Tag Archives: Single Malt

Bunnahabhain ‘Eirigh Na Greine’

Bought: World of Whisky, 28th June 2018

Ratings:
81.94/100 – Whiskybase (average from 20 member votes)
5/5 – Master of Malt (average from 5 member votes)

I do love a 1000ml bottle of whisky, especially if it contains good uisce beatha. You’ll often read online that Travel Retail used to do more 1 litre bottles but there are still some to be had and new ones being introduced. The ‘Eirigh Na Greine’ (meaning ‘Morning Sky’) by Bunnahabhain first appeared in airports in 2014 as a ‘limited edition’ and has only even been available as 1 litre. The distillery say it’s been exclusively matured in French red wine casks, which makes it interesting. Just to be awkward Master of Malt say “a portion of this single malt was matured in red wine casks” and Whiskybase says “Italian & French red wine casks”. Confused? Personally I’ll stick with what Bunnahabhain say as they make the stuff.

Nearly 82/100 on Whiskybase is a very respectable mark, although the standard 12yo scores over 85/100. You get the impression that Bunnahabhain fans don’t like the distillery profile being messed around with. Comments online include “very well balanced, beautiful presence”, “lovely rich and complex nose, wine-cask dominated palate and a pleasant finish”, “smooth as silk” and “if you like Bunnahabhain, this one is a must try to take your senses to new places and evolve your knowledge of this fine distillery”.

What Master of Malt have to say:

Nose: Toasted sugar, vanilla, raspberries and a little honey.
Palate: Apricot, sea salt, black pepper, more wine cask-influence berry sweetness.
Finish: Smoky and quite long. A little bit spicy, too.

Here’s Horst Luening of Whisky.com with his thoughts about the ‘Eirigh Na Greine’ on YouTube (August 2015):

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Macallan Whisky Maker’s Edition (1930s Propeller Plane)

Bought: Amazon, 6th June 2018

Ratings:
87.6/100 – Whiskybase (average from 7 member votes)
5/5 – The Whisky Exchange (average from 6 member votes)

My third Macallan post in a row. Anyone would think I was a fan! Well I am. You can’t really go wrong with a Macallan. I wouldn’t necessarily savour a glass of the ‘Gold’ for any length of time but it still has its moments and it’s undeniably Macallan. My one quibble with the illustrious Speyside giant is the amount of NAS (no age statement) releases they have done in recent years. My blogs about the Terra, Classic Cut and now the Whisky Maker’s Edition (WME) haven’t got a declared age digit between them. Call me picky but the age of a single malt used to be a significant piece of information when deciding what to buy and if a whisky was worth its price tag.

My WME first appeared in 2016 and was part of a series of 4 different presentations of the WME to feature work by the British x-ray photographer Nick Veasey. My bottle and box show an x-ray photo of a 1930s propeller plane. The others in the series depict a 1920s locomotive, 1930s ocean liner and a 1940s roadster. Nick Veasey is no stranger to Macallan who had already used his work in c.2012 for six versions of the WME entitled the Six Pillars. These pictures also appeared on six versions of the 12yo ‘Fine Oak’. I believe the WME has been on the go since 2009 and in airports as ‘Travel Retail Exclusive’, which means it was soon available everywhere else.

Well that’s all very interesting but what about the whisky itself? Scoring 87.6/100 on Whiskybase is a very good score and all the reviewers on The Whisky Exchange absolutely love this dram. Comments include, “amazing experience, indulging”, “compared to a Macallan Gold for tasting purposes at a gathering and clearly a couple of levels of smoothly and strength higher”, “excellent round flavour with spicy fruit” and “well worth the money”.

What Macallan have to say about the Whisky Maker’s Edition:

Nose: Fresh fruit and ginger rounded off with toffee sweetness.
Palate: Delicate fruits, rich sweetness and spice.
Finish: Lingering with a slightly smoky finish.

Here’s Whisky Whistle with his thoughts on YouTube about the Macallan Whisky Maker’s Edition (December 2015):

Macallan ‘Terra’

Bought: World of Whisky, 22nd March 2018

Ratings:
85.35/100 – Whiskybase (average from 19 member votes)

Firstly, thank you to everyone for getting my blog over £200k hits. Who knew that whisky was so popular that an obscure blog like mine could get so may views!

The ‘Terra’ is part of the new Travel Retail range that the Macallan distillery introduced into airports at the end of 2017. Like the colour range before it (Gold, Amber, Sienna and Ruby) there are four bottles in the new set consisting of the Quest, Lumina, Terra and Enigma. I’ve listed both ranges from low to high according to price. The main reason I went for the Terra as my first example of the new range is because it equates to the Sienna (3rd in terms of price), which was the best of the colour range. But wow, what a price difference! The Sienna was c.£65 and the Terra cost £128, almost double. If there’s one distillery that knows how to squeeze blood out of a stone it’s Macallan.

Scoring over 85/100 on Whiskybase is a very good score and more than a point ahead of the Sienna. The Terra is matured exclusively in first-fill European and American sherry seasoned oak casks so the spirit gets first dibs on all the flavour in the wood. At 43.8% the Terra is 0.8% higher than the Sienna but it’s a shame it’s not 46%, especially considering the price. At least it’s not 40% like the Gold and Quest. In fairness to the Terra its packaging is better than the Sienna. The Ruby was slightly more expensive than the Terra, similar presentation and an almost identical score on Whiskybase. It’s almost as if the Terra equates to the Ruby rather than the Sienna and the Enigma is in a bracket of its own.

Comments online about the Terra include, “much better then the Quest and the Lumina”, “it’s special. Lovely complex texture. I’ve never tried anything so well balanced and in my personal opinion, perfect”, “lovely sherried layers compared to the Ruby”.

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Fresh orange, brioche, coffee, sultana and walnut loaf.
Palate: Melted chocolate, dried apricot, toffee pennies and a touch of strawberry jam.
Finish: Baking spices and dried oak notes take shape on the finish.

Highland Park ‘Full Volume’

Bought: Highland Park, 30th October 2017

Ratings:
86.48/100 – Whiskybase (average from 119 member votes)

I was lucky enough to be one of the first 1000 ‘Inner Circle’ members to order the Full Volume so I got a 7′ vinyl record as an added bonus – woohoo! Now all I had to do was find a record player to play it on. This took 6 months only to discover that the record was faulty. But I could tell from what little I heard on constant repeat that I wasn’t missing much. Some rock dirge similar to something I recorded on a cassette back in the 1980s. Now where did I put that cassette player?

Although the Full Volume has “collector’s item” written all over it the reviews have been very favourable so far for those who preferred to drink it. It is 100% bourbon cask matured so no sherry influence in the mix. And at 47.2% it’s got a decent potency. Over 86/100 on Whiskybase is a very good score where comments include, “a really enjoyable bottling, completely different from HP’s usual core range”, “an official that tastes like some very good independent, and that’s because there’s no sherry”, “quite interesting – at least not boring” and “I like this one a lot and I’d almost give it an extra point for the Spinal Tap reference on the box”.

There is a bit of debate to the age of the Full Volume, with some saying it’s a 17-year-old. On the box it says that the last cask used in the mix was filled on 7th September 1999. Full Volume wasn’t released until October 2017, which does suggest it reached its 18th birthday before being bottled. With special 17yo releases such as the Dark, Ice and Light costing £190, £86 for the slightly older Full Volume seems like good value. Heck, it was even cheaper than the bog standard 18yo at £100!

In this video from ‘Whisky in the 6’, HP ambassador Cam Millar says the ‘Full Volume’ is 18yo, so not 17yo. I assume HP ambassadors don’t go around lying about the age of the whisky so I’ll take his word for it. (Oct 17th 2017):

Glen Keith ‘Distillery Edition’

Bought: Morrisons, 18th February 2018

Ratings:
74.25/100 – Whiskybase (average from 6 member votes)

Glen Keith distillery got going in Speyside in 1957, was mothballed in 1999 and reopened in June 2013. Owned by Chivas Brothers its output was destined for blending, forming part of Chivas Regal, Passport and 100 Pipers. There have been plenty of independent bottlings of Glen Keith single malt but very few official releases from the distillery. The first was in 1994 with the appearance of the ‘Glen Keith 1983’. Whiskybase list only 9 releases of single malt from the distillery with the ‘Distillery Edition’ being the most recent one in 2017. Of the previous 8, 3 were before the 1999 closure and 5 were after the 2013 reopening. All are over 10 years old and score from 81/100 (good) to 88/100 (excellent) on Whiskybase.

