Bought: Waitrose, 18th October 2017
87.52/100 – Whiskybase (from 23 member votes)
Aberlour distillery first introduced the A’bunadh (meaning ‘the origin’) back in 1997 so 2017 marked 20 years of this delectable dram. Each batch is cask strength at around 60% and is a single malt blended from barrels aged between 5 and 25 years. From the batches I’ve tried over the years I’ve never detected young whisky in the mix in a negative way. Whoever blends the A’bunadh at Aberlour distillery certainly knows how to combine young and old spirit for best effect. The A’bunadh is exclusively matured in Spanish oak from Oloroso sherry butts and is bottled without being chill filtered or having additional colouring. This is natural sherried Speyside single malt at its very best.
All whisky collectors have regrets and one of mine is deciding not to buy an A’bunadh batch 28 or 29 in 2014. A shop in Holland I was using had them for €89. It seemed too expensive at the time but bottles are now fetching over £120 at auctions today. The earliest batch I’ve tried is No.45 and I saved a 10cl sample of it for posterity. I feel like I’ve missed out on the evolution of the A’bunadh. But according to reviews it’s not as if the earlier batches were better than the most recent releases. The whole point behind the A’bunadh was to replicate an old bottle of Aberlour from 1898, which was discovered at the distillery in 1975. So batch 1 should in theory be very similar in taste and quality to batch 60. But everyone will have their favourite and specific tasting notes vary from batch to batch.
Scoring over 87/100 on Whiskybase is an excellent score but very typical for an A’bunadh. If you have batch 59, and you enjoy good sherry-bomb malt, you wont be disappointed!
Tasting notes from Master of Malt:
Nose: Dark chocolate and raisins, with underlying vanilla-rich malt persisting.
Palate: Coffee and walnut cake, blackcurrant squash, mince pie crust and ground clove.
Finish: Beeswax and honey, damson jam, black pepper, nutmeg and digestive biscuits.
Bought: Master of Malt, 2nd August 2017
87.75/100 – Whiskybase (average from 4 member votes)
According to Whiskybase there haven’t been many distilleries to mature or finish whisky in Bordeaux casks. Arran, Auchentoshan, Bowmore and Glen Garioch have done a small handful but Edradour are the experts when it comes to using wood from this illustrious French wine region. The small Pitlochry distillery, owned by Signatory, produced 25 Bordeaux cask releases since 2005. 20 of these were their unpeated ‘Edradour’ range but in 2017 they added 5 variations of their peated ‘Ballechin’. All 5 were from single casks, amounting to just over 400 50cl bottles per cask, and gradually released through 2017 as part of the ‘Straight from the Cask’ series.
Peat and French wine? Really? It’s fair to say that in the early days it didn’t always work but since 2012 none of the Edradour Bordeaux releases have scored less than 82/100 on Whiskybase. Of the 5 ‘Ballechin’ bottlings produced this year, 3 are rated and mine is fractionally the lowest with a fantastic 87.75/100. Bottled ‘straight from the cask’ at a natural strength of 55.7%, all 407 bottles of this 11yo quickly sold out. I’m glad I got one and can now tick ‘Ballechin’ off my whisky wishlist.
Note: ‘Bellachin’ is the name of an estate in Perthshire and also the name of a distillery in the same region that operated between 1810 and 1927.
Tasting notes from Master of Malt:
Nose: Salted & pepper crackers, truffle oil, raisins and dried apricot.
Palate: Jammy red fruit notes are up-front and lip-smackingly sweet, with burnt oak and cut grass notes in support.
Finish: BBQ meats with a honey glaze.
Posted in Ballechin (Edradour)
Tagged 11yo, 2005, 50cl, 55.7%, Ballechin, Bordeaux, Cask Strength, Edradour, Highland, Highlands, Master of Malt, Single Malt, Straight from the Cask
Bought: Glen Garioch Distillery Shop, 12th September 2016
89.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
82.82/100 – Whiskybase (average from 24 member votes)
I bought this bottle of Glen Garioch from the distillery shop following my tour in September 2016. My blog about this visit can be found here. Initially I fancied buying a hand-filled bottle but at £135 a pop it seemed rather extravagant. The pre-packaged 1997 ‘Batch 12’ was a more pocket friendly £51. Bottled in 2012 it’s 14-15 years old and cask strength at 56.7%. I’d seen it at airports and online so I knew it wasn’t very exclusive but I wanted a memento of my visit and 1997 was a significant year for Glen Garioch. The distillery fell silent in 1995 but started production again in 1997 so a bottle from that year celebrates the rebirth of a historic and treasured Aberdeenshire business.
