Bought: Morrisons, 18th February 2018
74.25/100 – Whiskybase (average from 6 member votes)
Glen Keith distillery got going in Speyside in 1957, was mothballed in 1999 and reopened in June 2013. Owned by Chivas Brothers its output was destined for blending, forming part of Chivas Regal, Passport and 100 Pipers. There have been plenty of independent bottlings of Glen Keith single malt but very few official releases from the distillery. The first was in 1994 with the appearance of the ‘Glen Keith 1983’. Whiskybase list only 9 releases of single malt from the distillery with the ‘Distillery Edition’ being the most recent one in 2017. Of the previous 8, 3 were before the 1999 closure and 5 were after the 2013 reopening. All are over 10 years old and score from 81/100 (good) to 88/100 (excellent) on Whiskybase.
What isn’t over 10 years old or anywhere near it is the ‘Distillery Edition’. You have to think that a lot of the whisky in it is 3-4 years old since production started again in 2013. The good news is that there’s likely to be some vintage stuff in the mix from 1999 or earlier. Then E150 colorant is added to keep everything looking consistent (boo, hiss!). For a distillery NAS (no age statement) I would generally expect most of the liquid to be between 6-8 years old. Clearly that’s not the case with the ‘Distillery Edition’. But is that a bad thing? New distilleries such as Wolfburn have had great success with 3-year-old releases. Where Glen Keith score over Wolfburn is that they have old stock to mix with the new to help remove any rough, spirity edges.
Although the score on Whiskybase doesn’t promise much the comments online at Master of Malt and Amazon are surprisingly good. They include, “pleasantly surprised! Wasn’t expecting much for the price but is pretty decent”, “nice smooth whisky”, “a good dram for a nightcap” and “everything I like in a young Speyside. Light, slight fruitiness, nice sharp nose, nicely balanced.”
Tasting notes from Master of Malt:
Nose: Sweet and crisp with orchard fruits and a malty character. Toffee apples and banana skins linger.
Palate: Through oaked dryness and an oily note comes vanilla sweetness with helpings of apricot yoghurt, dried mango and nectarines. Suggestions of chocolate pudding, a slight grassiness and a little spice form the backdrop.
Finish: Subtle floral notes and new oak, with a little honey.
Not a review about the ‘Distillery Edition’ but here’s Ben of ‘A Dram A Day’ with a history of the Glen Keith distillery before he reviews an independent bottling:
Bought: Morrisons, 11th September 2017
77.34/100 – Whiskybase (average from 34 member votes)
81/100 – Malt Box (video below)
I must confess I haven’t finished my bottle of Glen Moray ‘Elgin Classic’ from 2013 but when Morrisons supermarket reduced this newer version to £16 I couldn’t resist. It might be NAS (no age statement) but the distillery isn’t a mystery and it can hold its own for flavour against whiskies at double the price. I love this stuff, even if I haven’t had many occasions to finish its predecessor. The best time to drink it is when you fancy a dram but you don’t have time to give it a lot of attention. Perhaps when watching a movie or sharing it with someone who likes a whisky but isn’t a connoisseur.
Scoring just over 77/100 on Whiskybase might not sound like a great score but it’s over a point ahead of the previous version, which scores 76/100 from 51 votes. Comments online include “a very drinkable single malt at a fair price”, “young and quite harsh”, “it’s entirely acceptable to the average palate and even the Whisky expert would probably find it not without merit” and “I enjoy its crisp citrus and lemony flavours on ice with a splash of water”. Ice? Why not! It’s not as if you’ll be losing the complexity by chilling your taste buds. Several people consider the Glen Moray ‘Elgin Classic’ to be a very refreshing summer dram.
Tasting notes from Master of Malt:
Nose: Light, fresh. Grist. Nutty, floral. Dried grass. Slightly fruity.
Palate: Oak, gentle. Well balanced, walnut, grist. Citrus, lemon sponge.
Finish: Tangy citrus, spicy fruitcake.
