Tag Archives: Single Cask

Ardmore 8yo – Claxton’s ‘A Dram A Day’ Charity Bottle

Bought: Gauntley’s of Nottingham, 3rd February 2017

Ratings:
87/100 – Whiskybase (average from 11 member votes)

If you’re a fan of YouTube whisky reviews like I am you’ve probably come across Ben Bowers and his ‘A Dram A Day’ channel. Starting in January 2016 he set himself a challenge to post a whisky review every day for a year, all in the aid of charity. Initially he wasn’t sure he’d manage it but he did, even during the birth of his 3rd child. As the 365 days drew to a close, Claxton’s, a Yorkshire-based independent bottler, offered Ben’s cause a limited edition Ardmore with all proceeds going to charity. After watching most of Ben’s videos I thought it would be rude not to get it. Finished in a Laphroaig cask, limited to 299 bottles and at the cask strength of 55.1%, it sounded wonderful. Also I’d never tried Claxton’s before and their square bottles looked very attractive. I do love a good bottle shape!

Fans of the Ardmore ‘Traditional Cask’ will know how well the Highland distillery’s spirit harmonises with peat. Ralfy, a leading YouTube vlogger, once remarked that the ‘Traditional Cask’ was his favourite peated whisky outside of Islay. Praise indeed and something I agree with. So it doesn’t surprise me that after 11 votes on Whiskybase this special dram has got the excellent score of 87/100. One comment (translated from French) said, “peaty but not in a crazy way either. Gentle on the nose. The high title pushes the sensations high enough, but it remains creamy, not so peated eventually. Youth does not appear.”

Since finishing his challenge I’m delighted to see that Ben got a job with Gordon & MacPhail. I’m sure his whisky videos helped boost his CV as well as helping a worthy charity. Congratulations Ben, and thanks Claxton’s for this awesome Ardmore!

Here’s Ben of ‘A Dram A Day’ with his thoughts about his Ardmore charity bottling (YouTube, January 2017):

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Bladnoch 25-year-old (SMWS 50.71)

Bought: Scotch Malt Whisky Society, 30th November 2015

Ratings:
92/100 – Whiskybase (from 1 member vote)

Bladnoch closed in 1993. In 1994 dynamic Irishman Raymond Armstrong spotted the mothballed distillery when he was on holiday in the Lowlands and he decided to buy it. Lots of work had to be done, which meant whisky production didn’t start again until 2000. Sadly the distillery went into liquidation in 2014 putting the future of Bladnoch in the balance. Thankfully a successful Australian businessman, David Prior bought Bladnoch in July 2015. In September he announced on the distillery’s Facebook page (which hadn’t been updated in over 2 years) that he’d appointed Ian Macmillan as the new master distiller and blender. Another announcement on 24th December proclaimed the arrival of new single malts in 2016. The future is looking good for Bladnoch once more!

Having said all that about the distillery’s recent history, my bottle by the SMWS entitled ‘Alfresco brunch’ was distilled in 1990, back when Bladnoch were under the ownership of United Distilleries. Someone clearly loves it on Whiskybase with a vote of 92/100. The house style is light-bodied, dry, fruity, fresh, floral and grassy. The SMWS description below mentions a meadow, so there’s the grass element, but bacon, gingerbread and salami don’t sound overly typical of a standard Bladnoch. It goes to show how varied each cask can be!

“We were having a Picnic Brunch in a meadow; the sun had almost burnt off the morning dew and we were looking forward to a glorious day outside. Out of the basket came smoked salmon, gravlax and a bowl of fresh watermelon and Cantaloupe salad with mint and basil vinaigrette. The taste was satisfyingly sweet, like dipping a wooden spoon into a jar of heather honey or a glass of delicious viscous mead. Just a drop of water and meaty aromas appeared; eggs Benedict with bacon, gingerbread pancakes with Parma ham and the taste turned into a spicy salami pizza.”

Bladnoch 25yo SMWS 50.71 70cl

Highland Park 15-year-old (SMWS 4.213)

Bought: SMWS, 4th November 2015

Ratings:
87.25/100 – Whiskybase (average from 4 member votes)

Although Jim Murray doesn’t mention this HP by the SMWS in his Whisky Bible 2016 (it’s too new) he does mention 4 other HPs by this experienced independent bottler. They range from a 13yo scoring 88.5/100 to a 22yo scoring an incredible 96.5/100. In the middle are two 14yos, which are closest in age to my 15yo. They score 93/100 and 95.5/100 respectively. This tells me that, according to Jim Murray at least, the guys at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society know how to pick a good Highland Park. This is hardly surprising when you consider that Whiskybase mention 137 separate releases of HP by the SMWS since their inception in the early 1980s. They have a lot of knowledge of Highland Park and it shows in the quality of casks they select for bottling. The code ‘4.213’ would suggest this is the 213th HP cask the SMWS have released. That’s about one bottling every two months since the society started.