Scoring 89.5/100 in the Whisky Bible classifies this dynamic dram from Glen Garioch as a ‘very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying’. It’s only 0.5 points away from being ‘brilliant’ according to the author, Jim Murray. His review consists of “I have to say: I have long been a bit of a voice in the wilderness among whisky professionals as to regards this distillery. This not so subtly muscled malt does my case no harm whatsoever.”
Reaching nearly 83/100 on Whiskybase suggests a very good single malt. Comments about the Glen Garioch 1997 include “very tasty, nice bourbon-barrel whisky”, “I liked it a lot” and “a very clean and fresh Glen Garioch, on sweet barley and tasting rather young”.
Tasting notes from Master of Malt (where it’s still available for £75.65):
Nose: Creamy and sweet, with notes of vanilla ice cream and banana fritters.
Palate: A kick of cinnamon and pepper, but this remains firmly in ‘caramel and orchard fruit’ country.
Finish: Apple turnovers dusted with brown sugar.
Here’s Horst Luening of Whisky.com with his thoughts about this Glen Garioch 1997 (August 2015):
Posted in Glen Garioch
Tagged 1997, 56.7%, 70cl, Batch 12, Cask Strength, Glen Garioch, Glen Garioch Distillery Shop, Highland, Highlands, NAS, Oldmeldrum, Single Malt, Vintage Batch 12
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: Ardbeg Shop, 26th March 2017
94/100 – Whisky Bible 2018
86.37/100 – Whiskybase (average from 193 member votes)
Ardbeg Day is here, and so too is my blog post about the Kelpie Committee Release. This is the second year I’ve been a committee member and endured the 8am bun fight in March to secure a bottle. At least this time the Ardbeg website didn’t go into meltdown. The March release shares the same name as the June release but it’s a higher strength and much more limited in numbers. Each year the price creeps up by a few pounds. This year I paid £89 but it quickly sells out and bottles instantly start making between £130-£140 at auction. Use this knowledge for future releases to tell your partner it’s an investment 😉 but privately you know you’ll be drinking it.
Here is how the previous four ‘Ardbeg Day’ committee releases have faired on Whiskybase:
- Dark Cove (2016) – 87.94/100 from 273 votes
- Perpetuum (2015) – 86.72/100 from 234 votes
- Auriverdes (2014) – 85.7/100 from 616 votes
- Ardbog (2013) – 87.36/100 from 738 votes
After the success of the Dark Cove last year I’m not surprised that the rating for the Kelpie has dipped. With 86.37/100 it’s currently 4th out of the last 5 releases but that’s still an excellent score. Comments left on Whiskybase about the Kelpie include “rather clean and certainly not bad, but there is nothing exciting about it”, “solid whisky, with some unpolished but pleasant smells and flavours” and “a big and unapologetic Ardbeg”.
Here’s Great Drams on YouTube with their thoughts about the Ardbeg Kelpie (May 2017):
Bought: Whisky Broker, 25th May 2015
83/100 – Whisky Bible 2016
89/100 – Whiskybase (average from 8 member votes)
I bought this cask strength bottle of Linkwood from the Whisky Broker in May 2015. Since then it’s provided several enjoyable sipping sessions. At 26-years-old it’s a mature Speysider but with plenty of fruity freshness. Only 288 bottles were produced from cask no.1828 and at 53.1% it packs a potent punch. It appeared in the Whisky Bible 2016 where the author, Jim Murray says “malty, sharp and, at times, searingly hot. Sparse and off key on the finish, also.” His score of 83/100 classifies this Linkwood as “good whisky worth trying”.
8 voters on Whiskybase are feeling a bit more generous than Mr Murray where 89/100 is a fantastic score. It’s up there with the Macallan 18yo and some of the best Ardbegs. Comments include “this is a remarkably good whisky” and “a very good whisky. Light in flavour profile, but really full in taste. The spice and sweetness harmonise very well.”
