Tag Archives: Whisky Exchange

Highland Park ‘Valkyrie’

Bought: The Whisky Exchange, 11th May 2017

86.82/100 – Whiskybase (average from 64 member votes)

Highland Park have obviously decided it was time for a change and 2017 sees the start of a new design for their label and packaging across their core range and the new ‘Valkyrie’. And I love it! Unfortunately it makes the old bottles look rather plain and dated, like having a modern car sitting beside a Ford Granada. But the old design has been kicking around for about 10 years and was clearly in need of an update. The new look pushes further towards Orkney’s Nordic ancestry, and the nipped-in waist of the bottle suggests many hours in the gym working on those obliques!

The Valkyrie replaces the ‘Dark Origins’ and begins a series of 3 new bottles to appear over the next 3 years. Already the Valkyrie is over 2 points ahead of the Dark Origins on Whiskybase, which is very impressive. Comments for the Valkyrie include, “quite weird HP with heavily peated. I like it. The weakness is the finish.” And “Not a bad HP after all, very mineral with a rather short finish.” But someone on ‘Master of Malt’ says “lingering finish” where the Valkyrie scores 4/5 stars from 6 reviews. On ‘The Whisky Exchange’ it scores 5/5 stars from 6 reviews with comments of “a fantastic rounded dram” and “near perfection”.

Although some reviewers find the Valkyrie underwhelming (especially the finish), the majority are very impressed with this new offering from Highland Park. With 250,000 bottles and a reasonable price tag of £55, it’s a good start for a new series, which will include Valknut and Valhalla in 2018 and 2019.

Tasting notes from ‘Master of Malt’:

Nose: Chocolate and some nutmeg off the bat before the smoke develops, balanced by dried apricot, plum and, increasingly, zesty orange too.
Palate: Plump dried fruits are complimented by vanilla, dried apple and waves of smoke and wood spice.
Finish: Liquorice and more fruit too, plus a return of some chocolatey notes.

Here’s Horst Luening of Whisky.com with his thoughts on YouTube about the Highland Park Valkyrie (June 2017):

Crown Royal ‘Black’ – 5cl

Bought: Whisky Exchange, 28th September 2016

86/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
82/100 – Whisky Whistle (video review below)
78.06/100 – Whiskybase (average from 20 member votes)

Before Crown Royal shot to fame when Jim Murray awarded the ‘Northern Harvest Rye’ edition his Whisky of the Year 2016 I was mainly interested in the bottle shape. It’s curvy, chunky and would look good on the sideboard. Whether the Harvest Rye deserved 97.5/100 is debatable but the ‘Black’ scores a more modest 86/100, which classifies it as “very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying”. Jim Murray says “not for the squeamish: a Canadian that goes for it with bold strokes from the off which makes it a whisky worth discovering. The finish needs a rethink, though.”

78.06/100 on Whiskybase might not sound all that great but the ‘Northern Harvest Rye’ has a very similar score with 78.54/100 from 98 votes. The standard ‘Fine De Luxe’ can only muster 72.5/100 from 81 votes so I’m confident that the Black is a step up from that.

Here’s Whisky Whistle with his review on You Tube (December 2015):


Nikka Taketsuru ‘Pure Malt’

Bought: Whisky Exchange, 28th September 2016

82.34/100 – Whiskybase (average from 120 member votes)
89/100 – Scotch Test Dummies (their video review below)

The details of this Japanese blend on The Whisky Exchange (TWE) reads, “Taketsuru’s no-age-statement blended malt contains a high percentage of malt from Miyagikyo, with the remainder coming from Yoichi. Aged on average for around 10 years in a variety of different cask types, including some sherry wood for extra richness.”

TWE are selling a full 70cl for £47.95, which is quite expensive but it seems this whisky is better than your average blend no matter what its country of origin. Scoring 82.34/100 on Whiskybase is a very good mark. Comments include “Elegance and finness. Excellent sipping whisky.” And “A lovely smooth and delicate malt, I highly recommend this one, nothing flash about it but hits the spot every time.”

Here are Scotch Test Dummies with their review on You Tube (July 2016):


Suntory ‘Kakubin’

Bought: Whisky Exchange, 28th September 2016

92/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
73.7/100 – Whiskybase (average from 12 member vote)

This Japanese blend is a bit of a curiosity, especially when you compare the Whisky Bible rating to the average score on Whiskybase. Jim Murray’s mark of 92/100 in his Whisky Bible 2017 classifies this whisky as ‘brilliant’. His review consists of “absolutely brilliant blend of stunningly refreshing and complex character. One of the most improved brands in the world.” It seems a shame then that the only place on Whiskybase that’s selling it says it’s discontinued. Because of that they’re charging €50 for a bottle when a Whiskybase member says it sells for the equivalent of €20 in Japan.

