Tag Archives: NAS

Macallan ‘Gold’ Double Cask

Bought: The Whisky World, 28th August 2020

Ratings:

79.76/100 – Whiskybase (average from 68 member votes)

The last time I bought the entry-level Macallan it was simply called ‘Gold’ and it was part of the 1824 colour series along with Amber, Sienna and Ruby. This series was discontinued in 2018 but Macallan were clearly too attached to the word ‘Gold’ to let it go (the other three colours weren’t posh enough). With the introduction of the Double Cask series in 2018 the name ‘Gold’ lives on as the non-age statement (NAS) before the 12yo, 15yo, etc., in the range. I’ve heard it said that the Gold Double Cask sits between the former 10-year-old versions of the Sherry Cask and Fine Oak. The Gold will be younger than 10 years though.

The pre-2018 Gold was exclusively matured in Spanish sherry casks but the new Double Cask version is a combination of sherry-seasoned American and European oak casks. They’re clearly different whiskies but blended to share that same gold colour (or very, very similar). They also both share the same price (< £40) and are aimed at the same market.

The Gold Double Cask scores nearly 80/100 on Whiskybase, which isn’t bad especially when compared to its predecessor, which only scores 78/100. But it’s worth remembering that the previous 1824 ‘Gold’ was considered a replacement for the much loved 10-year-old sherry cask, so a lot of drinkers voted down the Gold without really giving it a chance (or tasting it!).

Over on Amazon this Macallan scores a very high 4.8/5 stars from 482 ratings. Clearly this is a mass-market malt that’s hitting a lot of the right notes. Comments online for the Gold Double Cask include, “smooth, full enough, not very sweet”, “great to drink on everyday occasions”, “acceptable and easy drinkable dram” and “I think I may have just found my new favourite malt. Wish I’d tried it sooner.”.

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: This burnished gold spirit presents a lemon citrus nose, the orange peel and an interlacing sweetness that softens but doesn’t eliminate the zest. A quiet note of vanilla is followed by dark chocolate – more assertive, yet not overly so – with a lingering floral and light oak notes.

Palate: Citrus and boiled sweets rule the palate, along with hints of ginger and cinnamon, while soft oak tones reveal toasted apples.

Finish: The finish is medium sweet, malty and slightly dry.

Here’s Great Drams with their thoughts about this Macallan on YouTube, June 2019:

Auchnagie ‘Classic Selection’ (43%)

Bought: Master of Malt, 17th March 2020

Ratings:

78.27/100 – Whiskybase (average from 28 member votes)

Auchnagie is the sixth and final example in my ‘Classic Selection’ from The Lost Distillery Company (TLDC). The only one I’m missing from the seven lost distilleries TLDC have reproduced is the Jericho.

Auchnagie distillery ran for almost 100 years from 1812 to 1911. During that time it had seven different owners and was closed for lengthy periods. The distillery itself was located in the hamlet of Tulliemet, in the Ballinluig area of Perthshire, 6 miles south-east of Pitlochry, which makes it a Highland distillery. Peat used in production came from the nearby Loch Broom. This natural resource had been formed from moss and heather, which gave off a delicate floral note when fired. The final owners, who acquired the distillery on a long lease in 1890, were John Dewar & Sons. They went on to build Aberfeldy distillery in 1896-98. The potential of this new distillery is probably one of the reasons why John Dewar & Sons closed Auchnagie for good in 1911.

Scoring just over 78/100 on Whiskybase, the Auchnagie gets the lowest mark of all seven of the ‘Classic Selection’ by TLDC. Nevertheless, the three reviewers on Amazon give it 4.7/5 and seem to like it a lot. Comments online include, “a nice, easy / light starter for a tasting line-up – or otherwise an aperitif whisky”, “probably the best I’ve tasted from the TLDC line”, “I thought it was wonderful with an early full flavor of cedar ending with vanilla” and “a great dram at this price”.

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Digestive biscuit, banana and thick waves of honey.

Palate: Sponge cake (with yet more honey), rice pudding, dried apricot.

Finish: A subtle lick of baking spice appears on the finish.

Here’s Whiskey Vault with their thoughts about the Auchnagie on YouTube, December 2018:

Highland Park ‘Valfather’

Bought: Master of Malt, 17th March 2020

Ratings:

84.27/100 – Whiskybase (average from 162 member votes)

The Highland Park (HP) ‘Valfather’ is the third and final bottle of the ‘Viking Legend’ series, which kicked off with the Valkyrie in 2017, then the Valknut in 2018. Valfather makes reference to the Norse god Odin. His strength is reflected in the extra peatiness of the Valfather, which has been a highlight of this whisky for a number of reviewers. Presented at 47% with natural colour, you have to feel that HP kept the best for last.

