Bought: Aldi, 14th November 2017
81/100 – Ralfy (of www.ralfy.com)
81.5/100 – Whiskybase (from 4 member votes)
If your local Aldi store is anything like mine then going there is never a pleasant experience. Like most men I’m not a fan of queuing but that seems to be a prerequisit hobby for those who shop at Aldi. There are no self-service or ‘basket only’ checkouts so I always find myself stuck behind several people with trolleys overflowing with shopping as if they were preparing for a holocaust. But each year, just before Christmas, Aldi release a mystery single malt under the guise of ‘Glen Marnoch’, which is very old but for very little money. The 2016 release of Glen Marnoch 28yo had a beautiful deep sherry colour, which I believe was natural, and received critical acclaim. Sadly I missed it but I didn’t want to lose out for another year!
There were 11,000 bottles released of the Glen Marnoch 29yo. This got me wondering – how many barrels would you need for that sort of output? The most commonly used barrel in the whisky industry is a butt, which contains between 475 and 500ltrs. After a minimum of 29 years the angels would have their share so let’s be generous and say each barrel contained 475 litres. 11,000 bottles at 70cl is 7,700 litres, which is just over 16 barrels. That doesn’t sound like a lot but how many distilleries have 16 barrels of 29yo whisky kicking about that they could make a profit from if Aldi want to sell it at £40 a bottle? In truth I don’t know but you have to think there aren’t many candidates. At that price it’s likely that the source distillery is known more for quantity than quality. Someone suggests on Whiskybase that it’s Glen Moray, which is certainly a possibility.
Nose: candied orchard fruits, honey, grassy-yeast, bourbon cask influences
Taste: honeyed cereal notes, vanilla, warming sweet lemon
Finish: quite short
The Glen Marnoch 28yo released in 2016 scores 88/100 on Whiskybase from 7 member reviews so the 29yo is lagging behind with 81.5/100. What the 29yo has in its favour over the 28yo is a review from the legendary Ralfy. Either he didn’t taste the 28yo or it scored less than 80/100 so unworthy of a review in his opinion. He gives the 29yo a respectable 81/100. Here is Ralfy with his thoughts about the Glen Marnoch 29yo on YouTube (Dec 2017):
Bought: Co-op Foods, 9th November 2017
The Co-operative chain of shops has been selling a 12-year-old Highland single malt for many years. Although the source distillery is a mystery there are some clues that point firmly at Dalmore. A whisky forum discussion in 2012 said the packaging mentions ‘The Black Isle’, which is synonymous with Dalmore. It was also said that Richard Patterson, who is the master blender for Whyte & Mackay, who own Dalmore, blended the dram. Another clue is the use of lots of colorant. Love it or hate it, Dalmore use a lot of E150.
In 2016 into 2017 the packaging for the Co-op 12yo changed but it still mentions ‘The Black Isle’, although strictly speaking this could also apply to the Glen Ord and Teaninich distilleries. There’s no mention of Richard Patterson but the colouring still screams ‘Dalmore’ (favourite dram of Oompa Loompas to maintain their complexion). It’s not going to be the same as the Dalmore 12yo, which is part-finished in 30-year-old Gonzalez Byass Matusalem oloroso sherry casks, but at half the price the Co-op 12yo is worth seeking out.
For an online review in 2015 Cambridge Wine Blogger says, “a golden, mahogany toffee colour, it has a complex nose of citrus, sandalwood and roasted spices; cooked mixed fruit, pastry shop, sweet vanilla and complex dark sherry flavours. Warming, assertive and persistent.” And concludes with, “good value and very good.”
Here’s Tropical Scot with his review of the Co-op Highland 12-year-old on YouTube (Jan 2017):
Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 10th January 2017
86.5/100 – Whiskybase (average from 2 member votes)
This mystery single malt was released to celebrate 1997’s reconstitution of the first Scottish parliament since 1707. I have a miniature but the 70cl version was a limited release of 5000. When it was sold on ‘Master of Malt’ it was listed as £27 but since selling out bottles have made between £25 and £110 at auction depending on condition. The bottle was produced by ‘Flavour of Scotland’ who are listed online as a consultancy and still active at their Glasgow address.
Scoring 86.5/100 on Whiskybase is a very good score albeit from only 2 member votes. The tasting notes below suggest the Scottish Parliament 12yo is probably a single malt from a mystery Highland distillery:
Nose: soft smoke & citrus with fresh fruit feature
Palate: soft and sweet with syrup and oak
Finish: sherried with hints of chocolate and spice
Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 10th January 2017
75.67/100 – Whiskybase (average from 3 member votes)
The Speyside Cooperage 10yo is a mystery malt from one of the many Speyside distilleries. Although I bought my miniature from an online auction I suspect the original place it was sold was the cooperage shop in Craigellachie, Banffshire. Apparently it’s the only cooperage in Scotland with a visitor centre. Speyside Cooperage is listed on Trip Advisor with a rating of 4.5/5 from 284 reviews so clearly a lot of people enjoy going there. The cooperage was founded in 1947 and has branches in Alloa, Kentucky and Ohio.
Looking through my miniature bottle to the back of the label I can see the code ‘AA/JIHH’. If this is a Gordon & MacPhail code (which I assume it is) then I know the ‘AA’ means it was bottled in 2011. A bottling from 2016 has the following tasting notes on Whiskybase:
Nose: spicy, mild, malty whisky with a touch of peat. Becomes richer with time.
Taste: Same as the nose. Creamier and sweeter into the finish
Finish: A touch of peat then leaning towards malty toasted-ness with some green-ish notes.
It receives the comment “a decent malt at a decent price”. Hopefully my miniature is similar but there’s no guarantee that Gordon & MacPhail have used the same Speyside distillery over the years. That’s all part of the mystery!
Bought: Whisky Exchange, 28th September 2016
96.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
85.74/100 – Whiskybase (average from 96 member votes)
I’ve wanted an example of the mystery malt Port Askaig for several years so it’s nice to finally add it to my collection. The ‘100 Proof’ is non-age statement and the cheapest of the latest Port Askaig bottlings listed on their website (here), which includes a 16yo, 19yo, 30yo and 45yo. But, saying that, The Whisky Exchange list an 8yo that’s £5 less than the 100 Proof.
A few weeks after I bought the Port Askaig ‘100 Proof’ I got my copy of the Whisky Bible 2017 and discovered it had come second to the Glenlivet Cipher in the category of ‘best single malt, no age statement (multiple casks)’. With a score of 96.5/100 the author, Jim Murray, considers the ‘100 Proof’ to be a “superstar whisky that gives us all a reason to live”. He says of the taste, “the sugars melt in the mouth on impact. Just a light oiliness coats the mouth sufficiently for the citrus phenols to ensure there are two distinct weights on display. Yet, somehow, they seem equally poised.” He concludes with “just exemplary, high quality Islay: a must experience malt. If you find a more beautifully paced, elegant and weighted Islay this year, I’d really like to hear about it.”
The Port Askaig ‘100 Proof’ is believed to be Caol Ila as mentioned on Whiskybase and the video by ‘Single Malt Maniac’ below. Comments on Whiskybase include, “lovely fruity texture, well balanced by a nice peat fire and an intensely warming spiciness. Quite quaffable both neat or diluted with a few drops of water.” And “the best peaty NAS whisky I have tasted in a long time, what a pleasant profile.”
Single Malt Maniac review on You Tube (September 2016):
Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 19th June 2015
None I can find.
Apparently this is the single malt drunk at the famous golf clubhouse at St Andrews, Scotland. Well, one of the many single malts but this is the mystery malt that the clubhouse has given its name to. Although no longer available I found several places online that had the following description “a unique fully mature malt whisky specially selected for its fresh taste and grassy overtones with a lovely light golden colour evocative of the famous Old Course surroundings.”
Clearly this mystery malt (the source distillery isn’t mentioned) was made as a souvenir for anyone who has visited the St Andrews golf course or who is a big fan of golf. A 75cl version of the bottle was made available in America and one of those sold at auction in the UK for £27.50 in July 2014. I bought my miniature as part of a job lot of 10 but I don’t see this being an investment. I will keep it for a mystery malt tasting night and see if the contributing distillery can be identified.
Bought – Nickolls & Perks, 17th June 2014
81.5/100 – Whiskybase (average from 2 member votes)
This Unnameable forms part of the 24 x 20cl bottles that make up the Carn Mor Vintage Collection. Distilled in 2001 and bottled in 2011, it’s from a limited edition of 1300, Cask No: 258. Non-chill filtered and no added colour.
The title ‘Unnameable’ is a bit of a joke by the independent bottler because they’ve been sold cask #258 on strict instruction that they’re not allowed to reveal the source distillery when selling on the bottlings. So it’s effectively a mystery malt. Not even the region is known (Speyside, Islay, etc) as it’s simply listed as ‘Scotland’ on Whiskybase for ‘district’. Someone suggests in a comment on Whiskybase that they think it’s Macallan but this is unlikely as the Carn Mor Vintage Collection contained a declared Macallan (distilled in 1988) in its original 24 bottles.
Bought – Online Whisky Auction, 22nd December 2013
I’m not sure whether to be delighted or disappointed with getting this mystery malt. I was hoping to find something out about it on the internet but nobody seems to have discussed it. That’s a shame but, it makes it all the more exciting that it’s such a mystery! What is this stuff?! I was hoping Jim Murray might have covered it in his Whisky Bible but none of the editions I have mention it. My earliest bible is 2006 so perhaps the Loch Drunkie had been discontinued before then.
Loch Drunkie itself is a small loch near Callander in the Stirling council area of Scotland. Famous for . . . well, nothing, but you can fish in it and cycle around it. Maybe even both at the same time if you’re after a bit more excitement!
Probably the closest distillery to Loch Drunkie is Deanston (as the crow flies) but Glengoyne distillery is closer by road at less than 20 miles. Could either of these distilleries be behind the Loch Drunkie malt? It remains a mystery.