What isn’t over 10 years old or anywhere near it is the ‘Distillery Edition’. You have to think that a lot of the whisky in it is 3-4 years old since production started again in 2013. The good news is that there’s likely to be some vintage stuff in the mix from 1999 or earlier. Then E150 colorant is added to keep everything looking consistent (boo, hiss!). For a distillery NAS (no age statement) I would generally expect most of the liquid to be between 6-8 years old. Clearly that’s not the case with the ‘Distillery Edition’. But is that a bad thing? New distilleries such as Wolfburn have had great success with 3-year-old releases. Where Glen Keith score over Wolfburn is that they have old stock to mix with the new to help remove any rough, spirity edges.

Although the score on Whiskybase doesn’t promise much the comments online at Master of Malt and Amazon are surprisingly good. They include, “pleasantly surprised! Wasn’t expecting much for the price but is pretty decent”, “nice smooth whisky”, “a good dram for a nightcap” and “everything I like in a young Speyside. Light, slight fruitiness, nice sharp nose, nicely balanced.”

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Sweet and crisp with orchard fruits and a malty character. Toffee apples and banana skins linger.
Palate: Through oaked dryness and an oily note comes vanilla sweetness with helpings of apricot yoghurt, dried mango and nectarines. Suggestions of chocolate pudding, a slight grassiness and a little spice form the backdrop.
Finish: Subtle floral notes and new oak, with a little honey.

Not a review about the ‘Distillery Edition’ but here’s Ben of ‘A Dram A Day’ with a history of the Glen Keith distillery before he reviews an independent bottling:

Ardbeg ‘An Oa’

Bought: Waitrose, 17th February 2018

Ratings:
84.06/100 – Whiskybase (average from 390 member votes)
8/10 – Whisky Wednesday (video review below)

In September 2017 Ardbeg released the ‘An Oa’ named after a peninsular on the island of Islay. It’s the first bottle since 2009 to be added to the distillery’s core range, which include the Corryvreckan, Uigeadail and the ‘TEN’ 10yo. It may be yet another NAS (no age statement) from Ardbeg but at least it packs a punch at 46.6%. The An Oa is a vatting together of different cask types – ex-bourbon, Pedro Ximénez and virgin oak, so nothing especially unusual there. But you wouldn’t expect anything too experimental in the recipe when creating a regular release from the distillery.

It’s been 8 months since the launch of An Oa and reviews suggest it’s doing OK but just ‘OK’. Over 84/100 on Whiskybase is a very good mark but it’s lagging behind its core range family members. Their Whiskybase averages are:

  • 88.5/100 – Corryvreckan (from 1735 votes)
  • 89.19/100 – Uigeadail (from 2893 votes)
  • 86.34/100 – ‘TEN’, 10-year-old (from 2922 votes)

Comments online about the An Oa include, “better than other standard editions right now but it is not great and rather average”, “truly epic whisky”, “unbalanced dram, PX and Virgin oak are fighting”, “I’ve been an Ardbeg lover for many years and this is a truly worthy addition to the family”.

The An Oa has its fans but at the same time there’s no guarantee that an existing Ardbeg fan will take to this youthful new upstart. On Master of Malt, where the An Oa scores 4/5 stars from 37 votes, the comments blow very hot and cold. Some people love it and others say it’s “barely drinkable”. It may cost more than the ‘TEN’ and score less than the 10yo in reviews but it’s still an Ardbeg so it will sell regardless of opinions.

Here’s Whisky Wednesday with their thoughts about the Ardbeg ‘An Oa’ on YouTube (Oct 2017), which they score an impressive 8/10:

Macallan ‘Sienna’

Bought: Amazon, 15th December 2017

Ratings:
94.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2018
85/100 – Serge Valentin of Whisky Fun
84.11/100 – Whiskybase (average from 365 member votes)
8/10 – Whisky Wednesday (video review below)

From everything I’ve heard about the Macallan ‘colour’ range (Gold, Amber, Sienna and Ruby), the Sienna is considered to be the best. In 2017 it was announced that the colour range would be discontinued so I made sure I picked up a bottle of Sienna. The Ruby is the investment, the Gold is the simple sipper, the Sienna is for savouring and the Amber is for cleaning the drains (I’m joking! I’m joking! It’s for deicing the car).

Jim Murray, author of the ‘Whisky Bible’, certainly rates the Sienna. His score of 94.5/100 classifies this dram as a ‘superstar whisky that gives us all a reason to live’. He scores the Ruby 92.5/100, the Gold gets 89.5/100 and the Amber a rather lacklustre 78/100. Mr Murray gives the taste element of the Sienna 24/25 with the comment “soothing texture with the barley bringing forward enough juice to the soft oil to give extra complexity; easy going to the point of falling backwards off its chair, the barley gives way eventually to a gorgeous ulmo honey, vanilla and butterscotch middle”. He summarises with “a huge and pleasing improvement [on a pre-bottling sample Jim tasted]”.

Scoring just over 84/100 on Whiskybase is a very good mark with comments of “A pleasantly surprising dram! Well-balanced with no sherry overload.” And “A much better dram that its two siblings and actually probably better than recent sherry 12s”.

Serge Valentin of Whisky Fun scores a recent (c.2017) sample of Sienna a very good 85/100 but adds, “isn’t this vatting younger on average than earlier batches? I was having Sienna at no less than 90/100, but that just can’t be this time.” It’s a pity that Serge feels the standard of the Sienna was slipping but perhaps that was one of the reasons Macallan decided to call it a day on the colour range. Time for a new adventure, or should that be ‘quest’?

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Noticeably bigger than Gold and Amber, orange peel, vanilla sugar and hot cross buns.
Palate: Raisins and dried apricots, ripe greengages, frozen currants.
Finish: Fruity and slightly spiced with a touch of anise.

Here’s Jo of Whisky Wednesday with his thoughts about the Macallan ‘Sienna’ on YouTube (Nov 2015), which he scores an excellent 8/10:

Springbank 15-year-old

Bought: Cadenhead, 5th December 2017

Ratings:
88.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2018
87.85/100 – Whiskybase (average from 89 member votes)

In 2015 I contacted Springbank distillery about paying £50 to become a life member of their ‘Springbank Society’. I’d get a badge, t-shirt and an opportunity to buy two special bottles per year, exclusive to society members. In the end I didn’t join because the online forum for Springbank members disappeared and the distillery was having a website meltdown. They make great whisky but my confidence in their Internet ability was in tatters. Since then I can’t say I’ve seen a ‘society only’ bottle of Springbank appear at auction so I’ve no idea if they got produced.

The basic Springbank 10yo and the cask strength 12yo are so good it’s taken me 5 years on my whisky journey before getting the 15yo. Clearly I didn’t need any ‘special releases’ for society members because the standard releases are more than enough for me. I decided to get the 15yo because several people on whisky forums said it was their favourite dram and I hadn’t bought a Springbank for a while. With a score of nearly 88/100 on Whiskybase this is clearly a fantastic 15yo. Comments include “very tasty” and “a big whisky with big flavours”. Other remarks online include “top of the line if you like sherry matured” and “refined and full of Campbeltown character”. What more can you ask for?

Jim Murray’s score of 88.5/100 in his Whisky Bible dates back to 2012 so you can take that with a pinch of salt. A review on Whiskybase says this latest version (tasted in 2018) is better than a previous version they tried a few years ago so perhaps Mr Murray would score it in the 90s now.

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Fragrant with a certain richness. Notes of fruit salad and a hint of caramel, pineapple, guava and passion fruit lurk. There are notes of dried leather and old ropes. A hint of toffee sweetness and some granary toast.
Palate: Quite full and rich. There are notes of creamy fruit salad and more exotic fruit notes. There is palpable mastication from the oaked tannins with a hint of spice.
Finish: Fairly long with a gentle warmth.