Danish designer Jim Lyngvild provided his artistic skills for the presentation of the Viking Legend series. Did you know that Jim Lyngvild appeared on the TV show ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ in 2009? No, neither did I but it’s on his Wikipedia page. Apparently he’s known for his ability to eat things very quickly, which has earned him a place in the Guinness Book of Records. If this skill also includes drinking, perhaps it’s best to keep him away from the Highland Park distillery!

Valfather’s score of 84.27/100 on Whiskybase is very good. It’s slightly less than the Valknut (85/100) but slightly more than the Valkyrie (83.7). Comments for the Valfather include “I was disappointed with the nose but give it a moment then wow”, “the flavours are intense yet amazingly balanced” and “smokey notes, fruity after taste with hints of vanilla, what’s not to like!”. Valfather also scores an excellent 4.7/5 stars on Amazon from 211 reviewers, although a lot of the 5 star reviews say “I gave it to a friend and they’re still speaking to me”.

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Robust, but refined smoke fills the nose initially followed by delicate vanilla, Conference pears, green apple skins and a heady, heavy floral richness. Underneath there’s cedarwood, honeycomb, spice from black pepper and nutmeg, as well as salted caramel before the heathery peat makes itself known. A sprightly sea breeze note emerges with time.

Palate: Simultaneously huge and yet elegant, the palate is beautifully integrated. Layers of creamy vanilla, apricot yoghurt and a helping of crème brûlée interplay with notes of incense burners, iron and salted almonds. Then there’s bitter orange marmalade, charred wood and dried earth among touches of cacao powder, toffee apples and smoked paprika.

Finish: Long and confident. The floral smoke lingers for an age but is offset by tropical fruit and black pepper.

Here’s Ben and Horst Luening with their thoughts about the HP Valfather on YouTube, August 2019:

Stratheden ‘Classic Selection’ (43%) – (aka Auchtermuchty)

Bought: Amazon, 31st July 2020

Ratings:

79.82/100 – Whiskybase (average from 21 member votes)

When my blog falls silent for weeks or months at a time it’s usually because my next whisky to write about doesn’t inspire me. Stratheden is my fifth example from The Lost Distillery Company (TLDC). I’m beginning to wish I’d put all 6 miniatures into one blog rather than writing about them individually. But each whisky has its own merits, and they’re meant to represent flavour profiles from long-dead distilleries by mixing malts that exist today. It’s a hard task to do and TLCD should be applauded for their efforts. I, on the other hand, deserve a slap for my procrastination.

Stratheden distillery was founded in 1829 in the centre of Auchtermuchty, a wee village in Fife in the lowlands of Scotland (current population is just over 2,000). If you ask any Scot what their 3 favourite places in Scotland are to pronounce, almost all will include Auchtermuchty. It’s just a great word to say. Go on, say it! When you reach a ‘ch’ you have to sound like you’re clearing your throat. If you say it 5 times you need to gargle with a dram to recover. Sadly the distillery closed in 1926 when Prohibition in the US removing the distillery’s biggest market but it had been struggling for quite a number of years before that. A great lost to Auchtermuchty, as well as throat lozenge salesmen.

This Stratheden blended malt gets two 5 star reviews on Amazon, which isn’t a great deal of interest but it’s better than none at all. Reaching nearly 80/100 on Whiskybase from 21 votes is a reasonable score. Comments online include “very pleasant whisky with a long taste in the mouth and a super pleasant sensation of light smoke”, “not a complex whisky, but it has an interesting taste at a reasonable price” and “an easy drinkable fresh whisky”.

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Old oak furniture, juicy orange and a touch of vibrant pineapple.

Palate: Rounded oak once again, with caramel and salted popcorn in support.

Finish: Slightly smokey, though fruit notes still sit at the core.

Here’s Whisky Vault with their review of the Stratheden (YouTube, Oct 2018):

Dalmore ‘King Alexander III’

Bought: The Whisky World, 28th August 2020

Ratings:

86/100 – Whisky Bible 2020

85.75/100 – Whiskybase (average from 14 member votes)

I recently had a significant birthday and I wanted to buy myself a special whisky to mark the occasion. Browsing around online I spotted a good discount on the Dalmore ‘King Alexander III’. Over the years I’ve only heard good things about this Dalmore, which is remarkable because it’s NAS (no-age statement), chill-filtered, 40% and laced with Dalmore’s famous E150 colourant. On the surface this whisky ought to be mediocre at best until research reveals it’s a work of art. Richard Paterson, Dalmore’s Master Distiller, took whisky matured in 6 different casks (wine, Madeira, Sherry, Marsala, Port & Kentucky bourbon) and managed to harmonise them into something quite magical. In blending terms he almost did the impossible.

