Bought: Glen Garioch Distillery Shop, 12th September 2016
89.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
82.82/100 – Whiskybase (average from 24 member votes)
I bought this bottle of Glen Garioch from the distillery shop following my tour in September 2016. My blog about this visit can be found here. Initially I fancied buying a hand-filled bottle but at £135 a pop it seemed rather extravagant. The pre-packaged 1997 ‘Batch 12’ was a more pocket friendly £51. Bottled in 2012 it’s 14-15 years old and cask strength at 56.7%. I’d seen it at airports and online so I knew it wasn’t very exclusive but I wanted a memento of my visit and 1997 was a significant year for Glen Garioch. The distillery fell silent in 1995 but started production again in 1997 so a bottle from that year celebrates the rebirth of a historic and treasured Aberdeenshire business.
Scoring 89.5/100 in the Whisky Bible classifies this dynamic dram from Glen Garioch as a ‘very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying’. It’s only 0.5 points away from being ‘brilliant’ according to the author, Jim Murray. His review consists of “I have to say: I have long been a bit of a voice in the wilderness among whisky professionals as to regards this distillery. This not so subtly muscled malt does my case no harm whatsoever.”
Reaching nearly 83/100 on Whiskybase suggests a very good single malt. Comments about the Glen Garioch 1997 include “very tasty, nice bourbon-barrel whisky”, “I liked it a lot” and “a very clean and fresh Glen Garioch, on sweet barley and tasting rather young”.
Tasting notes from Master of Malt (where it’s still available for £75.65):
Nose: Creamy and sweet, with notes of vanilla ice cream and banana fritters.
Palate: A kick of cinnamon and pepper, but this remains firmly in ‘caramel and orchard fruit’ country.
Finish: Apple turnovers dusted with brown sugar.
Here’s Horst Luening of Whisky.com with his thoughts about this Glen Garioch 1997 (August 2015):
Posted in Glen Garioch
Tagged 1997, 56.7%, 70cl, Batch 12, Cask Strength, Glen Garioch, Glen Garioch Distillery Shop, Highland, Highlands, NAS, Oldmeldrum, Single Malt, Vintage Batch 12
Bought: Ardbeg Shop, 26th March 2017
86.37/100 – Whiskybase (average from 193 member votes)
Ardbeg Day is here, and so too is my blog post about the Kelpie Committee Release. This is the second year I’ve been a committee member and endured the 8am bun fight in March to secure a bottle. At least this time the Ardbeg website didn’t go into meltdown. The March release shares the same name as the June release but it’s a higher strength and much more limited in numbers. Each year the price creeps up by a few pounds. This year I paid £89 but it quickly sells out and bottles instantly start making between £130-£140 at auction. Use this knowledge for future releases to tell your partner it’s an investment 😉 but privately you know you’ll be drinking it.
Here is how the previous four ‘Ardbeg Day’ committee releases have faired on Whiskybase:
- Dark Cove (2016) – 87.94/100 from 273 votes
- Perpetuum (2015) – 86.72/100 from 234 votes
- Auriverdes (2014) – 85.7/100 from 616 votes
- Ardbog (2013) – 87.36/100 from 738 votes
After the success of the Dark Cove last year I’m not surprised that the rating for the Kelpie has dipped. With 86.37/100 it’s currently 4th out of the last 5 releases but that’s still an excellent score. Comments left on Whiskybase about the Kelpie include “rather clean and certainly not bad, but there is nothing exciting about it”, “solid whisky, with some unpolished but pleasant smells and flavours” and “a big and unapologetic Ardbeg”.
Here’s Great Drams on YouTube with their thoughts about the Ardbeg Kelpie (May 2017):
Bought: Whisky Auction, 9th February 2017
85.33/100 – Whiskybase (average from 5 member votes)
Released in 2012, this Travel Retail exclusive was a replacement for the 1990 bottle. At the same time the 2001 came in to replace the 1998 release. Unlike the Highland Park (HP) 1990 the HP 1991 was limited to the Singapore market. This may explain why it didn’t appear in Jim Murray’s ‘Whisky Bible’. Strangely it took over 4 years after the release before the HP 1991 started to appear in UK auctions. I’ve heard of the slow boat from China but these bottles must have been on a tortoise from Singapore! Auction prices have ranged from £77.50 to a whopping £165, which is a lot for a 10-11yo HP. Nevertheless I foresee prices going up because this seems to be quite a rare bottle.
Scoring over 85/100 on Whiskybase is a very good score but the HP 1990, which the 1991 replaced, scores 86.44/100. The 1990 was bottled in 2010, which makes it slightly younger than the 1991. So being older doesn’t necessarily mean being better.
Tasting notes about the HP 1991 from ‘Scotch Malt Whisky’ say:
“Golden with glowing coppery tones, Vintage 1991 (40% ABV) has aromas of dried orange peel, vanilla with toasted cedar wood and rich fragrant spicy notes such as nutmeg, a hint of cloves and incense. Mouth-watering lemon and orange citrus flavours in the mouth, with sweet vanilla custard notes wrapped in subtle yet complex spices at the end. The finish is medium sweet with a lingering, smoky spiciness.”
Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 10th January 2017
None I can find.
Arthur J.A. Bell (1946-2015) is not to be confused with Arthur Bell (1825-1900) who founded the famous Bell’s blend. But the two names are very much connected in the realms of whisky history. Arthur J.A. Bell (J.A.) was born in Brechin in 1946 and went to Edinburgh University where he was the co-author of “A Complete Edinburgh Pub Guide”, which sold 20,000 copies. In 1973 J.A. set up the company ‘Scottish Direct’ to sell high quality art and crafts. The company relocated to a disused tweed mill in Biggar, South Lanarkshire, and formed ‘Scottish Gourmet’ to sell local produce by mail order.
J.A. was known as the “The Whisky Connoisseur” and it was under this name that his company bottled and sold numerous single malts. They were given their own unique names such as Taranty (Glencadam) and Honest Tam (Balvenie). The full list that I know of can be found here. It wasn’t until 1985 when Guinness made a hostile takeover of Bell’s Whisky in Perth that J.A. came up with the idea of a blended whisky under the name ‘Scottish Gourmet’. He checked with his lawyer that it would be OK to add his signature to the label of the blend. Although his lawyer said it was OK, Guinness took Arthur J.A. Bell to court, only to end up losing. J.A. wrote an article about the story here.
The original ‘Scottish Gourmet’ blend (later named ‘The Real Macoy’) consisted of Glenfarclas, Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Springbank mixed with a single grain from the Highlands aged for well over 10 years. Although my miniature ‘Vat No.1’ shouldn’t contain any grain I’m hoping it has some or all of the Scottish Gourmet single malts vatted together at a blended cask strength of 47.3%. Here’s hoping!
Articles written by Arthur J.A. Bell, the Whisky Connoisseur, can be located here.
An obituary of Arthur J.A. Bell can be located here.
Bought: Heathrow Airport, 2004/05
67/100 – Whisky Bible 2006
83.88/100 – Whiskybase (average from 54 member votes)
78/100 – Malt Maniacs (average from 9 maniac votes)
Status: Long since discontinued
I bought this bottle of Macallan ‘Twenties’ for my father’s 81st or 82nd birthday in 2004 or 2005. I can’t remember the exact year mostly because he’s had so many birthdays! He has his 94th this year but I wont be buying him any more whisky. Not long after I got him this Macallan he confessed that he didn’t really like whisky. Nobody had realised. He got at least 5 bottles for his 80th birthday. So the good news has been that my brother and I got to try this Macallan, so every cloud has a silver lining!
Macallan began introducing the Macallan ‘Decades’ series in 2001 and in 2004 they added this version of the ‘Twenties’ to represent the flavour of Macallan in the 1920s. Not that my father was drinking Macallan when he was born in 1923. As a Scottish baby they don’t start you on whisky until you’re at least 5. Ultimately there were 4 bottles in the series representing the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s and 1950s.
Although I quite like this Macallan, according to Jim Murray in his Whisky Bible of 2006 the ‘Twenties’ was his least favourite decade. 67/100 classifies it as “very unimpressive indeed” and Mr Murray says “Does absolutely nothing for me at all. Totally off-key, no finish. Nothing roaring about this one.” He scores the 1930s 91/100, the 1940s gets 81/100 and 1950s does best with 92/100.
The Malt Maniacs are a bit more complimentary with a reasonable mark of 78/100 but nearly 84/100 on Whiskybase from 54 votes is a very good score. Nevertheless comments are very up and down ranging from “a perfect recreation from the 1920s” to “not very good”. Expert sipper and reviewer Mark Dermul who scores the ‘Twenties’ 77/100 says “I am not really impressed. Too dry and a tad too sour to my taste.” And leaves the following tasting notes:
Nose: The sherry is immediately present on the nose. Apricots, oranges, pineapple, blackberries. Quite dry, to be honest. A bit of chocolate. Mild smokiness. Soft woodspice.
Taste: The attack is soft and gently spiced. Again all sweet sherry. The fruit is now of the dried variety. Chocolate returns. Does turn a bit sour, now.
Finish: The finish is soft and warm with a hint of nuts.
Posted in Macallan
Tagged 1920s, 2004, 40%, 50cl, Decades, Macallan, NAS, Speyside, Travel Series, Twenties, World of Whisky
Bought: Auriol Wines, 10th October 2016
85.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
79.34/100 – Whiskybase (average from 242 member votes)
Whiskybase have a record of 13 different releases of this Teeling blend from November 2013 to April 2016 but this doesn’t include the version in the Whisky Bible dated November 2015. My version was bottled in September 2015. It’s listed on Whiskybase here but with only 9 votes I’ve decided to take the score from the default bottle with over 240 votes. It seems fairer and it’s all going to be very similar stuff.
85.5/100 in the Whisky Bible classifies this blend as “very good to excellent whiskey definitely worth buying”. The author, Jim Murray, says “an attractive malt, showing both its rum qualities and, sadly, a slight strain of tired oak.” He goes on to talk about the bitterness that comes from maturing in rum casks and concludes with “still, the delivery offers much to enjoy.”
The score on Whiskybase is quite average where comments include “good weight on the palate, mild on the tongue with toasted sweet malt and citrus peel”, “light Irish blend, although the rum is only recognized with the cane sugar” and “it’s a good blend but the finish bothers me a bit it taste too young and spicy”.
Here’s Whisky Wednesday with their review on You Tube where the Teeling ‘Small Batch’ scores an excellent 8/10 (April 2014):
Bought: Whisky Auction, 5th October 2016
85.86/100 – Whiskybase (average from 9 member votes)
In the summer of 2015 I had a tasting session of vintage blends. I confess I’m inclined to be a diehard single malt fan but I’m prepared to try new things. On the menu were Queen Anne, Vat 69, Glenshiel and Haig Gold Label. The first three were rather dull but just when I thought I’d wasted my evening I tried the Haig Gold Label from the 1970s (or possibly 1960s). Wow, what a fantastic dram! So good in fact that I vowed to find a full bottle. It took over a year to get one at auction but I finally did it.
I’ve seen Jim Murray in his Whisky Bible sometimes use the word “chewy” to describe a whisky but I’d never experienced that sensation on the pallet until the Haig Gold Label. It was wonderfully thick, complex and rewarding. Not surprising that it scores so well on Whiskybase where someone remarks “these older Haig bottles are really good value. Thick and syrupy but you have to like old caramel notes to really get the best from it.” In November 2016 a bottle from the 1970s sold for £22.50 at auction but they can sometimes make up to £60 depending on condition.
Tasting notes found online that I agree with are (with slight edit):
Nose: Spices, herbs, honey, tobacco, creamy, dark chocolate, light smoke, dried orange slices, red and dark berries – delicious!
Taste: Creamy, oily, round and powerful! Salt, black pepper, leather, chocolate, cocoa and light herbs. Added to this is a maritime note.
Finish: Long – perfectly matched! Creamy chocolate pudding (high-quality, dark chocolate with high cocoa content). The same aromas as before, but still more harmonious.
Bought: Tesco, 6th October 2016
4/10 – Whisky Wednesday (video review below)
2/5 – Master of Malt (from 9 reviews)
0/100 – Whiskybase (no member votes yet)
It’s been over 2 months since the Clubman was added to Whiskybase but still no reviews. If it were a new bottle of Ardbeg there would be over 100 ratings by now but that’s because Whiskybase is more about single malts. The Clubman on the other hand is a cheap single grain and, unlike the original Club, the Clubman is priced correctly for its use in whisky-based cocktails. At £15 it’s a bit more expensive than a Lidl or Aldi basic grain but you’re paying more for the marketing and stylish blue bottle. Indeed, comments on Amazon suggest it’s being bought as a Christmas present, which has more to do with the presentation. In fact, stick a light in an empty Clubman bottle and you’ve got a festive bauble for Christmas 2017!
Although scores from most whisky drinkers aren’t great there are some fans of the Clubman. Comments online include “superb for a mixer drink”, “smooth, sweet and light” and “not particularly complex or deep in flavours, but just a really nice light whisky to sup.” Remarks about the taste say it’s sweet and the bourbon ageing give it vanilla notes so it sounds perfect to mix with cola, lemonade or ginger ale.
Here’s Whisky Wednesday with their review on You Tube (October 2016):
Posted in Haig
Tagged 40%, 70cl, Cameronbridge, Club, Clubman, David Beckham, Haig, Lowland, Lowlands, NAS, Single Grain, Tesco
Bought: Tesco, 29th September 2016
80/100 – Malt Box (video review below)
81/100 – Whiskybase (average from 2 member votes)
A new release for 2016 is this no-age statement single malt from Tamnavulin. Certain reports online suggest this is the first release from the distillery for about 20 years but in 2015 I bought a 12-year-old that first appeared in 2005 (according to Whiskybase). The official tasting notes for the ‘Double Cask’ are:
Nose: rich, warm aromas of apple, toffee and honey with sweet marzipan and subtle tangy marmalade notes.
Palate: fresh, mellow notes of pear, creamy peaches, pineapple and a hint of Demerara sugar.
Finish: rich, smooth and refreshing. A signature Speyside malt.
Although 81/100 from two votes on Whiskybase may sound good comments on the Malt Maniacs Facebook page have been quite critical. It will be interesting to see where the Double Cask’s score levels out after 20+ ratings.
Scoring 80/100 from Andy of Malt Box is quite a reasonable score. Here is his review on You Tube (November 2016):
Bought: Whisky Exchange, 28th September 2016
86/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
82/100 – Whisky Whistle (video review below)
78.06/100 – Whiskybase (average from 20 member votes)
Before Crown Royal shot to fame when Jim Murray awarded the ‘Northern Harvest Rye’ edition his Whisky of the Year 2016 I was mainly interested in the bottle shape. It’s curvy, chunky and would look good on the sideboard. Whether the Harvest Rye deserved 97.5/100 is debatable but the ‘Black’ scores a more modest 86/100, which classifies it as “very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying”. Jim Murray says “not for the squeamish: a Canadian that goes for it with bold strokes from the off which makes it a whisky worth discovering. The finish needs a rethink, though.”
78.06/100 on Whiskybase might not sound all that great but the ‘Northern Harvest Rye’ has a very similar score with 78.54/100 from 98 votes. The standard ‘Fine De Luxe’ can only muster 72.5/100 from 81 votes so I’m confident that the Black is a step up from that.
Here’s Whisky Whistle with his review on You Tube (December 2015):