Tag Archives: Vatted Malt

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):

Gerston ‘Classic Selection’ (43%)


Bought: Amazon, 31st July 2020

Ratings:

81.22/100 – Whiskybase (average from 25 member votes)

Gerston distillery, of which there were two incarnations, was founded in 1796 by Francis Swanson on his farm near the Thurso river at Halkirk. In modern terms it’s not far from Old Pulteney distillery in Wick but not as far north as Wolfburn distillery on the north coast of Scotland. Halkirk is only 14 miles south of Wolf Burn. In 1825 Francis handed the business over to his son James who ran it until 1872 when it was sold. By 1875 Gerston distillery was closed and eventually demolished in 1882. 76 years as a successful family run business then 10 years to be destroyed. It goes to show how much pride and care people take when it’s something they or their family started. This reminds me, I must buy some more Glenfarclas!

There was a second Gerston distillery, 1886 to 1914 but ‘The Lost Distillery Company’ (TLDC) focus their attention on the original incarnation with this intriguing vatted malt, which blends together modern whisky in an attempt to recreate the Gerston single malt experience. The distillery used local peat, which had quite a briny, salty edge to it as a consequence of repeated glacial cover during the Ice Age. TLDC mention smoke and salt in their tasting notes but not peat (nor does any other review I can find) so it must be quite subtle (more sweet peat than medicinal). It sounds like Old Pulteney could be a significant contributor to the mix with the salt and brine.

Scoring 81.22/100 on Whiskybase is a reasonable score for the Gerston. In fact it’s almost identical to the 81.23/100 score for the standard Old Pulteney 12yo, so you know what to expect. Comments online include “love the bottle, light colour but packs a punch, sweet nose then a salty taste of the sea” and “pleased with this whisky, sweet and salty. Interesting story behind this product, keen to try more in the range.”

It is said that at its peak Gerston whisky was purchased by Lord Thurso of Thurso Castle and introduced to prominent politicians such as Prime Minister Sir Robert Peel. Other notable consumers included the Duke of Wellington and the Archbishop of York, so you’re in interesting company when you take a sip. Aaaaah, to have a time machine!

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: New leather, dried barley, charred oak and apple turnover.

Palate: Peanut brittle, olive oil, mint leaf and more pastry notes.

Finish: A subtly salty kick on the finish.

Here’s ‘Whisky Wednesday’ with his thoughts about the Gerston miniature on YouTube (July 2017):

Lossit ‘Classic Selection’ (43%)

Bought: Amazon, 31st July 2020

Ratings:
80.57/100 – Whiskybase (average from 76 member votes)

Given the popularity of Islay whisky it’s not surprising that ‘The Lost Whisky Company’ (TLWC) wanted to add a closed distillery from the island to their range. Lossit was a farm distillery on Islay that operated between 1817 and 1867. There’s an area called Lossit on the west side of the island to this day, and a Lossit Point, Lossit Bay, Lossit Burn….you get the picture. There’s still a lotta Lossit! Where the farm distillery used to be is now part of the Dunlossit estate, with the nearest active distillery being Caol Ila.

As a farm, Lossit was able to use its own barley for the creation of whisky, which was very useful on an island in the first half of the 19th century. The distillery is described as being a founding father of Islay’s legal whisky trade that saw the number of distilleries on the island increase from 6 to 12 (similar number to today) between 1824 and 1830. By 1831 Lossit was the most productive of Islay’s distilleries (over 78,000 litres that year) beating such rivals as Bowmore and Lagavulin. Wimps!

You have to think that the Lossit blended malt created by TLWC takes most, if not all its whisky from Islay distilleries. The official summary of the dram says “the freshness of a Kilchoman Machir Bay and the austere poise of an old Glendullan (with smoke added)”, which sounds quite intriguing. Comments about the Lossit whisky online include “a sweet blend, velvety, but basic too”, “very approachable as it’s peated but also light and sweet with almond and vanilla undertones” and “it was delightfully peaty along with some of that thick sweetness characteristic of a good, young Islay malt”

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Damp oak, earthy peat and a hearty helping of milk chocolate.

Palate: Cigar box, buttered crumpets, sea salt light hints of basil.

Finish: Remains packed with vanilla and peat.

