Tag Archives: Master of Malt

Linkwood 1995 21-year-old (Signatory)

Bought: Master of Malt, 2nd August 2017

Ratings:
5/5 – Amazon (from one review)
None on Whiskybase yet but listed here.

This is my 17th example from the Linkwood distillery but my first to be bottled by Signatory. Released in 2017 it’s a combination of two casks numbered 5943 and 5944. Although it’s not stated, the colour suggests ex-bourbon casks and probably refill rather than first-fill. There are two almost identical 21yo releases by Signatory listed on Whiskybase, one from 2017 (casks 5940 & 5941) and another from 2016 (casks 5938 & 5939). They score 85/100 (1 vote) and 84.25/100 (6 votes) respectively, which are very good marks.

Ralfy on YouTube recently reviewed his first ever Linkwood in 8 years and 680 videos. He said that some people think that Linkwood is more for blends but he disagrees with that and so do I. Ralfy hits the nail on the head when he says that the fans of Linkwood are happy that the owners, Diageo, haven’t presented it as part of their distillery selection. It’s kept Linkwood’s profile low, which has allowed more independent bottlers to buy casks and kept prices down. This 21yo cost me £46, which is a fantastic price for the age. Imagine what it would be for a 21-year-old Lagavulin or Talisker? I never thought I’d see myself say this but – thank you Diageo!

Ratings online for my new Linkwood are few and far between but one person on Amazon gives it 5/5 stars and comments, “it is one to enjoy. I like it very much and think the money makes it a great deal!”

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Black tea and digestive biscuits. Walnuts and dates with a touch of dried hay.
Palate: Sugared peels, honey and a hearty kick of nutmeg.
Finish: Lingering dried flower fragrance.

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Ballechin 2005 ‘Straight from the Cask’ Bordeaux Cask 11-year-old

Bought: Master of Malt, 2nd August 2017

Ratings:
87.75/100 – Whiskybase (average from 4 member votes)

According to Whiskybase there haven’t been many distilleries to mature or finish whisky in Bordeaux casks. Arran, Auchentoshan, Bowmore and Glen Garioch have done a small handful but Edradour are the experts when it comes to using wood from this illustrious French wine region. The small Pitlochry distillery, owned by Signatory, produced 25 Bordeaux cask releases since 2005. 20 of these were their unpeated ‘Edradour’ range but in 2017 they added 5 variations of their peated ‘Ballechin’. All 5 were from single casks, amounting to just over 400 50cl bottles per cask, and gradually released through 2017 as part of the ‘Straight from the Cask’ series.

Peat and French wine? Really? It’s fair to say that in the early days it didn’t always work but since 2012 none of the Edradour Bordeaux releases have scored less than 82/100 on Whiskybase. Of the 5 ‘Ballechin’ bottlings produced this year, 3 are rated and mine is fractionally the lowest with a fantastic 87.75/100. Bottled ‘straight from the cask’ at a natural strength of 55.7%, all 407 bottles of this 11yo quickly sold out. I’m glad I got one and can now tick ‘Ballechin’ off my whisky wishlist.

Note: ‘Bellachin’ is the name of an estate in Perthshire and also the name of a distillery in the same region that operated between 1810 and 1927.

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Salted & pepper crackers, truffle oil, raisins and dried apricot.
Palate: Jammy red fruit notes are up-front and lip-smackingly sweet, with burnt oak and cut grass notes in support.
Finish: BBQ meats with a honey glaze.

Loch Lomond Single Grain (2016-)

Bought: Master of Malt, 2nd August 2017

Ratings:
93/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
78.52/100 – Whiskybase (average from 33 member votes)

It seems the only reason this single grain from the Loch Lomond distillery isn’t single malt is because of the continuous distillation process, which is a ‘single grain’ thing. It’s exclusively made from malted barley, which ticks the single malt box. According to a Whiskybase member who visited the distillery, “it has aged for around 4-5 years in first fill bourbon casks (around 20 per cent of each batch) and the remaining 80 per cent come from refill bourbon casks.” On the back of the tube it says “soft fruits and creamy vanilla with a hint of smoke and peat.” Peat as well! Blimey! And at 46% this is far from being a typical budget single grain.

Scoring 78.5/100 on Whiskybase is the sort of score I’d expect to see for a good, if a bit young, single malt. How appropriate considering that’s what this Loch Lomond nearly is. Comments online include “nice, easy drinking, every day dram”, “a real surprise, never had such a malted grain style whisky before and to be honest – I like it” and “sweet & spicy and easy-drinking with an interesting malty twist”. No mention of peat though.

