Tag Archives: gift

Caol Ila 18-year-old (unpeated), Diageo Special Releases 2017

Acquired: Birthday Gift, 7th August 2020

96/100 – Whisky Bible 2020
90/100 – Whisky in the 6 (his video review below)
86.52/100 – Whiskybase (average from 174 member votes)

I was delighted to receive this Caol Ila 18yo as a birthday gift. Initially I thought it was the standard 18yo until I saw the 59.8% on the box. Some quick research later and I discovered it was the Diageo special release bottled from 2017. The further away we get from the last millennium the nicer it is to acquire whisky distilled before 2000. It’s pure sentimentality that Millennials and Generation Z wouldn’t understand. Hard to believe such a wonderful single malt from 2017 is still available new in 2020 but it was. No need for an auction site quite yet.

I haven’t added a Caol Ila to my collection for nearly 5 years. I love the distillery but it goes to show how much choice there is out there that it’s been neglected for so long. Of my previous 4 examples of Caol Ila none are unpeated like this 2017 18-year-old. Several reviews either say they detect a hint of peat or the smoke element gives a strong illusion of peat. It’s interesting that Caol Ila can’t shake off what people expect to taste but it’s great that the distillery isn’t scared to strip the peat away. It clearly works, and works well.

Jim Murray, author of the ‘Whisky Bible’, scores this Caol Ila 18yo a fantastic 96/100, which classifies it as a ‘superstar whisky that gives us all a reason to live’. He scores the taste a near-perfect 24.5/25 with the remark “so, so beautiful” and finishes with “this is the way Caol Ila should be: so true to the distillery”. Other comments online include “intense arrival, it maintains a maritime character and has substantial oak to affirm its age”, “an extremely rewarding Islay malt, despite its lack of peat” and “just a superb whisky”. What a lovely birthday gift!

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: At the tasting we attended, “chocolate digestives” was met with universal agreement. Quite creamy with bourbon hints and sliced peaches too.

Palate: Fruitier now, fragrant and concentrated with a little furniture polish. This is complemented by the expected soft caramel and clean seashell character.

Finish: Cake-like with just a hint of smoke (even though this is ‘unpeated’).

Here’s Rob of ‘Whisky in the 6’ on YouTube giving us his thoughts about this special Caol Ila 18yo (Oct 2018):

Macallan 10-year-old ‘old style’ (1990s)

Source: Family Gift, late 1990s

88/100 – Whiskybase (average from 13 member votes)

This highly acclaimed Macallan 10yo was a gift from my uncle Hamish and added to the family collection in the late 1990s. I believe the style of bottling was first introduced in the mid 1990s and carried on until the launch of the ‘Fine Oak’ range in 2004. Before 2004 the standard Macallan was all ‘sherry oak’ so there wasn’t a need to make a distinction on the label. After 2004 bottles were clearly labelled either ‘Sherry Oak’ or ‘Fine Oak’.

It’s hard to believe that back in the 1990s supermarkets would sometimes discount this Macallan 10yo to less than £20. Today it typically sells at auction for about £200 and retails closer to £300. It’s good but it’s not that good. Exclusively matured in selected sherry oak casks from Jarez the box features an autumnal scene of Easter Elchies house, Craigellachie, Speyside, which is the ‘Home of the Macallan’.

Scoring 88/100 on Whiskybase is an excellent score and only about a point less than what you’d expect the Macallan 18yo to get. I’ve tasted this Macallan 10yo many times and I wouldn’t say it was that good but it’s definitely a fine dram. It’s more of an 85/100 from me.

Tasting notes from ‘Ormiston Whisky’:

Nose: Matured, sherry notes, raisins, rich, vanilla, caramel, fudge, slightly pungy.
Taste: Sweet with lovely fruity layers, clear wood spices (nutmeg, cinnamon etc.) some black pepper as well.
Finish: Soothing with some tutti frutti sherry notes.

Port Charlotte ‘Scottish Barley Heavily Peated’

Bought: Christmas Gift, 25th December 2015

94.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2016
84.84/100 – Whiskybase (average from 221 member votes)

I’ve been interested in the Port Charlotte ‘Heavily Peated’ by Bruichladdich for quite some time so it was nice to get it as a Christmas present. Although the original Port Charlotte distillery closed in 1929 the buildings still exist and have been used by Bruichladdich as warehousing. In 2007 Bruichladdich announced they were bringing the Port Charlotte distillery back to life and shipped over the stills from the closed lowlands Inverleven distillery. We could see new releases from the Port Charlotte stills very soon. What might cause a bit of confusion in the future is that Bruichladdich have used ‘Port Charlotte’ as a brand name for some of their single malt such as this ‘Heavily Peated’. The new distillery will also be called ‘Port Charlotte’. Perhaps they’ll use a special brand name for the new Port Charlotte whisky to avoid confusion.

Jim Murray in his Whisky Bible absolutely loves this whisky. 94.5/100 classifies it as a “superstar whisky that gives us all a reason to live”. He says about the taste “a youthful livewire delivery with a pretty surprising degree of maple syrup and treacle latching onto the phenols: the effect and balance is wonderful; pay attention and you’ll spot some juicy fruit notes popping up here and there, too” and summarises with “rearrange the following two words: “giant” and “gentle”.”

