Tag Archives: Lowland

Aerstone ‘Land Cask’ & ‘Sea Cask’ 10-year-old (Tesco Supermarket)

Bought: Tesco Supermarket, 3rd June 2019

Ratings for ‘Land Cask’:
81/100 – Whiskybase (average from 5 member votes)
92/100 – Scotch Malt Whisky

Ratings for ‘Sea Cask’:
76.17/100 – Whiskybase (average from 8 member votes)
89/100 – Scotch Malt Whisky

In 2018 Tesco Supermarket here in the UK decided to stock two ‘mystery’ single malts under the name of Aerstone. These are the ‘Land Cask’ and ‘Sea Cask’. They come with an age statement of 10 years and a volume of 40%. It’s not uncommon for supermarkets to have their own single malts but usually they’re labelled ‘ASDA’s Islay Single Malt’ or ‘Sainsbury’s Speyside Single Malt’. It’s unusually for a supermarket to register a trading name for a mystery whisky (where the source distillery isn’t clearly indicated). This is all very interesting but it was the price of £20 that caught my attention (reduced from £30). This made Aerstone the cheapest 10yo single malt on the market, even when the Aberlour 10yo is on offer. And considerably cheaper than the MacPhail’s 10yo mystery malt. Tesco, you have a winner!

The Aerstone duo aren’t really mystery malts in the traditional sense. Firstly it’s common knowledge that the source distillery is Girvan, owned by William Grant & Sons. Secondly a mystery malt typically comes from an established single malt distillery and Girvan is better known for producing grain whisky. Nevertheless since 2007 the Girvan complex has incorporated the Ailsa Bay distillery, which has been releasing single malt since 2016. With the Aerstone being 10 years old it’s possible that one or both of the cask types started life as Aisla Bay, which isn’t a bad thing.

It should come as no surprise that the Land Cask is doing better than the Sea Cask in reviews because peat and smoke make it more interesting. But both malts are considered to be easy going, straightforward sippers. Yes they contain E150 colourant and 40% seems quite tame these days but at £20 you can’t expect the earth to move. Both whiskies get excellent scores from William over on the Scotch Malt Whisky website and 81/100 on Whiskybase for the Land Cask is a pretty decent mark.

Overall I’d say that Tesco’s request to William Grant & Sons to give their customers two single malts that showcase the different profiles from different areas of maturation has been a success. And you can’t grumble at the price!

Here’s The Whisky Family with their thoughts on the Aerstone duo on Youtube (Oct 2018):

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Kingsbarns ‘Dream to Dram’ 3-year-old

Bought: Kingsbarns Distillery Online Shop, 5th February 2019

Ratings:
81.8/100 – Whiskybase (average from 97 member votes)

When I started on my whisky journey in 2013 there were only 3 active single malt distilleries in the Scottish lowlands, which were Auchentoshan, Bladnoch and Glenkinchie. None of these distilleries were known for producing breathtaking spirit and indeed Bladnoch even stumbled and closed in 2014. Basically the region wasn’t setting the whisky world on fire. But now, 6 years later, I feel confident in saying that no other region has expanded as much as the lowlands of Scotland. Wikipedia list 9 new active distilleries, so an increase of 300% with 9 more in development. Personally in the last few years I’ve added bottles from Aisla Bay, Daftmill, Eden Mill, The Glasgow Distillery and now Kingsbarns. I’d add Annandale if they ever sold a whisky at a sensible price!

It was my WordPress buddy Tobi over on Barley Mania that put me onto ‘Dream to Dram’ by the Kingsbarns distillery when they posted about it in February 2019. I rushed over to the Kingsbarns online shop and ordered a bottle of their new 3-year-old. They must have been so excited to be supplying one of the world’s leading whisky bloggers that they sent me two bottles – what a bonus! So even more youthful nectar to enjoy.

