Bought: Waitrose, 11th November 2019
87/100 – Whisky Bible 2020
81.14/100 – Whiskybase (average from 16 member votes)
As part of Glen Scotia distillery’s revamp they release a non-age statement (NAS) single malt called ‘Double Cask’ in 2015. For £30 it was 46% and matured in 1st fill bourbon & Pedro Ximénez sherry casks. Sounds good? Well I certainly thought so when I tried it. Jim Murray rated it 85.5/100 in his Whisky Bible book and it currently scores 82.1/100 on Whiskybase from 387 votes. Not bad. Not bad at all.
The ‘Double Cask’ left such a good impression on me that when I spotted the new ‘Campbeltown Harbour’ NAS release in 2019 I had to have it, especially reduced to £25 at Waitrose supermarket. It’s matured exclusively in 1st fill bourbon casks and at 40% rather than 46% it’s a different beast entirely to the ‘Double Cask’. You’d think with the lower ABV and less complex maturation that it might be inferior to the ‘Double Cask’ but Jim Murray doesn’t think so in his 2020 ‘Whisky Bible’. He rates the ‘Campbeltown Harbour’ 1.5 points higher than the ‘Double Cask’ and summarises with “this is very flat and far too caramel dependent, though the mix of saltiness and gentle sweetness is highly attractive. The smoke unfurls at the very finish….but for all its easy attractiveness, it is all a little docile and tame”. Not exactly complimentary but 87/100 rates the dram overall as a “very good to excellent whisky, definitely worth buying”. Especially if you can get it on sale for £25!
With only 16 votes on Whiskybase after nearly 2 years, I’m a little suspicious that the ‘Campbeltown Harbour’ had a very limited distribution. Whiskybase only list Waitrose as a supplier in the UK (where I bought it), then two shops in Holland and one in Poland. It’s nice to have found something so exclusive but it means there isn’t a review on YouTube. Comments online about the Glen Scotia ‘Campbeltown Harbour’ include “quite a nice malt for very understandable money”, “kind of tasty, but too little of everything”, and “what a great find, incredibly smooth and bursting with sweet and savoury flavours. Top notch.”
Official tasting notes from Glen Scotia:
Nose: Briny sea spray, perfumed floral notes of violet and lavender and vanilla
Palate: Fruity and sweet. Soft peach and green apple followed by toffee fudge and vanilla custard
Finish: Dry, medium length. Tangy peat complements maritime character
Bought: Amazon, 31st July 2020
83.83/100 – Whiskybase (average from 26 member votes)
I first came across ‘The Lost Distillery Company’ (TLDC) in 2014 not long after the company had been founded the previous year. This was before the evils of Brexit when the British pound was strong against the Euro and peaked in 2015 at over 1.40€ to £1 before the moronic referendum. 70cl bottles by TLDC could be bought from Holland for the equivalent of £25 when they were about £35 in the UK. I was tempted but resisted. I wasn’t sure how serious to take vatted malts created to taste like whisky from bygone distilleries. Whose to say how accurate they are. It sounded more like a light-hearted novelty but a tempting one nonetheless.
When in doubt try a sample, dram, or a miniature if you can find one. You can always commit to a full bottle thereafter if the whisky meets with your approval. TLDC have their heads screwed on because they’ve had miniatures of their whisky available for quite a while. For £35.99 from Amazon (£6 each per 5cl) I bought the ‘Discovery Selection’, which included this Dalaruan, along with Lossit, Gerston, Towiemore, Stratheden and Auchnagie.
Dalaruan is an interesting one for fans of Glen Scotia, Kilkerran and Springbank because it was a Campbeltown distillery. You have to think a recreation of Dalaruan will contain a mix of the existing Campbeltown output, much like The Gauldrons by Douglas Laing that I recently acquired (a topic for a future post). TLDC discuss the history of Dalaruan here and mention on the bottle that it ran from 1825 to 1925 but I have other sources that say 1824 to 1922. Not that it makes much odds. It’s not coming back, especially as there’s a housing estate built where the distillery used to be. As a fan of the Campbeltown profile I’ll be interested to see what TLDC have recreated for Dalaruan after nearly 100 years since its closure. I may have to buy a 70cl bottle!