93/100 in the Whisky Bible means that Jim Murray thinks the Loch Lomond Single Grain is “brilliant”! He says about the taste, “the sugars on the nose are indicative of a sweet grain, for the delivery centres around the maple syrup lead. The oak is something like most anchors at work: barely visible to invisible”. He summaries with, “elegant grain; keeps the sweetness controlled”.

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Plenty of sweet, fruity grain character here. Citrus peels, icing sugar, a little bit of grassiness.
Palate: Pineapple starts to develop on the palate, with a touch or two of oak spice keeping it from becoming overly sweet.
Finish: Continued fruity freshness.

Puni Nova 3-year-old – Italian Single Malt

Bought: Master of Malt, 8th September 2016

Ratings:
76.4/100 – Whiskybase (average from 7 member votes)

Puni became the first Italian whisky distillery when building started in 2010. It took 2 years for the distillation plant to be finished and in the autumn of 2012 Puni opened a visitors centre. I can just imagine the queues! I wasn’t aware of the existence of Puni until I spotted a bottle of their 2-year-old malt spirit (Puni Alba) in a UK auction last year. The Whisky Bible rated it 82/100 but it had a lowly 75/100 on Whiskybase. Not that ‘malt spirit’ is very easy to judge. But in 2015 Puni were able to release their first legal single malt and the Alba 3yo appeared, winning a ‘silver outstanding’ at the ‘International Wine and Spirits’ competition. Whatever that means. It sounds good anyway.

In 2016 Puni are selling two varieties of whisky, the Alba and Nova, both aged for 3 years. The Alba is matured in Marsala and Islay casks with “the distinctive smoky character of the Scottish island” and the Nova is matured in American and European oak. Even though I’m an Islay fan, and the Alba scores slightly higher than the Nova on Whiskybase, I decided to go for the Nova because I sometimes like to rebel against myself. In fairness to the Nova, according to the Puni website it’s had as many awards as the Alba but also “best Italian Single Malt” in the World Whisky Awards 2016. Hmmm…except Puni is the only single malt distillery in Italy so the Nova only had to beat the Alba. It was a 2-horse race and the one with Islay body odour had a slight limp that day.

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Fragrant citrus sorbet with touches of caramel, wheat, apple and vanilla.
Palate: Slightly floral and punchy with yellow pear skin and a hint of fruity rye, dried grass and pink peppercorns (could be the rye or the Limousin there).
Finish: Light, clean, cereal with subtle cinnamon and cedar.

The following video is by ‘The Good Dram Show’ on You Tube tasting the Nova (which is incorrectly labelled as the ‘Alba’). He’s very complimentary and summarises by saying the Puni distillery is producing some world-class whisky and one to watch for the future:

puni-nova-3yo-70cl

Big Peat – 20cl

Bought: Master of Malt, 3rd August 2016

Ratings:
96/100 – Whisky Bible 2011
8.5/100 – Jo from Whisky Wednesday (video below)
84.83/100 – Whiskybase (average from 25 member votes)

Big Peat first appeared in the Whisky Bible in 2011 with a fantastic score of 96/100. In the latest edition batch 30 scores 92/100 and batch 31 scores 90.5/100, which means quality has slipped a little (according to the author) but not by much. Unfortunately my 20cl bottle doesn’t have a batch number on it but according to Whiskybase this quarter bottle first appeared in 2009. I’m hoping my version dates back to that time and the epic 96/100. The author concludes with “had the Caol Ila been reduces slightly, and with it the oils, this might well have been World Whisky of the Year”. Praise indeed.

Big Peat is a vatting together of Islay single malts. Douglas Laing who make Big Peat describe it as “Caol Ila spirit bringing sweetness, Bowmore the perfect balance, Ardbeg the medicinal, earthy quality and Port Ellen, a degree of elegance”. But as the price of Port Ellen rises you have to think there’s very little going into the Big Peat mix. I bet I won’t be able to identify it. Nevertheless Big Peat is a classic of its time and a dram that every whisky enthusiast should try eventually.

20cl tasting notes provided on Whiskybase:

Nose: Earthy, mossy and briney. That smoked kipper quality. Some ripe fruits lurk.
Taste: The smoke coats and fills the mouth. A decent oak roasted salmon oiliness. Leaves a little salt as well.
Finish: Long with plenty of smoke and sweet honey.

Here’s Jo from Whisky Wednesday with his review on You Tube (June 2015):

Big Peat NAS 20cl

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

Cameron Brig

Bought: Master of Malt, 3rd August 2016

Ratings:
4.5/5 Stars – Master of Malt (average from 11 ratings)
71.97/100 – Whiskybase (average from 34 member votes)

If you think of ‘Master of Malts’ score as representing the average (or new) whisky drinker and the Whiskybase score representing the more dedicated dramsters you realise where Cameron Brig falls. As you can tell from the tasting notes below, this is a simple, no nonsense whisky. As a single grain it’s hardly going to be complex but very few alcoholic drinks are (or drunk as if they are). Sometimes it’s nice to kick back with a whisky that doesn’t need to be left for 10 minutes to ‘open up’ and then requires 30 minutes with a notebook as you jot down every taste bud experience. Comments on ‘Master of Malt’ include “beautifully clean and soft”, “slides over the taste buds like double cream” and “this is not whisky, this is nectar”.

