Bought: Tesco Supermarket, 3rd June 2019
Ratings for ‘Land Cask’:
81/100 – Whiskybase (average from 5 member votes)
92/100 – Scotch Malt Whisky
Ratings for ‘Sea Cask’:
76.17/100 – Whiskybase (average from 8 member votes)
89/100 – Scotch Malt Whisky
In 2018 Tesco Supermarket here in the UK decided to stock two ‘mystery’ single malts under the name of Aerstone. These are the ‘Land Cask’ and ‘Sea Cask’. They come with an age statement of 10 years and a volume of 40%. It’s not uncommon for supermarkets to have their own single malts but usually they’re labelled ‘ASDA’s Islay Single Malt’ or ‘Sainsbury’s Speyside Single Malt’. It’s unusually for a supermarket to register a trading name for a mystery whisky (where the source distillery isn’t clearly indicated). This is all very interesting but it was the price of £20 that caught my attention (reduced from £30). This made Aerstone the cheapest 10yo single malt on the market, even when the Aberlour 10yo is on offer. And considerably cheaper than the MacPhail’s 10yo mystery malt. Tesco, you have a winner!
The Aerstone duo aren’t really mystery malts in the traditional sense. Firstly it’s common knowledge that the source distillery is Girvan, owned by William Grant & Sons. Secondly a mystery malt typically comes from an established single malt distillery and Girvan is better known for producing grain whisky. Nevertheless since 2007 the Girvan complex has incorporated the Ailsa Bay distillery, which has been releasing single malt since 2016. With the Aerstone being 10 years old it’s possible that one or both of the cask types started life as Aisla Bay, which isn’t a bad thing.
It should come as no surprise that the Land Cask is doing better than the Sea Cask in reviews because peat and smoke make it more interesting. But both malts are considered to be easy going, straightforward sippers. Yes they contain E150 colourant and 40% seems quite tame these days but at £20 you can’t expect the earth to move. Both whiskies get excellent scores from William over on the Scotch Malt Whisky website and 81/100 on Whiskybase for the Land Cask is a pretty decent mark.
Overall I’d say that Tesco’s request to William Grant & Sons to give their customers two single malts that showcase the different profiles from different areas of maturation has been a success. And you can’t grumble at the price!
Here’s The Whisky Family with their thoughts on the Aerstone duo on Youtube (Oct 2018):
Posted in Aerstone (Tesco)
Tagged 10yo, 40%, 70cl, Aerstone, Ailsa Bay, Girvan, Land Cask, Lowland, Lowlands, Sea Cask, Single Malt, Tesco
Bought: Tesco, 22nd September 2017
85.41/100 – Whiskybase (average from 19 member votes)
When Highland Park met ‘Game of Thrones’ the ‘Dragon Legend’ was born. It’s like when Harry met Sally but with more fire breathing and less fake orgasm. Highland Park claim ‘Dragon Legend’ has got something to do with Vikings but we can all see through the thin façade. Clearly someone at the distillery’s marketing department loves heraldic, Valhalla, Lord of the Rings fantasies. The Hobbister release in 2016 even had the word ‘Hobbit’ in it! I rest my case.
But, marketing aside, the new Dragon Legend is scoring very well on Whiskybase. Over 85/100 is an excellent mark, especially when compared to similarly priced NAS (no age statement) bottles from Highland Park such as the Einar (80.3/100) and Svein (81.4/100). Comments on Whiskybase about the Dragon Legend include “more full-bodied, sherried and peaty than the Valkyrie, but less fruity”, “better than the standard 12YO and IMO better than the Valkyrie” and “there’s certainly enough complexity and distillery character to be able to recommend this whisky at its £40 price tag”. Tesco have even had it on offer at £30 – wow!
Here’s Martin Markvardsen, senior brand ambassador for Highland Park, giving us the tasting notes for the Dragon Legend (October 2017):
Bought: Tesco, 22nd May 2017
81.61/100 – Whiskybase (average from 20 member votes)
Although all that’s really changed about the Highland Park 12yo in 2017 is the bottle style, packaging and calling it ‘Viking Honour’ it’s an opportunity for new reviews to appear to discuss this classic old Orkney favourite. In fairness, distillery standards such as the HP 12yo do change over time, so we shouldn’t assume the taste and quality remains the same forever and ever. But an old reviewer’s 85/100 might be a new reviewer’s 80/100 even of the same whisky, such is the randomness of ratings.
