Tag Archives: NAS

Allt-a-Bhainne (NAS distillery release)

Bought: Sainsbury’s, 23rd May 2019

Ratings:
78.27/100 – Whiskybase (average from 13 member votes)
4/5 Stars – The Whisky Exchange (average from 4 ratings)

Chivas Brothers (Pernod Ricard) appear to have a plan, which is to introduce pocket-friendly bottlings into UK supermarkets from their more obscure distilleries. I believe it started in 2017 with the Glenallachie ‘Distillery Edition’ and then the Glen Keith ‘Distillery Edition’ in 2018. We now have a simple offering from the Allt-a-Bhainne distillery. All three releases are NAS (no age statement), from Speyside, 40%, and probably chill-filtered with added colour.

I would say Chivas have given us an inexpensive way to experience the house-style of each distillery but that only applies to the Glenallachie and Glen Keith. This new Allt-a-Bhainne has taken a different tack by introducing a hint of peat. Wow, a peated Speyside? “Bolsheviks!” I hear you cry. OK, so it’s been done to death in recent years but this one is so subtle that a lot of reviewers struggle to spot that it’s there. The marketing blurb says, “just enough peat to start a fire”. Hmmm, I think the marketing team at Chivas are confusing peat with matches, flint, or two sticks you rub together. Peat might keep a fire going but I’ve never heard of it starting one.

But less of my nit-picking and quibbling. Is this whisky worth drinking? Just over 78/100 on Whiskybase suggest it’s OK, leaning towards ‘good’ but that’s what you’d expect for the price point. Sainsbury’s say the RRP is £37 but even when they reduced it to £27 I wasn’t tempted. It took a drop to £20 to draw me in, which was the same discounted price as the Glen Keith (Glenallachie I got for £21). For £20 comments on a whisky Facebook page were “get it!”, “get it!” and “get it!” Other comments online include, “mild mouthfeel with just the right level of peatiness”, “absolutely gorgeous and smooth. The hint of peatness is just perfect”, “it’s smooth, subtle peat flavour, nice flavours going on but it’s very sweet – too sweet for me” and “very quaffable”.

I get the feeling that Chivas introduced this new Allt-a-Bhainne to allow the diehard Speyside fan to try a tentative toe-dip in peaty waters. Anyone who regularly drinks Islay malts is going to struggle to spot the peat and probably down-rate the dram as a consiquence. But for what it is I feel the Allt-a-Bhainne hits the spot. And I hope Chivas continue the trend of releases from their lesser known distilleries. How about a Braeval ‘Distillery Edition’ in 2020!

Here’s Great Drams with their thoughts on the new Allt-a-Bhainne on YouTube (Oct 2018):

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Macallan ‘Concept Number 1’

Bought: World of Whisky, 16th March 2019

Ratings:
85.65/100 – Whiskybase (average from 85 member votes)
85/100 – Mark Dermul (his YouTube review below)

As someone said on a whisky Facebook page, because this Macallan has a “1” in the title it has “investment” written all over it. When the Macallan Edition 1 came out 4 years ago it sold for €90 and according to Whiskybase there were at least 120,000 bottles. It now sells at auction for around 4 times that price and over £1,000 retail in the UK. The new Macallan Concept No.1, released in 2018, comprised 84,000 bottles and retailed at £100. It’s not inconceivable that bottles will reach £400 at auction by 2022/3. Why didn’t I buy more than one bottle? Because there are never any guarantees with investments, and there are always other whiskies to try.

If you own the Concept 1 and you’d prefer to drink it rather than sit on it like a goose with a golden liquid egg, the majority of tasters have enjoyed it although they’re quite quiet about it online. Scoring 85.65/100 on Whiskybase is a very good score but the majority of reviewers leaving comments are rather negative. Even Mark Dermul, who rates the Concept a very good 85/100, remarks that the NAS (no age statement) releases at the lowest possible ABV (40%) are getting tiring.

