Tag Archives: Connoisseurs Choice

North Port-Brechin 1982-2008 (G&M)

Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 11th March 2016

87/100 – Whiskybase (average from 6 member votes)
83/100 – Malt Maniacs (from one maniac score)

How important is a name? Would people remember the legend of Pelé so well if he’d been called Keith? Or Elvis if he’d been called Clive? North Port distillery is a case in point because you have to wonder if it would linger longer in the imagination with a more interesting name. It started life as ‘North Port’ in 1820 but changed to ‘Brechin’ in 1823. Then Glencaddam opened in Brechin in 1825, so to avoid confusion it’s likely that Brechin distillery reverted back to its old name of North Port. Whisky production ceased a few times in the 1900s before the distillery permanently closed in 1983 along with numerous other distilleries.

It seems independent bottlers Gordon & MacPhail (G&M) decided to cover both bases with this bottling and called it ‘North Port-Brechin’. Scoring 87/100 on Whiskybase is an excellent score and a review can be found here on ‘Alcohol and Aphorisms’. After two independent releases in 2008, Malt Madness stated that old stock from North Port was running out. According to Whiskybase only two new releases have appeared since then – one in 2010 by G&M and a second in 2015 by Cadenhead (a 38yo, which is still available from Whisky Barrel for £800!).

For tasting notes and comment here are the thoughts from Drinkwell off license, UK (where it originally retailed for £95):

Nose: Soft and finely balanced; almonds and mint and freshly cut grass. Fruit and wood. Cider apple, damson plums, honey. Dark chocolate.

Palate: Oily. Black chocolate. Bitter. Sour fruitiness. The spices and biting alcohol is even more enhanced with with water. Wood dominates maltiness. Reminiscent of a rye whiskey.

Finish: Robust, warm, biting. Lots of age; some cocoa notes. Toasty and dry. Lingers quite well.

Comment: Lovely calming oak influence. The nose is very impressive. Of interest to collectors, historians and the likes of me, but this Brechin brew, staunched in 1983 is as good as it gets.

North Port-Brechin 1982 NAS 70cl

Banff 1976 – 2005

Bought: Whisky Mouse, 4th November 2015

76/100 – Whisky Bible 2006
86.9/100 – Whiskybase (average from 12 member votes)

Poor Banff distillery, if it wasn’t catching fire it was being blown up or bombed. The distillery had quite an eventful life from its beginnings in 1863 before finally closing in 1983. It has subsequently been demolished but single malt examples can still be procured from auctions and certain whisky shops. It makes a good investment as well as a tasty tipple.

My example, distilled in 1976, was bottled by the independent bottlers Gordon & MacPhail in 2005 so it was a new addition to Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2006. Sadly the author only has 4 words to say about it, which are “soft with chalky oak”. His score of 76/100 classifies this Banff as “average and usually pleasant but sometimes flawed”. Contrast this with nearly 87/100 on Whiskybase from 12 member votes, which is a fantastic score. Perhaps Mr Murray had a bad sample because the majority of tasters appear to love this dram.

Below is the end of a You Tube video by John “Whiskyman” Loftus, who is said to have the largest private whisky collection in the southern hemisphere. Here he discusses Banff and tastes a typical example from the distillery:

Banff 1976-2005 NAS 70cl

Mannochmore 1994 Connoisseurs Choice

Bought: Whisky Barrel, 6th May 2015

95.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
83.6/100 – Whiskybase (average from 7 member votes)

Founded in 1971, it will be a while before Mannochmore distillery will be celebrating its 200th Anniversary like Ardbeg and Laphroaig are doing this year. There are only 7 different single malts listed in the Whisky Bible 2015 by Mannochmore, 2 by the distillery, and 5 produced by independent bottlers. The 2 distillery bottlings are a 12yo scoring 84/100 and a ‘Manager’s Choice’ notching up an embarrassing 71.5/100. Of the 5 independent bottlings, here are their scores:

  • 96/100 – Scottish Malt Whisky Society Cask 64.42, aged 22 years
  • 95.5/100 – Gordon & MacPhail 1994 Connoisseurs Choice
  • 91.5/100 – Old Malt Cask 13-year-old
  • 91/100 – Cadenhead’s Authentic Collection 17-year-old
  • 89/100 – Provenance Over 14 Years

As you can see, if you want to buy a bottle of Mannochmore, the Whisky Bible recommends going for an independent release, rather than direct from the distillery.

My bottle by Gordon & MacPhail is 2nd on the list with 95.5/100, which classifies it as a “superstar whisky that gives us all a reason to exist”. The Bible author, Jim Murray, says of the taste “if you locate a more spotless exhibition of intense yet clean and sugary barley this year, give me a call. The lilting poise of the oils beggars belief.” And summarises with “full of vitality, charm and class. Quite irresistible.” Definitely a worthy addition to my collection!

Mannochmore 1994 70cl

Inchgower 2000 Connoisseurs Choice

Bought: Whisky Barrel, 6th May 2015

86.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2016
82.5/100 – Whiskybase (average from 10 member votes)

Founded in 1871, this Speyside distillery is like the inchworm, quietly getting on with things in the background without many people noticing. The house style is “comparatively sweet, with spice, malt and oak notes, drying in a salty finish.” Inchgower’s claim to fame is that it’s the only Scottish distillery to have been owned by a town council. In 1936, Buckie Town Council acquired the distillery for £1,000 from the bankrupt owners, then sold it on for £4,000 to Arthur Bell & Sons two years later. To this day, Bells is the principle blend that uses Inchgower.

My only previous bottle of Inchgower was a miniature, so it was about time I upgraded to 70cl. Over the years several ‘Connoisseurs Choice’ versions of Inchgower have been mentioned in the Whisky Bible. Here are their ratings, distillation year, and Bible year of issue where they’re listed:

  • 85/100 – 1993 – Whisky Bible 2009
  • 84.5/100 – 1997 – Whisky Bible 2013
  • 85.5/100 – 1998 – Whisky Bible 2015

As you can see, they are very consistent, with an average of 85/100 for all 3 releases. I’m delighted to say that my 2000 version scores 86.5/100 in the 2016 bible, which classifies it as “very good to excellent whiskies definitely worth buying”. The author says, “still one of the chewiest malts around and enough delicious rough edges for this to taste more like an old-fashioned blend than a single malt. And that’s a good thing, by the way.”

Inchgower 2000 70cl

Pittyvaich 1993 Connoisseurs Choice

Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 24th February 2015

Bottled 2005 (left) – 77.4/100 – Whiskybase (average from 7 member votes)
Bottled 2009 (right) – 79.83/100 – Whiskybase (average from 8 member votes)

I’ve complained before about Gordon & MacPhail miniatures not having the same information on them as their bigger counterparts. I didn’t hold out much hope of matching a review against either of my minis of Pittyvaich until I saw “Bottle Code JE/AAB” on Whiskybase. I thought it looked familiar, so I examined both my bottles. Sure enough, looking through from the back, I could see “JE/AAB” printed on the reverse of the front label. This means one of my bottles (left in the picture below) was the first ‘Connoisseurs Choice’ release in 2005. Distilled in 1993, this whisky is 12 years old. Scoring 77.4/100 on Whiskybase isn’t brilliant with comments of “light and unimpressive” but also “a bit unusual (in a good way)”.

My second bottle from the closed Pittyvaich distillery (pictured right) has the new style label that first appeared in 2009 on a 16yo release of ‘Connoisseurs Choice’. My bottle has the code “JI/AABB” on the reverse of the front label but unfortunately this information isn’t given on Whiskybase, so the rating is a bit of a guess. I’m basing it mainly on the colour of the whisky, since the 2011 release is darker amber. Although scoring better than the 2005 release, a comment summarises this whisky with “winey aperitif style whisky. Not very well balanced.”

Having bought these bottles from an online auction, I had no idea I was getting a 12yo and a 16yo. Either I will do a taste comparison, or keep them as an investment. Pittyvaich distillery closed in 1993 so even miniature examples will be increasing in value.

Pittyvaich 1993 5cl x2

Royal Brackla 1991

Bought – Lincoln Whisky Shop, 4th March 2014

84/100 – Whisky Bible 2006
83/100 – Malt Maniacs (average from 4 reviews)

Issued in 2005, this bottling of Royal Brackla by Gordon & MacPhail appeared as a new entry in the Whisky Bible 2006 where Jim Murray says of it “wonderful honey thread on the nose, but the oak jumps in a little too early”. A small negative but getting 84/100 it’s classified as a “good whisky worth trying”.

On the Gordon & MacPhail website they say this 2005 release is now discontinued, and only miniatures are left in the shops. But it seems that several Royal Brackla releases have since appeared in the Connoisseurs Choice range. In 2014 the Whisky Bible has a newer version from 1995 that gets 88/100 and another version from 1997 that gets 84.5/100. Looking online, the most commonly available Royal Brackla in the Connoisseurs Choice range is now the 1998 starting at £33 for 70cl. It’s a safe bet that this would score in the 80s too.

Royal Brackla 1991 5cl

Glen Keith 1993

Bought – Lincoln Whisky Shop, 4th March 2014

Bottled in 2011, this Glen Keith is at least 17 years old, if not 18. When hunting for reviews I found another two ‘Connoisseur’s Choice’ bottles from 1993, one bottled in 2005 and the other in 2009. This 2011 seems too recent to have got a review but comments on the bottles from 2005 and 2009 suggest it’s likely to be average/good. At least it’s 46% so it will have a decent kick to it. Not a malt that would set the whisky world alight but an interesting one to compare with my earlier bottle of 1983 Glen Keith.

Glen Keith 1993 5cl

Auchroisk 1993

Bought – Lincoln Whisky Shop, 4th March 2014

80/100 – Malt Maniacs – average from 2 reviewers, one of which is:
78/100 – Whisky Fun (January 2009)

Again I have another example of a miniature by Gordon & MacPhail where they don’t mention when it was bottled but the 70cl version does. It seems this was bottled in 2008, so it’s at least a 14-year-old, possibly 15. Serge Valentin of Whisky Fun says it’s a “typical average Speysider, not really mindboggling but perfectly drinkable.” Since I love Speyside whisky, that sounds fine by me!

Keith Wood mentions in his comments on Malt Maniacs that there’s quite a long finish with redcurrants providing a slightly bitter aftertaste. I’ll have to watch out for that. It’s always nice when you find a non-cask strength whisky that has a long finish because you feel you’re getting more value from your dram.

Auchroisk 1993 5cl

Balmenach 2004

Bought – Whisky Galore, 25th November 2013

78/100 – Whisky Bible 2014
83/100 – Whiskybase (average from 6 member votes)

I bought this bottling by Gordon & MacPhail before it appeared in the 2014 issue of the Whisky Bible where its score is somewhat unflattering. The author, Jim Murray, has only this to say in his review “attractive mix of cereal and sultana notes on nose and delivery. But falls to the near inevitable consequence of the modern sherry butt at the very last.” 78/100 classifies this single malt as “average and usually pleasant but sometimes flawed.” It shares the same score as the Highland Park 12-year-old in the Whisky Bible, to give you a point of reference.

Distilled in 2004 and bottled in 2012, this Balmenach is 8 years old at best, or possibly 7 depending on the exact dates of distillation and bottling. This will have an influence on the depth of flavour and length of finish. 83/100 on Whiskybase is an excellent score and experienced reviewer Mark Dermul leaves us these notes and comment:

Nose: The nose is fairly sweet, but with a weird edge that reminds me of silver polish or old iron in the rain. A tad dusty. Yellow fruit, mostly citrus, but also pineapple. Mildly spicy. Think ginger, liquorice and loads of vanilla. Nice, but far from great.

Taste: Oily arrival and immediately very sweet on the palate. A bit more spicy than on the nose and now it is all about pineapple, both fresh and dried. Then the citrus fruit kicks in, leaning towards lime. Very accessible.

Finish: The finish is spicy with a little pepper, but unfortunately does not last very long.

Comments: Card player’s whisky, nothing more, nothing less. Nice nose, though.

Balmenach 2004 70cl

Tamnavulin 1990

Bought – Justminiatures, 13th November 2013

A discontinued version of Tamnavulin from the Connoisseurs Choice range by Gordon & MacPhail. The ‘Tasting Notes’ for this whisky from the Gordon & MacPhail website says:

AROMA without water

A malty freshness, floral notes, hints of fresh grass, a delicate smoke intertwines and sweetness – marshmallows.

TASTE without water

Soft with a rounded spice, some sweetness, hints of stewed apples.

AROMA with water

Fresher and more fruity, suntle citrus edge – lemons and limes. With a hint of a spice lingering in the background.

TASTE with water

Initially citrus fruit influences – orange rind. A sweetness remains. Well rounded and delicate.

This malt used to be sold at ‘Master of Malt’ where one purchaser gave it a glowing review and 4.5/5 stars. Sounds good to me! 🙂

Tamnavulin 1990 5cl