My 15yo, distilled in 1999, goes by the name of “A Regency Pomander” with the usual over-the-top Oscar-winning tasting notes conjured up by the SMWS “from the word go this one was oozing quality. The aromas were intoxicating, baked apple with crème Anglaise, Banana Brulee using Ambrosia custard, clove studded oranges, a very chocolaty mousse and always in the background, the fragrant glow of a Jo Malone incense and embers candle. The taste neat was that of thick, sweet and waxy goodness, deep fried corn fritters served with honey and cream, blueberry pancakes with maple syrup and chocolate tofu pudding. A drop of water and the luxurious fragrance of a rosewater poured candle appeared along with a heavenly dessert of macadamia praline and Frangelico parfait.”

In the video below Georgie of the SMWS explains the society’s bottle labels:

Highland Park 15yo SMWS 4.213 70cl

Bladnoch 2001 13-year-old, Single Cask, 53.1%

Bought: Demijohn, 27th May 2015

Ratings:
None as yet.

I was all set to buy a bottle of Bladnoch 20yo (Sheep Label) from Holland for £42 earlier this year when I discovered the distillery was in liquidation. Before I could blink the whisky had sold out and I’ve not seen it since. Even if I did it wouldn’t be for £42, which was ridiculously cheap at the time. But all whisky collectors can feel my pain. With so many distilleries and bottles out there it’s impossible to be ready to pounce on every good deal you see. I have a budget and some months I’ve spent it all by the end of the first week! These days I’ve stopped looking at whisky shops when I’ve spent my budget so I avoid temptation. Anyone would think I was an addict! 😉

Thankfully Demijohn came to the rescue and I selected one of their quaint, squiggly bottles to contain a cask-strength Bladnoch they had available (sadly no more). The website details for this 13-year-old were:

“This delightful single malt whisky is from cask no.130, filled on 30th May 2001. It is one of the first few casks produced by Armstrong Brothers’ Raymond and Colin at their Bladnoch Distillery after taking ownership from United Distillers in 2000.”

Bladnoch 2001 13yo 10cl

Bladnoch 2001 12-year-old, Single Cask, 55.2%

Bought: Demijohn, 27th May 2015

Ratings:
None as yet.

I love whisky and I like curious bottle shapes, so buying from Demijohn is a match made in heaven. You select what liquid you want and then the size and shape of the bottle you want it in. I first bought from Demijohn back in September 2013 when I got an 11yo Bladnoch. Since then the Armstrong brothers no longer own the distillery and I’m not sure what the latest news is on its fate. Finding bottles of Bladnoch suddenly became difficult as collectors and enthusiasts dived in. Thankfully I discovered that Demijohns had added a new 12yo and 13yo to their website. The details for this 12yo were given as:

“This delightful single malt whisky is from cask no.227, filled on 28th September 2001. It is one of the first few casks produced by Armstrong Brothers’ Raymond and Colin at their Bladnoch Distillery after taking ownership from United Distillers in 2000.”

Sadly this whisky has sold out and it’s so obscure it’s not even listed on Whiskybase. Would it make a good investment? Probably not because the seal can be easily removed and resealed (it’s very basic) but I’ve seen plenty of bottles sell at auction where this is also possible. Yet another reason I don’t like whisky auctions because it seems to be a case of ‘buyer beware!’

Bladnoch 2001 12yo 10cl

Talisker 2008 6-year-old Hepburn’s Choice

Bought: Whisky Barrel, 6th May 2015

Ratings:
92.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
84/100 – Whiskybase (average from 5 member votes)

The Hepburn’s Choice range of whiskies are by the independent bottler ‘Langside Distillers’ (also known as ‘Douglas of Drumlanrig”). They’ve produced three versions of this Talisker 6yo and one of a 5yo. Only one 6yo is mentioned in the Whisky Bible 2015, which I’m pleased to say is the bottle I have. A limited release of 410, distilled in 2008 and bottled in 2014.

The Whisky Bible’s author, Jim Murray, rates this dram 92.5/100, which classifies it as “brilliant”. He says of the taste “malty, juicily so, with a lovely muscovado sugar backdrop.” And summaries with “a very classy act”.

At 46%, non-chill-filtered, no added colouring and from a single cask, there’s a lot of good qualities about this Talisker. It might be young but this doesn’t count against it. As a fan of Talisker, it makes a nice addition to my collection. I wonder how it will compare against the Talisker 18yo and 25yo?

Talisker 6yo 70cl