Although the Concept 1 may get some thumbs down from seasoned whisky drinkers, the sturdy presentation box and modern design make it an ideal gift for a Macallan enthusiast. If you don’t tell them the price they’re not going to grumble. Even at 40% it packs enough flavour and Macallan finesse to go down well.

Tasting notes from Macallan:

Nose: Sweet butterscotch toffee, with almond, ginger spice and cinnamon. Hints of dried fruit, citrus and green banana

Palate: Sweet orange and lemon citrus with soft oak spices, fresh fruit and ginger

Finish: Medium sweet, dry with a lingering oak, citrus fruit and ginger finish

Here’s Mark Dermul on YouTube with his thoughts on the Macallan Concept Number 1 (March 2019):

Kilchoman ‘Sanaig’

Bought: Master of Malt, 18th September 2018

Ratings:
85.18/100 – Whiskybase (average from 265 member votes)

It’s been over 3 years since I added a Kilchoman to my collection, which is something I feel quite guilty about. This Islay distillery, albeit the newest on the island (for now), produces fantastic single malt whisky. Even an ‘average’ Kilchoman is head-and-shoulders above most drams on the market. Unfortunately I was thinking about my wallet when the first 10-year-old appeared for Club members a few years ago. I should have bought it but it seemed very expensive for a 10yo, even at cask strength. But one shouldn’t have regrets with whisky because there are so many good experiences to be had from bottles you do manage to secure. One or two gems are bound to slip through the net.

I’ve had my eye on the ‘Sanaig’ ever since it was released in 2015. I’m a little embarrassed to admit it’s because of the purple packaging. What can I say – it’s my favourite colour! But, even so, I wouldn’t have bought the Sanaig if it wasn’t good whisky. The Glenlivet Captain’s Reserve has purple packaging but I’m in no hurry to buy a bottle, unless it’s reduced to £20 to reflect the quality of the whisky inside.

The name ‘Sanaig’ refers to a sea inlet near Kilchoman distillery and doesn’t appear to have any Gaelic meaning in English that I can find. Perhaps the purple rocks or seaweed of Sanaig bay influenced the choice of presentation. Overall the whisky inside is well liked with comments online including, “for a relatively young whisky the complexity of this spirit cannot be understated”, “good balance between bourbon a sherry cask and peaty whisky” and “if you prefer medium peated single malts with chocolate notes I can’t recommend anything higher than this”.

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Pineapple chunks and white grapes. Hints of fresh coffee carry the earthy, subtly spicy peat. Toffee cubes.

Palate: More light fruits (this time of the peach variety), with dark chocolate raisins and a whisper of red berries. Peat grows and grows, with a little black pepper too.

Finish: Quite long with coastal peat lasting.

Vin PF of No Nonsense Whisky gives his thoughts on the Kilchoman Sanaig on YouTube (July 2018):

Aberlour ‘Casg Annamh’ Batch 0001

Bought: World of Whisky, 28th June 2018

Ratings:
84.55/100 – Whiskybase (average from 119 member votes)

The Aberlour ‘Casg Annamh’ (meaning ‘rare cask’) first appeared at the end of 2017. About 6 months later the legendary Aberlour A’bunadh almost doubled in price causing fans to froth at the mouth and swear allegiance to the likes of the Glenfarclas 105. Some quarters felt that the Casg Annamh had been introduced to replace the A’bunadh but this was mostly based on both whiskies having a batch number. A year after the launch of the Casg Annamh and it’s still only on Batch 0001. The A’bunadh has had 62 releases in 21 years, quite typically 3 or 4 releases per year in recent years (but only two in 2018, perhaps due to the price increase reducing sales). The big difference between the Casg Annamh and A’bunadh is the strength. The Casg Annamh is fixed at 48% and the A’bunadh is cask strength around 60%. Basically they’re two different beasts.

