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: Online Whisky Auction, 26th October 2016
93/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
87/100 – Malt Maniacs (from 12 maniac votes)
86.28/100 – Whiskybase (from 267 member votes)
When Ardbeg distillery reopened in 1997, production to create a new 10-year-old single malt began in earnest in 1998. This resulted in a 4-bottle series named ‘Very Young’ (2004, 6yo), ‘Still Young’ (2006, 8yo), ‘Almost There’ (2007, 9yo) and ‘Renaissance’ (2008, 10yo). Here are the scores for all 4 bottles from Whiskybase and Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible:
Renaissance – 87.56/100 (from 354 votes), 92/100 – Whisky Bible
Almost There – 86.26/100 (from 267 votes), 93/100 – Whisky Bible
Still Young – 85.23/100 (from 259 votes), 93/100 – Whisky Bible
Very Young – 84.82/100 (from 159 votes), 91/100 – Whisky Bible
The scores grow with the age of the Ardbeg on Whiskybase (much as you’d expect) but Jim Murray feels the Renaissance loses a point to the younger 9yo and 8yo. He remarks about the ‘Almost There’ with “further proof that a whisky doesn’t have to reach double figures in age to enter the realms of brilliance”. Nevertheless the scores for all 4 bottlings are excellent and scoring over 86/100 on Whiskybase is a fantastic mark.
Now I have the ‘Almost There’ will I get the other 3 bottles in the series? Probably not, mostly because the ‘Very Young’ goes for £250+ at auction. As much as I love collecting whisky my spending has limits. I enjoy drinking Ardbeg and the standard 10yo (£40) scores 86.5/100 on Whiskybase, which is nearly 2 points more than the ‘Very Young’. But there’s no denying that bottles such as the ‘Almost There’ are a good investment if the worldwide interest in whisky continues to grow.
Here’s ‘The Whisky Snob’ on You Tube, August 2016 with his review of the Ardbeg ‘Almost There’. Ignore the fact he says it’s a 10yo released in 2008, it’s a 9yo released in 2007 (he was obviously think of the Renaissance).
Bought: Scotch Malt Whisky Society, 17th October 2016
84/100 – Whiskybase (from 1 member vote)
84/100 on Whiskybase is a very good score. It may only be from one member but it is backed up by reviews elsewhere such as 4/5 from Philip Storry (his review here) and A+ on Ben’s Whisky Blog, which comes with a “highly recommended”. With the title of ‘Back to Primary School’ this dram brings back childhood memories of “lime Opal Fruits and drumstick lollies”, “orange barley sugar squash”, “lemon sherbet” and lashings of ice cream in various forms. This single malt may only be 9 years old but it has drawn out a lot from the first fill bourbon barrels and cracks a whip at a feisty 60.3%.
Here are the notes provided by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society:
Flavour profile: Sweet, fruity & mellow
The nose was light, bright, citric, lively and youthful – evoking primary school scenes for some of us – felt-tip pens, poster paints, Flumps, drumstick lollies, fruit salad chews and Jammie Dodgers. The neat palate had some distinctive confectionery notes – Oddfellows, summer creams, sherbet lemons – also pink wafers, peach cordial and hints of vanilla – more adult themes included Buck’s Fizz and mojitos. The reduced nose had peach schnapps, travel sweets, vanilla custard slice, perfumed hand lotion and chopped up kindling sticks. The reduced palate was simple and straightforward – peaches and cream and vanilla sweetness with a wee fizzy tingle in the tail
Drinking tip: A bit of a garden party dram – lazy, laid-back summer time fun.
Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 16th December 2015
86/100 – Whiskybase (average from 2 member votes)
83/100 – Malt Maniacs (average from 5 maniac votes)
Longrow is the name given to one of the three single malt variants produced by the Campbeltown distillery Springbank. On the distillery website they say, and I quote “first distilled in 1973, Longrow is the result of an experiment carried out by our chairman, who set out to prove that an Islay style single malt could be produced on the mainland. Today, our heavily peated, wonderfully smoky whisky is available in three bottlings – Peated, Red and 18yo.”
A favourite dram of mine is the Springbank 10yo and I love Islay whisky so it’s a mystery to me that I’ve never tried a Longrow. Why?! Simple because there are so many whiskies to choose from but I will have to make an exception for Longrow and try it soon. It sounds like it has the makings of something quite special. Voters on Whiskybase and Malt Maniacs clearly think this particular example is an excellent one.
My miniature of Longrow by Signatory was in an auction with 4 other miniatures but I did my research and discovered an identical bottle had sold on its own for £7.25 in May 2015. Incredibly another bottle had sold for a staggering £39.50 in February 2014. It goes to show that not every whisky has been shooting up in value in the last few years. Some may have already peaked. In the current market I doubt this miniature would be worth more than £10 but it only takes two Longrow lovers at an auction to send the price sky-high.