 1990 the HP 1991 was limited to the Singapore market. This may explain why it didn’t appear in Jim Murray’s ‘Whisky Bible’. Strangely it took over 4 years after the release before the HP 1991 started to appear in UK auctions. I’ve heard of the slow boat from China but these bottles must have been on a tortoise from Singapore! Auction prices have ranged from £77.50 to a whopping £165, which is a lot for a 10-11yo HP. Nevertheless I foresee prices going up because this seems to be quite a rare bottle.
Scoring over 85/100 on Whiskybase is a very good score but the HP 1990, which the 1991 replaced, scores 86.44/100. The 1990 was bottled in 2010, which makes it slightly younger than the 1991. So being older doesn’t necessarily mean being better.
Tasting notes about the HP 1991 from ‘Scotch Malt Whisky’ say:
“Golden with glowing coppery tones, Vintage 1991 (40% ABV) has aromas of dried orange peel, vanilla with toasted cedar wood and rich fragrant spicy notes such as nutmeg, a hint of cloves and incense. Mouth-watering lemon and orange citrus flavours in the mouth, with sweet vanilla custard notes wrapped in subtle yet complex spices at the end. The finish is medium sweet with a lingering, smoky spiciness.”
Bought: Whisky Broker, 25th May 2015
83/100 – Whisky Bible 2016
89/100 – Whiskybase (average from 8 member votes)
I bought this cask strength bottle of Linkwood from the Whisky Broker in May 2015. Since then it’s provided several enjoyable sipping sessions. At 26-years-old it’s a mature Speysider but with plenty of fruity freshness. Only 288 bottles were produced from cask no.1828 and at 53.1% it packs a potent punch. It appeared in the Whisky Bible 2016 where the author, Jim Murray says “malty, sharp and, at times, searingly hot. Sparse and off key on the finish, also.” His score of 83/100 classifies this Linkwood as “good whisky worth trying”.
8 voters on Whiskybase are feeling a bit more generous than Mr Murray where 89/100 is a fantastic score. It’s up there with the Macallan 18yo and some of the best Ardbegs. Comments include “this is a remarkably good whisky” and “a very good whisky. Light in flavour profile, but really full in taste. The spice and sweetness harmonise very well.”
For me my score would sit between the Whisky Bible and Whiskybase at 86/100. It’s an excellent whisky but I’ve tasted better cask strength Linkwoods. But it’s worth buying at auction if you see it going for less than £100 and you enjoy the Linkwood profile. This is a very good example.
Tasting notes left on Whiskybase:
Nose: Pear Drops, Wine Gums, Ripe Strawberries, a slightly spirity nose but not unpleasant. After about 30 minutes and a drop of water – some lemon and still the acid pear drops. Very big and slow legs.
Taste: Acid pear drops. Fresh and sweet with some pepper. Wine Gums. A hint of licquorice and some lemon.
Finish: A dry finish. Lingering acid drops and lemon with a pepper after taste. Most pleasant.
Bought: Gauntley’s of Nottingham, 3rd February 2017
87/100 – Whiskybase (average from 11 member votes)
If you’re a fan of YouTube whisky reviews like I am you’ve probably come across Ben Bowers and his ‘A Dram A Day’ channel. Starting in January 2016 he set himself a challenge to post a whisky review every day for a year, all in the aid of charity. Initially he wasn’t sure he’d manage it but he did, even during the birth of his 3rd child. As the 365 days drew to a close, Claxton’s, a Yorkshire-based independent bottler, offered Ben’s cause a limited edition Ardmore with all proceeds going to charity. After watching most of Ben’s videos I thought it would be rude not to get it. Finished in a Laphroaig cask, limited to 299 bottles and at the cask strength of 55.1%, it sounded wonderful. Also I’d never tried Claxton’s before and their square bottles looked very attractive. I do love a good bottle shape!
Fans of the Ardmore ‘Traditional Cask’ will know how well the Highland distillery’s spirit harmonises with peat. Ralfy, a leading YouTube vlogger, once remarked that the ‘Traditional Cask’ was his favourite peated whisky outside of Islay. Praise indeed and something I agree with. So it doesn’t surprise me that after 11 votes on Whiskybase this special dram has got the excellent score of 87/100. One comment (translated from French) said, “peaty but not in a crazy way either. Gentle on the nose. The high title pushes the sensations high enough, but it remains creamy, not so peated eventually. Youth does not appear.”
Since finishing his challenge I’m delighted to see that Ben got a job with Gordon & MacPhail. I’m sure his whisky videos helped boost his CV as well as helping a worthy charity. Congratulations Ben, and thanks Claxton’s for this awesome Ardmore!
Here’s Ben of ‘A Dram A Day’ with his thoughts about his Ardmore charity bottling (YouTube, January 2017):
Posted in Ardmore
Tagged 55.1%, 70cl, 8yo, A Dram A Day, Ardmore, Ben Bowers, Cask Strength, Charity Bottling, Children's Heart Surgery Fund, Claxton's, Gauntley's, Highland, Highlands, Laphroaig, Single Cask, Single Malt
Bought: Amazon, 12th March 2016
91.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
79.14/100 – Whiskybase (average from 111 member votes)
I must admit I tend to think of Auchentoshan whisky as being in the same bracket as Jura, Fettercairn and Speyburn in terms of quality. This might seem unfair until you look at the entry-level single malts each distillery produce and they get similar ratings online. One reviewer on Whiskybase for the Auchentoshan 12yo even says “very similar to Jura 10”. Other comments for the Auchentoshan 12yo include “Approachable”, “Enjoyable dram” and “worth spending some time otherwise will completely pass you by”. It’s this last remark that’s important because Ralfy (of www.ralfy.com) says in his YouTube review in 2009 to give this dram 15 minutes to open up. This allows the whisky to get over the E150 obstacle and let out its freshness and summery citrus notes.
One person who certainly enjoys the Auchentonshan 12yo is Jim Murray. Scoring 91.5/100 in his Whisky Bible classifies this Lowland single malt as “brilliant”. He says about the taste “oily and buttery; intense barley carrying delicate marzipan and vanilla” and concludes with “a delicious malt very much happier with itself than it has been for a while”.
Having tried the Auchentoshan 12yo I certainly enjoyed it but it doesn’t hold a candle to the Highland Park 12yo, which is cheaper, nor the Talisker 10yo, which is significantly more complex and rewarding. But every whisky enthusiast will at some time want to try an example from the Scottish Lowlands and the Auchentoshan 12yo is very approachable and pleasant.
Here’s Horst Luening of Whisky.com with his thoughts about the Auchentoshan 12yo on YouTube (July 2016):
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):