Bought: Amazon, 28th June 2017
82.86/100 – Whiskybase (average from 16 member votes)
5/5 Stars – Master of Malt (from 2 ratings)
There are 115 different bottles of Oban listed on Whiskybase of which 21 are by independent bottlers. Of those 21 the only one I could find that had been bottled after the mid 1990s was a release by Douglas Laing in 2013 to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of the Oban lifeboat station. There were only 297 bottles of this 18yo, which now sell for about £150 at auction. Diageo, who own Oban, clearly want to keep the whisky production limited and exclusive.
Jim Murray in his Whisky Bible 2017 has reviews for three different versions of the ‘Distillers Edition’ covering the 2007, 2008 and 2013 releases, which score 90/100, 91.5/100 and 87.5/100 respectively. The only other bottles of Oban he includes are the standard 14-year-old and ‘Little Bay’ with the 14yo scoring a meagre 79/100. Mr Murray clearly appreciates the extra 6-18 months the 14yo matures in Montilla Fino sherry casks to create the ‘Distillers Edition’.
Comments online for the Distillers Edition 2001/16 include, “everything you’d expect from a special edition. Fruity and satisfying in the mouth. Class act from Oban” and “this is one of the sweetest Oban I have ever tried, while the typical coastal character stayed upright.”
Tasting notes from Master of Malt:
Nose: Sherried peels, grassy malt and nutty brown bread. A touch of chocolate sauce in there, too.
Palate: Rich in honey and butterscotch, followed by a light whiff of smoke. Blackberry and raspberry jam.
Finish: Toasty, subtly smoky spices.
Bought: Amazon, 1st December 2016
83.14/100 – Whiskybase (average from 156 member votes)
81/100 – Ralfy (of www.ralfy.com)
Independent bottlers have been happily putting sub-10yo age statements on bottles for years but it’s not something you commonly see from distilleries. As aged stock started to run out we’ve seen more and more NAS (non-age statement) bottles creeping onto the market from distilleries, which have usually been met with disdain and disgust from the whisky drinking community. Personally I don’t see what’s wrong with putting 9yo, or 8yo, or even 5yo on a bottle, and clearly Bowmore agree with me. Releases in 2016, the Bowmore 9-year-old, matured in sherry casks, comes in under 10-years-old but has been applauded for its honesty. Well done Bowmore!
Scoring over 83/100 on Whiskybase is a very good mark. Comments include “I do like the young age which gives it some more edges and spices in comparison to the 15yo Darkest” and “a very respectable dram that I look forward to returning to. It’s not going to set the world on fire, but I would certainly consider recommending it to someone looking to try a sherry-peat combination without breaking the bank”.
Tasting notes from whisky expert Mark Durmel:
Nose: Sherried nose with all kinds of fruit like oranges, figs and nuts. Some burnt coffee beans and wet newspaper. Soft peat. Not very outspoken in my opinion. Kind of docile.
Taste: The body is quite alright and on the palate it turns quite maritime as well. A lot of peat and salt precede the mildly drying wood and sweet fruit. The sherry cask – very prominent on the nose – does not stand a chance on the palate. I get some tobacco and cloves, but this young malt has little else on offer.
Finish: Medium long finish, that leaves the mouth dry.
81/100 maybe a low mark from Ralfy (his 25 minute You Tube review here) but at least he considers it worthy of a video. Bang for buck, this Bowmore certainly seems like a winner.
Here’s Horst Luening of Whisky.com with his thoughts about the Bowmore 9yo (Feb 2017):
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: Amazon, 16th April 2016
88/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
82.35/100 – Whiskybase (average from 354 member votes)
91/100 – Whisky Bitch (her video review below)
As a fan of the Glen Garioch Founder’s Reserve I jumped at the chance to get the 12yo when Amazon reduced it to £32. That’s cheap for any 12yo whisky let alone one as hefty as 48%. Once open the 12yo certainly is a lovely dram but I slightly prefer the Founder’s Reserve, which seems less ‘designed’. I tried the 12yo again when visiting the Glen Garioch distillery and it stood up well against the 15yo, which I also got to sample. It’s hard to go wrong with spicy dark fruits, vanilla and a hint of smoke when presented at 48%. Delicious!
Scoring 88/100 in the Whisky Bible classifies the Glen Garioch 12yo as a ‘very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying’. The author, Jim Murray, says of the taste “sticking, broadly, to the winning course of the original 43% version, though here there is a fraction more toffee at the expense of the smoke.” The Founder’s Reserve scores 87.5/100 in the Bible and the 15yo 86.5/100 so not much in it.
Getting over 82/100 on Whiskybase is a very good mark. The Founder’s Reserve scores 80.6/100. Comments for the 12yo include “very solid uncommercial style and very nice strength for a standard bottling”, “well crafted….perfect daily dram” and “overall it’s good, enjoyable and showing complexity”.
The Glen Garioch 12yo is a hearty Highland hidden gem that’s well worth seeking out.
Here’s the Whisky Bitch with her thoughts on YouTube about the Glen Garioch 12yo (May 2012):
Bought: Amazon, 7th December 2016
91/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
85.24/100 – Whiskybase (average from 36 member votes)
Towards the end of 2014 John Dewar & Sons Ltd decided to repackage 5 of their distillery brands under the title of ‘Last Great Malts’, which were Aberfeldy, Aultmore, Craigellachie, Royal Brackla and The Deveron (see their YouTube promotional video here). They clearly took a lot of time and effort designing the packaging. I like the script used on the Craigellachie label and the smoked glass effect on The Deveron bottle. But I personally feel the Royal Brackla is the star of the show. The elegant bottle shape and regal looking label in blue and gold certainly give it the touch of glass a ‘Royal’ bottling deserves.
Unlike with the Aberfeldy 21yo, before 2014 there wasn’t a distillery release of a 21-year-old Royal Brackla. In fact Whiskybase only list 13 distillery releases from Royal Brackla in total. It’s nice to be getting something so rare! Jim Murray, author of the Whisky Bible, thinks this new 21yo is ‘brilliant’ with a score of 91/100. He says of the taste, “silky malt, with a shade of coastal salt ensuring the full flavours are wrung out”. He concludes with “now that’s much more like it!”
Scoring over 85/100 on Whiskybase is a high mark and suggests it’s not only Jim Murray that thinks this new Royal Brackla is brilliant. Comments include “well put together and tastes more like 46% than 40%” and “a single malt blend that’s working well”.
Tasting notes from Master of Malt:
Nose: Vanilla crème, some sweet and slightly sharp fresh berries and gooseberries – much fruitier than the 12 & 16 year olds.
Palate: Chocolate flake with just a few dark spices adding complexity.
Finish: The green edge seen in the other expressions seems to appear on the finish with cocoa, chocolate sponge and cream.
Overall: Opulent fruits and spices.
Here’s Horst Luening of Whisky.com with his thoughts on the Royal Brackla 21yo (November 2015):
Bought: Amazon, 14th November 2016
89/100 – Whiskybase (average from 30 member votes)
5/5 – Master of Malt (from 4 reviews)
If you want to get into whisky as an investment you can’t go far wrong with the Macallan 18yo ‘Sherry Oak’ (for now). If anyone criticises you with the tiresome adage “but whisky should be drunk!” slap them hard across the face and remind them that alcohol is a poison. But seriously, it’s none of their business what you spend your money on or how you treat your whisky. Those critics are usually hypocrites because they’ll be only too delighted to buy rare, vintage whisky at auction that would have been drunk long ago were it not for the collectors and investors. I bought my first Macallan 18yo in the summer of 2015 and only 18 months later it was consistently getting £100 more at auction. It’s liquid gold I tell thee!
But what is the Macallan 18yo like to drink? As I mentioned for the 1995 vintage, this is the Rolls Royce of whisky with a deep, smooth texture and heated seats. It’s very rare that you hear a bad word about the Macallan 18yo and year after year the quality is kept high. 89/100 on Whiskybase is a fantastic score and the equal of any previous vintage. Comments on Master of Malt include “perfect”, “the Macallan 18 is still one of my all time favourites”, “fantastic” and “a hefty price tag, but for a special occasion it’s worth it!”
Here are the tasting notes from Master of Malt:
Nose: Classic dried fruit, crème de cacao and crème anglaise with ginger and oak.
Palate: Winter spice, sultanas, toffee apple, rich oak and mixed peels.
Finish: Oak shavings, raisins and caramel.
If you would like to buy the Macallan 18yo and are happy to play a waiting game I’d recommend finding it on Amazon, adding it to your wishlist and waiting until the price drops to sub £150 (if you’re in the UK). I believe it had one mad moment when it hit £125 last year after dropping from the heady heights of its typical RRP of £200.
Bought: Amazon, 29th October 2015
84.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2016
79.33/100 – Whiskybase (average from 11 member votes)
Well that’s embarrassing. I bought this bottle in an Amazon ‘Lightening Deal’ 7 months ago and forgot to add it to my list. I have to thank Ben of ‘A Dram A Day’ for doing a video about it (see below), which reminded me I had the ‘ONE’ and made me realise it was missing from this blog. Oooop!
The ‘ONE’ is a blend (or vatting – see later) by the new Lakes Distillery, opened in 2014, which they’re selling whilst waiting for their single malt to be ready. The blend is made up of whiskies from Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland. Whisky Bible author Jim Murray quite likes it. 84.5/100 classifies the ‘ONE’ as ‘good whisky worth trying’ but you wouldn’t think so from his review. After an interesting nose he says about the taste “on the palate is a disappointment, with any complexity desired submerged under a welter of dull caramels. Just too flat and soft for its own good.”
Curiously, experienced whisky taster and reviewer Mark Dermul has the exact opposite to say about the ‘ONE’. On Whiskybase he remarks “the nose did not amount to much, but I quite like it on the palate.” Although he does think it tastes rather watery but is convinced there is some Islay whisky in there (in a good way).
Although the ‘ONE’ is described as a blend, Jim Murray believes it’s a vatted malt, so a blend of single malts. On the other hand Ben of ‘A Dram A Day’ believes there could be as much as 60% grain. One thing that’s apparent is there has been more than one version of the ‘ONE’. Whiskybase reviewer ‘jazzpianofingers’ has commented about two versions and says of the second “really coming along nicely. Improvement on the last batch, far more consistency and clarity with a firm direction”.
Ben of ‘A Dram A Day’ gives us his thoughts on You Tube (April 2016):
Bought: Amazon, 6th June 2015
93/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
90/100 – Ralfy – His You Tube review below from February 2012
82.2/100 – Whiskybase (average from 73 member votes)
Here’s another excellent blended whisky by Compass Box. I’ve tried the ‘Glasgow’ version, which is also fantastic. 93/100 in the Whisky Bible categorises this dram as “brilliant” and the author, Jim Murray, says “a beautiful young thing this blend: nubile, naked and dangerously come hither.” It’s just as well he’s not talking about the Glasgow version. To be naked on Sauchiehall Street on a Saturday night is taking danger to a whole new level!
If Ralfy gives a whisky 90/100 it’s time to sit up and take notice. With words like “cauliflower” and “egg” in his tasting notes it comes as no surprise when he says this bottle of Compass Box is complex. Here is his video:
Bought: Amazon, 10th April 2015
90.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
80.78/100 – Whiskybase (average from 111 member votes)
Looking at comments about the Einar on the internet, it seems to be an ‘easy drinking Highland Park’. But, so is the 12-year-old version, which can be found for half the price of the Einar (when on offer in supermarkets). Admittedly the Einar is 100cl, rather than 70cl, but does that extra 30cl justify the price? If only it where that simple. Even if the Einar and 12yo are similar, they’re not the same, and it’s having something different that’s the point.
The Whisky Bible only scores the 12yo HP a lowly 78/100, so the author clearly considers the Einar a significant improvement. Comments about the Einar include “fresh, salivating delivery but bordered by tannin and imbued with spice; vague heather honey” and “a curious style of HP which shows most of its usual traits but possesses an extra sharpness”.
Members providing reviews on Whiskybase either describe the initial taste as “soft” or, less kindly “thin”. But, remarks about fruit, spice and zest make it sound like a very tempting dram. One review summaries with “if you like HP then this will not disappoint”. And, since Highland Park is considered a good entry-level distillery for non-whisky drinkers, the Einar clearly has quite a wide appeal. All-in-all, a very tempting single malt from a highly respected distillery.
Bought: Amazon, 2nd April 2015
84.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
83.83/100 – Whiskybase (average from 352 member votes)
A few months ago I got an email from my local whisky shop saying that the Longmorn 16yo was being discontinued with immediate effect. Even then, at over £50 and so-so reviews, I wasn’t going to rush out and procure a bottle. It took a ‘lightening deal’ on Amazon with a big discount and free postage to tempt me. Only then did I start to look properly at reviews of the 16yo.
The Longmorn 16yo replaced the highly respected 15yo, so it had a tough act to follow. The Whisky Bible rates the 15yo as 93/100 but the lower score for the 16yo dates back to the author’s tasting in 2008. The blending of a single malt can change a great deal in 7 years. Recent reviews of the 16yo suggest that it has improved, so it seems a shame that it’s being discontinued. The replacement is an NAS (non-age statement) called ‘The Distiller’s Choice” and is currently scoring less than 81/100 on Whiskybase. I wont be bothering to buy it.
Here’s the Whisky Vault comparing a newer version of the Longmorn 16 with my older version (Aug 2017):