Tag Archives: The Whisky Shop

Lagavulin 8-year-old 200th Anniversary Bottling

Bought: The Whisky Shop, 13th April 2016

86.59/100 – Whiskybase (average from 216 member votes)
89/100 – Ralfy (his YouTube video below)

I don’t know much German but one thing whisky has taught me is that “mit farbstoff” means “with colorant”.  Quite why Lagavulin continue to feel the need to add colour is beyond me. It’s not as if they use clear bottles so you can instantly see how light the whisky would be if it were free of E150. You’d think after 200 years of experience they’d trust their casks to do the natural dye job. But Lagavulin is owned by Diageo where ‘consistency’ is more important than ‘craft’.

The Lagavulin 8yo has been balanced off at 48%, which is suspiciously the same as the Laphroaig Quarter Cask (recently available on Amazon for £25 and free postage, half the price of the Lagavulin). You have to wonder if the folk at Lagavulin tried the QC and thought it had a good level of strength and flavour, which it does. With 20,000 bottles of the Lagavulin 8yo, it’s a ‘limited edition’ but only just in my opinion.

86.59/100 on Whiskybase is an excellent mark and almost 1.5 points ahead of the Laphroaig Quarter Cask. Does that really mean anything? Probably not, other than they’re both good and if you already like each distillery’s offerings you’ll enjoy the QC or the 8yo. Comments for the Lagavulin include “great malt and all the respect for it having an age statement”, “a real belter despite its young age” and “it’s clean and crisp, basically the essence of what Lagavulin’s distillate in capable of. Closing my eyes I feel taken back to my 2014 warehouse tour.”

Here’s Ralfy’s review on You Tube (May 2016):

Lagavulin 200th Anniversary 8yo 70cl

Ailsa Bay – 1st Release

Bought: The Whisky Shop, 26th February 2016

92.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
82.53/100 – Whiskybase (average from 40 member votes)

The Ailsa Bay distillery was built within the Girvan grain complex and opened by the Prince of Wales in 2009. I’m hoping it doesn’t follow the same fate as the Ladyburn distillery, which was also part of the Girvan business but only lasted about 10 years from the 1960s to early 1970s. In 2016 we see this first single malt release from Ailsa Bay at a very agreeable cask strength of 48.9%. Sounds good and looks good too in a very stylish and upright bottle.

When I first found Ailsa Bay on Whiskybase it scored 81.69 from 31 member votes but it’s climbed to 82.53 with 9 more ratings. One scorer, Glennie, scores this whisky 83/100 and summaries with “a nice start from Ailsa Bay. It’s flawless in a way but also without any real distinctive character. It can’t hide its youth, but that’s OK! Very quaffable and perhaps a good place to start for someone not used to peaty whiskies. And yes! I will characterise it as peaty, but not heavily peated by any mean. A few drops of water improve it. It’s too expensive IMHO. But a good one to try in a whisky club for instance.”

Scoring 92.5/100 in the Whisky Bible classifies this new single malt as “brilliant”. The author, Jim Murray, says about the taste “brilliant mix of grist and soot, as the phenols get in early and hard. Predominately dry, exactly as the nose suggest, but just enough molasses to keep the balance honest. ” He summaries with “a resounding success of a first effort, though I’d like to see the finish offer a little more than it currently does. Early days, though.”

It will be interesting to see what future releases from Ailsa Bay will be like but it seems their initial opener is a decent one.

Here’s Ben of ‘A Dram A Day’ with his review on You Tube (April 2016):

Ailsa Bay NAS 70cl

Glenfarclas 1994

Bought: The Whisky Shop, 28th January 2016

95.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2016
84.5/100 – Whiskybase (average from 2 member votes)
8.5/10 – Whisky Wednesday (their video review below)

In September 2014 I started a list of possible birthday presents for my brother when he turns 50 in 2018. There were 3 bottles of whisky on the list distilled in 1968, the year he was born. All 3 were similarly priced at £180. I looked at the list 18 months later and, to my surprise, one of the bottles was still available on its original shop page. The price? £430, an increase of £250, such is the crazy nature of the whisky market.

