Double Trouble

Taste Review #60 – Balvenie Doublewood 12 & 17

It may come as no surprise to some of you that I may eventually find myself in a wee bit of trouble regarding whisky and it is so that this has eventually come to pass. During the lockdown and a short period of illness, I decided that it was time to clear out my study for it was starting to look a little bit like there had been a World War 2 bombing raid. There are a few bottles of whisky in there to go into storage, and the special bottles that are yet to be opened for review, but most of all there is my stash of miniatures that I have purchased so I can do my usual taste reviews. These miniatures are what is causing my problems, for I have found out that I don’t have the odd one or two, I’ve got about 80.

Now, 80 miniatures is not a lot, especially for those of us who collect them, but it was never my intention to collect miniatures though I have to admit I do have one or two of sentimental value that I will be keeping. 80 miniatures is a lot of reviews, and that doesn’t even count the whiskies that I have in full size bottles to be tasted either. It leads me to the problem that I have to overcome somehow and this I am going to do by cheating a little bit and do a vertical tasting. Fortunately I have a few distilleries in my miniature box where I have more than one vintage, so a vertical tasting is probably the most efficient way of dealing with things.

Within my stash of miniatures, I have the remains of 2 gift boxes, one was actually a gift from my wife, but the other one was bought from Wood Winters in Inverness, and was from the Balvenie distillery. The set originally contained the 12 and 17 year old Doublewood whiskies and also the 14 year old Caribbean Cask Balvenie which I reviewed last year. I think enough time has gone by and I can now review the other two, and start cutting down on the number of bottles in my collection

It is said that while the city of Rome was built on Seven Hills, Dufftown was built on Seven Stills built in the late 19th Century – These were Mortlach, Dufftown, Glendullan, Convalmore, Parkmore, Glenfiddich and Balvenie. The distillery of Pittyvaich was built within the Dufftown distillery complex in 1974 and Kininvie was built within the Balvenie site in 1990. Parkmore distilery closed in 1930 due to water quality problems, Convalmore succumbed in 1985 during a turbulent time for the whisky industry and Pittyvaich closed in 1993 when it’s output for blends was no longer required.

Balvenie is a distillery that still retains a malting floor, although this does not provide all the malt required for production. The stills utilise shell and tube condensers instead of the traditional wooden worm tubs. It is also a malt that you will not see as an independent bottle – owners William Grant and Sons (who have owned Balvenie since its construction in 1892) ‘teaspoon’ their casks that they sell on to ensure that it cannot be sold as Balvenie (or Glenfiddich for that matter) in order to preserve their market share. Balvenie has a small amount, reportedly 1% of Glenfiddich added to it, and is known as Burnside. Vice versa, Glenfiddich has 1% Balvenie added to it and is known as Wardside. Both Glenfiddich and Balvenie are present in the blend ‘Monkey Shoulder’ along with Kininvie, and nowadays Ailsa Bay may also be part of the mix.

Balvenie has a visitors centre nowadays, but it is very hard to get a tour, which often need to be booked months in advance – I’ve tried and failed! It is reported to be an excellent tour and it is one that I really want to visit, having already been to the Glenfiddich distillery some years ago. It is also on the pricey side (£50) but is limited to 8 people and is reported to be one of the best tours that you can get in a distillery.


Balvenie Doublewood 12 & 17

The two whiskies that I am going to taste for you are from the Doublewood range, and have been matured in refill American Oak barrels and Hogsheads that have contained bourbon They have then been finished in 1st fill European Oak Oloroso Sherry casks, then married in an oak tun for another 3-4 months to allow individual barrels to marry together. Wood finishing was a process that was developed by Balvenie Malt Master David Stewart in 1982 and is now a very popular process throughout the industry. The 17 year old has just been given an extra 5 years maturation.

All this typing is making me thirsty, so it is time for me to get cracking on with the tasting.


Region

Speyside

Balvenie Doublewood 12

Strength – 43%. Colour – Honey Gold. Nose -Sweet. Stewed Fruit. Raspberry Jam. Brioche bread. Elements of citrus. Digestive biscuits Palate – Medium body, Note of astringency. Vanilla, honey, walnuts moves to a bitter finish. Finish – medium, drying. Tannic with a sour note. For me water smooths the astringency a bit, but increased the sour notes.