Here’s Horst & Benedikt Luening of Whisky.com with their thoughts about the Springbank 15yo on YouTube (May 2017):

Old Pulteney 2006 11-year-old (Cadenhead)

Bought: Cadenhead, 5th December 2017

Ratings:
84.78/100 – Whiskybase (average from 11 member votes)

When you look at Old Pulteney (OP) in Jim Murray’s ‘Whisky Bible 2018’ you realise how rare it is to see independent bottlings from this illustrious distillery. In fact Mr Murray only mentions Cadenhead and Gordon & MacPhail. Of these only the two bottles by Cadenhead are cask strength. The distillery itself rarely releases a whisky that hasn’t been diluted down. But if you’re a fan of a particular distillery it doesn’t take long before you want to try the raw liquid straight from the barrel. And as a fan of OP, this 11yo by Cadenhead gives me my change to do just that. It’s Old Pulteney au naturale.

My OP 11yo is made from a combination of two hogshead casks distilled in 2006 and bottled at 55.8% in 2017. It comes from ex-bourbon barrels, which is the standard wood used by the distillery. 570 bottles were produced. Although Jim Murray doesn’t review this particular dram he scores a similar Cadenhead 2006 11yo a very respectable 87/100. This was also an ex-bourbon hogshead but only one barrel was used to produce 294 bottles. It scores 82.39/100 on Whiskybase from 25 votes. My 11yo scores a fantastic 84.78/100 from 11 votes so far, which suggests a marginally better dram.

Cadenhead release cask strength Old Pulteney quite regularly so if it’s something you’re interested in then keep an eye on their website. My 11yo was bottled in 2017 but Cadenhead have already bottled two OP 12yo cask strengths in 2018 (one of which is still available on their website for £54.30 from a run of only 282 bottles, so cask strength AND single cask).

Tasting notes by Cadenhead:

Nose: Toffee popcorn, cereals, barley sugar, developing rich notes with this coastal dram. The nose is great now into the palate!
Palate: The palate is driving in some incredible richness with some fresh ground black pepper, haggis crisps, cardamon pod. We also find a sweet note after this dram is left to open in the glass.
Finish: The finish is really good with a hint of red liquorice, banana loaf and marshmallow, the finish coats the palate with a lingering sweetness before the spicy mid note on the palate comes back in for a few moments.

Paul John ‘Brilliance’

Bought: Marks & Spencer, 14th November 2017

Ratings:
94/100 – Whisky Bible 2018
88/100 – Whisky Wise (video review below)
81.6/100 – Whiskybase (average from 94 member votes)

When I started collecting in 2013 the only whisky available in the UK from India was from the Amrut distillery. John Distillery started life in Goa, India in 1992 and their ‘Paul John’ brand was first launched in London in October 2012. It took a few years before it crept into the majority of online British shops but it now seems to be here to stay. I’ve wanted an example from ‘Paul John’ for several years so I’m delighted to finally add the ‘Brilliance’ to my collection.

Brilliance is a non-peated, non chill-filtered single malt and Jim Murray, author of the Whisky Bible, absolutely loves it. He scores his first sample of Brilliance 94.5/100 but batch 3, bottled July 2016 scores an equally fantastic 94/100. My example is also batch 3 but bottled in October 2016. 94/100 classifies the Brilliance as a ‘superstar whisky that gives us all a reason to live’. Mr Murray says about the taste, “this was a malt designed to get the most out of the barley and here the juices arrive in force and early on. Much less copper than the first bottling, showing this relatively new distillery is moving on, but the spices and light mocha make a handsome contribution.” He summaries with, “it is impossible not to be impressed. Complexity is the key word here. And though it has moved on a little – mainly through tannin – from its earlier rendition, the layering and structure remains superb. The tail needs a little attention, but I’m being ultra-strict: this is excellent whisky and make no mistake.”

81.6/100 in Whiskybase is a very good score where comments include “a totally underrated whisky in my opinion. I like it a lot”, “Initially surprising soft, but soon followed by a real punch, with a lingering aftertaste. A real eye opener.”

Here’s Jason of Whisky Wise with his thoughts about the Paul John ‘Brilliance’ on YouTube (July 2017):