Scoring nearly 74/100 on Whiskybase suggests a poor-to-average whisky. Comments include, “cheap rice wine” and “this isn’t a great whisky but it is certainly an unusual, fascinating and educational one. It has its moments too – that candid vodka note is pleasing in this example and the balance between the spice, sour citrus and sugar is good. Overall though it’s totally underpowered and rather an oddity.”

Here’s Frozen Summers with his review on You Tube (May 2015):


Tomatin ‘Port Casks’ 14-year-old (2016)

Bought: Whisky Exchange, 28th September 2016

92.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
84.35/100 – Whiskybase (average from 22 member vote)

The Tomatin ‘Port Casks’ 14yo first appeared in 2014 in the old, basic bottle shape. In 2016 the whole Tomatin age statement range got redressed in a new style of bottle. I love this new look but to keep costs down I only got a miniature of this 14yo. The tasting notes provided by Tomatin have stayed the same so it seems the liquid inside is the same formula as the old 2014 bottling, which means I can quote old reviews for the new version. The score of 92.5/100 in the Whisky Bible ranks this single malt as “brilliant” and the author says about the taste “salivating, as a Tomatin delivery so often is. But here we get all juiced up by succulent fruit, helped along by glazed muscovado.”

84.35/100 on Whiskybase is a fantastic score and refers to the new 2016 version. The 2014 bottle scores 82.59/100 so perhaps Tomatin have made some improvements to the Port Casks mix, or maybe the lovely bottle enhances the drinker’s enjoyment of the contents. It’s surprising how subtle things like that can make a difference to how something tastes. A quality presentation makes you anticipate a quality product.

Here are the tasting notes from Master of Malt:

Nose: Quite a powerful nose. Big bunches of red berries and grapes. Vanilla, oak and hints of white pepper.
Palate: Dark chocolate dipped in strawberries. Crushed almonds, walnuts, Victoria sponge (with jam and cream in the middle) and a centre of oak.
Finish: Fruity on the finish.

Scotch Test Dummies review the old-style 2014 version (January 2015):


Port Askaig 100 Proof

Bought: Whisky Exchange, 28th September 2016

96.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2017
85.74/100 – Whiskybase (average from 96 member votes)

I’ve wanted an example of the mystery malt Port Askaig for several years so it’s nice to finally add it to my collection. The ‘100 Proof’ is non-age statement and the cheapest of the latest Port Askaig bottlings listed on their website (here), which includes a 16yo, 19yo, 30yo and 45yo. But, saying that, The Whisky Exchange list an 8yo that’s £5 less than the 100 Proof.

A few weeks after I bought the Port Askaig ‘100 Proof’ I got my copy of the Whisky Bible 2017 and discovered it had come second to the Glenlivet Cipher in the category of ‘best single malt, no age statement (multiple casks)’. With a score of 96.5/100 the author, Jim Murray, considers the ‘100 Proof’ to be a “superstar whisky that gives us all a reason to live”. He says of the taste, “the sugars melt in the mouth on impact. Just a light oiliness coats the mouth sufficiently for the citrus phenols to ensure there are two distinct weights on display. Yet, somehow, they seem equally poised.” He concludes with “just exemplary, high quality Islay: a must experience malt. If you find a more beautifully paced, elegant and weighted Islay this year, I’d really like to hear about it.”

The Port Askaig ‘100 Proof’ is believed to be Caol Ila as mentioned on Whiskybase and the video by ‘Single Malt Maniac’ below. Comments on Whiskybase include, “lovely fruity texture, well balanced by a nice peat fire and an intensely warming spiciness. Quite quaffable both neat or diluted with a few drops of water.” And “the best peaty NAS whisky I have tasted in a long time, what a pleasant profile.”

Single Malt Maniac review on You Tube (September 2016):


Macallan 12-year-old ‘Double Cask’

Bought: Whisky Exchange, 28th September 2016

81.5/100 – Whiskybase (average from 27 member votes)

My copy of the Whisky Bible 2017 arrived today but no mention of the Macallan 12yo ‘Double Cask’ because it’s too new. Looks like we’ll have to wait another year to find out what Jim Murray thinks of it. But for now the comments online are very favourable. Scoring 81.5/100 on Whiskybase is good and an identical score to the 12yo ‘Fine Oak’ but 3 points less than the 12yo ‘Sherry Oak’.

On the box Macallan have written, “matured exclusively in the perfect balance of sherry seasoned American and European oak casks” and include the tasting notes:

Aroma: Creamy butterscotch with a hint of toffee apple, candied orange, vanilla custard and newly felled oak.
Palate: Delicious honeyed, wood spices and citrus, balanced with raisins and caramel
Finish: Oak lingers, warm, sweet and drying.

Time for Whisky’ rate the Macallan 12yo ‘Double Cask’ 91/100 and say “an enjoyable and very sippable dram – one that perfectly fills the gap between the 12yo Sherry and Fine oak bottlings.”