Here’s Andy from ‘Malt Box’ with his thoughts about this Glen Moray (Sept 2017):
Bought: Morrisons, 8th May 2017
82.33/100 – Whiskybase (average from 3 member votes)
You can tell that the whisky industry is booming when distilleries primarily used for blending start producing single malts. We had the Tamnavulin ‘Double Cask’ last year and now the Glenallachie ‘Distillery Edition’. Both appeared in UK supermarkets and were instantly discounted from their RRP of £32 (which they’re not worth) to the low £20s. Both are NAS (no-age statement) but in fairness to the Glenallachie it’s doing better than the Tamnavulin with regards to reviews. 82.33/100 on Whiskybase is an extremely good mark, albeit from only 3 votes so far.
The ‘Distillery Edition’ is doing equally well over on Master of Malt with 4.5/5 stars from 2 votes. Comments include “definitely found my new dram” and “the nose for me is a spirity flapjack, a palate of spicy apples with a warm long lasting finish. A smooth tasting treat!”
Tasting notes from Master of Malt:
Nose: Caramel-dipped apples and pears, with hints of brown sugar and digestive biscuits.
Palate: Oodles of vanilla, with a zesty kick of fresh citrus at the centre.
Finish: Fruity esters last long on the finish.
There are no specific YouTube reviews yet for the Glenallachie ‘Distillery Edition’ but here is Ben of ‘A Dram A Day’ covering the distillery’s history before reviewing another example of Glenallachie single malt:
Bought: Morrisons, 10th August 2015
95/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
76.38/100 – Whiskybase (average from 106 member votes)
After yesterday’s blog about Port Ellen today we have a Dalwhinnie NAS (non-age statement), the new ‘Winter’s Gold’. It’s the sublime to the ridiculed but there are some good NAS bottles out there. Sadly this Dalwhinnie doesn’t sound like one of them. Reviews aren’t very favourable and the standard 15yo is a hard act to follow. Not that I see the ‘Winter’s Gold’ being a replacement for the 15yo because you’re meant to put this novelty whisky in the freezer prior to drinking (and get in there with it?!).
Because new releases of Dalwhinnie are rare I made the stupid mistake of rushing out and buying this one at full price (£37). It’s now on offer in Waitrose for £25 and Morrisons for £27. With a lowly rating of 76.55/100 on Whiskybase, this should really be its normal price rather than a discount. It would be even lower than 76.55 if one of the voters wasn’t a troll giving 96/100 with a username that sounds like a member of staff from the distillery.
Comments by Whiskybase reviewers include “a ton of marketing and the freezing part doesn’t do it any good at all. It’s a very good middle-of-the-road whisky, which should be taken as a mixer. Buy something else.” But another review is more favourable – “pleasantly surprised by the edition. Nice nose, where I also get the slightest hint of peat smoke, which doesn’t appear in the taste, but reappears in the finish.”
Update 29/10/16 – I’ve added the 95/100 rating from the latest Whisky Bible 2017 by Jim Murray that classifies this Dalwhinnie as a “superstar whisky that gives us all a reason to live”. Heavens! Mr Murray certainly doesn’t believe in being influenced by any other thoughts or reviews. He says about the taste “something about the Johnnie Walker Gold about this: there is a clarity to the malt, the citrus and vanilla which reminds one of the air when looking far away into the mountains on a cool winter’s morn.” And summaries with “whichever blender came up with this deserves a pat on the back”.
For a video review and more insight, here’s Horst Luening of Whisky.com:
Bought: Morrisons, 5th June 2015
87.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2016
80.4/100 – Whiskybase (average from 12 member votes)
As you can see from the photo below I really like the new Glen Moray ‘Peated’ – or do I? Perhaps I just love the price. At a pocket-friendly £20 (when on offer) it’s one of the cheapest single malts you can buy. But if it were rubbish I wouldn’t go back for more. Glen Moray are masters at filling that budget whisky gap slightly below the Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve and Glenfiddich 12yo. The excellent Aberlour 10yo can sometimes drop to £20 but where are the Islay malts?! Where is that hit of peat at a budget price?! Glen Moray spotted the gap in the market and decided to fill it.
When I first bought the Glen Moray ‘Peated’ a few months ago it was scoring over 82/100 on Whiskybase. Now more votes are in the score is starting to level off. But over 80 is excellent, especially when you look at the Glen Moray ‘Classic’ which scores 77/100 (from 8 member votes). The ‘Peated’ is certainly not an Islay but that shot of peat makes it more interesting than the ‘Classic’ Glen Moray.
If you see the Glen Moray ‘Peated’ on offer for £20 or less I’d recommend getting it. As a budget whisky I’d say it was in my top 3 along with the Aberlour 10yo and ASDA ‘Extra Special Islay Malt’. Once you’re up at the heady-heights of £25 it’s a whole new ball game with the likes of the Highland Park 12yo in there but that’s a different story. The fact I bought a second bottle of this Glen Moray without thinking “I should save my £20 and put it towards an Ardbeg 10yo” speaks volumes for how good this budget whisky is. Or perhaps it just confirms what a miser I am!
Update (1/1/16) – Jim Murray has added the ‘Peated’ to his Whisky Bible 2016 and giving it a fantastic score of 87.5/100, which equates to “very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying”. To be fair to the ‘Classic’ he only scores it one point less but I’m glad such an experienced taster agrees with me about the quality of the Glen Moray Peated. 🙂
Here’s Maltman Mike with his review on YouTube (August 2016):
Bought: Morrisons, 19th May 2015
78.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
76.63/100 – Whiskybase (based on 32 member votes)
When it was discovered that the Glenlivet Founder’s Reserve was replacing the 12yo, I was amused to read on forums at the number of people intending to rush out and stock up on the old version. Really?! I don’t remember it being that good. The Founder’s Reserve may only score a lowly 76.63 on Whiskybase but the 12yo is hardly miles ahead with 77.36/100 from 333 votes. Comments for the 12yo suggest it was an ‘average’ and ‘entry-level’ whisky. That’s hardly scary boots for the Founder’s Reserve to fill.
Jim Murray in his Whisky Bible is quite damning about the Founder’s Reserve. He remarks “really can’t believe what a shy and passionless whisky this is (not to mention flawed). The strength gives the game away slightly as to where the malt is positioned. But I had hoped for a little more than malty tokenism.” His score of 78.5/100 is one less than the discontinued 12yo but still in the same category of “average, and usually pleasant but sometimes flawed”.
One thing you can count on is that long established distilleries like Laphroaig, Macallan and Glenlivet know their market. They know what each sector requires. In the case of the Founder’s Reserve, an average, entry-level whisky, in the low-end price bracket. And that’s exactly what it is. Available in most UK supermarkets, it’s only worth buying a bottle when it’s on special offer (around the £22-£25 mark).
Here’s Horst Luening with his thoughts on You Tube (March 2015):
Bought – Morrisons, 28th October 2014
89/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
79.28/100 – Whiskybase (average from 77 member votes)
Morrisons, bless ’em, caught me again with another tempting reduction on a new line of whisky. So smitten was I that I didn’t look for any reviews of this new, non-age statement release from Laphroaig. Why should I, since Laphroaig are hardly going to be releasing a mix of vinegar and pee onto the market?! Although, there have been rumblings on the whisky malt vine for a while that standards have slipped at the distillery. And some lovers of the classic 10-year-old see this ‘Select’ as an indication that Laphroaig are taking the same road as Macallan. With this is mind, I wasn’t surprised to read some negative reviews of the ‘Select’ on the internet after my purchase.
Thinking I’d bought a dud, I was surprised and delighted when my Whisky Bible 2015 arrived in the post including a score of 89/100 for this new Laphroaig. This classifies it as “very good to excellent whisky definitely worth trying”. It’s a shame it’s not 46% and unchillfiltered but I guess we can’t have everything for £26. Thankfully it says on the back of the tube that the Select is “natural colour”.
Falling just short of 80/100 on Whiskybase might not seem brilliant but the members who have left comments are generally very favourable. When this ‘Select’ is at full price it’s not much different from the 10-year-old, but it’s worth a punt if you see it at a discount.
