Tag Archives: Lowlands

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):

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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.

Haig Club ‘Clubman’

Bought: Tesco, 6th October 2016

Ratings:
4/10 – Whisky Wednesday (video review below)
2/5 – Master of Malt (from 9 reviews)
0/100 – Whiskybase (no member votes yet)

It’s been over 2 months since the Clubman was added to Whiskybase but still no reviews. If it were a new bottle of Ardbeg there would be over 100 ratings by now but that’s because Whiskybase is more about single malts. The Clubman on the other hand is a cheap single grain and, unlike the original Club, the Clubman is priced correctly for its use in whisky-based cocktails. At £15 it’s a bit more expensive than a Lidl or Aldi basic grain but you’re paying more for the marketing and stylish blue bottle. Indeed, comments on Amazon suggest it’s being bought as a Christmas present, which has more to do with the presentation. In fact, stick a light in an empty Clubman bottle and you’ve got a festive bauble for Christmas 2017!

Although scores from most whisky drinkers aren’t great there are some fans of the Clubman. Comments online include “superb for a mixer drink”, “smooth, sweet and light” and “not particularly complex or deep in flavours, but just a really nice light whisky to sup.” Remarks about the taste say it’s sweet and the bourbon ageing give it vanilla notes so it sounds perfect to mix with cola, lemonade or ginger ale.

Here’s Whisky Wednesday with their review on You Tube (October 2016):

haig-club-clubman-nas-70cl

Killyloch 1972 22-year-old

Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 9th August 2016

Ratings:
86.75/100 – Whiskybase (average from 4 member votes)

When did production of the Killyloch single malt stop? It’s the question on every whisky enthusiast’s lips. Well, not really but it is a bit of a mystery. Some say 1985, others 1970, which is quite a wide gap. Both Glen Flagler and Killyloch were stills set within the Moffat grain distillery so not distillery locations in their own right. Moffat closed in 1985, which is where some of the confusion comes from but the production of Killyloch ended over a decade before. There are only 3 bottlings of Killyloch listed on Whiskybase, two from 1967 and one from March 1972 so this stuff is extremely rare. It also suggests that Killyloch single malt ceased production in the early 1970s, possibly later in 1972.

MaltMartin, a member of Whiskybase, scores my miniature example of Killyloch 86/100, which is a fantastic score. He leaves these tasting notes:

Nose: Astringent and sharp at first nosing. Lemon and lime. Orange peel. Floral notes and cut grass. Nettle and heather as well. Some garden mint. Later on pronounced aroma of new leather.

Taste: Hot, spicy and zesty. Esters of kiwi and green apples. Grapefruit bitterness. Hints of bergamot. Toasted oak as well. A little vanilla. Honey. The palate reminds me of the high strength Cadenhead Authentic Collection bottles of the 90’s.

Finish: Medium long with spices of black pepper and clove. Almost medicinal. Pine. Liquorice. Becomes salty at the end.

killyloch-1972-22yo-5cl

Strathclyde 2005 10-year-old Old Particular

Bought: Master of Malt, 3rd August 2016

Ratings:
72/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
86/100 – Whiskybase (average from 10 member votes)

The Strathclyde grain distillery began life in 1927 and is located in Glasgow in the central belt of Scotland. It’s owned by Pernod Ricard, who own numerous single malt distilleries including Glenlivet, Scapa and Aberlour. Strathclyde grain whisky is used in the production of blends such as Ballantine’s and Teacher’s.

Whiskybase members have loaded up the details of 46 different bottlings of Strathclyde but only 2 of those have come from the distillery owners. 44 have been from independent bottlers such as my ‘Old Particular’ by Douglas Laing. Scoring 86/100 from 10 votes is an excellent score. One member who rates it 87/100 kindly leaves these tasting notes:

Nose: Cherry, cranberry, toffee, orange and lemon. The latter gets stronger, bringing that typical freshness of young grains. A small whiff of smoke and later a little tree resin.
Taste: Cranberry, toffee, lemon, orange, spice and a little marshmallow.
Finish: Cherry, toffee and cranberry.

Wow, that’s a lot of fruit flavours, with toffee, spice and a hint of smoke. It seems to me that single grain is a secret pleasure of a minority of whisky drinkers when it should have wider appeal. Good examples are there to be found. I’m beginning to wish I’d bought a 70cl bottle rather than a 3cl sample!

Update – added the score of 72/100 from the new Whisky Bible 2017, which classifies this whisky as “usually drinkable but don’t expect the earth to move”. This is because the author detects some sulphur on the nose and finish but summaries with “some attractive silkiness at least”.