Scoring almost 82/100 on Whiskybase is a very good score, especially for a 3-year-old whisky from a new distillery. Comments across the internet seem very favourable including, “clean, sweet, with lovely vanilla and berry notes”, “very smooth on first taste – not at all harsh like some youngsters that I have tasted in the past”, “still a bit young, but already very promising” and “for three years, this whisky really succeeded”.

Combining 1st fill bourbon barrels with wine casks might seem like a gamble for a new distillery but it’s certainly paid off for Kingsbarns and it shows that their master blender knows their stuff. The distillery, not far from St Andrews in Fife, offer tours and score an excellent 4.5/5 stars on Trip Advisor, so well worth a visit.

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: You can really smell those first-fill bourbon casks. There’s vanilla and crème brûlée plus lots of new make character, tropical fruit, and quite pronounced alcohol.

Palate: Smooth texture, sweet cereal notes, light and fruity, with some roasty coffee notes.

Finish: Banana bread, of all things.

Here’s ‘Great Drams Whisky Reviews’ with their thoughts about ‘Dream to Dram’ on YouTube (May 2019):

Eden Mill, Hip Flask Series #6 & #7

Bought: Eden Mill Online Shop, 15th May 2018

Hip Flask no.6 ‘Oloroso Sherry Hogshead’

Ratings:
84/100 – Whiskybase (average from 6 member votes)

Hip Flask no.7 ‘PX Sherry Hogshead’

Ratings:
83.33/100 – Whiskybase (average from 5 member votes)

Almost a year since I bought these 20cl bottles from the new Eden Mill distillery in St. Andrews and they’re still available from their online shop along with 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 in the series, all for £25 each. Sadly numbers 1 to 5 have long since sold out. But these little bottles are a cracking way for any whisky enthusiast to get an inexpensive taste of this new Lowland distillery. Some of the first 5 hip flasks were quite experimental in their cask use but numbers 6 and 7 follow a more traditional sherry wood maturation. I tried no.6 and it was a very pleasant experience, much like the tasting notes below from the distillery but I didn’t pick up the “subtle peat smoke”. Perhaps it all floated away when I popped the cork. But it certainly tasted older than 3 years. For such youth and at a potent 47% it felt very mellow and easy to drink with plenty of complexity.

I personally know Eden Mill more for its gin, which is testament to how good their marketing has been for a company only founded in 2012. They also make beer and have the claim to fame of being Scotland’s first combined brewery and distillery. Eden Mill also believe in supporting national pastimes as they sponsor Scottish Rugby, Hibernian Football Club and Celtic FC women’s team to name but three. That answers the question about what goes in the drink bottles for half time refreshments!

Anyway, less of my rambling. Here are the tasting notes provided on the Eden Mill website:

Series 6 – Oloroso Sherry tasting notes from Eden Mill website:

Nose: Darker in appearance, this scotch whisky leads with sweet icing sugar notes on the nose combined with a rum raisines creating a full-bodied flavour like no other. In combination, notes of honeycomb and coffee work hand in hand to create the perfect balance.

Taste: With a subtle peat smoke underneath, Hip Flask No. 6 is rich on the palate yet leaves a caramel latte sweetness.

Finish: Expect a short, dry, finish with a hint of sweetness. Maturation in a Sherry cask is most noticeable on the finish – dried-berry notes with a heavy, spice underneath.

Series 7 – PX Sherry tasting notes from Eden Mill website:

Hip Flask Series No. 7. Only 1,350 bottles have been lovingly handcrafted for your pleasure.

Noise: The Maturation in PX Sherry Hogshead Casks imparts a rich, demerara-like profile, with plum, raisin, date fruit notes alongside.

Taste: On the nose, a real juicyness from the green apple is present apace with a light sweetness from the honey. A subtle hint of delicate floral notes leads to a light, sweet and sherried character, which progresses to a rich, earthy spice.

Finish: With sweet sultanas alongside a hint of dry christmas spice, leaving the palate with a malty sweetness that is both short and spicey to finish.