So how has the Casg Annamh done in its first year? 84.5/100 on Whiskybase is a very good score. It’s doing better than the standard Aberlour 16yo (83.2/100), which costs about £15 more than the Casg Annamh. By the time you get to the Aberlour 18yo (85.5/100) it’s over £80 so you might as well buy the A’bunadh. Comments online about the Casg Annamh include, “enjoyed this more than A’bunadh. Whereas A’bunadh is a whisky disguised by sherry, Casg Annamh is a whisky featuring sherry without covering up the other flavours within”, “it contains considerably younger whisky than the 15YO, but makes up for that by a higher level of first fill and a higher ABV” and “an excellent value dram which won’t disappoint any sherry cask enthusiast”.

You have to feel this new Aberlour has found its place in the market. Currently £60 for a litre at certain airports it’s good value for what it is. But after a year of ‘batch 1’ it’s definitely not a ‘rare cask’ as the Gaelic name implies.

Here’s Horst Luening of Whisky.com with his thoughts about the Aberlour ‘Casg Annamh’ on YouTube (May 2018):

Bunnahabhain ‘Eirigh Na Greine’

Bought: World of Whisky, 28th June 2018

Ratings:
81.94/100 – Whiskybase (average from 20 member votes)
5/5 – Master of Malt (average from 5 member votes)

I do love a 1000ml bottle of whisky, especially if it contains good uisce beatha. You’ll often read online that Travel Retail used to do more 1 litre bottles but there are still some to be had and new ones being introduced. The ‘Eirigh Na Greine’ (meaning ‘Morning Sky’) by Bunnahabhain first appeared in airports in 2014 as a ‘limited edition’ and has only ever been available as 1 litre. The distillery say it’s been exclusively matured in French red wine casks, which makes it interesting. Just to be awkward Master of Malt say “a portion of this single malt was matured in red wine casks” and Whiskybase says “Italian & French red wine casks”. Confused? Personally I’ll stick with what Bunnahabhain say as they make the stuff.

Nearly 82/100 on Whiskybase is a very respectable mark, although the standard 12yo scores over 85/100. You get the impression that Bunnahabhain fans don’t like the distillery profile being messed around with. Comments online include “very well balanced, beautiful presence”, “lovely rich and complex nose, wine-cask dominated palate and a pleasant finish”, “smooth as silk” and “if you like Bunnahabhain, this one is a must try to take your senses to new places and evolve your knowledge of this fine distillery”.

What Master of Malt have to say:

Nose: Toasted sugar, vanilla, raspberries and a little honey.
Palate: Apricot, sea salt, black pepper, more wine cask-influence berry sweetness.
Finish: Smoky and quite long. A little bit spicy, too.

Here’s Horst Luening of Whisky.com with his thoughts about the ‘Eirigh Na Greine’ on YouTube (August 2015):

Macallan Whisky Maker’s Edition (1930s Propeller Plane)

Bought: Amazon, 6th June 2018

Ratings:
87.6/100 – Whiskybase (average from 7 member votes)
5/5 – The Whisky Exchange (average from 6 member votes)

My third Macallan post in a row. Anyone would think I was a fan! Well I am. You can’t really go wrong with a Macallan. I wouldn’t necessarily savour a glass of the ‘Gold’ for any length of time but it still has its moments and it’s undeniably Macallan. My one quibble with the illustrious Speyside giant is the amount of NAS (no age statement) releases they have done in recent years. My blogs about the Terra, Classic Cut and now the Whisky Maker’s Edition (WME) haven’t got a declared age digit between them. Call me picky but the age of a single malt used to be a significant piece of information when deciding what to buy and if a whisky was worth its price tag.

My WME first appeared in 2016 and was part of a series of 4 different presentations of the WME to feature work by the British x-ray photographer Nick Veasey. My bottle and box show an x-ray photo of a 1930s propeller plane. The others in the series depict a 1920s locomotive, 1930s ocean liner and a 1940s roadster. Nick Veasey is no stranger to Macallan who had already used his work in c.2012 for six versions of the WME entitled the Six Pillars. These pictures also appeared on six versions of the 12yo ‘Fine Oak’. I believe the WME has been on the go since 2009 and in airports as ‘Travel Retail Exclusive’, which means it was soon available everywhere else.

