Dalmunach is one of the newest distilleries on the Scottish whisky scene that’s owned by a big players in the industry, Pernod Ricard (Chivas Brothers). The ultra-modern distillery was built in 2014 on the site of the former Imperial distillery (also owned by Pernod Ricard), which was demolished in 2013 simply because it wasn’t economical to be refurbished. Dalmunach distillery is in Speyside not far from the Dailuaine distillery. The name ‘Dalmunach’ comes from a nearby pool on the River Spey.
In August 2019 I spotted on a whisky forum that 4-year-old bottles from the new Dalmunach distillery were now on sale as part of ‘The Distillery Reserve Collection’. Unfortunately this bottle was only available in distillery shops belonging to Pernod Ricard. As fortune would have it I was intending to visit one of these, the Strathisla distillery in Keith but not until October. Before making plans I contacted the distillery to ask about the Dalmunach bottle but sadly they’d sold out. At 64.5% it was going to be hot but a nice chance to try something new. Currently this bottle scores 82.1/100 on Whiskybase from 11 member votes.
I had to wait until May 2020 before getting my next chance to claim a bottle of Dalmunach, this time from the Aberdeen Whisky Shop. This exclusive release was put together by the independent bottler Duncan Taylor as part of their ‘The Octave’ series. Of the 22 releases of Dalmunach listed on Whiskybase, 15 of them have come from Duncan Taylor, 14 of which as part of ‘The Octave’ range. As the name suggests, the whisky has had its final phase of maturation in a smaller octave cask (in this case ex-sherry) to “enhance its hue, taste, form and character”.
The majority of ‘The Octave’ releases score in the mid 80s out of 100, which goes to validate Duncan Taylor’s 40+ years of experience of small cask maturation. For my 3-year-old example (5 months spent in an octave cask) a review says “needs more ageing” but adds “looking forward to trying older Dalmunach in the future”. Most definitely!
4.5/5 stars – Amazon (from 18 reviews)
80.56/100 – Whiskybase (average from 61 member votes – 70cl)
In June 2019 I found myself in the Aberdeen Whisky Shop on a quest for a bottle of Islay blended malt by Berry Bros & Rudd (BBR). My search was successful (a future blog) but I also spotted a selection of 10cl bottles by Glenrothes. This Speyside distillery was acquired by BBR in 2010 and in 2018 they released the ‘Soleo Collection’ with age statements of 10, 12, 18 and 25 years and a non-age statement called ‘Whisky Maker’s Cut’. I opted for the 12yo as it offered a bit more maturity than the 10yo and costing £10 it didn’t reduce my wallet to tears.
In the YouTube review below by Chris Goodrum I was quite pleased to hear him say “raw” and “hard” but he added that this is the character of the distillery. Yes it is. The Glenrothes ‘Select Reserve’ was all those things but it gets a mention in Ian Buxton’s book ‘101 Whiskies To Try Before You Die’ because he felt it represented the house style of the distillery. Glenrothes can be a bit of a love/hate whisky for a lot of dramsters but if you like a quintessential Speysider with characterful roughness then it’s worth spending some time with this malt. Its neighbour, The Macallan, might be the lord of the manor but the Glenrothes is the gritty gamekeeper that likes to roll around in the grass and get his tartan troosers dirty.
As the ‘soleo’ name suggests, we’re looking at sherry matured single malts in this new range from Glenrothes. The 12yo scores a respectable 80.56/100 on Whiskybase and reviews elsewhere online are very good. Comments include “smooth, creamy vanilla. Beautifully balanced. Definite keeper”, “a great malt”, “very modern and yet unmistakably Glenrothes” and “a delicious well rounded single malt”.
Tasting notes on Amazon:
Nose: Light fragrance, banana and vanilla
Taste: Banana, lemon and melon with a hint of cinnamon
Finish: Long and sweet, galia melon light spice
Here’s ‘The Good Dram Show’ with their thoughts about the Glenrothes 12yo at 15m 47s on YouTube, which are honest and not altogether complimentary (Nov 2018):
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.
77/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
79.68/100 – Whiskybase (average from 30 member votes)
You have to give the Speyside Distillery credit for trying. I was very impressed with the presentation of the Spey Tenné and now the Chairman’s Choice brings a very stylish box into the mix AND a scroll! Although I only bought a 20cl the salesman at the Aberdeen Whisky Shop almost convinced me to get the full 70cl based on the packaging alone. If I were buying it as a gift for an occasional drinker with a Speyside preference I would have gone for it, especially at £60. But for drinking something different with my brother I knew the 20cl would suffice. It’s good whisky but not scroll-worthy whisky.
Scoring 77/100 in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible classifies this Speyside Distillery NAS (non-age statement) as “average, and usually pleased but sometimes flawed”. Mr Murray’s review is incredibly brief and consists of “Their Chairman’s choice, maybe. But not mine”. Well that was very informative wasn’t it!
Scoring nearly 80/100 on Whiskybase is a reasonably good mark but nothing special. Comments include “the nose left a bit to be desired, but the palate was okay. Nevertheless, this Spey is a bit of a disappointment”, “not a bad whisky but not really good either” and “a clean and well crafted single malt with a gorgeous nose and a delicate sweet and fruity palate. Easy to drink, not really complex with a relatively one-dimensional finish. A delicate all-day dram.”
Here’s Horst Luening of Whisky.com with his thoughts about the Spey Chairman’s Choice (May 2015):
90/100 – Whiskybase (average from 2 member votes)
When I watch the Whisky Hunter on YouTube I’ve been stunned by how many amazing finds he’s made. It seems that every garage sale or backwater off license in America harbours a classic whisky at a ridiculously low price. Why can’t the UK be the same? It’s possibly because bourbon is the big thing in America and single malts and blends get neglected. More people in the UK want and recognise a vintage whisky so it’s rare to see one languishing on a shop shelf for years.
I found this bottle of Crawford’s 5 Star in the Aberdeen Whisky Shop. They’d recently bought it from a private seller so it hadn’t been sitting on the shelf for long. Priced at £50 I did some research and discovered that bottles can sell at auction for over £100 but also less than £40 depending on age and condition. This particular version dates from the 1980s, which appears to be the last decade the 5 Star was produced, although it might have crept into the 1990s. A whisky auction site says “A & A Crawford was a whisky blender and merchant which established in Leith in 1860, now belonging to Whyte and Mackay’s portfolio. The deluxe 5 Star Blend that was launched in the 1920s, now discontinued, followed the success of the 3 star offering.” The Whisky Exchange are selling a bottle of 5 Star from the 1950s for £350.
I don’t think discovering this bottle of Crawford’s has turned me into a whisky hunter because £50 is probably all it’s worth. The reason I bought it was because of the great reviews it gets for flavour. 90/100 on Whiskybase is a fantastic score, albeit from only 2 member votes. Ben of ‘A Dram A Day’ is also very impressed. Here are his thoughts about the Crawford’s 5 Star on YouTube (Sept 2016):
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.
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):