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: 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: Online Whisky Auction, 10th January 2017
86.33/100 – Whiskybase (average from 3 member votes)
My auction miniature of the Islay Mist blend is certainly old but whether it’s the version mentioned on Whiskybase from the 1960s is debatable. I chose the rating because it’s the only one listed of seven versions of the 8yo that matches the text on my label saying “a unique blend of SCOTCH WHISKY” as opposed to starting “the unique blend…”
The current version of ‘Islay Mist’ is produced by MacDuff International, a blending company based in Glasgow, Scotland (established in 1992). Prior to this the blend was produced directly from the Laphroaig distillery, which is indicated on the label of my miniature as “D. Johnston & Co. (Laphroaig) Ltd.”. MacDuff International still list Islay Mist on their website as one of their whiskies along with Grand Macnish and Lauders.
MacDuff International say:
“Islay Mist Blended Scotch was originally created on the Scottish island of Islay in 1922 to celebrate the 21st birthday of Lord Margadale. It was thought that the local single malt Scotch, Laphroaig, might be too heavy for all the guests’ taste so this unique blend of Laphroaig with Speyside malts and grain whisky was born.”
Here’s the Scotch Test Dummies with their review of the modern Islay Mist 8yo (January 2017):
Bought: Whisky Auction, 8th November 2016
75.33/100 – Whiskybase (from 3 member votes – 43%, 70cl version)
The Whisky Exchange are currently selling the Royal Culross 8yo for £99.95 where they say “The blend was compiled by A Gillies & Co, then-owners of Glen Scotia, hence the similar bottle style. We estimate this bottle dates from the 1980s.” It can make between £35-£45 at auction with a box but as little as £20 without.
On the back of the bottle it says in a flowery script “By appointment. This warrant shall signify that A. Gillies & Co (Distillers) Ltd. Glasgow Scotland are appointed suppliers of Royal Culross Scotch Malt Whisky to the Provost, Magistrates and Councillors of The Royal Burgh of Culross, Fifeshire. Granted this day, 23rd April 1972.” Below this is an indecipherable signature of the provost, perhaps written after sampling some of the whisky.
I found an online whisky shop saying a bottle of Royal Culross was from the 1960s but clearly the blend only started to appear in the 1970s. Both a US and UK website for trademarks have A Gillies & Co registering ‘Royal Culross’ in 1974. The trademark expired in the mid 1990s. The UK website lists trademarks going back to 1876 with no mention of ‘Royal Culross’ before 1974.
Trying to find out more about the Royal Culross blend has proved quite tricky. Scoring a fraction over 75/100 on Whiskybase suggests quite an average whisky but what has gone into the blend? Clearly Glen Scotia malt is possible but the distillery was inactive for most of the 1980s. A. Gillies & Co became part of Amalgamated Distilled Products (ADP) from 1970 who bought Littlemill in 1982 before becoming part of Argyll Group in 1984. But Littlemill closed between 1984 and 1989, much like Glen Scotia. That’s not to say stock wasn’t being used for blends during this period. ADP also produced other whisky such as the Burberry blend.
Not that any of this matters to me because I bought this bottle because I like the dumpy shape and love the 1980s. Let’s just hope the taste is more inline with Bon Jovi than Sigue Sigue Sputnik!
Bought: World of Whisky (Heathrow Airport), 10th September 2016
83/100 – Whisky Bible 2018
83.59/100 – Whiskybase (average from 29 member votes)
86/100 – Malt Box (his YouTube review below)
This new 8-year-old Bruichladdich first appeared as a Travel Retail Exclusive in March 2016 for £44.99. It then went up to £46.49 and by September it was £48.99. Ah yes, the slow creep of the greedy world of whisky. Nevertheless I was so excited to find a new ‘age statement’ from Bruichladdich I decided that nearly £50 was worth it. Hard to believe it’s only 3 years since I paid £20 for a bottle of the dearly departed Laddie 10. But obviously my salary has gone up by 150% since 2013 so I’m able to keep buying whisky! 🙂
83.6/100 on Whiskybase is a very good score and compares well against the Classic Laddie Scotch Barley NAS (non-age statement) with 82.3/100. Comments for the Laddie 8 include “satisfying and with its own distinguishable signature” and “a light, easy-sipping dram at first glance, but it pays off to take your time and dig deeper.” A Whiskybase member scoring the Laddie 8 a representative 84/100 leaves these tasting notes:
Nose: Very fresh and light with lemon curd, lime and kiwi at centre stage. Also grass, honey and vanilla with sweet breakfast cereals.
Taste: Fairly spicy at first, but those quickly make way for fruitier flavours of lemon, apple and pear. Some nuttiness in the background as well.
Finish: Subtle aniseed, lemon rasp and almonds. Drying and pretty long.
Here’s Andy of Malt Box with his review on You Tube (April 2016):
Bought: The Whisky Shop, 13th April 2016
86.59/100 – Whiskybase (average from 216 member votes)
I don’t know much German but one thing whisky has taught me is that “mit farbstoff” means “with colorant”. As Maltman Mike discovers in his video review below, this is printed on the back of the Lagavulin 8yo box. Quite why Lagavulin continue to feel the need to add colour is quite 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 Maltman Mike’s review on You Tube (April 2016):
Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 8th March 2016
None as yet but listed here on Whiskybase
This old bottle of the Spanish blend DYC was part of a set of 10 foreign (not Scottish) miniatures I won at auction. I bought a new, full-size DYC 8yo in March 2015 but this is the older ‘fino’ version. Unfortunately I’m not sure when this dates back to and information about the whiskies from Destilerías y Crianza (DYC) are hard to come by. They started producing whisky in the 1960s but I doubt this mini bottle is any earlier than the 1990s.
In the 2006 edition of Jim Murray’s ‘Whisky Bible’ he mentions the DYC blend but without any reference to age or type. He scores it 81/100, which is “good whisky worth trying” and says “thin and graining in parts but the bite is attractive and assertive while the malt comfortably holds its own.”
Sadly there’s no rating on Whiskybase but at least this Spanish dram is listed. As yet I haven’t opened my new 70cl of DYC so this miniature is a perfect opportunity to taste this whisky without opening yet another big bottle. Perhaps I’ll try it as part of a group of non-Scottish whiskies as an exotic ‘foreign flight’.
Here’s Jo of Whisky Wednesday talking about the DYC 10yo (Feb 2016):
Bought: Master of Malt, 3rd March 2016
83.5/100 – Whiskybase (average from 2 member votes)
I confess I’ve been delaying getting this bottle of Highland Park for my HP collection because of its mixed reviews. Although my 35cl bottle gets a healthy 83.5/100 on Whiskybase it’s only from 2 member votes. The full 70cl (which is effectively the same stuff) scores a more modest 81.7/100 from 20 votes, which is good but not brilliant. Hardly surprising for a young single malt from an Orkney distillery where age really matters. Youthful Islay malts often get praised for their depth of flavour but with HP drams they seem to need time in the cask to become great. Just consider the distillery’s own 18yo, 25yo and 30yo. But, as someone mentions for this 8yo by Gordon & MacPhail (G&M) “fairly simple HP, but certainly value for money.” For the price you can hardly expect great things from this whisky.
Up until 2012 this bottling by G&M was 40% but then they sensibly increased it to 43%, giving it a bigger kick than the standard 12yo. One reviewer on Whiskybase says of my 35cl “great Nose! Slightly peaty, but very light and fruity at the same time. Exotic fruits like mango and peaches. On the palate, the light smokiness and the fruits remain, sweet like exotic fruit gums. Does not develop much, short to medium finish. Nothing sensational, but quite a juicy dram all the same.”
Reviews on Master of Malt are very good (4 out of 5 stars) but this review by Chemistry of the Cocktail is less favourable. The reality is it’s young, pleasant, slightly underwhelming but you can’t grumble at the price.
Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 20th May 2015
86/100 – Whiskybase (average from 8 member votes)
There are only 24 distillery releases of Tamdhu listed on Whiskybase and 21 by the independent bottler Gordon & MacPhail (G&M). The reason there are so few single malts released by the distillery is because the majority of the whisky produced goes into blends such as Cutty Sark, Famous Grouse and J&B. The house style for Tamdhu is very much easy-drinking. A pleasant, sweet, malty, light-bodied dram that has you thinking “mmmm….Speyside!”
The miniature I have is an 8yo bottling of Tamdhu by Gordon & MacPhail. Although mine is potentially 1980s, the latest version appears in the Whisky Bible 2015 where it scores 84.5/100 with the comment “quintessential Speyside in its simplistic juicy broadside and light vanilla backing”. In the 2006 version of the Whisky Bible an earlier version of the 8yo by G&M scores 80/100 with the summary “grassy, bright and mouthwatering”.
Scoring 86/100 on Whiskybase from 8 votes is an excellent score. Overall, for Speyside fans, this Tamdhu is certainly one to try.
Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 20th May 2015
83.8/100 – Whiskybase (average from 7 member votes)
With the Scapa 16yo being discontinued this year and replaced by a younger NAS (non-aged statement bottling) it’s nice to know that the distillery used to produce quality at a younger age. This 8yo miniature could be from the late 1970s but, chances are, it’s from the 1980s. The very basic label is a far cry from the sophisticated packaging we see on whiskies today. Having ‘SCAPA’ in red ink – wow! It must have been like getting a Sinclair ZX Spectrum after using the black & white ZX81.
Although 83.8/100 on Whiskybase seems better than average, both members who write reviews seem underwhelmed by the taste. The nose suggests promising things to come only for the flavour to be “thin”, “innocuous” and lacking body. I will certainly be returning to these tasting notes when I get a chance to try it. It doesn’t sound like a whisky where anyone would want to hunt down a full bottle but there seem to be plenty of miniatures out there if you fancy this old Scapa experience.