Well that’s all very interesting but what about the whisky itself? Scoring 87.6/100 on Whiskybase is a very good score and all the reviewers on The Whisky Exchange absolutely love this dram. Comments include, “amazing experience, indulging”, “compared to a Macallan Gold for tasting purposes at a gathering and clearly a couple of levels of smoothly and strength higher”, “excellent round flavour with spicy fruit” and “well worth the money”.

What Macallan have to say about the Whisky Maker’s Edition:

Nose: Fresh fruit and ginger rounded off with toffee sweetness.
Palate: Delicate fruits, rich sweetness and spice.
Finish: Lingering with a slightly smoky finish.

Here’s Whisky Whistle with his thoughts on YouTube about the Macallan Whisky Maker’s Edition (December 2015):

Macallan ‘Classic Cut’ 2017

Bought: Macallan Distillery Shop, 9th February 2018

Ratings:
88.84/100 – Whiskybase (average from 88 member votes)

I’ve always wanted a cask strength Macallan. Back in August 2016 I discovered 12 different bottlings of Macallan produced by Single Malts Direct. They ranged from 47.2% for a 1989 vintage to 55.4% for the youngest offering distilled in 1997. The cost ranged from £69 to £92 but at 50cl I felt the price was quite steep. Those were the days! 2 years later and independent bottlers charge a fortune for an outrun of Macallan. Back in 2016 I hesitated and when I returned to make a purchase all 12 bottlings had sold out.

Early in 2018 I got an email from Macallan distillery about the new ‘Classic Cut’. There was no mention of “cask strength” but at 58.4% it sounded like it ought to be. I ordered a bottle. In late 2017 Macallan released 7 new bottles in the ‘Exceptional Cask’ series, all of which had “Cask Strength” written on them. The youngest bottles were two 12yos at 63.8% and 65.2%, which suggests that Macallan’s casks and warehousing keeps the raw spirit high, even after 12 years. By the time we get to a 15yo ‘Exceptional Cask’ it’s 58.5%, 0.1% stronger than the Classic Cut. Wow, does that mean the Classic Cut is a 15yo? Sadly not. At £86 the Classic Cut is going to be young and unless it was badly stored or mixed with old, weak spirit, it’s been watered down to 58.4%. So it’s highly unlikely to be cask strength – damn!

Macallan are no fools. ‘Cask strength’ is one of the buzz phrases in the whisky world at the moment so if the Classic Cut were truly cask strength it would be emblazoned on the bottle and box for all to see as it was with the ‘Exceptional Cask’ range. But it’s close enough for me! And scoring nearly 89/100 on Whiskybase the Classic Cut is hitting Macallan 18yo territory. The Classic Cut is clearly an excellent whisky but, dare I say, it’s also proving to be a very good investment. 7 months after purchase and auction prices have hit £150. But if you want a bottle and £150 seems rather pricy for a non-cask strength NAS, Macallan say on their website “the first in a new series of annual releases”. The Classic Cut 2018 has already been announced but at a much weaker 51.2% (even less likely to be cask strength). I wonder how much Macallan will charge given the success of the 2017 version?

What Macallan say about the Classic Cut:

Nose: Creamy vanilla custard, sweet ginger, fresh sweet oak.
Palate: Caramel, orange zest, nutmeg spice.
Finish: Warming oak with a sweet mouth coating.

Here’s Liquor Hound with his thoughts on YouTube about the Macallan ‘Classic Cut’ 2017 and how it compares to older cask strength Macallans, even though he doesn’t believe that the Classic Cut is cask strength (November 2017):

Macallan ‘Terra’

Bought: World of Whisky, 22nd March 2018

Ratings:
85.35/100 – Whiskybase (average from 19 member votes)

Firstly, thank you to everyone for getting my blog over £200k hits. Who knew that whisky was so popular that an obscure blog like mine could get so may views!

