Tag Archives: Single Malt

Ledaig 10-year-old

Bought: The Whisky World, 28th August 2020

Ratings:

85.5/100 – Whisky Bible

83.3/100 – Whiskybase (average from 1195 member votes)

Ledaig, the peated Tobermory, is not something you’d give to a novice whisky drinker, unless they have very eclectic taste buds. But once you’re a regular sipper, or looking for something different to Islay peat, Ledaig has a lot to offer. Not that I’m any sort of Ledaig expert. It’s another whisky where I’m guilty of enjoying my first experience but then not following it up with another example. Slap my wrist….but let me put my glass down first!

My previous experience of Ledaig was an NAS that’s long been discontinued. It was slightly rough around the edges but I could taste the potential this spirit would have with a bit more time in the cask. The 10-year-old seems like a suitable upgrade and reviews suggest this is an excellent dram. Jim Murray in his Whisky Bible says “almost a Bowmore in disguise, such are its distinctive cough sweet qualities. Massive peat; easily one of the highest phenol Ledaigs of all time. But, as usual, a slight hiccup on the technical front. Hard not to enjoy it, though.” His score of 85.5/100 classifies the Ledaig 10yo as ‘good to excellent whisky, definitely worth buying’.

Comments online about the Ledaig 10yo include, “I knew the maritime peat, the medicinal peat, here is the filthy peat!”, “It’s a shame that this one isn’t talked about very much, because it’s spectacular!” and “Wow. This is one of the nicest peated youngish whiskeys out there. Better than Ardbeg 10 and other rivals.”

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Quite light and well-balanced. There is a very soft peat with a gentle smoke. Notes of barley and malt extract, with walnut and pine oil and a hint of iodine, dried fruit and nuts.

Palate: Medium-bodied and quite rich. There are notes of spice and smoke gathering above the charred oak. The peat is quiet and dry with a touch of black pepper and earth.

Finish: Medium-length and slightly smoky with spice.

Here’s Andy of Malt Box on YouTube (November 2020) with his thoughts on the Ledaig 10yo:

Blair Athol 12-year-old ‘Flora & Fauna’

Bought: The Whisky World, 28th August 2020

Ratings:

78/100 – Malt Whisky Companion 2015

83.09/100 – Whiskybase (average from 727 member votes)

If you’re ever fortunate enough to find yourself in Aberdeen (Scotland), the place I associate with Diageo’s ‘Flora & Fauna’ (F&F) range of single malts is the Atholl Hotel on King’s Gate. The bar is open to the public as well as paying guests. The hotel is set in a grand granite building in the wealthiest part of town so I’d recommend wearing a suit or posh frock, or perhaps both because it’s always cold in Aberdeen! The bar itself has a calm décor of light wood and subtle tartan fabrics with ample seating and the obligatory 60” TV stuck on the wall. The whisky selection isn’t vast (about 30 options including blends) but it’s dominated by F&F bottles, which take pride of place on the shelves at the back of the bar.

I was amused to read in Michael Jackson’s book ‘Malt Whisky Companion’ that he considers the Blair Athol 12yo to be a mid-afternoon drink. It makes me wonder what he recommends for breakfast! Mr Jackson says of the palate “spiced cake, candied lemon peel, lots of flavour development” and 78/100 puts this dram firmly in the “worth tasting” category.

Scoring slightly over 83/100 on Whiskybase from 727 votes makes the Blair Athol 12yo one of the highest scoring F&F bottlings still available today. There are plenty of people singing its praises. Comments online include “very decent whisky with a nice fruit component”, “impressive malt, very intense”, “mature, delicious and full of character” and “an extremely tasty all-rounder. Simply classic”.

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Nutty with sherried notes. Gentle peat. Crisp.

Palate: Good body, malty and sweet. Citrus and the peels thereof.

Finish: Peat smoke, syrup. Good sweetness, bittersweet, drying.