After 1152 votes on Whiskybase the old style HP 12yo (bottled since 2007) scored a very decent 82.24/100. It’s early days yet but ‘Viking Honour’ is lagging behind slightly. As I discussed in my last blog about the HP12, the Whiskybase ratings for the previous incarnations of the HP12 have shown a consistent downward trend. Is this true or do whisky drinkers look back on old bottlings of Highland Park with nostalgia and rose-tinted glasses?
Comments for ‘Viking Honour’ on Master of Malt are quite amusing, especially if Highland Park only changed the packaging and not the whisky. We have a mixed bag of remarks – “very smooth. I liked it”, “not an improvement and a big disappointment”, “sweet with a delicate smoky after taste which all in all is very agreeable”, “rubbish compared to the original”, “very smooth and slightly peaty”, “absolutely zero smoke or peat”. Has the whisky actually changed or is this a case of unreliable taste buds?
Tasting notes from Master of Malt, which interestingly don’t mention any smoke or peat but I believe these notes have not been updated since the previous HP12:
Nose: Fresh, clean and very aromatic. Floral notes abound the senses with a light grassiness. Notes of creamy Manuka honey and a touch of juicy citrus with cream and a well-balanced sweetness.
Palate: Rather full with a pleasant depth. Lurking somewhere in the substratum a grilled orange lies. Notes of granary toast and green tea with jasmine. A touch of sweetness.
Finish: Quite long with peppery spice and wood shavings.
Here’s Martin Markvardsen, senior brand ambassador for Highland Park, giving us his thoughts about the new 12yo ‘Viking Honour’. He mentions peat and smoke and talks about the new dram as if it were the typical HP 12yo profile (Sept 2017):
Bought: Tesco, 2nd August 2017
86/100 – Whisky Bible 2018
81.3/100 – Whiskybase (average from 197 member votes)
As it says on the back of the tube “a Glenfiddich whisky finished in IPA craft beer casks, something never done in the industry before”. I don’t see many other distilleries falling over themselves to do it again. But credit to Glenfiddich for trying something different, especially as experimentation is not something generally associated with the distillery. One common remark about the new ‘IPA’ is that the actual ale element is hard to detect on the pallet. This is not surprising given the whisky is only ‘finished’ in it rather than matured from birth to bottle. Unlike using sherry or wine maturation, ale has a similar creation process to the early stages of whisky, so it’s going to be difficult for it to stand out.
I’ve been interested in pairing beer with whisky (separate glasses rather than mixing) for several years and this is where the Glenfiddich IPA scores extra points from me. I’ve seen this combination referred to as a ‘half and half’ online but I remember it as a ‘pint and a nip’ when I was a lad. Old chaps in workingman’s pubs would choose a blend rather than a single malt to go with a beer but these days the chaser can be whatever our wallets can afford. Ralfy (of www.ralfy.com) discusses pairing beer with whisky here on YouTube. The blog ‘In Search Of the Perfect Chaser’ also gives some combination examples.
Scoring over 81/100 on Whiskybase is a very good mark especially when you consider that the standard 12yo only scores 76/100 from 874 votes. The IPA scores exactly the same as the standard Glenfiddich 15yo, which gets 81.3/100 from 463 votes. Not bad for an experimental non-age statement. Comments online for the IPA include “lovely IPA odour with generous hints of toffee”, “fresh, fruity and full of citrus with a nice small touch of hops right at the end” and “probably won’t buy again due to the price but it was certainly worth trying once”. I agree with the last remark because it was on my wishlist for a very long time before I parted with £45 to get it.
Tasting notes from Master of Malt:
Nose: An elegant harmony of fresh green apple, William’s pear and spring blossom. Complimented with Aromatic hops and fresh herbs.
Palate: Vibrant with a zesty citrus note followed by creamy vanilla and a hint of fresh hops.
Finish: Enduring sweetness with an echo of green hops.
Here’s Vin PF of ‘No Nonsense Whisky’ with his thoughts about the IPA on YouTube (August 2017):
Bought: Tesco, 25th May 2017
90.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2018
80.45/100 – Whiskybase (average from 22 member votes)
The Bowmore No.1, new in 2017, replaces the ‘Small Batch’, which appeared in 2014. Both are NAS (no age statement) and matured in bourbon casks so you have to wonder if anyone will notice the difference? The No.1, unlike the Small Batch, is exclusively aged in first-fill bourbon casks, so maturation is quicker. I hope this doesn’t mean the No.1 is younger than the Small Batch, which was young enough!
The Small Batch on Whiskybase ended up with a score of 81.5/100 after 229 votes so the No.1 is lagging behind, although it’s early days yet. Comments on Whiskybase include, “reminds me rather of a strongly diluted mixture of (too) young Laphroaig and Caol Ila” and “the sweet ashes are nothing special but nice. For me this has more than a few mistakes”. At least someone on Amazon says, “wonderful nose you can’t go wrong with Bowmore”, but another comment adds, “spend the extra for the 12yr old. You won’t regret it.” Or get the 9yo if you’re on a budget and prefer a sherry influence instead of bourbon.
Tasting notes from Master of Malt:
Nose: Nutella on brown bread, sea salt and a hint of lemon zest.
Palate: Vanilla notes are up front and sweet (though earthy vanilla pod does appear after a minute). Plenty of coastal peat smoke.
Finish: Lingering smokiness.
Here’s Horst Luening of Whisky.com with his thoughts on YouTube about the Bowmore No.1 (May 2017):
Bought: Tesco, 6th October 2016
4/10 – Whisky Wednesday (video review below)
2/5 – Master of Malt (from 9 reviews)
0/100 – Whiskybase (no member votes yet)
It’s been over 2 months since the Clubman was added to Whiskybase but still no reviews. If it were a new bottle of Ardbeg there would be over 100 ratings by now but that’s because Whiskybase is more about single malts. The Clubman on the other hand is a cheap single grain and, unlike the original Club, the Clubman is priced correctly for its use in whisky-based cocktails. At £15 it’s a bit more expensive than a Lidl or Aldi basic grain but you’re paying more for the marketing and stylish blue bottle. Indeed, comments on Amazon suggest it’s being bought as a Christmas present, which has more to do with the presentation. In fact, stick a light in an empty Clubman bottle and you’ve got a festive bauble for Christmas 2017!
Although scores from most whisky drinkers aren’t great there are some fans of the Clubman. Comments online include “superb for a mixer drink”, “smooth, sweet and light” and “not particularly complex or deep in flavours, but just a really nice light whisky to sup.” Remarks about the taste say it’s sweet and the bourbon ageing give it vanilla notes so it sounds perfect to mix with cola, lemonade or ginger ale.
Here’s Whisky Wednesday with their review on You Tube (October 2016):
Posted in Haig
Tagged 40%, 70cl, Cameronbridge, Club, Clubman, David Beckham, Haig, Lowland, Lowlands, NAS, Single Grain, Tesco
Bought: Tesco, 29th September 2016
87.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2018
80/100 – Malt Box (video review below)
81.88/100 – Whiskybase (average from 27 member votes)
A new release for 2016 is this no-age statement single malt from Tamnavulin. Certain reports online suggest this is the first release from the distillery for about 20 years but in 2015 I bought a 12-year-old that first appeared in 2005 (according to Whiskybase). But the distillery was mothballed between 1995 and 2007. I suppose it’s possible that the distillery owners released a 12yo in 2005 from whisky distilled in 1993, even if the distillery hadn’t officially been reopened. Apparently in 2000 the staff at nearby Tomintoul spent 6 weeks in Tamnavulin distilling 400,000 litres of spirit just to keep stock ticking over. So ‘mothballed’ certainly doesn’t always mean ‘inactive’.
The official tasting notes for the ‘Double Cask’ are:
Nose: rich, warm aromas of apple, toffee and honey with sweet marzipan and subtle tangy marmalade notes.
Palate: fresh, mellow notes of pear, creamy peaches, pineapple and a hint of Demerara sugar.
Finish: rich, smooth and refreshing. A signature Speyside malt.
Although 81/100 from two votes on Whiskybase may sound good comments on the Malt Maniacs Facebook page have been quite critical. It will be interesting to see where the Double Cask’s score levels out after 20+ ratings.
(Update Oct 2017): Well there’s a surprise. After 27 votes on Whiskybase the average score has moved up to nearly 82/100, which is a very good mark. The Whisky Bible 2018 has arrived and Jim Murray gave the ‘Double Cask’ a fantastic 87.5/100, which classifies the malt as ‘very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying’.
Scoring 80/100 from Andy of Malt Box is quite a reasonable score. Here is his review on You Tube (November 2016):
Bought: Tesco, 8th October 2015
83.25/100 – Whiskybase (average from 4 member votes)
With my collector’s hat on, I do like bottles with wax seals! I have this uneducated idea that they’re difficult to fake, unless you’re a pirate from the 16th century, or related to Captain Jack Sparrow. Not that it really matters because this bottle of bourbon by Jim Beam only set me back £16.33 in a Tesco half-price sale. It’s hardly a collector’s item where experts will be carbon dating the wax when I sell it in 2036.
So why Knob Creek? Because I first stumbled across it in the book ‘101 Whiskies To Try Before You Die’ by Ian Buxton. Unfortunately he was talking about the 9-year-old but this NAS (non-aged statement) is as close as I’m bothering to get. Both are 50% bourbon so that’s near enough for me! Ian Buxton says about the name “mildly titillating for UK drinkers in a smutty sort of way”. Oow-er-madam! I will be getting out my box set of Carry On movies when I crack this bottle open and reshaping the seal into an erotic candle! That’s my Saturday night arranged.
Posted in Jim Beam
Tagged 50%, 70cl, America, American, Bourbon, Jim Beam, Kentucky, Knob Creek, NAS, Small Batch, Tesco
Bought: Tesco, 8th October 2015
84.55/100 – Whiskybase (average from 22 member votes)
Dalwhinnie, the quiet distillery. You don’t get many distillery releases but what they do produce is excellent (except for the ‘Winter’s Gold’ and the less said about that the better). There are 37 distillery releases listed on Whiskybase and 18 of these are versions of the ‘Distiller’s Edition’ (DE) over the years. Ratings range from between 83.5/100 to 85.5/100 with one or two outliers. Interestingly the classic Dalwhinnie 15yo scores 81/100 (from nearly 800 votes) and this little beauty scores 95/100 in the Whisky Bible. Hmmm!
In the video below, Captain Whisky gives us his opinion of the DE compared to the standard 15yo release. He scores the 15yo higher with 15/20 versus the DE’s 14/20 (mostly based on price, which is a reasonable comment). Nevertheless he says both are very drinkable, which is what you’d expect from such a distinguished distillery. In his review he reminds me that both whiskies probably contain colouring and are chill-filtered. Naughty Dalwhinnie! One of these years I must find a version that’s raw and natural. Sadly Whiskybase only list 18 independent releases of Dalwhinnie, so finding one could be quite a challenge.
For future reference, I don’t know if the ‘DE’ Captain Whisky is reviewing is the same version as mine but it’s Oloroso Sherry Cask so likely to be very similar.
Posted in Dalwhinnie
Tagged 1992, 43%, 70cl, Dalwhinnie, Distiller's Edition, Highland, Highlands, NAS, Oloroso Sherry Cask, Single Malt, Tesco
Bought: Tesco, 10th September 2015
84.67/100 – Whiskybase (average from 101 member votes)
In the Whisky Bible 2015 the previous ‘Distillers Edition’ 2000/12 scores an amazing 95/100. It also scores 86.13/100 on Whiskybase from 54 votes. 84.67/100 for my bottle is a bit of a slip but both are the same age, strength and double matured in Moscatel cask wood. You’d expect a lot of similarity between the two releases and clearly the quality is kept high for this delightful Islay single malt.
I was hoping to pick out some interesting comments from the reviews on Whiskybase but the majority are in German. English comments about the taste include “peat, chocolate, salt, liquorice, toffee, lime and peach” also “ashes, spices, some gun powder, liquorice and citrus – lemon”. Someone summarises with “nice Islay, to bad for that weak finish” although others say the finish is ‘medium’. Each to their own as usual but clearly this is a very pleasant dram.