The ‘Terra’ is part of the new Travel Retail range that the Macallan distillery introduced into airports at the end of 2017. Like the colour range before it (Gold, Amber, Sienna and Ruby) there are four bottles in the new set consisting of the Quest, Lumina, Terra and Enigma. I’ve listed both ranges from low to high according to price. The main reason I went for the Terra as my first example of the new range is because it equates to the Sienna (3rd in terms of price), which was the best of the colour range. But wow, what a price difference! The Sienna was c.£65 and the Terra cost £128, almost double. If there’s one distillery that knows how to squeeze blood out of a stone it’s Macallan.

Scoring over 85/100 on Whiskybase is a very good score and more than a point ahead of the Sienna. The Terra is matured exclusively in first-fill European and American sherry seasoned oak casks so the spirit gets first dibs on all the flavour in the wood. At 43.8% the Terra is 0.8% higher than the Sienna but it’s a shame it’s not 46%, especially considering the price. At least it’s not 40% like the Gold and Quest. In fairness to the Terra its packaging is better than the Sienna. The Ruby was slightly more expensive than the Terra, similar presentation and an almost identical score on Whiskybase. It’s almost as if the Terra equates to the Ruby rather than the Sienna and the Enigma is in a bracket of its own.

Comments online about the Terra include, “much better then the Quest and the Lumina”, “it’s special. Lovely complex texture. I’ve never tried anything so well balanced and in my personal opinion, perfect”, “lovely sherried layers compared to the Ruby”.

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Fresh orange, brioche, coffee, sultana and walnut loaf.
Palate: Melted chocolate, dried apricot, toffee pennies and a touch of strawberry jam.
Finish: Baking spices and dried oak notes take shape on the finish.

Glen Keith ‘Distillery Edition’

Bought: Morrisons, 18th February 2018

Ratings:
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:

Ardbeg ‘An Oa’

Bought: Waitrose, 17th February 2018

Ratings:
84.06/100 – Whiskybase (average from 390 member votes)
8/10 – Whisky Wednesday (video review below)

In September 2017 Ardbeg released the ‘An Oa’ named after a peninsular on the island of Islay. It’s the first bottle since 2009 to be added to the distillery’s core range, which include the Corryvreckan, Uigeadail and the ‘TEN’ 10yo. It may be yet another NAS (no age statement) from Ardbeg but at least it packs a punch at 46.6%. The An Oa is a vatting together of different cask types – ex-bourbon, Pedro Ximénez and virgin oak, so nothing especially unusual there. But you wouldn’t expect anything too experimental in the recipe when creating a regular release from the distillery.

It’s been 8 months since the launch of An Oa and reviews suggest it’s doing OK but just ‘OK’. Over 84/100 on Whiskybase is a very good mark but it’s lagging behind its core range family members. Their Whiskybase averages are:

  • 88.5/100 – Corryvreckan (from 1735 votes)
  • 89.19/100 – Uigeadail (from 2893 votes)
  • 86.34/100 – ‘TEN’, 10-year-old (from 2922 votes)

Comments online about the An Oa include, “better than other standard editions right now but it is not great and rather average”, “truly epic whisky”, “unbalanced dram, PX and Virgin oak are fighting”, “I’ve been an Ardbeg lover for many years and this is a truly worthy addition to the family”.

The An Oa has its fans but at the same time there’s no guarantee that an existing Ardbeg fan will take to this youthful new upstart. On Master of Malt, where the An Oa scores 4/5 stars from 37 votes, the comments blow very hot and cold. Some people love it and others say it’s “barely drinkable”. It may cost more than the ‘TEN’ and score less than the 10yo in reviews but it’s still an Ardbeg so it will sell regardless of opinions.

Here’s Whisky Wednesday with their thoughts about the Ardbeg ‘An Oa’ on YouTube (Oct 2017), which they score an impressive 8/10: