Tag Archives: Speyside

Aberlour 1970 25-year-old ‘Jewels of Scotland’

Bought: Whisky Auction, 4th June 2019

Ratings:
88/100 – Whiskybase (from 1 member vote)

I almost feel like apologising to Lombard, the independent bottler of this fine Aberlour 25yo from 1970. In 6 years of collecting whisky I’d never heard of them. Have you? But according to their website they’ve been involved in the whisky scene for 5 decades and a family history in the drinks business dating back nearly 300 years. Lombard also have 118 different whiskies listed on Whiskybase so they’ve clearly been selling whisky somewhere. But where? Their website doesn’t list any stockists, UK or otherwise, and the Lombard Facebook page hasn’t been updated since September 2017.

Perhaps the reason why Lombard have slipped under my malty radar is because they rarely do single malt, which is my main interest. The Isle of Man based business do several blended whiskies including ‘Old Master’, ‘Ballaglass’, ‘Driftwood’ and ‘Anchor Bay’, which are all currently in stock on Master of Malt. An out-of-stock blend called ‘Storm’ scored 94/100 in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2013. Lombard are clearly not amateurs in the world of whisky bottling, which is very reassuring when spending a small fortune on one of their vintage bottles at auction.

I must admit, when I saw this Aberlour 25yo at auction I was a bit concerned about the pristine nature of a bottle that had been originally sold in 1995/6. I’d also never seen it at auction until this year. Now bottles were appearing in several auctions in a row and sometimes more than one bottle at a time, and always in mint condition. Thankfully Whiskybase has enough photos showing examples of Lombard whisky to reassure me that these bottles aren’t fake. But where have they been hiding for over 20 years? Perhaps Lombard themselves have found old stock or a private individual bought a case when they were new and has finally decided to sell them off. Whatever the reason, I’m glad to have this gem in my collection.

The Whisky Exchange are currently selling a bottle of this Aberlour for £299 (half this price at auction) where they say, “A twist on Aberlour’s usual character from indie bottler Lombard’s Jewels of Scotland. Rather than going with the distillery’s more typical sherry-cask maturation, this whisky slept for 25 years in a bourbon casks. The result is a more elegant dram, with the distillery’s rich and malty character front and centre.”

I suspect this will be my last 1970 bottle to celebrate my birth year. Do you have one for yours?

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Glen Grant 1970 5-year-old

Bought: Whisky Auction, 31st July 2018

Ratings:
82.33/100 – Whiskybase (average from 12 member votes)

If Dr Who arrived in the Tardis and begged me to become their sexy assistant, after I stopped laughing I’d ask to go back to 2013. I’d want to tell my former self, at the starting of my whisky addiction, to buy a bottle distilled in my year of birth. I would make this suggestion to anyone who wants to collect whisky because the longer you leave it the more expensive it becomes. Dr Who would probably tell me that meeting myself would cause a rift in the space-time continuum so I’d grab their sonic screwdriver and shove it up their arse. That’s an episode you wont be seeing on the BBC!

I might not be as old as Dr Who but being born in 1970 means that finding a good whisky from back then doesn’t come cheap. Auctions are the best place to look but over the last few years I’ve missed out on several bottles that are now too expensive for me to consider. But one bottle that has remained quite reasonable is the Glen Grant 5-year-old distilled in 1970. This is due to its lack of maturity but ratings suggest that it’s a very acceptable dram.

The earliest example of this 5yo I can find on Whiskybase was distilled in 1962, so bottled in c.1967. The latest example was distilled in 1988 thus bottled in the early 1990s. So this series ran for just over 25 years (c.1967-1993). A lot of the bottles found on the UK auction scene today are market ‘Seagram Italia’ or ‘Giovinetti’ Import, as the bottles have found their way over from Italy where this 5-year-old had a strong market.

The Glen Grant 5yo, without a distillation date, is still available on the Italian market today where a 70cl bottle at 40% will set you back a mere €13. Apparently it’s the best selling single malt in Italy where it’s been thriving for decades.

Serge of Whiskyfun reviews the earliest Glen Grant 5yo from 1967 but only rates it 68/100 and believes age has taken its toll on the bottle he sampled. Serge then reviews a 1968 version, which he rates very highly with 86/100. Although there’s no reviews of my 1970 Glen Grant, a mark of 82.33/100 on Whiskybase is a very strong score. Serge noticed an unexpected peatiness to the 1968 version and wondered if this was due to the problems on Islay that caused the likes of Brora to produce peaty whisky on the mainland. Did Glen Grant do the same? The peaty production at Brora drifted into the early 1970s so when I finally crack open my Glen Grant I’ll be interested to see what I can detect in the flavour. I’m hoping the liquid has held its form like the ’68 and not the ’67 that Serge tried. But when a whisky is this old you can never be sure what to expect. The same can sometimes be said about me!

Allt-a-Bhainne (NAS distillery release)

Bought: Sainsbury’s, 23rd May 2019

Ratings:
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):

Macallan ‘Concept Number 1’

Bought: World of Whisky, 16th March 2019

Ratings:
85.65/100 – Whiskybase (average from 85 member votes)
85/100 – Mark Dermul (his YouTube review below)

As someone said on a whisky Facebook page, because this Macallan has a “1” in the title it has “investment” written all over it. When the Macallan Edition 1 came out 4 years ago it sold for €90 and according to Whiskybase there were at least 120,000 bottles. It now sells at auction for around 4 times that price and over £1,000 retail in the UK. The new Macallan Concept No.1, released in 2018, comprised 84,000 bottles and retailed at £100. It’s not inconceivable that bottles will reach £400 at auction by 2022/3. Why didn’t I buy more than one bottle? Because there are never any guarantees with investments, and there are always other whiskies to try.

If you own the Concept 1 and you’d prefer to drink it rather than sit on it like a goose with a golden liquid egg, the majority of tasters have enjoyed it although they’re quite quiet about it online. Scoring 85.65/100 on Whiskybase is a very good score but the majority of reviewers leaving comments are rather negative. Even Mark Dermul, who rates the Concept a very good 85/100, remarks that the NAS (no age statement) releases at the lowest possible ABV (40%) are getting tiring.

Although the Concept 1 may get some thumbs down from seasoned whisky drinkers, the sturdy presentation box and modern design make it an ideal gift for a Macallan enthusiast. If you don’t tell them the price they’re not going to grumble. Even at 40% it packs enough flavour and Macallan finesse to go down well.

Tasting notes from Macallan:

Nose: Sweet butterscotch toffee, with almond, ginger spice and cinnamon. Hints of dried fruit, citrus and green banana

Palate: Sweet orange and lemon citrus with soft oak spices, fresh fruit and ginger

Finish: Medium sweet, dry with a lingering oak, citrus fruit and ginger finish

Here’s Mark Dermul on YouTube with his thoughts on the Macallan Concept Number 1 (March 2019):

Aberlour ‘Casg Annamh’ Batch 0001

Bought: World of Whisky, 28th June 2018

Ratings:
84.55/100 – Whiskybase (average from 119 member votes)

The Aberlour ‘Casg Annamh’ (meaning ‘rare cask’) first appeared at the end of 2017. About 6 months later the legendary Aberlour A’bunadh almost doubled in price causing fans to froth at the mouth and swear allegiance to the likes of the Glenfarclas 105. Some quarters felt that the Casg Annamh had been introduced to replace the A’bunadh but this was mostly based on both whiskies having a batch number. A year after the launch of the Casg Annamh and it’s still only on Batch 0001. The A’bunadh has had 62 releases in 21 years, quite typically 3 or 4 releases per year in recent years (but only two in 2018, perhaps due to the price increase reducing sales). The big difference between the Casg Annamh and A’bunadh is the strength. The Casg Annamh is fixed at 48% and the A’bunadh is cask strength around 60%. Basically they’re two different beasts.