Balvenie 12 year old Doublewood

Balvenie Doublewood 17

Strength – 43%. Colour – Old Gold. Nose – Quite sweet on the initial nose. Candy, Icing sugar, Apple peel, a light aroma of freshly cut wood. Raisins. Palate – Quite a light body, Spicy – polished wood, vanilla, dried fruit. Finish– Medium, spicy, cinnamon, slightly drying.

Balvenie 17 Doublewood

Conclusions

In all honesty I wasn’t really expecting that much having the 12 year old. I have had this before, and it didn’t float my boat, and the only reason for buying this set was to try the Caribbean Cask without committing to buying a full bottle. I think this was the wise choice.

As is usual, I always do my taste tests without doing any research into tasting notes, but do compare afterwards, as I want to see if I was far off the mark. I was surprised to see so many other people saying that this was a sweet whisky, but I only got the sweetness in the nose, but not the palate and certainly not the finish. In the case of the 12 year old, adding water only increased the sourness for me. In all I was quite disappointed.


Both drams side by side

The 17 year old was different. Between the two I felt that this was the lighter whisky. Perhaps being in the wood mellowed it a bit. I didn’t find the wood quite so strong here, and the nose was less fruity but had a much more pleasant sweetness. I felt that this dram did not need water, although I was pushed towards adding water to the 12 year old spirit. I definitely feel that the extra 5 years in the cask has made the spirit mellow out somewhat into a much more pleasurable experience.

While people speak of complexities in these drams, I didn’t get that. For me the sourness of the 12 year old drowned out any subtle flavours for me, and the mouthfeel on the 17 year old was just a bit too light for my preference. But this doesn’t mean to say it’s a bad whisky, as plenty of other people rate Balvenie as a brand, but not everybody can like everything.

The one thing that I noticed is that my miniatures were both at 43% whereas a full sized bottle of the 12 year old doublewood is only 40%. Both these drams appear to have been chill filtered and both have the addition of E150a colouring. I was a little disappointed in the latter – the alarm bells were ringing when I placed the drams side by side and they were the same colour, despite the 5 year age difference.

The 12 year old can be found in your local friendly whisky retailer for around £39 and the 17 year old is around the £110 mark. I would suggest that I do not find this a price I would pay for the 17 year old, although while I did not enjoy it, the 12 year old is more reasonably priced. I would however suggest to seek out miniatures of these drams before you pay such sums of money to see if you will like it or not, as had I paid for full bottles I would currently be disappointed. Your taste experience may be different to mine, but in this case I will be trying something else from the Balvenie warehouse in the future.

Yours in Spirits

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


This is written as a hobby, and I appreciate your likes and shares, either on WordPress, or why not visit one of my other social media channels. Lets spread the whisky love!

Scotty’s Drams encourages responsible drinking. To find out the facts about drink, and where to find help if you need it visit Drinkaware.co.uk by clicking on the link.

Photo Credits

All Photos – Authors Own

All content and photos are subject to copyright and may not be used or reproduced without permission.

A Distillery with a Dirty Dark Secret

Taste Review #59 – Mannochmore 12 Flora And Fauna

This blog has already been responsible for the disclosing some secrets. Most notably it has been my short lived career as a flipper and hypocrite, not to mention the confession that seems to have flown well under the radar about one of my go-to blends that features the image of a well known bird. But let’s move on from me and move onto the whisky I’ll be reviewing this week which also has a dark secret, with the emphasis on dark.

The Mannochmore distillery was opened in 1971 by DCL on the same site as Glenlossie. These distilleries sit within a small pocket of distilleries that straddle the A941 Elgin to Craigellachie road which also includes BenRiach, Longmorn and Glen Elgin distilleries. It uses the same water source as Glenlossie, the Bardon Burn, although Mannochmore is by far the larger producer, capable of producing 4.5 million litres of spirit a year, compared to the much older Glenlossie’s 2.8 million litres.

Mannochmore is one of those distilleries that isn’t that well represented by its current owners, Diageo. There are very few official releases available, mostly limited to Manager Dram bottles or the occasional Diageo Special release – another thing in common with Glenlossie. Indeed, the only official release for both distilleries is the Flora and Fauna bottling and I am away to review the 12 year old Mannochmore for you now. However, a quick look online reveals that Mannochmore is easily available from many independent bottlers.

