Tag Archives: Speyside

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 me 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:

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!

Towiemore ‘Classic Selection’ (43%)

Bought: Amazon, 31st July 2020

Ratings:

79.95/100 – Whiskybase (average from 42 member votes)

Another example from The Lost Distillery Company (TLDC), Towiemore was a Speyside distillery that ran from 1897 to 1931. It didn’t have a very auspicious start, coincided with the Pattinson’s whisky crash of 1898, which saw the end of the Victorian whisky boom. Nevertheless Towiemore built up a good reputation both for blending and as a pure malt. By 1920 the company sponsored the first single-engine aircraft to fly between England and Australia, taking 206 days, must like the old Virgin train journey between London and Manchester. Sadly the distillery was put out of business in 1931 when its water source from the Towie Burn was contaminated by a nearby lime factory.

Built in the parish of Botriphnie, 7 miles from Dufftown, there’s no shortage of modern distilleries nearby to recreate a Towiemore dram. Although technically Speyside, Towiemore was on the road to Keith and was said to have a light and sweet Highland style. Perhaps Strathisla is a key part of the mix, with Glenfiddich, Kininvie and Balvenie being the closest Speyside distilleries to the south-west. But what malts have been vatted together to produce the modern Towiemore, TLDC are keeping a secret.

Comments online include “not bad, but not outstanding, though quite unique.”, “an interesting concept, but at the end of it all there has to be a good product; and this is a delightful” and “what a gem of a whisky, Speyside style, with a light touch of smoke but really smooth in the mouth”.

Scoring nearly 80/100 on Whiskybase, Towiemore isn’t the best performing whisky by TLDC but it’s certainly an interesting one to try and clearly has its fans.

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Juicy white peach and raspberries, with underlying hints of oily walnut.

Palate: Caramelised banana and apple, with a layer of salted butter.

Finish: Christmas spices and toasted almonds.

Here’s The Whisky Family with their thoughts about the Towiemore on YouTube (March 2018):

Glenrothes 12-year-old 10cl (Soleo Collection)

Bought: Aberdeen Whisky Shop, 26th June 2019

Ratings:
4.5/5 stars – Amazon (from 18 reviews)
80.56/100 – Whiskybase (average from 61 member votes – 70cl)

In June 2019 I found myself in the Aberdeen Whisky Shop on a quest for a bottle of Islay blended malt by Berry Bros & Rudd (BBR). My search was successful (a future blog) but I also spotted a selection of 10cl bottles by Glenrothes. This Speyside distillery was acquired by BBR in 2010 and in 2018 they released the ‘Soleo Collection’ with age statements of 10, 12, 18 and 25 years and a non-age statement called ‘Whisky Maker’s Cut’. I opted for the 12yo as it offered a bit more maturity than the 10yo and costing £10 it didn’t reduce my wallet to tears.

In the YouTube review below by Chris Goodrum I was quite pleased to hear him say “raw” and “hard” but he added that this is the character of the distillery. Yes it is. The Glenrothes ‘Select Reserve’ was all those things but it gets a mention in Ian Buxton’s book ‘101 Whiskies To Try Before You Die’ because he felt it represented the house style of the distillery. Glenrothes can be a bit of a love/hate whisky for a lot of dramsters but if you like a quintessential Speysider with characterful roughness then it’s worth spending some time with this malt. Its neighbour, The Macallan, might be the lord of the manor but the Glenrothes is the gritty gamekeeper that likes to roll around in the grass and get his tartan troosers dirty.

As the ‘soleo’ name suggests, we’re looking at sherry matured single malts in this new range from Glenrothes. The 12yo scores a respectable 80.56/100 on Whiskybase and reviews elsewhere online are very good. Comments include “smooth, creamy vanilla. Beautifully balanced. Definite keeper”, “a great malt”, “very modern and yet unmistakably Glenrothes” and “a delicious well rounded single malt”.

Tasting notes on Amazon:

Nose: Light fragrance, banana and vanilla

Taste: Banana, lemon and melon with a hint of cinnamon

Finish: Long and sweet, galia melon light spice

Here’s ‘The Good Dram Show’ with their thoughts about the Glenrothes 12yo at 15m 47s on YouTube, which are honest and not altogether complimentary (Nov 2018):

Glenallachie 12-year-old (5cl)

Bought: Inverurie Whisky Shop, 12th April 2019

Ratings:
90/100 – Ralfy (www.ralfy.com) – his video below
83.82/100 – Whiskybase (average from 387 member votes) – 83.36 for 5cl

I hadn’t intended to get the Glenallachie 12yo until I found myself putting in a whisky order and realising it was available as a miniature. Ralfy on his famous YouTube channel had named it his whisky of 2019 in January of said year based on his 2018 bottling. It’s curious that this version only scored 83.82/100 on Whiskybase but since Ralfy’s review the 2019 release is over 85/100. I strongly suspect some ratings have been influenced by the great man. Hardly surprising since he now has over 125,000 subscribers.

The Glenallachie ‘Distillery Edition’, which came out in UK supermarkets in 2017, seems like a long time ago now. The styling was boring and uninspired but initial reviews suggested the whisky inside had potential. The change in presentation in 2018 was very impressive, which included a good range of aged whiskies. I’ve frequently found myself hovering over the “buy now” button for the Glenallachie 10yo cask strength, which at c.£55 isn’t a bank breaker for such an excellent dram. One day!

As for my 12yo the score on Whiskybase along with Ralfy’s thoughts suggest a very rewarding single malt. Comments include “there are no shortcuts to quality, and this malt is ticking all the boxes”, “for me the best product of the new range”, “beautiful intensive sweet and fruity malt with interesting aromas and a nice nose” and “honest and decent whisky”. What more can you ask for? 70cl instead of 5cl perhaps?

Here’s Ralfy with his thoughts about the Glenallachie 12yo on YouTube (Jan 2019). Another YouTuber, ‘Whisky In The 6’ even made a 1-hour video about this dram where he includes in the title “why Ralfy was right”.

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?

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):