Here’s Whisky Wednesday with their thoughts about the Lossit on YouTube (July 2017):

Dalaruan ‘Classic Selection’ (43%)

Bought: Amazon, 31st July 2020

Ratings:
83.83/100 – Whiskybase (average from 26 member votes)

I first came across ‘The Lost Distillery Company’ (TLDC) in 2014 not long after the company had been founded the previous year. This was before the evils of Brexit when the British pound was strong against the Euro and peaked in 2015 at over 1.40€ to £1 before the moronic referendum. 70cl bottles by TLDC could be bought from Holland for the equivalent of £25 when they were about £35 in the UK. I was tempted but resisted. I wasn’t sure how serious to take vatted malts created to taste like whisky from bygone distilleries. Whose to say how accurate they are. It sounded more like a light-hearted novelty but a tempting one nonetheless.

When in doubt try a sample, dram, or a miniature if you can find one. You can always commit to a full bottle thereafter if the whisky meets with your approval. TLDC have their heads screwed on because they’ve had miniatures of their whisky available for quite a while. For £35.99 from Amazon (£6 each per 5cl) I bought the ‘Discovery Selection’, which included this Dalaruan, along with Lossit, Gerston, Towiemore, Stratheden and Auchnagie.

Dalaruan is an interesting one for fans of Glen Scotia, Kilkerran and Springbank because it was a Campbeltown distillery. You have to think a recreation of Dalaruan will contain a mix of the existing Campbeltown output, much like The Gauldrons by Douglas Laing that I recently acquired (a topic for a future post). TLDC discuss the history of Dalaruan here and mention on the bottle that it ran from 1825 to 1925 but I have other sources that say 1824 to 1922. Not that it makes much odds. It’s not coming back, especially as there’s a housing estate built where the distillery used to be. As a fan of the Campbeltown profile I’ll be interested to see what TLDC have recreated for Dalaruan after nearly 100 years since its closure. I may have to buy a 70cl bottle!

Tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Earthy/herbaceous peat smoke, paired with juicy orchard fruit.

Palate: The smoke notes become more coastal on the palate. Remains filled with apple and apricot in the background.

Finish: Herbaceous once again, with a touch of sea breeze.

Johnnie Walker Green Label (2015 -)

Bought: World Duty Free, 22nd March 2016

Ratings:
82.67/100 – Whiskybase (average from 8 member votes) for 100cl version
84/100 – Ralfy (of www.ralfy.com)

The Johnnie Walker ‘Green Label’ first appeared in 2005 but by 2013 it was discontinued everywhere other than in Asia. In 2015 it returned (hurray!) with a limited edition to mark its 10-year anniversary. But rather than disappear again it has remained due to popular demand, and by having enough stock of the whisky that go into this blended malt. As it states on the box this is a vatting together of Talisker, Linkwood, Cragganmore and Caol Ila, which all have to be a minimum of 15 years old. And with no grain whisky to interfere with the mix you get to play a guessing game as to which of these 4 classic single malts you can spot in the taste.

Even though it’s been 2 years since the Green Label (GL) returned I see that Jim Murray’s ‘Whisky Bible’ book still contains his review from many years ago (95/100) so I haven’t included that. 82.6/100 on Whiskybase is for my 100cl version but the 70cl scores higher with 83.4/100 from 76 votes (it’s the same stuff in both bottles). That’s a pretty good score. Comments include “no big challenge, no need of too much attention. Simple but decent”, “what it lacks is a bit of power, but then again, the balance between subtle smoke and sweetness is well-done” and “initial taste is very good and promising, but the body never delivers. And it’s just downhill from there, with an almost non existing finish.”

Although ratings appear to be good the new GL clearly has its faults, especially to those who tried the previous incarnation. When Ralfy did his first YouTube review of the GL in 2010 he scored it a fantastic 89/100 but in his re-review in 2016 (below) he’s downgraded it to 84/100. He felt it had been slightly sanitised since his last review. ‘Malts of Montreal’ says in his YouTube review of September 2015 (here) that the old version was more smoky and peaty whereas the new GL is sweeter. This could well upset the Coal Ila and Talisker fans and I certainly didn’t taste as much Talisker as I was hoping when I tried it. But overall, without comparison to the previous version, the Johnnie Walker Green Label is a good blended malt and an enjoyable experience on the palate.