I thought of this story because of Glenfarclas and their ‘Family Cask’ range, which seems designed to answer the demand for older vintages, often caused by birthdays such as my brother’s. I sometimes see on whisky forums and Facebook pages that dram drinkers have treated themselves to a bottle from the year of their birth. The only Glenfarclas ‘Family Cask’ I can find from 1968 is selling for £2,190! Blimey! And I thought £430 was bad enough! Is it greed or market forces? If I’d increased my business prices by nearly 150% in the last 18 months I’d have lost all my clients but the whisky industry keeps on booming (for now). But, as a Scot, can I really complain about a Scottish industry coining in a fortune during the good times? I’m actually quite proud, and my brother is reduced to getting socks for his birthday.

Thankfully you don’t have to spend a fortune to get a good example of Glenfarclas. This bottle distilled in 1994 and bottled in 2014 (19/20yo) scores an amazing 95.5/100 in the Whisky Bible 2016 and cost less than £80. The Glenfarclas Family Cask 1969 scores 8 points less but costs more than £800! The author, Jim Murray, describes the taste of the 1994 as “a delivery to die for….the cleanest, juiciest grape on the vine, at times eye-wateringly juicy and proud enough to absorb the continuing waves of toasty oak; a few sharper sauternes and marmalade notes mingle before the oils begin to form”. He summaries with “not far off God’s gift to present day sherried malt whisky.” 95.5/100 classifies this malt as a “superstar whisky that gives us all a reason to live”.

Here’s Whisky Wednesday on You Tube with their review (December 2016):

Glenfarclas 1994 NAS 70cl

Glendullan 13-year-old

Bought: The Whisky Shop, 18th January 2016

80/100 – Whiskybase (from 1 member vote)

Glendullan distillery is nothing if not a survivor. It began life in 1897 and almost immediately was hit by the post-Victorian slump in the whisky industry. It survived and kept going to this day through various hard times. What is Glendullan’s secret? In a cutthroat industry I can only assume it’s because the facilities at the distillery are exceptionally good at producing consistent and high-quality whisky. Owned by Diageo, Glendullan is a key component for blending and is found in Old Parr, Johnnie Walker, Bell’s and Dewar’s.

Designed for blending and being an excellent single malt don’t always go hand-in-hand but it seems that Glendullan could be one of the rare gems that’s good at both. There are only 5 Glendullan single malts listed in the Whisky Bible 2016, 4 score 87/100 or above (2 in the 90s) with only one scoring a lowly 73/100 (the ‘Singleton of Glendullan Library’). As I look through the 140+ bottles of Glendullan listed on Whiskybase, most average in the 80s-90s out of 100.

This is my second whisky by independent bottler ‘Douglas of Drumlanrig’ who have a nice habit of keeping things un-chill filtered, natural colour and at least 46%. Details on the bottle say:

Nose: flowers, vanilla, orchard fruits on a wet day

Palate: slightly peppery, dark chocolate, hazelnuts

Finish: long and dry, a nutty aftertaste

Although there were only 411 bottles produced of this delightful Speysider, it’s unlikely to make much money as a collector’s item unless the distillery closes down (this seems unlikely but you never know – anyone got a match?). Glendullan is rather too obscure to have many avid followers so it’s more for the drinking pleasure of something different than a long-term investment.

Glendullan 13yo 70cl

Kininvie 23-year-old Batch 3

Bought: The Whisky Shop, 27th October 2015

84.29/100 – Whiskybase (average from 26 member votes)

This is my 3rd bottle of Kininvie and most definitely my last. I might be a crazy whisky collector but the latest Kininvie 25yo for £400 is bonkers when you consider it’s only 35cl. Even if it were 70cl it would be competing against the likes of the Highland Park 30yo and Kininvie isn’t in the same league as the Orkney giant. The novelty of these ‘rare’ Kininvie bottlings has worn off for me and if they keep churning out the releases it wont make much of an investment either!

As I did a bit more research into Kininvie I discovered that the Wikipedia entry about the distillery is several years out of date. Only the single malts named ‘Hazelwood’ are mentioned (a 15 and 17-year-old). There is no mention of the 6 single malts released with the Kininvie name, 3 batches of a 23-year-old and 1 batch of a 17-year-old. Whiskybase mention 2 batches of the latest 25-year-old. What’s also strange is the absence of the distillery in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible. Perhaps he couldn’t afford a sample?!

