Tag Archives: Cask Strength

Glen Garioch 1997 ‘Vintage Batch 12’

Bought: Glen Garioch Distillery Shop, 12th September 2016

Ratings:
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):

Bunnahabhain 9-year-old (SMWS 10.93)

Bought: SMWS, 6th May 2016

Ratings:
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.”

Ardbeg ‘Kelpie’ Committee Release

Bought: Ardbeg Shop, 26th March 2017

Ratings:
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):

Linkwood 1989 26-year-old (Whisky Broker)

Bought: Whisky Broker, 25th May 2015

Ratings:
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.

Ardmore 8yo – Claxton’s ‘A Dram A Day’ Charity Bottle

Bought: Gauntley’s of Nottingham, 3rd February 2017

Ratings:
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):

Speyside 22-year-old (Lady of the Glen)

Bought: Prize from Lady of the Glen, 16th November 2016

Ratings:
89/100 – Whiskybase (average from 2 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 excellent 89/100 on Whiskybase from 2 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

speyside-22yo-1994-5cl

Glenturret 21-year-old 1994 (Lady of the Glen)

Bought: Prize from Lady of the Glen, 16th November 2016

Ratings:
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

glenturret-21yo-1994-5cl

Linkwood 9-year-old (SMWS 39.128)

Bought: Scotch Malt Whisky Society, 17th October 2016

Ratings:
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.

linkwood-9yo-smws-39-128-70cl

Dailuaine 11-year-old (SMWS 41.82)

Bought: Scotch Malt Whisky Society, 17th October 2016

Ratings:
0/100 – Whiskybase (awaiting votes)
4/5- Philip Storry (his review here)

Although there are no ratings yet for this Dailuaine single malt on Whiskybase, of the five 11-year-old bottlings by the SMWS with scores, the lowest is 81/100, then two at 86/100, one at 86.5/100 and finally an excellent 88/100. This is similar to how Dailuaine by the SMWS does in the Whisky Bible across all ages. At one point a 10-year-old scores an amazing 94.5/100.

11 years seems to be a good age for Dailuaine single malt and this cask strength version packs a punch at 60.1%. The distillery uses ex-bourbon casks, which are usually finished in sherry casks when destined for single malt (e.g., the Flora and Fauna 16yo) but the SMWS have taken this cask as it comes, matured in first fill ex-bourbon barrels.

Distilled in 2005 and bottled in 2016 this Dailuaine is named ‘Lively and Entertaining’. Here are the notes provided by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society:

Flavour profile: Young & spritely

Constantly changing aromas; candied ginger, lemon and honey sponge cake, sour apple sherbet as well as aniseed and ginger thrown in for good measure – this one just would not sit still! So we took a sip – what a surprise; spicy chocolate-dipped pineapple with sea salt as well as sour cherry and black pepper ice cream – we certainly did not get bored with this one. Water calmed it down – well, a little – slightly smoky white peppered strawberries with a balsamic vinaigrette on the nose and milk chocolate with zingy coconut lime and sea salt in the finish.

Drinking tip: If you want to be entertained

dailuaine-11yo-smws-41-82-70cl

Benrinnes 13-year-old (SMWS 36.103)

Bought: Scotch Malt Whisky Society, 17th October 2016

Ratings:
0/100 – Whiskybase (awaiting votes)
4/5- Philip Storry (his review here)

There are 102 different versions of Benrinnes by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) listed on Whiskybase. Seven 13-year-olds get ratings, which range from 81/100 to 89/100. Most are in the upper 80s. That’s very impressive. Owned by Diageo the principal single malt is the 15yo Flora and Fauna series. The house style is full-bodied, smoky yet also sweet with cereal notes and malt.

Distilled in 2002 and bottled in 2016 this Benrinnes is named ‘Ivory Keys’. Here are the notes provided by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society:

Flavour profile: Sweet, fruity & mellow

The initial sweet, fruity and floral array of aromas reminded us of natural rosewater essence, pear drops and ripe bananas. But at the same time there was also the scent of clean wood finally described as opening the lid of a grand mahogany piano and lifting the fallboard after it had been expertly cleaned and tuned. If you have never experienced that, how about ‘sipping a tree’ – a ‘cedar infused’ Campari accompanied by ginger spiced marmalade on toasted rye bread. Diluted; apples in new wooden boxes and crates of limes before we finally relaxed with Viennese apple strudel and a Wiener Melange coffee.

Drinking tips: Listening to Mozart Piano Sonata No.11

benrinnes-13yo-smws-36-103-70cl