Bought: Sainsbury’s, 23rd May 2019
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):
Bought: Sainsbury’s, 27th July 2016
87.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
80.68/100 – Whiskybase (average from 24 member votes)
88/100 – Scotch Test Dummies (their You Tube review below)
The ‘Deveron’ is a re-launch of the old ‘Glen Deveron’, a brand name by the Macduff distillery. Towards the end of 2014 John Dewar & Sons Ltd decided to repackage 5 of their distillery brands under the title of ‘Last Great Malts’, which were Aberfeldy, Aultmore, Craigellachie, Royal Brackla and The Deveron. You can watch their You Tube promotional video here.
Personally I quite liked the old Aberfeldy packaging but the ‘Glen Deveron’ desperately needed to be brought into the 21st century. The new frosted bottle has plenty of style but is the whisky inside any good? The old Glen Deveron 10yo that this new 12yo replaces scores 73.7/100 on Whiskybase from 70 votes compared to nearly 81/100 for the 12yo. It seems it’s not just the packaging that’s improved. The Deveron has become a tasting contender and could well tempt people to part with £35.
Here’s ‘Scotch Test Dummies’ with their review on You Tube (February 2016):
Bought: Sainsbury’s, 25th July 2016
85/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
87/100 – Scotch Malt Whisky
80.87/100 – Whiskybase (average from 65 member votes)
A new expression from Glen Moray and it’s another little cracker. As mentioned in the ‘Scotch Malt Whisky’ review it is “young but it is also fun and very enjoyable, some decent sherry casks at work here”. Glen Moray have certainly cornered the market in affordable single malt with this new ‘Sherry Cask Finish’ available at Sainsbury’s supermarket for £22. This seems to be the standard price for Glen Moray, such as the Classic and Peated versions but watch out for reductions down to £20 or even £18.
85/100 in the Whisky Bible 2017 classify this new expression from Glen Moray as “very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying”. The author, Jim Murray, says “must be a cream sherry, because this is one exceptionally creamy malt. A bit of a late sulphur tang wipes off a few marks, but the delicious grapey positives outweigh the negatives.”
Here are the tasting notes by Master of Malt:
Nose: Raisin and milk chocolate, with a backbone of butterscotch sweeties.
Palate: Cinnamon starts to develop on the palate, giving it an enjoyable warmth. Still rich in caramel and butterscotch.
Finish: Medium length, with a hint of five-spice.
Here’s The Whiskey Dic’s You Tube review (April 2018):
Bought: The Whisky Shop, 13th April 2016
80.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2016
93/100 – Whisky Bitch (her video review below)
88.24/100 – Whiskybase (average from 430 member votes)
If you like Glenmorangie and you love chocolate then you probably already have a bottle of the Signet. If you collect whiskies with interesting bottle shapes then you might also be interested in the Signet as it’s certainly very stylish. But, OMG, the price! In 2012 the Whisky Bitch mentions $250 in her video then in 2014 Whisky Wednesday says £150-£175 but in April 2016 it’s about £120. Perhaps Glenmorangie realised they’d gone a bit crazy with the price and it was putting buyers off. It seems the price has been coming down almost as quickly as the Macallan 18yo has been going up.
But is the Signet worth it? It has the interesting claim to fame as the only single malt to have an element produced from chocolate malt. When I first hear this I imagined malt coated in chocolate but it only refers to heavily roasted malt that has been heated longer than usual. This is used in the production of stout and brings out a chocolate quality in the flavour. But is that worth £120? Glenmorangie also say there is old whisky in the Signet up to the age of 35yo so they’ve played the “there’s vintage stuff in there somewhere” card. Not that you’ll notice because you’ll be too busy having your Signet with a slice of chocolate cake.
Jim Murray has very little to say about the Signet in his Whisky Bible – “a great whisky holed below the waterline by oak of unsatisfactory quality. Tragic.” But 80.5/100 still classifies this Glenmorangie as “good whisky worth trying”. 430 people on Whiskybase have and over 88/100 is a fantastic score. Comments include “rich and complex”, “a very enjoyable experience, quite unique” and “a seriously big whisky. Heavy on the palate as well as the wallet. But still, if you’re an enthusiast, this is worth your money. A fantastic effort by the Tain men.”
Here’s the Whisky Bitch on You Tube with her review of the Signet (Nov 2012):
Bought: Sainsbury’s, 1st June 2015
90.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
83/100 – Whiskybase (average from 15 member votes)
This version of Jack Daniels was a new addition to the Whisky Bible in 2015. The bible author, Jim Murray, gives it an excellent 90.5/100 which classifies it as “brilliant” which is the same banding as the 92/100 he gives the classic Jack Daniels No.7. The members on Whiskybase are less enamoured with the No.7, which they score 65.77/100 from 309 member votes. Personally I liked it but only after giving it 10 minutes to allow the smell of glue to dissipate. But 83/100 on Whiskybase is a very good score for the No.1.
Jim Murray’s tasting notes for the Jack Daniels No.1 are:
Nose: wonderful dose of extra tangy kumquat over the normal JD signature; something of the fruity cough sweet about this one.
Taste: a massive, pleasantly oiled mix of molassed fudge and liquorice.
Finish: drier, toastier hickory.
Overall balance and complexity: no mistaking the JD pedigree. Just a few telling extra degrees of fruit.
Here’s Whisky Wednesday with their review and score of 7/10 on You Tube (December 2016):
Bought: Sainsbury’s, 6th April 2015
88.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
80.24/100 – Whiskybase (average from 27 member votes)
90/100 – Whisky Bitch (her video review below)
I feel sorry for the Aberlour 12yo. If you want a nice, inexpensive sherry Speysider, and you hear about Aberlour, you go for the 10yo. If you enjoy it and want to take your experience of Aberlour to the next level, then the cask strength A’Bunadh is often on discount in the UK for £36. The 12yo hovers between £32-£34. In 2013 I tried the 10yo and was impressed enough to go looking for more examples of Aberlour and discovered the A’Bunadh. It’s a tough act to beat, and with 4 different batches released in 2014 (47, 48, 49 and 50) if I ever had £36 spare I wouldn’t bother with the 12yo.
We’ve had nearly 5 months of 2015 and there hasn’t been a new batch of the A’Bunadh this year. Blimey! Sainsbury’s tempted me with a big discount on the 12yo (down to £26) so I went for it. Jim Murray in his Whisky Bible gives this ‘Double Cask Matured’ version of the 12yo an excellent 88.5/100 with the comment “voluptuous and mouth watering in some areas, firmer and less expansive in others. Pretty tasty in all of them.”
The Whisky Bible rates the 10yo one point less than the 12yo at 87.5/100 but that’s still an excellent mark. Whiskybase score the 10yo 83.6/100 (from 22 member votes), which is 3 points more than the 12yo. They’re both 40%, probably chill-filtered and have colour added, so there’s no difference there. It can come down to price, personal preference or what’s available in your location. Ian Logan, international brand ambassador for Chivas Brothers, said on a whisky forum in April 2015 (here) that the 10yo was remaining in the UK and France but not in other countries. It seems a shame that the rest of the world are missing out on the 10yo but, the 12yo sounds like a pretty reasonable substitute.
Here’s the Whisky Bitch with her You Tube review (Sept 2015):
Bought: Sainsbury’s, 24th February 2015
82.54/100 – Whiskybase (average from 91 member votes)
This bottling by Hakushu is too new to be included in the Whisky Bible 2015 but, of the 11 bottles which get reviewed from the Hakushu distillery, non score less than 91/100, which classifies them as ‘brilliant’. Clearly Jim Murray, author of the bible, is impressed with the output from this Japanese company. Known as ‘the mountain forest distillery’ Hakushu was founded in 1973, deep in the forest of Japan’s Southern Alps. Its location sounds quite idyllic!
At the heart of this NAS (non-age statement) single malt is what the distillery refer to as their ‘young talent’, which other sources say is whisky younger than 10 years. This is lightly peated, which they mix with a second ‘heavily peated’ malt. The final ingredient is a whisky matured for approximately 18 years in American white oak casks to add depth and body.
The rating on Whiskybase is very good, with one reviewer summarising with “a very affordable and quaffable Japanese dram.” It can be purchased in one or two superstores here in the UK for £42 and has achieved between £35-£90 at auction.
Here’s Ashton Cartwright with his review on You Tube (May 2015):
Bought: Sainsbury’s, 9th February 2015
83.99/100 – Whiskybase (average from 75 member votes)
Since I now have more whisky than I could possibly drink in a lifetime (unless I wanted to end my life very quickly with alcohol poisoning!) I’m officially a ‘whisky investor’ as well as a collector and occasional sipper. With this in mind I started a spreadsheet (I like those) containing my collection, the purchase prices paid, and the latest auction bids (if more than I paid). I bought this Yamazaki from Sainsbury’s in February 2015 for £42, in the same month it sold at auction for £90! Clearly the bidders weren’t aware that this bottle was available in supermarkets for less than half the price? Unless they lived on a remote island and had a raving thirst for Japanese whisky. It’s unlikely that this price would be matched in the next auction, but it’s encouraging to an investor to see a 100% gain so soon!
This Yamazaki NAS (non-age statement) bottle has effectively replaced the old 10-year-old, and even the 12-year-old that used to grace the shelves of supermarkets across the UK. Nevertheless it’s been around long enough to get a lot of ratings on Whiskybase. Nearly 84/100 is an excellent mark. I’ll be interested to see if it makes it into the Whisky Bible 2016, and what the author thinks of it.
Here’s Whiskey Aficionado with his review on You Tube (Sept 2014):
Bought: Sainsbury’s, 13th January 2015
85/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
80.24/100 – Whiskybase (average from 27 member votes)
Having got the Tullibardine ‘Sovereign’ from Sainsbury’s last year, it was only a matter of time before I fell for the second Tullibardine that Sainsbury’s stock. My reluctance was the cost. At £45, it’s expensive for a NAS (non-age statement) single malt, which struggles in reviews to match others in its price bracket. Even with a £10 discount it competes with some heavyweights like the Macallan Gold and Glenlivet 15yo. But I have a soft spot for Tullibardine, so I had to have it.
The bible has very little to say about this single malt, which is “hits the heights early on in the delivery when the honey and Lubeck marzipan are in full throttle”. On Whiskybase, a respected reviewer says “I find it to be a very pleasant whisky in which the wine played a merely supporting role. Something for dessert.”
85/100 in the Whisky Bible classes this single malt as “very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying”.
Here’s Horst Luening with his review on YouTube (February 2017):
Bought – Sainsbury’s, 8th October 2014
73.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2014
79.46/100 – Whiskybase (average from 26 member votes)
85/100 – Ralfy – His review on YouTube (April 2014)
All the Whisky Bible has to say about this Glen Moray is “tighter than a wine cork” and 73.5/100 classifies it as “usually drinkable but don’t expect the earth to move”. Although Jim Murray, the Whisky Bible author, has many years experience, it’s only one opinion but quite a damning one. But when Sainsbury’s reduced it to £20 this Glen Moray popped back onto my radar as a potential bargain buy. Time to read other opinions!
I know scoring less than 80 points on Whiskybase isn’t great but one reviewer who gave 70/100 had nothing but positive things to say. It makes you realise that one person’s scoring system is rarely the same as another’s. What convinced me to give this 10-year-old a chance was the Whiskybase reviewer who said the taste had improved over time in an open bottle and “this is good whisky and shows why this distillery should be taken seriously.”
Matured exclusively in ex wine casks, the Glen Moray 10yo is bound to be different from the more mainstream maturation in sherry and bourbon wood but that’s what makes it interesting, even if it’s not perfect. Worth the money? I would say so, especially given Ralfy’s review and rating.