84.29/100 on Whiskybase is a very good mark for my latest Kininvie 23yo. One reviewer summarises with “the combination of bourbon and sherry casks along with the 23 year maturation generates a wonderful balanced malt with lots of depth and richness. Dried fruit, zesty orange, flower meadow and quite a hot mix of spices compose this luxurious whisky, which definitely has a fair amount of American oak maturation.”

A good whisky that’s overpriced and half the quantity it should be.

Here’s Ben of ‘A Dram A Day’ with his review on You Tube (November 2016):

Kininvie 23yo Batch 3 35cl

Loch Fyne Living Cask Batch 1

Bought: The Whisky Shop, 27th October 2015

92/100 – Whisky Bible 2016
86/100 – Whiskybase (from 1 member vote)

I like the idea of a ‘Living Cask’. Initially I thought it was a bit of a gimmick until I read more about it. It’s a vatting together of malts where part of the cask is drawn off and bottled up before more malt is added, so some of the whisky lives on, mixed with the new. The ‘Living Cask’ concept is used here by Richard Joynson, the owner and founder of Loch Fynes Whisky, which he opened in Inveraray, West Scotland, in 1993.

Jim Murray, author of the Whisky Bible, has loved nearly every versions of the Living Cask he’s reviewed over the years. The ‘Anniversary Offering’ listed in the 2006 Bible only scored 79/100 but most other versions score 90/100 or above. In the 2016 Bible the taste of my Batch 1 reads “a volley of intense sugars, further enlivened by prickly spice makes for a memorable kick off. The smoke continues to drift and offer anchor; unusually, the texture actually becomes silkier as the flavours develop.” Mr Murray concludes with “absolutely charming” and 92/100 classifies this dram as “brilliant”.

This vatted malt, gimmick or not, certainly gets good reviews. Whether that justifies a price tag of £42 given it’s only 50cl rather than 70cl is debatable especially when you consider the many wonderful single malts you can buy for a similar price. But if you’ve tried all those and fancy something different, the Living Cask certainly ticks the boxes for uniqueness and quality.

Loch Fyne Living Cask Batch 1 NAS 50cl

Laphroaig 18-year-old

Bought: The Whisky Shop, 17th June 2015

94/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
85/100 – Ralfy – His review on You Tube here (April 2012)
87.98/100 – Whiskybase (average from 272 member votes)

94/100 from Jim Murray in his Whisky Bible classifies this single malt from Islay as a “superstar whisky that gives us all a reason to live”. That’s assuming you like throat sweets of course. In his review Mr Murray says of the taste “perhaps it’s the big leg-up from the rampant hickory, but the peat here offers a vague Fisherman’s Friend cough sweet quality far more usually associated with Bowmore, except here it comes in a milder, Demerara-sweetened form with a few strands of liquorice helping that hickory to a gentler level.” He summarises with “this is Laphroaig’s replacement for the woefully inadequate and gutless 15-year-old. And talk about taking a giant step in the right direction. Absolutely brimming with character and panache, from the first molecules escaping the bottle as you pour to the very final ember dying on the middle of your tongue.”

It’s interesting what Jim Murray has to say about the former 15yo because, whatever your opinion of it, bottles can make over £200 at auction. Now that the 18yo has been discontinued you have to wonder what it will be like as an investment. Perhaps bottles will be selling for £300+ in the not-to-distant future.

Watch out for that TCP taste, which is mentioned both on Whiskybase and by Ralfy. Unfortunately so is the presence of added colourant. Ralfy has a rant about this and in summary he says the whisky is “decent but not great”. Nevertheless 85/100 is an excellent mark from him. Nearly 88/100 on Whiskybase is very high with comments of “a strong showing by Laphroaig. I like this one much better than the new (and old) 15yo” and “very smooth and silky. Like it a lot! This is a very elegant expression with a nice strength!”

Laphroaig 18yo 70cl

Talisker 5-year-old

Bought: The Whisky Shop, 11th May 2015

87/100 – Whiskybase (based on 1 member vote)

To a collector, this bottle has several plus points. It’s from a good distillery, it’s from a limited release of 437 bottles, and it has the year of distillation on it (2008). Unfortunately, it’s only 5 years old. Recently I was looking at a bottle of Glen Grant 5yo, distilled in 1970, selling for £180. That’s 38 years older than my Talisker, which cost about £60. If I have to wait 38 years to sell it at auction for a £120 profit, pass me a straw and I’ll drink it now! You could argue that the Glen Grant 5yo wasn’t a limited release but it’s bottled by the distillery. My Talisker is by an independent bottler, which generally makes less money at auction than a distillery bottling.