For me my score would sit between the Whisky Bible and Whiskybase at 86/100. It’s an excellent whisky but I’ve tasted better cask strength Linkwoods. But it’s worth buying at auction if you see it going for less than £100 and you enjoy the Linkwood profile. This is a very good example.
Tasting notes left on Whiskybase:
Nose: Pear Drops, Wine Gums, Ripe Strawberries, a slightly spirity nose but not unpleasant. After about 30 minutes and a drop of water – some lemon and still the acid pear drops. Very big and slow legs.
Taste: Acid pear drops. Fresh and sweet with some pepper. Wine Gums. A hint of licquorice and some lemon.
Finish: A dry finish. Lingering acid drops and lemon with a pepper after taste. Most pleasant.
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: Prize from Lady of the Glen, 16th November 2016
91.25/100 – Whiskybase (average from 4 member votes)
If you’re interested in buying an example from the Speyside distillery my advice is to avoid anything bottled at less than 46%. This will protect you from getting early releases from the distillery such as the 10yo and Drumguish range. Drumguish is one of the few single malts on the planet where adding coke isn’t regarded as a sin. Yes, it’s that good! Your best bet is a cask strength version such as this example from ‘Lady of the Glen’, an excellent independent bottler from Fife in Scotland.
The first distillery called ‘Speyside’ started in 1895 but it only lasted 10 years. The latest incarnation dates back to 1956 but the first spirit didn’t flow from the distillery until 1990. A 10yo appeared in 2001 after several NAS (no age statement) bottlings under the Drumguish name. The distillery uses ex-sherry and ex-bourbon casks with a house style of medium-sweet, medium-body, fruit, floral, malt and nuts.
One annoyance I have with the Speyside distillery is the name. It shows a total lack of imagination and naming it after the region is confusing. Most bottles with ‘Speyside’ on the label refer to the region and are mystery malts from an undisclosed Speyside distillery. And when discussing a distillery, saying “Glenfiddich, Speyside” makes sense, or “Old Pulteney, Highlands”, or “Ardbeg, Islay” but “Speyside, Speyside” is just ridiculous. It’s like someone with the surname ‘Taylor’ giving a child the first name ‘Taylor’. You’d have to question their sanity.
This 22yo single malt by ‘Lady of the Glen’ has a fantastic natural colour after spending over two decades in a 1st fill sherry butt. Still a potent 61.3% after so many years it scores an amazing 91.25/100 on Whiskybase from 4 member votes.
Tasting notes from Lady of the Glen:
Nose: Sumptuous rum raisin ice cream with chocolate strawberry notes
Palate: A black forest blend of fruits containing raspberries, blueberries and blackberries.
Finish: A sweet dark cherry finish
Bought: Prize from Lady of the Glen, 16th November 2016
86/100 – Whiskybase (average from 2 member votes)
When you search Whiskybase for Glenturret there are only 236 bottles listed, which isn’t that many. 84 are from the distillery so the majority are by independent bottlers such as ‘Lady of the Glen’. Glenlivet have 1203 bottles listed on Whiskybase, Glendiffich have 412 and Glenmorangie 350. Glenturret maybe considered more of a blending malt but 60 independent bottlers have managed to get casks and a mention on Whiskybase. Signatory have released the most with 61, Gordon & MacPhail have 22 and the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) are third with 19.
Gregor Hannah started ‘Lady of the Glen’ in 2012. Unlike some independent bottlers you can buy directly from ‘Lady of the Glen’ on their website here. There’s usually 2 or 3 different bottlings available at any given time. As I post this blog there are still 6 bottles of the Glenturret 21yo left out of a small run of 198. It’s also currently available on The Whisky Barrel. Distilled in a bourbon cask in 1994, it was bottled in 2016 at a cask strength of 54.6%. Very typical of ‘Lady of the Glen’ it has no added colour and hasn’t been chill filtered.
Tasting notes from ‘Lady of the Glen’:
Nose: heavy toffee and yellow fruits of melon and mango peel
Palate: Honey suckle, herby and crisp with papaya and honey
Finish: Fresh and light with notes with grassy hay notes
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.