For an established single malt drinker, trying Cameron Brig is more like a science experiment as neatly summed up in this comment on Whiskybase “recommended for educational purpose on blended whiskies. Taste and learn.” And I admit that’s why I bought a sample rather than a full bottle. When I finally get more serious about drinking blends I’ll try this Cameron Brig to educate my pallet on detecting the grain notes. Other comments on Whiskybase include “best way to introduce a newcomer to whisky…very palatable. easy drink” and “way better than Haig Club and less than 1/2 the price”.

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Light, subtle. Honey, spice.
Palate: Caramel, mixed peels, a touch of sherry, sultanas.
Finish: Medium length, oak and honey, more peels.

Here’s Jo of Whisky Wednesday with his You Tube review where he scores Cameron Brig 7/10 and suggests using it in a Highball cocktail (August 2013):

Cameron Brig NAS 3cl

Talisker ‘Friends of the Classic Malts’ NAS

Bought: Master of Malt, 3rd August 2016

Ratings:
87.08/100 – Whiskybase (average from 81 member votes)

As a fan of Talisker I’ve wanted the ‘Friends of the Classic Malts’ (FotCM) for a while but I felt the cost was too high for yet another NAS (non-age statement). Thankfully ‘Master of Malt’ do a 3ml sample, which is good enough for a small taster. To Talisker’s credit this version of FotCM, released in 2013, is 48%, which is a bit stronger than their standard 45.8%. The previous version of the FotCM, releases in 2007, was a 12yo but it too was 45.8%. Age or NAS? Whiskybase members rate the 12yo 85/100 and my more potent NAS two points more at 87/100.

So what do people think of this Talisker? Serge Valentin of Whiskyfun.com thinks it tastes like aged gin and prefers the Talisker Storms. Nevertheless he scores it a respectable 80/100. Whiskybase comments include “a truly unusual whisky! Spicy wood, that indefinable acidic flavour and an unusual freshness in taste make this interesting drops into something special. A thoroughly delicious whisky and a new experience for me.” But also “it’s almost a liqueur. If you like utterly sweet drams, than you may want to purchase this. I find it somewhat uninteresting.”

The main reason I didn’t track down a full bottle for £80 is because, as someone says on Whiskybase, “compared to the Ten: Stick with the Ten.” I love the Talisker 10yo so much there’s a good chance I’d be disappointed. I certainly was when I tried the 18yo and found I preferred the 10yo. Perhaps the 10yo is my perfect Talisker? A side-by-side comparison with this latest FotCM is on the cards!

Talisker Friends of the Classic Malts NAS 3cl

Mellow Corn

Bought: Master of Malt, 3rd August 2016

Ratings:
83/100 – Whisky Bible 2016
69.22/100 – Whiskybase (average from 34 member votes)

The first book I got about whisky was Ian Buxton’s “101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die”. In it he mentions Mellow Corn, a simple and cheap corn-based whiskey from America. The reason it’s taken me so long to get a sample is because even Ian Buxton thinks it’s poor whiskey. He says it’s worth trying “if only to understand the beneficial influences of malted barley and ageing”. It’s also an example of America’s whiskey history – before bourbon there was straight corn whiskey, a form of moonshine deeply routed in American tradition. So you can see how Mellow Corn lends itself perfectly to Ian Buxton’s book.

Nearly 70/100 on Whiskybase isn’t a good score with comments ranging from “God awful. Just God awful.” to “I like this one. It’s not sophisticated. In fact, the alcohol bites you in both the nose and the mouth. There’s hardly any finish, but hey, it’s perfect for watching old episodes of the Dukes of Hazzard. American muscle cars, Daisy Duke and corn whiskey sort of belong together, and that’s what makes this one special for me.”

Scoring 83/100 in the Whisky Bible classifies this corn experience as ‘good whiskey worth trying’. The author, Jim Murray, says “dull and oily on the nose, though the pallet compensates with a scintillating array of sweet and spicy notes.”

Ian Buxton’s tasting notes are:

Nose: Waxy (it should be), with light floral notes and vanilla
Taste: Surprisingly complex, with mouth-coating oiliness, some fruit and toffee
Finish: Quite lively; the fruit, wood and caramel notes hang on in there

Here’s Big Red Liquors with his review on You Tube (August 2014):

Mellow Corn NAS 3cl