Tasting notes from Master of Malt:
Nose: Earthy/herbaceous peat smoke, paired with juicy orchard fruit.
Palate: The smoke notes become more coastal on the palate. Remains filled with apple and apricot in the background.
Finish: Herbaceous once again, with a touch of sea breeze.
Bought: Cadenhead, 5th December 2017
88.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2018
87.85/100 – Whiskybase (average from 89 member votes)
In 2015 I contacted Springbank distillery about paying £50 to become a life member of their ‘Springbank Society’. I’d get a badge, t-shirt and an opportunity to buy two special bottles per year, exclusive to society members. In the end I didn’t join because the online forum for Springbank members disappeared and the distillery was having a website meltdown. They make great whisky but my confidence in their Internet ability was in tatters. Since then I can’t say I’ve seen a ‘society only’ bottle of Springbank appear at auction so I’ve no idea if they got produced.
The basic Springbank 10yo and the cask strength 12yo are so good it’s taken me 5 years on my whisky journey before getting the 15yo. Clearly I didn’t need any ‘special releases’ for society members because the standard releases are more than enough for me. I decided to get the 15yo because several people on whisky forums said it was their favourite dram and I hadn’t bought a Springbank for a while. With a score of nearly 88/100 on Whiskybase this is clearly a fantastic 15yo. Comments include “very tasty” and “a big whisky with big flavours”. Other remarks online include “top of the line if you like sherry matured” and “refined and full of Campbeltown character”. What more can you ask for?
Jim Murray’s score of 88.5/100 in his Whisky Bible dates back to 2012 so you can take that with a pinch of salt. A review on Whiskybase says this latest version (tasted in 2018) is better than a previous version they tried a few years ago so perhaps Mr Murray would score it in the 90s now.
Tasting notes from Master of Malt:
Nose: Fragrant with a certain richness. Notes of fruit salad and a hint of caramel, pineapple, guava and passion fruit lurk. There are notes of dried leather and old ropes. A hint of toffee sweetness and some granary toast.
Palate: Quite full and rich. There are notes of creamy fruit salad and more exotic fruit notes. There is palpable mastication from the oaked tannins with a hint of spice.
Finish: Fairly long with a gentle warmth.
Here’s Horst & Benedikt Luening of Whisky.com with their thoughts about the Springbank 15yo on YouTube (May 2017):
Bought: Auriol Wines, 1st September 2017
85.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
82.6/100 – Whiskybase (average from 125 member votes)
4.5/5 – Master of Malt (average from 20 reviews)
When I think of ‘Glen Scotia’ I remember the dumpy green bottles of 8-year-old from the 1970s, or the colour-coated bottles when I started collecting whisky in 2013. I quite liked the look of the black 12yo, green 15yo, blue 18yo and burgundy 21yo but the poor ratings stopped me for buying any of them. The general consensus seemed to be that Glen Scotia had made a flavour and marketing boo-boo.
You wouldn’t think that NAS (non-age statement) would be the best direction for the Campbeltown distillery to go but that’s what happened with the arrival of the ‘Double Cask’ in 2015. It was a bit of a gamble but it seems to have paid off. Scoring 85.5/100 in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible classifies this dram as ‘very good to excellent whisky, definitely worth buying’. He summarises with “soft and easy drinking with an excellent early delivery spike of intensity. But a dull middle and finish. And dull has never been a word I have associated with this distillery. Ever.”
Scoring 82.6/100 on Whiskybase is a very good score with comments of “whoever likes the modern “designed” whisky style will probably enjoy this dram”, “nice daily dram, but not overly spectacular”, “a good whisky if a little vague” and “very fine Glen Scotia for around 40 EUR. Surprisingly good and affordable.”
