Tag Archives: NAS

Scapa ‘Glansa’ Batch GL01

Bought: Auriol Wines, 11th August 2017

Ratings:
80.26/100 – Whiskybase (average from 33 member votes)

Scapa distillery say about the Glansa on the box and bottle, “taking our signature smooth fruity single malt, which is aged in American oak, this expression is then rested in peated casks creating richness and depth, with notes of warm, heather-honey and soft fruits giving way to a subtle smoky finish.” They also include that it’s batch GL01 and bottled in August 2016. Over a year later and there hasn’t been a new batch, unlike the Skiren released in 2015, which is now on batch 8. It looks like the Glansa is a bit of a one-off.

I saw one comment online suggesting that finishing the Glansa in peated casks (probably from Islay) was a bit of a cheat. This was a weird remark because cask finishing has been common practice for a long time and there are many examples of excellent whisky finished in peated casks. The comment also misses the point – this is a rare release from a fantastic distillery that is trying something different. Those that know the Scapa signature will also know that adding peat should harmonise well. And for Scapa fans it’s a good sign that the distillery is still alive and not close to closing down as it has done in the recent past.

Comments online include “a nice balance between the sweetness of fruit and the smoke/peat”, “delicious stuff, better than many a standard” and “better than Skiren”. The scores back up the last comment where the Skiren comes in at 79.86/100 on Whiskybase, fractionally below the Glansa. Not that there’s much in it but it sounds like the Glansa is a good addition to the history of the Scapa distillery. Long may it continue!

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Fruity sweet notes of soft peach, pineapple, vanilla intermingled with subtle bonfire smoke.
Palate: Peach and ripe flavours and creamy caramel toffee and vanilla balanced perfectly with soft smoke.
Finish: Very long with a markedly smoky finish.

Here’s Horst Luening of Whisky.com with his thoughts about the Scapa Glansa (Dec 2016):

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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.

Glenfiddich ‘IPA’

Bought: Tesco, 2nd August 2017

Ratings:
81.3/100 – Whiskybase (average from 197 member votes)

As it says on the back of the tube “a Glenfiddich whisky finished in IPA craft beer casks, something never done in the industry before”. I don’t see many other distilleries falling over themselves to do it again. But credit to Glenfiddich for trying something different, especially as experimentation is not something generally associated with the distillery. One common remark about the new ‘IPA’ is that the actual ale element is hard to detect on the pallet. This is not surprising given the whisky is only ‘finished’ in it rather than matured from birth to bottle. Unlike using sherry or wine maturation, ale has a similar creation process to the early stages of whisky, so it’s going to be difficult for it to stand out.

I’ve been interested in pairing beer with whisky (separate glasses rather than mixing) for several years and this is where the Glenfiddich IPA scores extra points from me. I’ve seen this combination referred to as a ‘half and half’ online but I remember it as a ‘pint and a nip’ when I was a lad. Old chaps in workingman’s pubs would choose a blend rather than a single malt to go with a beer but these days the chaser can be whatever our wallets can afford. Ralfy (of www.ralfy.com) discusses pairing beer with whisky here on YouTube. The blog ‘In Search Of the Perfect Chaser’ also gives some combination examples.

Scoring over 81/100 on Whiskybase is a very good mark especially when you consider that the standard 12yo only scores 76/100 from 874 votes. The IPA scores exactly the same as the standard Glenfiddich 15yo, which gets 81.3/100 from 463 votes. Not bad for an experimental non-age statement. Comments online for the IPA include “lovely IPA odour with generous hints of toffee”, “fresh, fruity and full of citrus with a nice small touch of hops right at the end” and “probably won’t buy again due to the price but it was certainly worth trying once”. I agree with the last remark because it was on my wishlist for a very long time before I parted with £45 to get it.

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: An elegant harmony of fresh green apple, William’s pear and spring blossom. Complimented with Aromatic hops and fresh herbs.
Palate: Vibrant with a zesty citrus note followed by creamy vanilla and a hint of fresh hops.
Finish: Enduring sweetness with an echo of green hops.