With the King Alex III firmly in my sights I had a look on YouTube for recent reviews. Scotch 4 Dummies started in 2015 and their ninth video in October of that year discussed this Dalmore. It was their first perfect score from all four of them. 5 years later they reviewed it again (below) and, to their surprise and mine, King Alex III got another perfect score. I’ve watched their videos many times and they’re usually pretty critical. Whiskies I’ve thought were perfect have been marked down. And after 5 years of trying other whiskies, to then give the same incredible mark to this Dalmore is amazing. I was sold!

Jim Murray’s score of 86/100 in his book ‘Whisky Bible’ dates back to 2009. Yes, seriously. Normally I wouldn’t include such an out-of-date review but, according to the Scotch 4 Dummies, the quality hasn’t changed in 5 years so why not 11! Mr Murray summaries with “starts brightly with all kinds of barley sugar, fruit and decent age and oak combinations, plus some excellent spice prickle. So far so good…and obviously thoughtfully and complexly structured. But then vanishes without trace on finish.” You have to think that 46% would have helped in that respect but I’m biting my tongue here. Other comments online include “interesting whisky and pleasant to drink” and “a masterclass of cask selection and blending skill” but there are quite a few references to the dram feeling ‘hollow’ and ‘thin’ with numerous remarks about the short finish.

The Dalmore ‘King Alexander III’ is clearly not a whisky for beginners. It’s hard enough contemplating how to bring 6 different cask maturations together let alone noise and taste them. But with so many whisky ‘experts’ berating NAS, colourant, chill-filtration and 40%, their influence can make it very easy, even for experienced whisky drinkers, to pre-judge this Dalmore. Perhaps my best option is to try it in a blind tasting. Whatever the outcome, I’m pleased to add this legendary bottle to my collection.

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Malty and utterly Dalmore. Seville orange zest, Parfait Amour, malty cereal, barley and chocolate. Creamy vanilla fudge, tropical fruit with a vaguely vinous quality.

Palate: Medium, rounded. Winter berries, spice, zesty orange. Liqueurs emerge; Grand Marnier, kirsch and Frangelico.

Finish: Peppery with well-integrated oak and the claret makes a last minute appearance.

Here’s Scotch 4 Dummies with their second review of the Dalmore King Alexander III (YouTube, March 2020):

Towiemore ‘Classic Selection’ (43%)

Bought: Amazon, 31st July 2020

Ratings:

79.95/100 – Whiskybase (average from 42 member votes)

Another example from The Lost Distillery Company (TLDC), Towiemore was a Speyside distillery that ran from 1897 to 1931. It didn’t have a very auspicious start, coincided with the Pattinson’s whisky crash of 1898, which saw the end of the Victorian whisky boom. Nevertheless Towiemore built up a good reputation both for blending and as a pure malt. By 1920 the company sponsored the first single-engine aircraft to fly between England and Australia, taking 206 days, must like the old Virgin train journey between London and Manchester. Sadly the distillery was put out of business in 1931 when its water source from the Towie Burn was contaminated by a nearby lime factory.

Built in the parish of Botriphnie, 7 miles from Dufftown, there’s no shortage of modern distilleries nearby to recreate a Towiemore dram. Although technically Speyside, Towiemore was on the road to Keith and was said to have a light and sweet Highland style. Perhaps Strathisla is a key part of the mix, with Glenfiddich, Kininvie and Balvenie being the closest Speyside distilleries to the south-west. But what malts have been vatted together to produce the modern Towiemore, TLDC are keeping a secret.

Comments online include “not bad, but not outstanding, though quite unique.”, “an interesting concept, but at the end of it all there has to be a good product; and this is a delightful” and “what a gem of a whisky, Speyside style, with a light touch of smoke but really smooth in the mouth”.

Scoring nearly 80/100 on Whiskybase, Towiemore isn’t the best performing whisky by TLDC but it’s certainly an interesting one to try and clearly has its fans.

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Juicy white peach and raspberries, with underlying hints of oily walnut.

Palate: Caramelised banana and apple, with a layer of salted butter.

Finish: Christmas spices and toasted almonds.