From my own tasting of the Glen Scotia ‘Double Cask’ I can honestly say I like it. It’s certainly subtle but you wouldn’t expect anything else for the price. I enjoyed the “excellent early delivery” Jim Murray mentioned but then I got hit by that unique Campbeltown flavour on the palate. It’s not as intense as the Springbank 10yo but it’s there and very enjoyable. If I drank Campbeltown whisky regularly it wouldn’t seem that special but, as an occasional dram from a distinct Scottish region, the Glen Scotia is delightful.
Tasting notes from Master of Malt:
Nose: Vibrant fruit emerges first (peach flesh and green apple peels), followed by chewy vanilla fudge, a hint of salinity, then an array of oak-y spices including some char.
Palate: Opens with more fudge with a little dusting of powdered sugar. Powerful, oily and a touch herbaceous with some German brandy character.
Finish: Sherried notes come through more on the finish.
Here’s Horst Luening of Whisky.com with his thoughts about the Glen Scotia on YouYube (Aug 2015):
Bought: Lockett Bros, 19th April 2017
90.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
90/100 – Ralfy (of www.ralfy.com) – his video review below
86.78/100 – Whiskybase (average from 560 member votes)
My previous bottle of ‘Kilkerran’ by the Glengyle distillery was the ‘Work in Progress 5’ (bourbon casks), which I bought at the end of 2013. Back then my blog mused about the possibility of a 10-year-old release in 2014 but we had to wait until 2016 for the appearance of the first age statement. Glengyle filled the gap in 2014 and 2015 with a ‘Work in Progress’ 6 and 7. It was certainly worth the wait because whisky lovers went mad for the Kilkerran 12yo when it appeared in 2016. It was arguably the best budget single malt release of the year. I was a bit slow off the mark but thankfully managed to pick up the 2016 version of the bottling in early 2017. Since then Glengyle have released the 12yo again and it looks set to be a regular release from now on.
Over the years critics generally said that the bourbon cask version of the ‘Work in Progress’ was marginally better than the sherry. You have to suspect that Glengyle picked up on this, which is why they made the 12yo 70% bourbon and 30% sherry. Scoring nearly 87/100 on Whiskybase is a fantastic score. And from 560 members this suggests the Kilkerran 12yo is very much a whisky drinker’s whisky. Comments include “pleasant standard at a reasonable price”, “a surprisingly tasty drama considering the price and age” and “beautifully made no-nonsense Campbeltown whisky”.
Scoring 90.5/100 in Jim Murray’s ‘Whisky Bible 2017’ classifies the Kilkerran 12yo as ‘brilliant’. The author comments about the taste “despite the dozen years in cask, this still retains a degree of youth about it. But the malts are confident and take advantage of the overall lack of body to spread out and blossom”. He summarises with, “a malt far more confident at this age than some of the previous, younger, bottlings from a few years back. Has a fragile feel to it and the air of a malt which must be treated gently and with respect.”
90/100 from Ralfy is one of his highest scores. Here are his thoughts about the Kilkerran 12yo on YouTube (Oct 2016):
Bought: Whisky Galore, 23rd May 2016
85.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2016
88/100 – Ralfy (of www.ralfy.com. His review below)
83/100 – Whiskybase (average from 14 member votes)
Hazelburn is a brand of whisky by Springbank distillery that’s unpeated and triple-distilled. It first appeared in 2005 as an 8-year-old but there are now 71 different versions listed on Whiskybase. The majority (55) have been released by the distillery. Scoring 83/100 is a respectable mark with one reviewer saying “good whisky”. Others remark “a lively, rich and full-bodied whisky with an impressive balance of sweet, fruity and spicy flavours” and “interesting, engaging and complex. It has a lovely balance and nice sherry cask influences” (regarding the full 70cl – mine is 20cl).
85.5/100 from Jim Murray in his Whisky Bible classifies this Hazelburn 12yo as “very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying”. He says about the taste “at times nutty. At others, oily. And is that the vaguest hint of phenol I spot bouncing around at one stage?” And summarises with “some lovely moments of lucidity but at most part it’s an interrupted work in progress.”