Here’s Vin PF of ‘No Nonsense Whisky’ with his thoughts about the IPA on YouTube (August 2017):

Oban Distillers Edition 2001/16

Bought: Amazon, 28th June 2017

Ratings:

82.86/100 – Whiskybase (average from 16 member votes)
5/5 Stars – Master of Malt (from 2 ratings)

There are 115 different bottles of Oban listed on Whiskybase of which 21 are by independent bottlers. Of those 21 the only one I could find that had been bottled after the mid 1990s was a release by Douglas Laing in 2013 to commemorate the 40th Anniversary of the Oban lifeboat station. There were only 297 bottles of this 18yo, which now sell for about £150 at auction. Diageo, who own Oban, clearly want to keep the whisky production limited and exclusive.

Jim Murray in his Whisky Bible 2017 has reviews for three different versions of the ‘Distillers Edition’ covering the 2007, 2008 and 2013 releases, which score 90/100, 91.5/100 and 87.5/100 respectively. The only other bottles of Oban he includes are the standard 14-year-old and ‘Little Bay’ with the 14yo scoring a meagre 79/100. Mr Murray clearly appreciates the extra 6-18 months the 14yo matures in Montilla Fino sherry casks to create the ‘Distillers Edition’.

Comments online for the Distillers Edition 2001/16 include, “everything you’d expect from a special edition. Fruity and satisfying in the mouth. Class act from Oban” and “this is one of the sweetest Oban I have ever tried, while the typical coastal character stayed upright.”

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Sherried peels, grassy malt and nutty brown bread. A touch of chocolate sauce in there, too.
Palate: Rich in honey and butterscotch, followed by a light whiff of smoke. Blackberry and raspberry jam.
Finish: Toasty, subtly smoky spices.

Mortlach 2006 (Càrn Mòr c.6-year-old)

Bought: Morrison & Mackay, 21st June 2017

Ratings:
81/100 – Whiskybase (from 1 member vote)
6/10 – Whisky Loving

This Mortlach 2006, 20cl, forms part of the Càrn Mòr Vintage Collection produced by the Scottish Liqueur Centre (now Morrison & Mackay) between 2009 and 2012. Distilled in 2006 and bottled in 2012 (c.6yo), it was the second 20cl to represent the year of 2006. The first was a Glentauchers issued in 2009. Mortlach 2006 is a limited edition of 720, cask 9, non-chill filtered, no added colour and 46%.

Although this small bottle of Mortlach came out in 2012 it’s still available on the Morrison & Mackay website for a mere £10. It’s also being sold at Robert Graham and Whisky Castle so it goes to show how long 720 bottles can sometimes take to sell. Perhaps it’s the presentation, 20cl size, or coming from a less known independent bottler that’s kept it lingering on the shelves for so long.

Mortlach has its fans so why hasn’t this bottle sold out? I strongly suspect it’s because of its light colour, which screams ‘refill cask’. What makes Mortlach delightful is spending time in a first-fill sherry cask, soaking up all those wonderful fruity juices and acquiring a beautifully rounded flavour. Seeing a light Mortlach doesn’t necessarily mean it’s bad, you just know it’s not going to be as good as it can be.

81/100 on Whiskybase from one member is a good score but 6/10 from Whisky Loving seems rather low. They say of the palate “rough notes. Citrus and some orchard fruits. Fruity and sweet. Vanilla and almost floral notes”. They also mentioned vanilla on the nose, which makes me slightly concerned that it comes from an ex-bourbon barrel. My book on distilleries, published in 2010, makes no mention of ‘vanilla’ in the house style of Mortlach and says they exclusively use ex-sherry casks. But there have been some ex-bourbon releases recently from independent bottlers that suggest Mortlach are now mixing their barrels. It’s a shame the cask type used for this Mortlach 2006 wasn’t disclosed but it is what it is. For me it’s my 24th and final bottle to complete the Càrn Mòr Vintage Collection. Phew!

The Chita, Japanese single grain

Bought: World of Whisky (Heathrow), 27th June 2017

Ratings:
79/100 – Whiskybase (average from 16 member votes)
3.6/5 – Distiller.com (average from 53 votes)

When it comes to understanding Japanese whisky distilleries and their brands I’m forever getting my Nikkas in a twist! So when I spotted this new Chita single grain I decided it was time to get my knowledge up to speed. Is ‘Chita’ a distillery or just a brand name? Well it’s a distillery founded in 1972 and owned by Suntory. As such its principal use is in Suntory blends, e.g., the Hibiki. Suntory own the Yamazaki and Hakushu distilleries, which provide the single malts that blend with the Chita grain to create such products as the Hibiki ‘Harmony’.