So how has the Casg Annamh done in its first year? 84.5/100 on Whiskybase is a very good score. It’s doing better than the standard Aberlour 16yo (83.2/100), which costs about £15 more than the Casg Annamh. By the time you get to the Aberlour 18yo (85.5/100) it’s over £80 so you might as well buy the A’bunadh. Comments online about the Casg Annamh include, “enjoyed this more than A’bunadh. Whereas A’bunadh is a whisky disguised by sherry, Casg Annamh is a whisky featuring sherry without covering up the other flavours within”, “it contains considerably younger whisky than the 15YO, but makes up for that by a higher level of first fill and a higher ABV” and “an excellent value dram which won’t disappoint any sherry cask enthusiast”.

You have to feel this new Aberlour has found its place in the market. Currently £60 for a litre at certain airports it’s good value for what it is. But after a year of ‘batch 1’ it’s definitely not a ‘rare cask’ as the Gaelic name implies.

Here’s Horst Luening of Whisky.com with his thoughts about the Aberlour ‘Casg Annamh’ on YouTube (May 2018):

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 ‘Classic Cut’ 2017

Bought: Macallan Distillery Shop, 9th February 2018

Ratings:
88.84/100 – Whiskybase (average from 88 member votes)

I’ve always wanted a cask strength Macallan. Back in August 2016 I discovered 12 different bottlings of Macallan produced by Single Malts Direct. They ranged from 47.2% for a 1989 vintage to 55.4% for the youngest offering distilled in 1997. The cost ranged from £69 to £92 but at 50cl I felt the price was quite steep. Those were the days! 2 years later and independent bottlers charge a fortune for an outrun of Macallan. Back in 2016 I hesitated and when I returned to make a purchase all 12 bottlings had sold out.

Early in 2018 I got an email from Macallan distillery about the new ‘Classic Cut’. There was no mention of “cask strength” but at 58.4% it sounded like it ought to be. I ordered a bottle. In late 2017 Macallan released 7 new bottles in the ‘Exceptional Cask’ series, all of which had “Cask Strength” written on them. The youngest bottles were two 12yos at 63.8% and 65.2%, which suggests that Macallan’s casks and warehousing keeps the raw spirit high, even after 12 years. By the time we get to a 15yo ‘Exceptional Cask’ it’s 58.5%, 0.1% stronger than the Classic Cut. Wow, does that mean the Classic Cut is a 15yo? Sadly not. At £86 the Classic Cut is going to be young and unless it was badly stored or mixed with old, weak spirit, it’s been watered down to 58.4%. So it’s highly unlikely to be cask strength – damn!

Macallan are no fools. ‘Cask strength’ is one of the buzz phrases in the whisky world at the moment so if the Classic Cut were truly cask strength it would be emblazoned on the bottle and box for all to see as it was with the ‘Exceptional Cask’ range. But it’s close enough for me! And scoring nearly 89/100 on Whiskybase the Classic Cut is hitting Macallan 18yo territory. The Classic Cut is clearly an excellent whisky but, dare I say, it’s also proving to be a very good investment. 7 months after purchase and auction prices have hit £150. But if you want a bottle and £150 seems rather pricy for a non-cask strength NAS, Macallan say on their website “the first in a new series of annual releases”. The Classic Cut 2018 has already been announced but at a much weaker 51.2% (even less likely to be cask strength). I wonder how much Macallan will charge given the success of the 2017 version?

What Macallan say about the Classic Cut:

Nose: Creamy vanilla custard, sweet ginger, fresh sweet oak.
Palate: Caramel, orange zest, nutmeg spice.
Finish: Warming oak with a sweet mouth coating.

Here’s Liquor Hound with his thoughts on YouTube about the Macallan ‘Classic Cut’ 2017 and how it compares to older cask strength Macallans, even though he doesn’t believe that the Classic Cut is cask strength (November 2017):

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.

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:

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: