Tag Archives: Vatted Malt

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

Nikka White Label

Bought: Amazon, 30th December 2014

Ratings:
90-92/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
81.23/100 – Whiskybase (average from 148 member votes)

Amazon got me again with another great discount in a “Daily Deal”. This Japanese vatted malt comes in 3 different colours: white, red and black. Both the red and the black are based purely on Japanese whiskies but the white includes an element of Islay. What exactly this means is a bit of a mystery, along with the Islay distillery adding the influence. But ‘guesswork’ is part of the fun in the world of whisky, or do I mean ‘frustration’? Curiously Phil of Whisky Wednesday says in his video below that the peat in the White Label comes from the Japanese brands of Yoichi and Miyagikyo, which isn’t what my initial research revealed. Perhaps my initial source was simply hinting at the peat connection with Islay but the White Label is 100% Japanese whisky.

There are 3 different versions of the white label in the Whisky Bible 2015 scoring 90/100, 91/100 and 92/100. Each has a different batch number that sadly doesn’t match anything printed on mine. Jim Murray, the bible author, includes remarks in his reviews of “big peaty number”, “real class” and “peculiarly Japanese feel to this delicately peated delight”. So, depending on the blend, I could either have a “big peaty number” or a “delicately peated delight” or something in between. Whichever it is, anything scoring between 90-93.5/100 is considered “brilliant” in the bible.

Scoring over 81/100 on Whiskybase is very good with comments of “I found this a very friendly whiskey, fit for most occasions” and “not bad, the peat profile was very present but subtle”.

Here’s Whisky Wednesday with their thoughts about the Nikka White Label, which they score 8/10 (YouTube May 2017):

Nikka White Label 50cl

Eleuthera – Compass Box, Vatted Malt

Bought – Justminiatures, 13th November 2013

85/100 – Whisky Bible 2006
87.58/100 – Whiskybase (average from 14 member votes)

This was an impulse buy from Justminiatures because they’d reduced it to £2.99 as an end-of-line item. Compass Box are excellent Scotch whiskymakers, and I’ve enjoyed a bottle of ‘The Spice Tree’ before so I didn’t think £2.99 was much of a risk on another from their range.

When looking on the Compass Box website I was surprised to find that Eleuthera was only in production from 2002 to 2005, so this mini has been kicking around for a minimum of 8 years. This is why I had to dig back to the Whisky Bible 2006 to find a review by Jim Murray. Compass Box say of this whisky on their website:

“Originally available in all our markets, “Eleuthera” was our very first vatted malt. Typically it combined 15 year-old malt whisky from the village of Brora, aged in re-charred hogsheads, with 12 year-old malt from the village of Port Askaig. Jim Murray said of our first release: “Quite simply, one of the most complex and truly magnificent vatted malts of all time. A collector’s piece.” Sadly, when the 15 year-old malt we needed was no longer available aged in re-charred casks, we decided to retire “Eleuthera” rather than overhaul the recipe.”

Sounds good to me! I’m starting to regret only buying the one tiny bottle!

Eleuthera Vatted Malt 5cl

Johnnie Walker Green Label

Bought – ASDA, 25th October 2013

Ratings:
95/100 – Whisky Bible 2010 & 2012
89/100 – Ralfy, of www.ralfy.com
Review: – Ralfy – Johnnie Walker Green Label – YouTube

As Ralfy says “arguably the best of the entire Johnnie Walker range” and it’s his personal Johnnie Walker favourite. Well worth watching his review. It was recorded back in 2010 when Green Label was easy to come by but it has now been discontinued (apparently). There’s several comments about this below the video with Ralfy saying 2 months ago that the Green Label is only available in Taiwan. He goes on to say “now last-stock (I’m told) on shop shelves, a proper collectable!”

The only local source I could find for the Green Label was ASDA. Links I found online often lead to whisky shops saying it was “no longer in stock”. One link showed an old price of £40 but when I clicked through to the shop the latest price was £50! Thankfully it was nearly half that in ASDA. It’s tempting not to drink it and put it away for a decade or two and then see how much it’s worth. But I haven’t tasted it yet, so scrub that idea!

Another confirmation about the demise of the Green Label is its omission from the Whisky Bible 2013. In the 2010 and 2012 editions it was awarded ‘Scotch Vatted Malt Of The Year’ with 95/100. It seems a shame that such a good whisky is to become a thing of the past.

Johnnie Walker Green Label 70cl

Monkey Shoulder

Bought – Tesco, 13th August 2013

Ratings:
79.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2013
79.69/100 – Whiskybase (average from 60 member votes)

79.5/100 in Jim Murray’s ‘Whisky Bible’ classifies this vatted malt as “average and usually pleasant though sometimes flawed”. The author says, “distinctive fault found especially at the finale, which is disappointing. Even before hitting that point a big toffeed personality makes for a pleasant if limited experience.”

79.69/100 on Whiskybase is very consistent with the Whisky Bible score. Comments include “just a good blend”, which seems damning with faint praise.

Although Ralfy of www.ralfy.com doesn’t give this a mark out of 100 (that I’ve found) he does recommend it as part of a video review of 5 good malts. See that here: Ralfy’s Recommended Blended Whisky

Here’s Whiskey Aficionado with his review on You Tube (October 2014):

Monkey Shoulder 70cl