Glasgow Distillery Co. ‘1770’ – First Release

Bought: Glasgow Distillery Co, 8th June 2018

Ratings:
87.62/100 – Whiskybase (average from 15 member votes)

It’s always nice to see another whisky distillery popping up but you have to wonder if this trend will damage the industry in the long run. But perhaps the modern customer will lean towards the new arrivals and it will be old distilleries that end up suffering. It wouldn’t take much for a cut-throat company like Diageo to close one of its many locations if they thought they weren’t profitable enough. And don’t get me started on the potential impact of Brexit! Time to pour a dram.

The Glasgow Distillery Co. was established in 2014 and proudly claims to be the first single malt whisky distillery in the city since 1902. As they waited for their whisky to mature they produced a gin they named ‘Makar’ in one of their 3 stills. And to kick-start their name in the whisky world they bottled and sold a mystery Speyside single malt they named ‘Prometheus’. Initially a 26yr, then 27yr, their latest edition is a 28yr priced at a ridiculous £699. Seriously?

In 2018 the Glasgow Distillery Co. announced a ballot for a limited release of 5,000 bottles of their first ever single malt named ‘1770’. Hardly memorable but they probably looked at the stupid names other distilleries were inventing and decided that a number would be safer. 1770 was the year Beethoven and William Wordsworth were born but what that has to do with Glasgow whisky I don’t know. Regardless, £100 for a 50cl bottle of 3yr whisky hardly felt like a bargain. I also didn’t realise when I paid for a bottle in June that I’d have to wait nearly 5 months before it would arrive. Perhaps some of the £100 was to cover the cost of oats for the blind donkey delivering my bottle. But it’s all worth it for a taste of history! Honest!

The good news is that the 1770, matured in first-fill bourbon casks and finished in virgin oak, has been well liked since its arrival. Scoring nearly 88/100 on Whiskybase is an excellent score and the distillery have announced another release during 2019.

Tasting notes left on Whiskybase:

Nose: Floral. Waxy fruits, especially pears and apples. Honey, lacquered wood and touch of saffron.

Taste: Dried and baked fruits, caramel, orange peel, pepper and touch of gum.

Finish: Medium length, spicy, sweet.

Daftmill 11yo 2006 ‘Summer Batch Release’ (700th post)

Bought: Berry Bros & Rudd, 31st July 2018

Ratings:
87.28/100 – Whiskybase (average from 60 member votes)

For my 700th blog post I wanted to add something special, and Daftmill distillery came to my rescue. When I started getting interested in whisky in 2013 Daftmill had been distilling spirit for 8 years but nothing had been released from the lowland distillery. Surely something would appear soon? But we had to wait until 2018 before the 12-year-old inaugural release hit the market. I can’t remember exactly how much it was advertised for (£300?) but the 629 bottles sold out very quickly. Formed from 3 barrels it had a cask strength of 55.8% and scores a very respectable 86.3/100 on Whiskybase from 37 votes.

In July 2018 the second release from Daftmill arrived at a more pocket-friendly £95. This ‘summer batch release’ was formed from 7 barrels and limited to 1665 bottles. According to Berry Bros & Rudd I got the last bottle they had in stock. The reverse label says, “distilled and filled in the summer of 2006, these ex-Bourbon barrels from Heaven Hill in Kentucky have waited patiently in the bottom storey of Warehouse No 1 for nearly 12 years”. The only thing daft about this release is that some shops are now listing it as £799. The current auction value is about £180.

Although diluted down to 46% my summer release from Daftmill scores a point more on Whiskybase than the older and stronger inaugural release. People really love this stuff, which must be very encouraging for the Cuthbert family who own and operate the distillery at their farm in Fife. Comments about the taste mention lemon zest, peaches, honey, shortbread, spices, fresh marzipan, mint, key lime pie, tangy oranges, greengages, toffee and a youthful floral complexity. Sounds delicious!

I can only find two YouTube videos about Daftmill distillery, both of which take a tour with the owner Francis Cuthbert in 2010. He’s interviewed by Charles MacLean for SingleMaltTv and then by Ralfy who gets to nose a 4-year-old barrel of spirit. Ralfy likened the aroma to the former lowland distillery Linlithgow, which Francis thought was a fair comparison. A comment on Whiskybase feels the summer release resembles Rosebank, so you get the impression that Daftmill whisky has fantastic lowland pedigree.