Here’s ‘The Good Dram Show’ on You Tube with their thoughts on this 10yo as part of a review of 6 different bottlings of Strathclyde (November 2016):

Strathclyde 2005 10yo 3cl

North British 2000 12-year-old

Bought: Master of Malt, 3rd August 2016

Ratings:
82.67/100 – Whiskybase (average from 5 member votes)

According to Whiskybase, Berry Bros & Rudd have bottled 6 versions of North British single grain and my example comes third in the five to be rated. Top of the list is a 50-year-old released in 2012 that scores 91/100. You often see old single grains getting extremely high marks but 82.67/100 for my 12yo is a very good score. Although one member describes it as “hollow” and not far off the Haig Club, another member says “super nice aperitif whisky” and leaves these tasting notes:

Nose: fruity, orange, floral, grass and hay, vanilla, nutty and peppery (black)
Taste: dry, spicy, peppery
Finish: medium long dry

It’s nice to add a new single grain distillery to my collection. Most of my existing examples are from closed distilleries. It seems the Scottish whisky industry have reduced the number of grain distilleries over the years and increased the output at those that remain. All in the name of efficiency and maximising revenue. North British distillery produces 65,000,000 litres per year, second only to Cameronbridge, which churns out 120,000,000 litres.

In 2015 the North British distillery hit a milestone of 2.5 billion litres of spirit since being established in 1885. That’s about 25% of Blagdon Lake, a reservoir south of Bristol in Somerset. No, I’ve never heard of it either but it was the first thing I could find on Google to try and give a sense of scale. Basically it’s a lot of alcohol, which is more than can be said for my 3cl sample!

North British 2000 12yo 3cl

Dumbarton 1987 29-year-old

Bought: Whisky Broker, 25th May 2016

Ratings:
84.33/100 – Whiskybase (from 5 member votes)

My only other example from the closed Dumbarton grain distillery is a 1961 Signatory Vintage miniature I bought at auction in May 2015, which cost a small fortune. After winning it I discovered on Whiskybase and Malt Maniacs that it was one of the worse whiskies in my collection. Since then I’ve been trying to get another example of Dumbarton that wont make me screw up my face if I decide to drink it. I narrowly missed out on a 25-year-old, 70cl, being sold by Edencroft for £110 in autumn 2015. Since then a similar example by the Scotch Malt Whisky Society (SMWS) regularly appears at auction for a comparable price. Therefore you can imagine my surprise when I found this 29-year-old Dumbarton being sold as new for £60 by the independent bottler Whisky Broker. Before it had sold out a bottle had been ‘flipped’ at auction for £140.

Dumbarton distillery opened in 1938 and closed in 2002, gradually being demolished between 2006 and 2008. As you can see from the aerial view below, there’s not much left of it. The output was mainly for the Ballantine’s blend but the distillery also produced the Inverleven and extremely rare Lomond single malts (not to be confused with ‘Loch Lomond’, a distillery further north).

84.33/100 on Whiskybase is a very good mark. This is clearly a significantly better example of Dumbarton single grain than my miniature. An upgrade successfully achieved!

Here’s a fly-over of what’s left of the Dumbarton distillery (Sept 2015):

Dumbarton 1987 29yo 70cl

Garnheath 1974 41-year-old Xtra Old Particular

Bought: Master of Malt, 3rd March 2016

Ratings:
94/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
8.7/100 – Scotchwhisky.com
87.5/100 – Whiskybase (average from 4 member votes)

Garnheath was a single grain whisky produced at the lowlands Moffat distillery between 1965 and its closure in 1986. The distillery also produced the single malts Glen Flagler, Killyloch and Islebrae. Killyloch stopped production in the 1970s and Islebrae was only used for blending and never bottled as single malt. Imagine if it was! It would cost a fortune because of its rarity. I can only assume that no casks still exist of Islebrae or someone would have bottled it by now.

94/100 in the Whisky Bible by Jim Murray classifies this single grain as a “superstar whisky that gives us all a reason to live”. The author says of the taste “wow! More than a hint of ginger here! Really a very warmed-up dram with spices holding the tiller and contrasting sublimely against the muscovado sugar and big butterscotch”. He summaries with “the rarest of the rare single grain – as though aware of its unique place in the lexicon of vanishing scotch – doesn’t disappoint for a moment.”

There are only 15 bottlings of Garnheath mentioned on Whiskybase, 6 from the 1960s, 8 from the 1970s and one from the distillery’s final year in 1986. 12 of the 15 are rated and none score less than 84.2/100, which is an excellent mark. The highest scoring bottle is a ‘Celebration of the Cask’ by Carn Mor, a 41yo from 1974, which is exactly the same year and age as my bottle by Douglas Laing.

Scoring a fantastic 87.5/100 on Whiskybase from 4 member votes, one taster leaves this summary “smooth, creamy and very appealing. Although 41 years of age, the influence of the wood is obvious but the oak isn’t overpowering at all. The spirit has extracted delicate toffee, vanilla and coconut flavours over time and is in perfect balance with subtle flavours of sandalwood and cedarwood coming from the oak. Don’t add water! A brilliant whisky experience – I very much enjoyed this beauty!”

Garnheath 1974 41yo 70cl