Here’s Frozen Summers on YouTube with their thoughts about the Laphroaig Select (May 2015):
Bought – Morrisons, 22nd October 2014
89/100 – Whisky Bible 2014
79.31 – Whiskybase (average from 95 member votes)
Having not tried Bulleit before, Morrisons’s tempting offer of £22 suckered me in. As low as that might seem, the same bottle is selling in Holland for €21.60 (£17), so it’s hardly the bargain of the year. Nevertheless it’s a new bourbon to my growing American collection.
There was a 40% version of the ‘Frontier Whiskey’ but this is the stronger 45%. Not that ‘stronger’ always means better. The Whiskybase members have the 40% version scoring 80.63/100 and my 45% bottle languishing behind with less than 79.5/100. But hardly much of a difference to notice. Comments include “great nose, and ok mouth and a poor finish” and “pleasant enough dram – quite a short, stocky after taste leaving the tongue with a pleasant coating”.
The Whisky Bible 2014 has less to say about this whiskey than the 2013 edition, then in 2015 the whiskey has vanished, suggesting it’s been discontinued. I’ll be surprised if it has! Jim Murray summaries his review in the Bible with “a very easy going bourbon which makes the most of any rye in the recipe. Dangerously drinkable.”
Here are the Scotch Test Dummies with their YouTube review (Dec 2015) where they rather enjoy the Bulleit ‘Frontier Whisky’ (86/100):
Bought – Morrisons, 16th October 2014
85.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
81/100 – Mark Dermul, YouTube Review (May 2014)
Recently I posted about the new Ardmore Legacy replacing the (arguably) better Traditional Cask. We now have the Auchentoshan ‘American Oak’ replacing the ‘Classic’. Thankfully it would seem Auchentoshan have got it right and this new release is an improvement on the old Classic. To be fair, it wouldn’t take much. The Classic wasn’t bad, just not exactly good either. A score in the 70s out of 100 was all it was worth.
Jim Murray in his Whisky Bible 2015 doesn’t have much to say about the American Oak but 85.5/100 classifies it as “very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying”. He summaries with “quite creamy with some toasted honeycomb making a cameo appearance”.
It wouldn’t be right to discuss Auchentoshan without mentioning the Toshman, Mark Dermul. If anyone knows Auchentoshan it’s Mark, so I watched his YouTube review with interest. He agrees with Mr Murray that the American Oak is an improvement on the Classic. I got Mark’s rating of 81/100 from Whiskybase where the average score to date is 73.2/100 from 7 reviews. Not exactly great. Perhaps Auchentoshan is more of an acquired taste, being one of the rare Lowland spirits.
Bought – Morrisons, 16th October 2014
80/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
76.66/100 – Whiskybase (average from 92 member voters)
If I’d saved all the money I’d spent over the last year on inferior whisky, I’m sure I could have bought a 30yo bottle of Highland Park by now. But with whisky I’m inclined to go for quantity before quality. I’d rather get 20 bottles of £20 so-so whisky than spent £400 on one bottle. I can guarantee I wouldn’t sip the expensive bottle and think “mmm, worth every penny!” I would expect a £380 difference between a cheap and expensive whisky to mean the 30yo Highland Park would blow my mind. It wouldn’t. And neither will the Singleton ‘Spey Cascade’ but, for £24.69, you know what to expect.
In winter 2013 I resisted buying the Singleton 12-year-old when it was reduced to £22 in supermarkets because the reviews were poor-to-average at best. Finally this new Singleton NAS (non-aged statement) ‘Spey Cascade’ suckered me in. If nothing else, it has a nice bottle shape. Initial votes on Whiskybase didn’t look very promising (low 70s) but after 92 votes it’s climbed to nearly 77/100, which is respectable.
Jim Murray added the Spey Cascade to his Whisky Bible in the 2017 edition and scoring 80/100 is “good whisky worth trying”. Not that you’d think that from his review where he says “a dull whisky, stodgy and a little dry on the nose. Improves the longer it stays on the palate thanks mainly to the sympathetic sugars and an ingratiating oiliness. But if you’re looking for quality, prepare to be disappointed.”
Here’s Horst Luening of Whisky.com on YouTube with his thoughts about the Spey Cascade (Sept 2014):