When you research Daftmill distillery on the internet it soon becomes clear how generous the owner Francis Cuthbert is with his time. He has given numerous people a tour of his facilities even though I don’t believe the distillery is officially open to the public. It’s a working farm after all and has been in the Cuthbert family for 6 generations. But among the lowing cows and fields of barley (they grow their own, which is malted elsewhere) there is a real passion for making whisky. I have a feeling the distillery will go from strength to strength.

Kinclaith 1967 (Gordon & MacPhail)

Bought: Online Auction, 5th October 2017

Ratings:
85/100 – Whiskybase (from 1 member vote)
72/100 – Malt Maniacs (for 70cl 1993 version)

Kinclaith wasn’t a distillery in its own right as it was constructed in the grounds of the Strathclyde grain distillery in Glasgow, which makes it a Lowland whisky. Founded in 1957 Kinclaith was closed in 1975 and subsequently demolished. In its short 18-year life Kinclaith was used for blending (primarily in Long John) and never officially sold as single malt. Whiskybase only list 5 independent bottlers releasing Kinclaith as a single malt with Cadenhead starting in 1985 with a 20-year-old. If you have a spare €2,000 you can buy this bottle from a shop in Germany. Hmmm, perhaps not!

Whiskybase list the last independent bottling of Kinclaith by ‘The Whisky Talker’ in 2010, some 7 years ago. That’s hardly surprising since it’s over 40 years since Kinclaith ceased to be. Are there any casks left unopened I wonder? My 5cl by Gordon & MacPhail (G&M) was probably bottled in 1993 (as per the 70cl, making it 25/26yo) but there isn’t a code confirming this on the back of the bottle’s label. There was also a 70cl G&M bottle released in 1991. I’ve wanted a miniature Kinclaith by G&M for years but I’ve never see one with a good neck level. My bottle (pictured below) has liquid up to the shoulders, which is as good as it gets. At least it’s enough to provide a taste of this rare Lowland gem.

Tasting notes and comment from Whiskybase (translated from German):

Nose: Light oak, some water mint, hair spray, old copper coins, dried, tropical fruits (pineapple, papaya, apricot), Werther’s original, Grand Marnier, cotton candy and some burnt caramel. With time and air, the whiskey opens up and becomes more fruity and finer.
Taste: Sweetish and slightly creamy with lots of malt and light vanilla. In addition there are bright fruits and some lemon. Then becoming pepperier. Light tannins, a bit orange bitter and a hint of bitters. At the end, the bitter oak occupies the entire mouth.
Finish: Medium in the middle, woody, slightly bitter and with a fine malty sweetness. In between, the tropical fruits flash out of the nose. At the end some milk coffee.
Comments: Old-school Malt! I would have thought the Lowlander to be much easier because of its geographical origin. The tropical fruits are great, but cannot prevail over the bitter oak. This is also a bit too bitter and too dominant for me.

Bladnoch ‘Samsara’ 200th Anniversary

Bought: Master of Malt, 4th September 2017

Ratings:
82.7/100 – Whiskybase (average from 9 member votes)

Bladnoch distillery celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2017 and the new owner (David Prior) decided to release 3 commemorative bottles, the Samsara (NAS), Adela 15yo and Talia 25yo. Unfortunately they weren’t new because they’d already been released in 2016. The only clear difference I can see is that the re-release in 2017 now had “Celebrating 200 years” at the bottom of the bottle label. I gave my wife a food blender for our 24th wedding anniversary last year and I gave her the same blender this year with “happy 25th anniversary!” on it. I’m now single. I jest of course. 🙂

It was mostly this lazy attempt to celebrate Bladnoch’s 200th birthday that caused me to delay getting the Samsara. Not that it was likely to sell out because demand for the distillery seems quite low. Although the Samsara is NAS (non-age statement) it’s said to be over 8-years-old as the last spirit distilled at the distillery was in 2008. The 2016 release scored 79/100 on Whiskybase from 30 member votes so 82.7/100 for the 2017 is a clear improvement. Although both are 46.7% (a good strength) the 2017 version is matured in Californian red wine and bourbon casks. Maturation isn’t mentioned for the 2016 edition, so perhaps there’s a difference there. If nothing else the Samsara 2017 could have 9-year-old whisky as a base instead of the 8-year-old for the 2016 release.