Scotch Malt Whisky’ rate it 92/100 and comment, “well balanced deliciously sherried, mature Macallan that still has touches of the Macallan Fine oak but is still sure to put a smile on the faces of the fans of sherried Macallan.”

Here are Scotch Test Dummies with their review of the Macallan 12yo ‘Double Cask’ comparing it against the 12yo ‘Sherry Oak’ (September 2016):


Ardbeg ‘Perpetuum’

Bought: The Whisky Exchange, 3rd June 2015

84.06/100 – Whiskybase (average from 321 member votes)
94/100 – Whisky Bitch (her You Tube video here)

The Ardbeg Perpetuum is the first time I’ve bought a special release from Ardbeg to celebrate Ardbeg Day. Releases appear to have started in 2012 to accompany the Islay celebrations of Fèis Ìle (festival of music and malt whisky). The first bottle was called ‘Day’ then ‘Ardbog’ in 2013, ‘Auriverdes’ in 2014 and now the ‘Perpetuum’. Not only is this to celebrate Ardbeg Day but also the 200th anniversary of the distillery. There have been Ardbeg bottlings called ‘Fèis Ìle’ such as the 2011 release and the one for 2010, which was only 228 bottles. I bet one of those wouldn’t be cheap at auction now!

I wasn’t intending to become an Ardbeg enthusiast but it’s hard to resist when you collect whisky. Since buying the Perpetuum I’ve acquired the Auriverdes and I’ve been mulling over getting the Ardbog. Not that I’d touch it if I were a devotee of Jim Murray and his Whisky Bible book. He scores it 78.5/100 in his 2014 bible with the remark “the best advice one can give about bogs is to avoid them.” Various sources have the Ardbog at £150, which is a similar price to 4 bottles of the standard 10yo, or 3 bottles of the amazing Uigeadail. But if collectors thought like that they wouldn’t be collectors!

As a comparison of Ardbeg Day releases, here are the Whiskybase scores for the Perpetuum against the previous 3 years:

  • 84.06/100 – 2015 Perpetuum (average from 321 member votes)
  • 85.98/100 – 2014 Auriverdes (average from 417 member votes)
  • 87.25/100 – 2013 Ardbog (average from 537 member votes)
  • 88.26/100 – 2012 Day (average from 231 member votes)

Ardbeg Perpetuum 2015 70cl

Glen Els ‘Ember’

Bought: Whisky Exchange, 18th March 2015

93/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
85.03/100 – Whiskybase (average from 35 member votes)

Jim Murray, author of the Whisky Bible, doesn’t have much to say about this German single malt but 93/100 classifies it as “brilliant”. His review reads “bold, rich and proudly idiosyncratic. Really can’t fault it!”

Comments on Whiskybase include “Glen Els is THE German Whisky brand and the distillery with the highest potential in Germany, maybe on whole mainland Europe” and remarks about the taste state “Woodsmoked – this quite unique procedure brings loads of new flavours and spices into this whisky”, “absolutely delicious” and “just a bit of a really nice southern BBQ”.

The woodsmoked element certainly sounds intriguing, and it’s nice to discover a new whisky, and distillery trying something different. With so many whiskies out there, it’s important to have something unique to stand out from the rest. It seems Glen Els have that with their ‘Ember’ offering.

Glen Els Ember 5cl

Glen Els ‘The Journey’

Bought: Whisky Exchange, 18th March 2015

94/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
86.93/100 – Whiskybase (average from 32 member votes)

It wasn’t so long ago that you couldn’t find German whisky in the UK. My first experience was buying a miniature of Glen Els ‘Unique Distillery Edition’ at auction in December 2013. I’ve had it ever since, looking very lonely on a shelf surrounded by Scottish malts. It was about time it had some friends, so I was delighted to discover that ‘The Whisky Exchange’ were supplying three new Glen Els miniatures (they now do full bottles).

Scoring nearly 87/100 on Whiskybase is an extremely high mark, as is 94/100 in the Whisky Bible. This ranks ‘The Journey’ alongside the classic Glenmorangie 10yo, the Glenfarclas 12yo and the superb Talisker 18yo. It also beats, according to the author, the Talisker 10yo, Macallan 12yo ‘Sherry Oak’ and the legendary Longmorn 15yo, all of which score 93/100.

Comments from reviewers on Whiskybase who score this Glen Els over 90/100 suggest the German distillery has equalled or bettered a lot of the whisky being produced in Scotland. I’m sure this is true, and I hope the Scottish producers take heed and fight back. Healthy competition will ensure that standards remain high and the consumer reaps the rewards with excellent whisky such as ‘The Journey’.

Here’s Horst Luening of Whisky.com with his review on You Tube (Sept 2016):

Glen Els The Journey 5cl