Here’s The Whisky Family with their thoughts about the Towiemore on YouTube (March 2018):

Highland Park ‘Valknut’

Bought: Master of Malt, 14th August 2019

Ratings:

85/100 – Whiskybase (average from 238 member votes)

The ‘Valknut’ release of 2018 is the second in Highland Park’s ‘Viking Legend’ series, which started with ‘Valkyrie’ in 2017 and finished with the third release ‘Valfather’ in 2019. If you have a nut allergy, don’t panic! The Valknut does not contain nuts and I haven’t seen any reference to nuts in the tasting notes. The word ‘Valknut’ translates as ‘knot of those slain in battle’ and refers to a symbol of three inter-linked triangles, which represent the transition from earthly life to heavenly life.

If you’re a fan of German football you might recognise the Valknut symbol. The 3 inter-linked triangles inspired the logo used by the German Football Association (DFB) since 1991. Archaeology has found the symbol on a variety of objects used by the ancient Germanic peoples. The symbol has a strong connection with Odin, a prominent god of Northern Europe as recorded during Roman occupation over 2000 years ago. Germany, Scandinavia, Orkney – we’re all connected. If you start reading up on it you’ll be needing a drop of whisky to keep you going!

Highland Park say about the Valknut “created using a higher proportion of our local peated malt and matured in a combination of sherry seasoned European and American oak casks and ex-bourbon casks.” It’s this extra peat that’s caught the attention of a lot of the drinkers, in a favourable way. Scoring 85/100 on Whiskybase is a very good mark, which nudges it ahead of its two ‘Legend’ brothers, the Valkyrie (83.7/100) and Valfather (84.3/100). Comments online for the Valknut include “good balance. Seaweeds and peach go hand in hand. This is very pleasant and quaffable”, “really nice balance and a lot of taste which makes this a dram that I can keep pouring all evening without boring me” and “good approachable Highland Park, which even though it is a NAS, shows fair complexity and depth”.

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Warming peat smoke rises, paired with fresh vanilla, thyme honey and sandalwood.

Palate: Toasted barley and fennel seed, with a kick of cinnamon underneath.

Finish: Flamed orange peel, a very light touch of BBQ char, gingerbread and nutmeg.

Here’s Vin PF of ‘No Nonsense Whisky’ with his thoughts about the Valknut on YouTube (Dec 2018):

Gerston ‘Classic Selection’ (43%)


Bought: Amazon, 31st July 2020

Ratings:

81.22/100 – Whiskybase (average from 25 member votes)

Gerston distillery, of which there were two incarnations, was founded in 1796 by Francis Swanson on his farm near the Thurso river at Halkirk. In modern terms it’s not far from Old Pulteney distillery in Wick but not as far north as Wolfburn distillery on the north coast of Scotland. Halkirk is only 14 miles south of Wolf Burn. In 1825 Francis handed the business over to his son James who ran it until 1872 when it was sold. By 1875 Gerston distillery was closed and eventually demolished in 1882. 76 years as a successful family run business then 10 years to be destroyed. It goes to show how much pride and care people take when it’s something they or their family started. This reminds me, I must buy some more Glenfarclas!

There was a second Gerston distillery, 1886 to 1914 but ‘The Lost Distillery Company’ (TLDC) focus their attention on the original incarnation with this intriguing vatted malt, which blends together modern whisky in an attempt to recreate the Gerston single malt experience. The distillery used local peat, which had quite a briny, salty edge to it as a consequence of repeated glacial cover during the Ice Age. TLDC mention smoke and salt in their tasting notes but not peat (nor does any other review I can find) so it must be quite subtle (more sweet peat than medicinal). It sounds like Old Pulteney could be a significant contributor to the mix with the salt and brine.

Scoring 81.22/100 on Whiskybase is a reasonable score for the Gerston. In fact it’s almost identical to the 81.23/100 score for the standard Old Pulteney 12yo, so you know what to expect. Comments online include “love the bottle, light colour but packs a punch, sweet nose then a salty taste of the sea” and “pleased with this whisky, sweet and salty. Interesting story behind this product, keen to try more in the range.”

It is said that at its peak Gerston whisky was purchased by Lord Thurso of Thurso Castle and introduced to prominent politicians such as Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel. Other notable consumers included the Duke of Wellington and the Archbishop of York, so you’re in interesting company when you take a sip. Aaaaah, to have a time machine!

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: New leather, dried barley, charred oak and apple turnover.

Palate: Peanut brittle, olive oil, mint leaf and more pastry notes.

Finish: A subtly salty kick on the finish.

Here’s ‘Whisky Wednesday’ with his thoughts about the Gerston miniature on YouTube (July 2017):

Glen Scotia ‘Campbeltown Harbour’

Bought: Waitrose, 11th November 2019

Ratings:
87/100 – Whisky Bible 2020
81.14/100 – Whiskybase (average from 16 member votes)

As part of Glen Scotia distillery’s revamp they release a non-age statement (NAS) single malt called ‘Double Cask’ in 2015. For £30 it was 46% and matured in 1st fill bourbon & Pedro Ximénez sherry casks. Sounds good? Well I certainly thought so when I tried it. Jim Murray rated it 85.5/100 in his Whisky Bible book and it currently scores 82.1/100 on Whiskybase from 387 votes. Not bad. Not bad at all.

The ‘Double Cask’ left such a good impression on me that when I spotted the new ‘Campbeltown Harbour’ NAS release in 2019 I had to have it, especially reduced to £25 at Waitrose supermarket. It’s matured exclusively in 1st fill bourbon casks and at 40% rather than 46% it’s a different beast entirely to the ‘Double Cask’. You’d think with the lower ABV and less complex maturation that it might be inferior to the ‘Double Cask’ but Jim Murray doesn’t think so in his 2020 ‘Whisky Bible’. He rates the ‘Campbeltown Harbour’ 1.5 points higher than the ‘Double Cask’ and summarises with “this is very flat and far too caramel dependent, though the mix of saltiness and gentle sweetness is highly attractive. The smoke unfurls at the very finish….but for all its easy attractiveness, it is all a little docile and tame”. Not exactly complimentary but 87/100 rates the dram overall as a “very good to excellent whisky, definitely worth buying”. Especially if you can get it on sale for £25!

With only 16 votes on Whiskybase after nearly 2 years, I’m a little suspicious that the ‘Campbeltown Harbour’ had a very limited distribution. Whiskybase only list Waitrose as a supplier in the UK (where I bought it), then two shops in Holland and one in Poland. It’s nice to have found something so exclusive but it means there isn’t a review on YouTube. Comments online about the Glen Scotia ‘Campbeltown Harbour’ include “quite a nice malt for very understandable money”, “kind of tasty, but too little of everything”, and “what a great find, incredibly smooth and bursting with sweet and savoury flavours. Top notch.”

Official tasting notes from Glen Scotia:

Nose: Briny sea spray, perfumed floral notes of violet and lavender and vanilla

Palate: Fruity and sweet. Soft peach and green apple followed by toffee fudge and vanilla custard

Finish: Dry, medium length. Tangy peat complements maritime character

Lossit ‘Classic Selection’ (43%)

Bought: Amazon, 31st July 2020

Ratings:
80.57/100 – Whiskybase (average from 76 member votes)

Given the popularity of Islay whisky it’s not surprising that ‘The Lost Whisky Company’ (TLWC) wanted to add a closed distillery from the island to their range. Lossit was a farm distillery on Islay that operated between 1817 and 1867. There’s an area called Lossit on the west side of the island to this day, and a Lossit Point, Lossit Bay, Lossit Burn….you get the picture. There’s still a lotta Lossit! Where the farm distillery used to be is now part of the Dunlossit estate, with the nearest active distillery being Caol Ila.

As a farm, Lossit was able to use its own barley for the creation of whisky, which was very useful on an island in the first half of the 19th century. The distillery is described as being a founding father of Islay’s legal whisky trade that saw the number of distilleries on the island increase from 6 to 12 (similar number to today) between 1824 and 1830. By 1831 Lossit was the most productive of Islay’s distilleries (over 78,000 litres that year) beating such rivals as Bowmore and Lagavulin. Wimps!

You have to think that the Lossit blended malt created by TLWC takes most, if not all its whisky from Islay distilleries. The official summary of the dram says “the freshness of a Kilchoman Machir Bay and the austere poise of an old Glendullan (with smoke added)”, which sounds quite intriguing. Comments about the Lossit whisky online include “a sweet blend, velvety, but basic too”, “very approachable as it’s peated but also light and sweet with almond and vanilla undertones” and “it was delightfully peaty along with some of that thick sweetness characteristic of a good, young Islay malt”

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Damp oak, earthy peat and a hearty helping of milk chocolate.

Palate: Cigar box, buttered crumpets, sea salt light hints of basil.

Finish: Remains packed with vanilla and peat.

Here’s Whisky Wednesday with their thoughts about the Lossit on YouTube (July 2017):