So why did I get the Samsara? Having bought bottles to celebrate 200 years of Lagavulin and Laphroaig it didn’t seem right not to support Bladnoch and its ‘rebirth’ (the meaning of the word ‘Samsara’). Not only that but reviews have improved for the Samsara and for just over £60 this 8yo+ comes in a beautiful decanter-style bottle and sturdy display box. Both reviews left on Master of Malt consider the Samsara to be good value for money although I notice the price has increased to over £70. Tut tut!

Tasting notes from Bladnoch:

Nose: Quite concentrated, fruit compote, with plums, vanilla and orange blossom.
Palate: A sweet winey start, then drying slightly before more plums and vanilla flavours, some citrus and a malty core. Nicely structured.
Finish: Mellow and winey with a spicy, lingering tail.

Here’s Horst Luening of Whisky.com with his thoughts on YouTube (July 2017):

Auchentoshan 12-year-old

Bought: Amazon, 12th March 2016

Ratings:
91.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
79.14/100 – Whiskybase (average from 111 member votes)

I must admit I tend to think of Auchentoshan whisky as being in the same bracket as Jura, Fettercairn and Speyburn in terms of quality. This might seem unfair until you look at the entry-level single malts each distillery produce and they get similar ratings online. One reviewer on Whiskybase for the Auchentoshan 12yo even says “very similar to Jura 10”. Other comments for the Auchentoshan 12yo include “Approachable”, “Enjoyable dram” and “worth spending some time otherwise will completely pass you by”. It’s this last remark that’s important because Ralfy (of www.ralfy.com) says in his YouTube review in 2009 to give this dram 15 minutes to open up. This allows the whisky to get over the E150 obstacle and let out its freshness and summery citrus notes.

One person who certainly enjoys the Auchentonshan 12yo is Jim Murray. Scoring 91.5/100 in his Whisky Bible classifies this Lowland single malt as “brilliant”. He says about the taste “oily and buttery; intense barley carrying delicate marzipan and vanilla” and concludes with “a delicious malt very much happier with itself than it has been for a while”.

Having tried the Auchentoshan 12yo I certainly enjoyed it but it doesn’t hold a candle to the Highland Park 12yo, which is cheaper, nor the Talisker 10yo, which is significantly more complex and rewarding. But every whisky enthusiast will at some time want to try an example from the Scottish Lowlands and the Auchentoshan 12yo is very approachable and pleasant.

Here’s Horst Luening of Whisky.com with his thoughts about the Auchentoshan 12yo on YouTube (July 2016):

Dunglass (Littlemill) 5-year-old

Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 10th January 2017

Ratings:
77/100 – Whiskybase (average from 5 member votes)
69/100 – Malt Maniacs (average from 5 maniac votes)

Dunglass was the name given to an experimental whisky produced for one year in 1967 at the Littlemill distillery. Whiskybase only list 4 independent bottlings of Dunglass from 1967 and two distillery 5-year-olds labelled ‘Pure Malt’. As much as I’d like to think my Dunglass 5yo was bottled in 1972 as a ‘single malt’ (as it’s classified on Whiskybase) I know it’s not the rare stuff from 1967. According to one auction site that sold a Dunglass 5yo ‘Pure Malt’ (old term for a blend) it was bottled in the 1990s. I also discovered online (so it’s bound to be true) that ‘Dunglass’ was a name used by Amalgamated Distilled Products (ADP) when selling whisky in Italy. ADP bought the Littlemill distillery in 1982. So, joining the dots, I’d say the Dunglass 5yo is a blend from the 1980s/90s that used a trading name inherited from purchasing the Littlemill distillery. If anyone else knows more please comment below.