Nearly 85/100 on Whiskybase is an excellent mark. It’s clearly a lovely dram. Here’s Jo of ‘Whisky Wednesday’ with his review from October 2014:

Bruichladdich Port Charlotte 20cl

Macallan ‘Gold’

Gift – Nickolls & Perks, 9th September 2014

89.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2014
80.38/100 – Whiskybase (average from 60 member votes)

I’d tried the Macallan ‘Gold’ in a bar in Scotland and was considering buying a full bottle until Nickolls & Perks sent me a free miniature with my last order. As a collector this ticks it off the list for a while but I’d still like to get a full bottle eventually. The Whisky Bible says of the taste “it is the (chocolate) biscuity barley laced with honey and maple syrup that blows you away” and the author summaries with “no Macallan I have tasted since the first in 1975 has been sculpted to show the distillery in such delicate form.”

The average score and comments on Whiskybase are a little less grandiose than in the Whisky Bible. Having tried the Gold I would agree with a member of Whiskybase who describes it as an entry-level single malt. If you’re after a good Speysider at a reasonable price then the Macallan ‘Gold’ is certainly a contender. But it’s a bit like getting a pair of tartan socks for Christmas – it’s OK, definitely warming, certainly Scottish but nothing to write home about.

I’ve been monitoring the price of the Macallan ‘Gold’ in UK supermarkets for over a year now and it’s never been discounted from its price of £36, which has started to creep up in some locations. £36 puts it in the same price bracket, or slightly more than a discounted Aberlour A’bunadh, which smashes the Gold out of sight for nose, body, flavour, taste, strength, finish and being everything good about Speyside. For what the Gold is, it should be £30 maximum but you’re paying £6 more because of the Macallan name. Heck, who am I kidding?! I’m a designer labels whore so I’ll be getting a full bottle soon! 🙂

Here’s Jo of Whisky Wednesday with his thoughts on the Macallan Gold, which he scores 7.5/100 (YouTube Nov 2015):

Macallan Gold 5cl

AnCnoc 12-year-old

Acquired – Christmas Gift, 25th December 2013

94.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2014
90/100 – Ralfy, of www.ralfy.com
Review: – Ralfy – AnCnoc 12yo – YouTube

In the Whisky Bible, Jim Murray (author) has 4 separate categories, each marked out of 25, that he totals up for the final score out of 100. These categories are Nose, Taste, Finish, and lastly the overall balance and complexity. It’s this last category where the AnCnoc 12yo scores an almost perfect 24.5/25 with the comment “a more complete or confident Speyside-style malt you are unlikely to find. Shimmers with everything that’s great about Scotch whisky…always a real dram, but this is stupendous.”

Combine Jim Murray’s mark with that of Ralfy, who rarely gives a score in the 90s, and you’ve clearly got an excellent whisky in the AnCnoc.

anCnoc 12yo 70cl

Highland Park 12-year-old

Acquired – Gift, December 2013

78/100 – Whisky Bible 2013 (and 2014)
84/100 – Ralfy – His review on YouTube (June 2014)
91/100 – Whisky Bitch – Her review on YouTube (December 2011)

Ratings can be confusing. When Ralfy reviewed this 12yo back in 2009, the Whisky Bible 2009 rated this bottle at 91/100 and Ralfy 88/100. But the bible was actually based on whisky tasted in 2008. In 2013 Jim Murray, in his Whisky Bible, drops this 12yo down to 78/100 and says he hopes the fall from grace is due to freak casks. He goes on to say that the Highland Park 12yo is one of his favourite whiskies of all time. But I got this bottle in 2013, where as his review was based on a bottle from 2012. I’m just hoping the whisky used for this 12yo in 2013 was an improvement on the 2012 batch!

As if by magic my copy of the Whisky Bible 2014 arrived this morning – woo0-hoo! 🙂 And the entry for this 12yo is, drum roll please, still 78/100 with the same comment as the 2013 bible! Now, either the whisky hasn’t changed, which might be possible, or the author has been a bit lazy here. I have to wonder how much of the bible is simply copied forward year-upon-year. I suppose you could say the same about most dictionaries but whisky changes more frequently than words.

I’m yet to try this 12yo but I’m tempted now to track down an older bottle, pre 2012, to have as a comparison. I bet I end up loving this version because it will still have the Highland Park flavours, which are delicious!

Highland Park 12yo 70cl

Talisker 10-year-old

Gifts from many years ago. One bottle remains unopened but another is being gradually drained.

93/100 – Whisky Bible 2013
89/100 – Ralfy, of www.ralfy.com
Review: – Ralfy – Talisker 10yo – YouTube (first review)

I’ve included Ralfy’s first review of the Talisker 10yo done in 2009 because it’s closer to the age of the bottles I have. He reviews it again here in 2013 where he down-grades it to 86/100 proving that versions of whiskies do vary from release to release, year to year, like wine depending on how good the summer was for the grapes.

Talisker 10yo 70cl

Macallan 10-year-old (old version)

Received as a gift.

This version pre-dates the introduction of saying ‘sherry oak’ or ‘fine oak’ and comes from a time when it was plain and simply “the 10-year-old” Macallan. Sadly it’s only a miniature so I wont be swapping it for an Aston Martin 20 years from now. I might as well drink it then!

Macallan 10yo 5cl


Glenturret 8-year-old

Another gift. Could well be over 10+ years old. Another one with “please finish me!” written all over it.

88/100 – Whisky Bible 2013

Glenturret 8yo 70cl

Glenmorangie 10-year-old

Both of these 35cl bottles were received as gifts over the years. One of them isn’t looking as full now, having been enjoyed a few days ago. I’d forgotten how much I love the fullness of the Glenmorangie flavour. A beautiful malt.

94/100 – Whisky Bible 2006

Glenmorangie 10yo 35cl