Here’s Swedish Whisky Girl on YouTube (August 2020) outside Blair Athol distillery in Pitlochry with her thoughts on the 12yo:

Glenlossie 10-year-old ‘Flora & Fauna’

Bought: The Whisky World, 28th August 2020

Ratings:

76/100 – Malt Whisky Companion 2015

91/100 – Whisky Bible 2006

81.6/100 – Whiskybase (average from 217 member votes)

I’ve never references the book ‘Malt Whisky Companion’ on my blog before. The author, Michael Jackson, sadly died in 2007 but he coined the term ‘Flora & Fauna’, which has stuck with the Diageo range ever since. My version of his book is the fully revised edition no.7 from 2015. I assume most of the words and reviews are Mr Jackson’s, including his thoughts on the Glenlossie 10yo. Scoring 76/100 is a reasonable score with the book saying “anything in the 70s is worth tasting, especially above 75”. The palate is described as “malty, dryish at first, then a range of sweeter, perfumy, spicy notes”. As a point of reference, the Aberfeldy 12yo also scores 76/100, the Glengoyne 10yo scores 74/100 and the Glenfiddich 12yo scores 77/100. One of my favourite whiskies of all time, the Scapa 12yo, also scores 76/100 so this Glenlossie must be fantastic! 🙂

Jim Murray’s review of the Glenlossie 10yo in his Whisky Bible 2006 probably dates from a similar time that Michael Jackson wrote his. Scoring 91/100 classifies this single malt as ‘brilliant’. Clearly Mr Murray is more impressed than Mr Jackson. The ‘brilliant’ score is explained with “first-class Speyside malt with excellent weight and good distance on the palate. Easily one of the best Flora & Fauna bottlings of them all”. Praise indeed! I hope bottle versions have remained consistent over time.

Scoring 81.6/100 on Whiskybase from over 200 votes is a good score. Comments are generally very favourable such as “very good flavor, rich and deep”, “for the fans of earthy stuff: buy a bottle before it’s too late” and “a very nice powerful and clear whisky” but also “all in all too unbalanced for my taste”. The last reviewer mentions a dislike for “tannins” which appear in the tasting notes below from Master of Malt. Clearly this is something to watch out for and not to everyone’s liking. But the Glenlossie 10yo gets enough thumbs-up to make me delighted I got it.

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: full of cereal and grist

Palate: good body with a decent sweetness and plenty of fruit with barley sugar and peppy oak

Finish: long with gristy tannins

Here’s Roy of Aqvavitae with his thoughts on the Glenlossie 10yo during his YouTube video about the Flora & Fauna range, April 2018:

Strathmill 12-year-old ‘Flora & Fauna’

Bought: The Whisky World, 28th August 2020

Ratings:

80.32/100 – Whiskybase (average from 203 member votes)

Firstly, thank you to everyone for helping my blog reach the milestone of 300,000 hits. Does this make me one of the greatest whisky writers of the present day? Of course not but it’s a bit of an ego boost to encourage me to keep going. I’d certainly like Whisky Den to reach its 10th anniversary in 2023. If this is your first visit, thank you for helping me towards the 400,000 hits landmark!

This Strathmill 12yo single malt starts a short mini-series of three whiskies from the Diageo ‘Flora & Fauna’ range. If you are unfamiliar with this name I thoroughly recommend watching the video below by Roy of Aqvavitae (the Strathmill 12yo is discussed at 9:38).

Strathmill is a Speyside distillery located in Keith, across the town from the better known Strathisla distillery. Founded in 1891 from a former flour and corn mill, Strathmill was originally called Glenisla-Glenlivet. The name Strathmill means ‘the mill in the valley’. The distillery wasn’t known for single malts as the output was used exclusively for blends such as J&B but in 1993 Oddbins released an expression distilled in 1980. This was the first single malt released from the distillery for nearly 90 years!

Output from Strathmill is primarily unpeated and ex-bourbon. The 12-year-old is of this ilk and a good example of the house style. Scoring just over 80/100 on Whiskybase is a reasonable mark but not one that suggests this will blow your mind or become your favourite tipple of all time. But if you’ve never tried Strathmill it’s a good place to start (Roy certainly likes it!). Comments online include “simple, but very pleasant, quite rich and dense for its years”, “pleasantly fresh and soft whisky with alternating acidity and sweetness of citrus fruits” and “all in all a nice enough whisky that will not offend anyone”.

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: quite soft yet very fruity. A hint of grassy greenness with a nuttiness, there are notes of cut herbs and apples, hints of cut hay.

Palate: silken smooth in delivery. Notes of winter spice and vanilla custard, there is a nutty oiliness which carries everything gentle.

Finish: soft and slightly herbal with a peppered delivery.

Here’s Roy of Aqvavitae with his thoughts about the Flora & Fauna range on YouTube (April 2018):

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:

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:

Dalmunach 3-year-old, 2016, Aberdeen Whisky Shop Exclusive

Bought: Aberdeen Whisky Shop, 21st May 2020

Ratings:

85/100 – Whiskybase (from 1 member vote)

Dalmunach is one of the newest distilleries on the Scottish whisky scene that’s owned by a big players in the industry, Pernod Ricard (Chivas Brothers). The ultra-modern distillery was built in 2014 on the site of the former Imperial distillery (also owned by Pernod Ricard), which was demolished in 2013 simply because it wasn’t economical to be refurbished. Dalmunach distillery is in Speyside not far from the Dailuaine distillery. The name ‘Dalmunach’ comes from a nearby pool on the River Spey.