Just when I thought I’d got it sorted out I see the Malt Maniacs classify the Dunglass 5yo as a single malt from the 1970s. AAARGH!!! But one of the maniacs, Serge Valentin, says he isn’t 100% sure it’s the experimental Littlemill from 1967. So I stand by what I said, that this is a more recent whisky, unfortunately.

Scoring 77/100 on Whiskybase is a below-average score. One voter who scores it 62/100 leaves these notes, “Grass and freshly cut barley. First you have the feeling of pleasant sweetness on the tongue, but after a short time oily bitter notes come to the fore. For me, this very young Littlemill bottling is little attractive, perhaps this is the reason why there are not very many bottles available?”

Clearly this dram is more of a talking point than for drinking. It may not be the original Dunglass of 1967 but it keeps the memory alive. By all accounts the original Dunglass single malt wasn’t very good, which explains why the experiment only lasted a short time.

Tasting notes, Serge Valentin, Whiskyfun.com:
Nose: light and very grainy, as expected. Gets quite grassy (hay, heavily sugared iced tea). Dried flowers, caramel, hints of praline.
Mouth: aromatically weak, sweetish… Hints of lavender ice cream, pear juice, apple juice.
Finish: rather long, and slightly peppery

Incidentally, Dunglass is a hamlet in the lowlands of Scotland, south of Edinburgh, with a coast on the North Sea. Dunglass Castle is a ruin, constructed between 1400-1542. Obviously there wasn’t any urgency in medieval Scotland to build affordable housing. Apparently the poet Robert Burns said of Dunglass “the most romantic sweet place I ever saw” when visiting in 1787. In 1919 the Usher family came to the Dunglass Estate. An ancestor, Andrew Usher, co-founded the North British Distillery, which is a grain distillery still active today. Andrew Usher is sometimes referred to as the “father of Scotch Whisky” because he perfected the eventual blending of whisky, which he started in the 1840s. This is probably why ‘Dunglass’ was chosen as a whisky name.

Here’s Ben of ‘A Dram A Day’ on YouTube with his thoughts about the Dunglass (April 2016):

Glen Flagler ‘Rare All-Malt’ 100% Pot Still 5-year-old

Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 10th January 2017

Ratings:
83.31/100 – Whiskybase (average from 34 member votes)

Glen Flagler (or Glenflagler) was one of several single malts produced at the Moffat distillery in Airdrie from the mid 1965 to 1985. Inver House Distillers Ltd created the distillery on the site of the derelict Moffat Mill paper mills. Even though distilling stopped in the mid 1980s Inver House still use the site for warehousing and as their head office to this day.

Before buying an example of Glen Flagler I had to sort out which old bottles were single malt as opposed to blended malt. Apparently Inver House continued to produce the Glen Flagler as a blend name after production of the single malt stopped. There’s a lot of confusion out on the Internet, or if not confusion then avoiding the problem by not saying if a bottle is ‘single malt’ or ‘blend’. Eventually enough places I looked said that if the Glen Flagler bottle has ‘pure malt’ on it then it’s a blend. Often auction houses wont mention this and as a result the blend version can achieve prices similar to the single malt. The Glen Flagler distillation from 1965 to 1985 used pot stills so if the label doesn’t mention ‘pure malt’ and says ‘100% pot still’ it should be single malt (I hope!).

Scoring over 83/100 on Whiskybase is very respectable where comments include “nothing to write home about but nice to try all the same”, “really unusual but I like that”, “don’t expect the earth to move, but not a bad whisky at all. Aperitif style whisky for late summer afternoons.”

Tasting notes included on Whiskybase:
Nose: Very light and not particularly expressive. A little grapefruit, lemon and dried grass and something nutty.
Taste: Bitter and woody (surprising at this age). Quite mouth filling and fat. A little honey and biscuit
Finish: Longer than expected, approaching medium.