My curiosity didn’t end there and I wondered if there were any other grain distilleries in Japan. Miyagikyo distillery, owned by Nikka, have Coffey stills used for grain distillation for Nikka malts, and the Fuji Gotemba distillery also produce grain whisky. Of the 9 distilleries in Japan, Chita appears to be the only one that’s sole purpose is to produce single grain. During my search I found two other single grain distilleries, which have sadly now closed, the Nishinomiya Distillery (closed in 1999, owned by Nikka) and Kawasaki Distillery (ceased whisky production c.2006).

The new Chita single grain whisky, 43%, has been matured in a combination of sherry, bourbon and wine casks. Reviews on Whiskybase and Distiller.com are above average with comments of “for a grain whisky, it has substantial complexity”, “a grain whisky that in my view progresses nicely from nose to finish”, “seems like a quality pour” and “if you like the sweetness and smoothness of Hibiki, this is your whisky”.

I suspect that Jim Murray, author of the ‘Whisky Bible’, reviewed this single grain for his 2016 edition when it was only available in Japan. His description and 43% volume certainly match the bottle now available in the UK. He scores it 92.5/100, which classifies it as “brilliant”.

Tasting notes from ‘Master of Malt’:

Nose: Honeydew melon, citrus and honey’d cereal.
Palate: Vanilla sponge cake and more honey. A touch of orchard blossom.
Finish: Medium length, rather zesty.

Speyside 1999 (Càrn Mòr c.13-year-old)

Bought: Morrison & Mackay, 21st June 2017

Ratings:
None as yet but listed on Whiskybase here.

This Speyside 1999 20cl forms part of the Càrn Mòr Vintage Collection produced by the Scottish Liqueur Centre (now Morrison & Mackay) between 2009 and 2012. Distilled in 1999 and bottled in 2012 (c.13yo) it was the second 20cl to represent the year of 1999. The first was a Craigellachie issued in 2009. Speyside 1999 is a limited edition of 720, cask 323, non-chill filtered, no added colour and 46%.

Although this quarter bottle was released as long ago as 2012 it’s still available for £14 from the Morrison & Mackay (M&M) website as I write this post 5 years later. Why? Possibly because not many people know about M&M or the existence of their online shop but mostly because the Speyside distillery is rather boring. The Càrn Mòr Vintage Collection releases of Macallan and Highland Park are long gone but this Speyside 20cl lingers on, unloved and not even worthy of a review on Whiskybase! But a similar 1999 to 2012 bottling by Douglas McGibbon scores 78/100, which is what I’d expect for this Càrn Mòr 20cl.

The Speyside distillery we know today is the second to bear the name. The first opened in 1895 but only lasted a decade before being closed and eventually demolished. The second incarnation began life in 1956 but spirit didn’t start being produced until 1990 some 34 years later. It wasn’t until we reached a new millennium that the first 10-year-old was released in 2001. The house style is medium-bodied, medium-sweet, malt, nutty, fruity and floral.

Glen Moray 1992 (Càrn Mòr c.20-year-old)

Bought: Morrison & Mackay, 21st June 2017

Ratings:
80/100 – Whiskybase (from 1 member vote)

Glen Moray 1992 forms part of the Càrn Mòr Vintage Collection produced by the Scottish Liqueur Centre (now Morrison & Mackay) between 2009 and 2012. Distilled in 1992 and bottled in 2012, this c.20yo was the second 20cl to represent the year of 1992. The first was a Glenallachie issued in 2009. The Glen Moray 1992 is a limited edition of 480, cask PP001, non-chill filtered, no added colour and 46%.

80/100 on Whiskybase is a good score albeit from only one vote. This Glen Moray is finished in a port cask, which makes it quite unique (more so in 2012). Of the 640 releases of Glen Moray listed on Whiskybase only 6 of them have a port cask finish (although some may be missing the word “port” in their title). The earliest release is from 2009, which is a 14yo cask strength scoring 90.5/100. A distillery bottled 17yo ‘port wood finish’ at 40% scores 87.2/100 from 7 votes, which is an excellent score. I’ve got a good feeling that when more votes come in for my 20yo at 46% they will be greater than 80/100 rather than less. It seems that a Glen Moray with a bit of age goes nicely with some port maturation.