Thankfully I’m a big fan of the Talisker taste, so this bottle is destined for consumption. I’ve often heard it said of Islay whiskies that they taste good at a young age (and they do) because of their robust and flavoursome nature. This got me wondering if it would be the same or similar with Talisker, which has a very rounded and distinctive taste. Although not as powerful as some of the pungent Islays, I’m sure 5 years of maturing will bring out some of the early qualities of Talisker.

With a mere 437 bottles in existence, I’m not surprised there is only one review on Whiskybase but 87/100 is an excellent score. I hope I agree when I finally get a chance to taste it. I feel a comparison with the 10yo coming on!

Talisker 5yo 70cl

Kilchoman Original Cask Strength – 59.2%

Bought: The Whisky Shop, 11th May 2015

86.6/100 – Whiskybase (average from 107 member votes)

This bottle certainly puts the ‘kill’ in Kilchoman because it assassinated my blog for over a month. I couldn’t find any reviews to add links to or discuss. I was surprised to find, or not find any mention of it on Whiskybase. Thankfully it’s been added now and 86.6/100 from 107 votes is a fantastic score.

I have several bottles of Kilchoman in my collection but, to my shame, I’m yet to taste any of them. It looks like the only way to get my blog moving again is to crack this bottle open. On the back of the box we have the following tasting remarks:

  • Nose: Soft peaty aromas, citrus and pear drops.
  • Palate: Sweetness first, soft peat smoke and ripe fruity notes.
  • Finish: Long and clean with peat smoke and citrus later.

I agree with all of these. From my nosing I got peat, citrus and pear drops but also grass, vanilla, and memories of Ledaig and Yamazaki. Not quite the combination I was expecting. I tried a Ledaig later and realised there were similarities but the Kilchoman was much more subtle. The 59.2% certainly wasn’t, which helped provide a nicely rounded body and long finish.

This is such a delightful whisky I’m left wondering why I hadn’t tried Kilchoman before. Perhaps I was worried I’d become an addict! There are so many versions of Kilchoman available, it would cost a fortune to track them all down. But if you’ve never tried this distillery before, I’d recommend it. If you’ve never tried any Islay whisky then Kilchoman would be a good starting point. None of the bottles I have mention ‘medicinal’ in their tasting notes, which is the flavour I found hardest to appreciate when I first tried the likes of Laphroaig. I got there eventually though!

Kilchoman Original Cask Strength NAS 70cl

Glenturret ‘Sherry Edition’

Bought: The Whisky Shop, 18th November 2014

79.48/100 – Whiskybase (average from 27 member votes)

Happy New Year! I hope 2015 is a great year for you!

Generally I like to have a rating for a whisky I post up on my blog. Sadly, none of my usual sources have assessed this single malt from Glenturret. It caught my eye when I was looking at The Whisky Shop website. Having got the 10yo, and Triple Wood, I was left with a choice between the ‘Sherry Edition’ and ‘Peated Edition’. Which one to get first? My sweet tooth got the better of me but I’d like to get the peated version eventually.

The Triple Wood, Sherry and Peated editions are supposedly exclusive to The Whisky Shop here in the UK, which might make them collectable but I doubt it. Saying that, I notice today that The Whisky Shop website no longer has the Sherry and Peated editions. Perhaps if the Whisky Bible rates my latest acquisition 99/100 in the 2016 publication I’ll be able to sell it for a fortune! 🙂

The label on the back of the bottle says “Glenturret’s Master of Whisky has hand selected the best sherry casks to create this rich Single Malt Whisky. Homemade syrup sponge meets the nose with a sweetness and warmth that invites you in. The taste is of puff candy layered with aromatic sandalwood and smooth, sweet spices.”

Sounds yummy! 😛

Here’s Horst Luening of Whisky.com with his review on You Tube (June 2015):

Glenturret Sherry Edition NAS 70cl