Ralfy’s thoughts on YouTube (April 2016):

Poit Dhubh 12-year-old (46% version)

Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 10th January 2017

Ratings:
88/100 – Whisky Bible 2006
81/100 – Whiskybase (from 1 member vote)
81/100 – Serge Valentin of Whiskyfun.com

You wouldn’t look at “Poit Dhubh” and think it was pronounced “Potch Ghoo” but it is. That’s the wonders of the Gaelic language for you. As it proudly states on the back of the 70cl bottle “malt whisky specially produced for the Gaelic speaking islands of the Scottish Hebrides and for connoisseurs throughout the world”. It goes on to say that Poit Dhubh (meaning ‘black pot’, a term for an illicit still) is not chill-filtered to ensure the “oils contribute to its rare and soft, distinguishing flavour”. Marketing also states that its entirely natural so no added caramel either. And at 46% this whisky is looking worthy of 88/100 in Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible 2006, which classifies the Poit Dhubh as “very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying”.

The Poit Dhubh 12yo is still produced today by Pràban na Linne Limited (The Gaelic Whisky Company) along with an 8yo and 21yo. They also do the blends ‘Té Bheag’ and ‘Mac Na Mara’. The current Poit Dhubh is still natural but 43% compared to my older 46% version. Quite when the 46% bottle dates from is unclear (2005?) but there are 10 different versions of the Poit Dhubh 12yo listed on Whiskybase. Strangely Whiskybase categorise my bottle as ‘single malt’ but elsewhere it’s described as vatted or blended malt (as is the current 43% version). Scotch Whisky Auctions sold a bottle of Poit Dhubh 12yo, 46%, in July 2014, which they summarised as “vatted malt (technically a combination of several single malts). Talisker comprises the majority of the malt, reflecting the provenance of its parent company, which is based on the Isle of Skye. The remainder of the blend is composed of various Speyside malts.”

Serge Valentin of Whiskyfun.com gives the Poit Dhubh 12yo 46% a very good 81/100 and remarks, “I think it’s the best Poit Dhubh I ever had, but I think I only had three or four before. Good stuff but at the same price, why not buy the genuine single malt from that island?” [Talisker]. His tasting notes consist of:

Nose: Dry whisky. Notes of wet chalk, very faint smoke, paper, lager beer and lemon-sprinkled porridge, then sea air. More smoke but also more notes of old wood (barrel) after a moment.
Taste: I don’t know if it’s my mind playing tricks to me but it does taste like Talisker (Pràban na Linne are on Skye.) ‘Smoked oranges’, pepper, salt, lime and kippers.
Finish: Rather long, more on lemon.

Here’s Ralfy with his review of the more modern 43% version of the Poit Dhubh 12yo, which he scores a fantastic 89/100 (May 2010):

Arthur J. A. Bell’s Vat No.1

Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 10th January 2017

Ratings:
None I can find.

Arthur J.A. Bell (1946-2015) is not to be confused with Arthur Bell (1825-1900) who founded the famous Bell’s blend. But the two names are very much connected in the realms of whisky history. Arthur J.A. Bell (J.A.) was born in Brechin in 1946 and went to Edinburgh University where he was the co-author of “A Complete Edinburgh Pub Guide”, which sold 20,000 copies. In 1973 J.A. set up the company ‘Scottish Direct’ to sell high quality art and crafts. The company relocated to a disused tweed mill in Biggar, South Lanarkshire, and formed ‘Scottish Gourmet’ to sell local produce by mail order.

J.A. was known as the “The Whisky Connoisseur” and it was under this name that his company bottled and sold numerous single malts. They were given their own unique names such as Taranty (Glencadam) and Honest Tam (Balvenie). The full list that I know of can be found here. It wasn’t until 1985 when Guinness made a hostile takeover of Bell’s Whisky in Perth that J.A. came up with the idea of a blended whisky under the name ‘Scottish Gourmet’. He checked with his lawyer that it would be OK to add his signature to the label of the blend. Although his lawyer said it was OK, Guinness took Arthur J.A. Bell to court, only to end up losing. J.A. wrote an article about the story here.