Although on the surface the Hazelburn 12yo scores well it seems that most reviewers have one or two issues with it. 88/100 is an excellent score from Ralfy. Here’s his review of the Hazelburn 12yo on You Tube (January 2011):
Bought: Whisky Galore, 23rd May 2016
82/100 – Whiskybase (average from 9 member votes)
This NAS (non-aged statement) bottle of Longrow first came out in 2012 and there are now 13 different versions of it listed on Whiskybase. My 20cl came as part of a Springbank distillery set of three 20cl bottles, which also included the Hazelburn 12yo and Springbank 10yo. I already have a similar set that Springbank did of their ‘CV’ range. A 20cl bottle is a nice size to give you a proper taste of a whisky whilst keeping the cost down and not outstaying its welcome.
82/100 on Whiskybase for this peated Springbank is a reasonable score but the main 70cl version scores nearly 84/100. It’s effectively the same stuff and it’s in the range of ‘very good’ in terms of Whiskybase ranking. The CV, also NAS, seems to be a step up with a score of 85.5/100 but the path ultimately leads to the Longrow 18yo, which scores 88.5/100.
Here is ‘Scotch 4 Dummies’ review on You Tube (March 2016):
Posted in Longrow, Springbank
Tagged 20cl, 46%, Campbeltown, Green Welly Stop, Longrow, NAS, Peated, Single Malt, Springbank, Whisky Galore
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.
Bought: Abbey Whisky, 28th October 2015
90.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2016
89/100 – Ralfy of www.ralfy.com
87.07/100 – Whiskybase (average from 43 member votes)
Good review after good review after good review and I got the Springbank 18yo because it’s purple. The box and label that is, not the whisky. Well I do love purple! But seriously, I’m a big fan of the Springbank 10yo and after getting the 12yo ‘cask strength’ the natural progression is to add the 18yo. Scoring 90.5/100 in the Whisky Bible classifies this dram as ‘brilliant’ and the author, Jim Murray, says of the taste “yummy, mouthwatering barley and green banana. Fresh with excellent light acacia honey”. He summarises with “just one so-so butt away from bliss”. Spank that naughty butt! Thankfully it was only a minor blip in Mr Murray’s enjoyment.
87/100 on Whiskybase is a fantastic score with one voter saying they prefer this version of the 18yo to the one with the old label. They summarise with “a very accessible Springbank. Good stuff.”
For an expert overview, here’s the legendary Ralfy discussing the Springbank 18yo, which he scores 89/100 (from October 2014):
Bought – Nickolls & Perks, 2nd September 2014
92/100 – Ralfy – Springbank 12yo, Batch 7 – YouTube (April 2014)
90/100 – Ralfy – Springbank 12yo, Batch 9 – YouTube (September 2014)
If you ever try and find out information on a bottle of whisky that’s 20 or 30 years old, good luck! Even the information out on the internet for recent whisky releases can be inconsistent, patchy, or nonexistent. Your best bet is post a question in a whisky forum where true knowledge and experience can be found. I bought this Springbank 12yo as Batch 5 but there’s nothing on the bottle or box that says which batch it is. Based on its strength (53.1%) Master of Malt also used to sell this as Batch 5 but, Whiskybase say it’s Batch 6. I found a bottle being sold on Amazon with 50.3% in the title, 52.3% on the bottle in the picture and 53.1% in the technical details. No mention of the batch anywhere. It was quite hilarious but that’s Amazon for you!
Whichever batch I have, the bottom line is the whisky is phenomenal. As soon as I watched Ralfy’s review for Batch 7, the Springbank 12yo went on my shopping list. If you like the 10yo like I do, then this 12yo ‘cask strength’ release of Springbank has everything required to blow your mind. Well, perhaps not as amazing as that but I’ve yet to see a bad review for any of the 12yo batches. I got Batch 5 instead of 7 because a) it was on sale and b) I’m hoping Batch 7 will still be available next year when I’m able to buy it again. I foresee Springbank becoming one of my regular drams.