In August 2019 I spotted on a whisky forum that 4-year-old bottles from the new Dalmunach distillery were now on sale as part of ‘The Distillery Reserve Collection’. Unfortunately this bottle was only available in distillery shops belonging to Pernod Ricard. As fortune would have it I was intending to visit one of these, the Strathisla distillery in Keith but not until October. Before making plans I contacted the distillery to ask about the Dalmunach bottle but sadly they’d sold out. At 64.5% it was going to be hot but a nice chance to try something new. Currently this bottle scores 82.1/100 on Whiskybase from 11 member votes.

I had to wait until May 2020 before getting my next chance to claim a bottle of Dalmunach, this time from the Aberdeen Whisky Shop. This exclusive release was put together by the independent bottler Duncan Taylor as part of their ‘The Octave’ series. Of the 22 releases of Dalmunach listed on Whiskybase, 15 of them have come from Duncan Taylor, 14 of which as part of ‘The Octave’ range. As the name suggests, the whisky has had its final phase of maturation in a smaller octave cask (in this case ex-sherry) to “enhance its hue, taste, form and character”.

The majority of ‘The Octave’ releases score in the mid 80s out of 100, which goes to validate Duncan Taylor’s 40+ years of experience of small cask maturation. For my 3-year-old example (5 months spent in an octave cask) a review says “needs more ageing” but adds “looking forward to trying older Dalmunach in the future”. Most definitely!

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):

Milk & Honey Peated Cask Finish (LMDW 2019, 55%)

Bought: Online Auction, 19th December 2019

Ratings:

84/100 – Whiskyfun (Serge Valentin, one of the famous Malt Maniacs)

I always love it when a new country joins the world of whisky production. In August 2017 I watched with interest as Israel’s Milk & Honey (M&H) distillery had bottles from its inaugural release up for sale on Whisky Auctioneer. The cheapest bottle went for £403, a bit more than my pocket money would allow but it was a great start for the young distillery from Tel Aviv. I made a mental note to get a bottle as soon as prices came down to earth.

Jump forward over 2 years and I won this M&H bottle at auction, made exclusively for ‘La Maison du Whisky’ in France. At 55%, non-chill filtered, natural colour, matured in ex-bourbon casks before being lightly peated in an ex-Islay cask – wow, this ticks all my boxes! It may only be 3’ish years old but the boys at M&H have the heat of the Middle East on their side, which gives a far more rapid maturation process. A skill they gained knowledge about from whisky consultant Jim Swan, who contributed to the success at Kavalan distillery, Taiwan.

84/100 is a decent score from Serge Valentin of Whiskyfun. He concludes with “very good, but the new ‘regular’ M&H is even better in my book”. Does M&H have a ‘regular’ whisky? Perhaps the 46% ‘Classic’ or ‘Elements’ as reviewed by my good friend Tobi over on Barley Mania. Serge is certainly not referring to the ‘Young Single Malt’, rated only 69/100. Which brings me to one issue I have with M&H; their terminology. When I read ‘Young Single Malt’ I can’t be the only one that assumes this is whisky, when in reality it’s ‘young spirit’ or ‘malt spirit’, which hasn’t reached 3 years old. ‘Young Single Malt’ is the sort of description I’d expect for Ardbeg’s 5yo ‘Wee Beastie’, which is most definitely whisky. But quibbles aside, M&H have certainly announced themselves with fanfare on the world whisky map.

Tasting notes from La Maison du Whisky where this bottle sold for a mere €65 (which seems too cheap!):

Nose: first nose reveals beeswax, candied fruit (peat), camphor and intense smoke. Allowed to breathe, it becomes animal (smoked meat), floral (tuberose) and rooty (gentian). The resolute attack is characterised by notes of talc and pommade (ointment).

Taste: The mid-palate evokes thin strips of dried peat. Gradually, the flavour palate becomes fruity and floral (banana, date, violet, dandelion).

Finish: The rich finish is candied (lemon), peaty and vanilla. The retro-nasal olfaction is vegetal (cut hay), saline and smoky (tobacco).

Masterclass by Milk & Honey, at Whisky Live Paris 2019 (YouTube October 2019):

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):