The original ‘Scottish Gourmet’ blend (later named ‘The Real Macoy’) consisted of Glenfarclas, Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Springbank mixed with a single grain from the Highlands aged for well over 10 years. Although my miniature ‘Vat No.1’ shouldn’t contain any grain I’m hoping it has some or all of the Scottish Gourmet single malts vatted together at a blended cask strength of 47.3%. Here’s hoping!

Articles written by Arthur J.A. Bell, the Whisky Connoisseur, can be located here.

An obituary of Arthur J.A. Bell can be located here.

Big Peat – 20cl

Bought: Master of Malt, 3rd August 2016

Ratings:
96/100 – Whisky Bible 2011
8.5/100 – Jo from Whisky Wednesday (video below)
84.83/100 – Whiskybase (average from 25 member votes)

Big Peat first appeared in the Whisky Bible in 2011 with a fantastic score of 96/100. In the latest edition batch 30 scores 92/100 and batch 31 scores 90.5/100, which means quality has slipped a little (according to the author) but not by much. Unfortunately my 20cl bottle doesn’t have a batch number on it but according to Whiskybase this quarter bottle first appeared in 2009. I’m hoping my version dates back to that time and the epic 96/100. The author concludes with “had the Caol Ila been reduces slightly, and with it the oils, this might well have been World Whisky of the Year”. Praise indeed.

Big Peat is a vatting together of Islay single malts. Douglas Laing who make Big Peat describe it as “Caol Ila spirit bringing sweetness, Bowmore the perfect balance, Ardbeg the medicinal, earthy quality and Port Ellen, a degree of elegance”. But as the price of Port Ellen rises you have to think there’s very little going into the Big Peat mix. I bet I won’t be able to identify it. Nevertheless Big Peat is a classic of its time and a dram that every whisky enthusiast should try eventually.

20cl tasting notes provided on Whiskybase:

Nose: Earthy, mossy and briney. That smoked kipper quality. Some ripe fruits lurk.
Taste: The smoke coats and fills the mouth. A decent oak roasted salmon oiliness. Leaves a little salt as well.
Finish: Long with plenty of smoke and sweet honey.

Here’s Jo from Whisky Wednesday with his review on You Tube (June 2015):

Big Peat NAS 20cl

The ‘ONE’ by The Lakes Distillery

Bought: Amazon, 29th October 2015

Ratings:
84.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2016
79.33/100 – Whiskybase (average from 11 member votes)

Well that’s embarrassing. I bought this bottle in an Amazon ‘Lightening Deal’ 7 months ago and forgot to add it to my list. I have to thank Ben of ‘A Dram A Day’ for doing a video about it (see below), which reminded me I had the ‘ONE’ and made me realise it was missing from this blog. Oooop!

The ‘ONE’ is a blend (or vatting – see later) by the new Lakes Distillery, opened in 2014, which they’re selling whilst waiting for their single malt to be ready. The blend is made up of whiskies from Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland. Whisky Bible author Jim Murray quite likes it. 84.5/100 classifies the ‘ONE’ as ‘good whisky worth trying’ but you wouldn’t think so from his review. After an interesting nose he says about the taste “on the palate is a disappointment, with any complexity desired submerged under a welter of dull caramels. Just too flat and soft for its own good.”

Curiously, experienced whisky taster and reviewer Mark Dermul has the exact opposite to say about the ‘ONE’. On Whiskybase he remarks “the nose did not amount to much, but I quite like it on the palate.” Although he does think it tastes rather watery but is convinced there is some Islay whisky in there (in a good way).

Although the ‘ONE’ is described as a blend, Jim Murray believes it’s a vatted malt, so a blend of single malts. On the other hand Ben of ‘A Dram A Day’ believes there could be as much as 60% grain. One thing that’s apparent is there has been more than one version of the ‘ONE’. Whiskybase reviewer ‘jazzpianofingers’ has commented about two versions and says of the second “really coming along nicely. Improvement on the last batch, far more consistency and clarity with a firm direction”.

Ben of ‘A Dram A Day’ gives us his thoughts on You Tube (April 2016):

The ONE NAS 70cl

Loch Fyne Living Cask Batch 1

Bought: The Whisky Shop, 27th October 2015

Ratings:
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