In 2018 I intend to visit the Glen Moray distillery, which is within easy walking distance of Elgin town centre. Elgin is also where the Gordon & MacPhail shop is situated so I’d better make sure I take a full wallet! Glen Moray have a ‘bottle your own’ option at the distillery shop, which is not to be missed. In recent years they’ve been quite experimental with their cask finishes. Not only port and chardonnay but also cider, which sounds intriguing!

Crown Royal ‘Northern Harvest Rye’

Bought: Drink Supermarket, 12th June 2017

Ratings:
97.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
78.24/100 – Whiskybase (average from 133 member votes)

Jim Murray, author of the Whisky Bible, gave his 2016 ‘World Whisky of the Year’ award to the Crown Royal ‘Northern Harvest Rye’ (NHR) but specifically to bottle code L5083 N3. My bottle is code L5098 N5, whatever that means. The 5098 sounds quite close to the 5083 Jim Murray had but the N3 and N5 might refer to completely separate stills. Perhaps still number N5 is in a different building where it only has its pipes cleaned every 6 years and shares the premises with a donkey sanctuary. Don’t ask me, I just drink this shit!

After the award Crown Royal didn’t exactly rush to put their prices up in Canada and the US, although I believe it sold out everywhere for a while. Crown Royal knew the NHR was a $22 blend, and so did their market, which wouldn’t tolerate the stuff if it doubled in price. But in the UK we got massively stung and even 20+ months later it’s hard to find the NHR for less than £100 in whisky shops. Thankfully Drink Supermarket had it for £55, which convinced me it was time to grab a bottle, even though I know it’s unlikely to blow my mind (and it should only be £20!). I haven’t tried Canadian rye so I’m killing two birds with one stone with the NHR when I taste it AND get to denounce Jim Murray as a crackpot.

As I researched this blog post I watched the Whisky Vault’s review of the NHR on YouTube. In it they mention Mark Bylok’s blog (here) where he discusses the big variation across the different releases of NHR. He reviews 4 separate batches and gives them scores of 93/100, 88/100, 82/100 and 78/100. So Jim Murray’s bottle could have been 97.5/100 but my L5098 N5 may only be 60/100, such is the inconsistency across the NHR range. Thankfully most whisky producers try harder than Crown Royal to keep a standard flavour across their batches otherwise reading reviews would be pointless. But in the case of NHR, unless you have the same batch number of the bottle being reviewed, take everything that’s said with a pinch of salt.

Here are the Scotch Test Dummies on YouTube with their thoughts about the Crown Royal NHR, which they reviewed before Jim Murray’s award. Since then a lot of reviews have been tainted by an anti-Murray bias so it’s nice to see an honest summary and an above average rating of 88/100 (Aug 2015). I’m not sure what batch it is though:

Bowmore No.1

Bought: Tesco, 25th May 2017

Ratings:
79.83/100 – Whiskybase (average from 14 member votes)

The Bowmore No.1, new in 2017, replaces the ‘Small Batch’, which appeared in 2014. Both are NAS (no age statement) and matured in bourbon casks so you have to wonder if anyone will notice the difference? The No.1, unlike the Small Batch, is exclusively aged in first-fill bourbon casks, so maturation is quicker. I hope this doesn’t mean the No.1 is younger than the Small Batch, which was young enough!

The Small Batch on Whiskybase ended up with a score of 81.5/100 after 229 votes so the No.1 is lagging behind, although it’s early days yet. Comments on Whiskybase include, “reminds me rather of a strongly diluted mixture of (too) young Laphroaig and Caol Ila” and “the sweet ashes are nothing special but nice. For me this has more than a few mistakes”. At least someone on Amazon says, “wonderful nose you can’t go wrong with Bowmore”, but another comment adds, “spend the extra for the 12yr old. You won’t regret it.” Or get the 9yo if you’re on a budget and prefer a sherry influence instead of bourbon.

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Nutella on brown bread, sea salt and a hint of lemon zest.
Palate: Vanilla notes are up front and sweet (though earthy vanilla pod does appear after a minute). Plenty of coastal peat smoke.
Finish: Lingering smokiness.

Here’s Horst Luening of Whisky.com with his thoughts on YouTube about the Bowmore No.1 (May 2017):