But before we go any further, we have to move onto that dark secret I mentioned. In 1996, Diageo released a whisky that was controversial to say the least. I don’t know how many of you have heard of a whisky called Loch Dhu, but this was a whisky that was dark beyond belief, marketed as a ‘Black Whisky. It was clearly beyond doubt that this was the result of some heavy use of artificial colouring. The result was a Marmite style whisky, which means like the yeast based spread it was something you either loved or hated. Unfortunately for Loch Dhu, most people hated it and the bottling was soon withdrawn. It is becoming a bit of a collectors item, but I am convinced that most people won’t be drinking it.


The sample

Speaking of drinking, it is time to move onto the whisky I have chosen for this week’s review. Hopefully this one is going to taste a lot better than Loch Dhu is reported to be.


The dark secret. Apparently disgusting.

Region

Speyside

Age

12 years old

Strength

43% ABV

Colour

Light hay

Nose

Slight whiff of alcohol, Buttery, honey, floral notes, straw, toffee

Palate

Oily mouthfeel, but not too heavy. A quick burst of wood spices, then quite creamy and sweet. Ginger, Vanilla and Lemon.

Finish

Medium Sweet, spiced wood, continues a ginger theme with added pepper. Slightly astringent, creamy lemon zest at the end.


The dram

Conclusions

If you are looking for a complex whisky, then this is not it. However it is quite a decent dram but I soon found out that it is not one to set the world on fire. I can tell you that it has most likely been chill filtered and the chances of it having colouring within are quite high, but the pale colour would seem to suggest that this is probably a minimum amount. But then again, Flora and Fauna whiskies were never intended to be world beater premium whisky, and for all the short comings this whisky has, it was a very pleasant pour.

The spicy wood notes are quite pleasant and controlled, and do not hide a floral nose nor the creamy vanilla and floral notes in the palate.

This whisky is one I have a couple of bottles of as part of my Flora and Fauna collections. It was one of the 17 out of the original 22 that were also produced with a white cap to denote the 1st Edition. This however was a dram from one of the sample bottles that were available on The Whisky Exchange for around £5, but I can’t remember as I have had this sample for some time.


Mannochmore Flora & Fauna 12 – full size

A full sized bottle should cost you about £50, but its availability may not be the greatest. Your specialist spirit shop should be able to source this if they don’t already stock it, or you can find it online easily enough. Based on paying £50 for a 43% whisky that is only 12 years old with colouring and chill filtered, it may not represent the best value. Although it is a pleasant sipper, I don’t think I can tell you it is an interesting enough dram to be good value at that price. At some point you might just have to take a chance and take the plunge to try it. I can assure you that if a purchase of this bottle is made, you will probably enjoy it if you are not seeking a challenging complex drink. There is no doubt in my mind that you will not have an extreme reaction that you may have had in drinking the Loch Dhu black whisky, so if you do see it, why not take a chance and try it?

Yours in Spirits

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


This is written as a hobby, and I appreciate your likes and shares, either on WordPress, or why not visit one of my other social media channels. Lets spread the whisky love!

Scotty’s Drams encourages responsible drinking. To find out the facts about drink, and where to find help if you need it visit Drinkaware.co.uk by clicking on the link.

Photo Credits

All Photos – Authors Own

This Is Not A Drive-By.

Taste Review #57 – Glentauchers 1991 (G&M)

Glentauchers is one of those distilleries that flies beneath the radar. I have to say that it doesn’t seem to be well known at all. And in all fairness, I fly past it on a regular basis as it is right beside the A95, halfway between the Morayshire town of Keith and the hamlet of Mulben. Flying past it is maybe stretching it a bit. There is a bend right beside the distillery houses where a bridge also narrows the carriageway slightly. Up until 5 years ago or so, there was also a strange camber on the road as you went over the bridge which used to force you out into the middle of the road as you went round the bend. I’ve lost count of how many times I have passed it and almost needed a change of underwear. Yet still have to sit and review one of its whiskies.


Glentauchers Distillery

The Glentauchers distillery was another of those distilleries built at the end of the 1890’s, and was established by James Buchanan & Co. to provide fillings for its Black And White blend. This was to become a role that the distillery was to play for its whole life so far, as one of those distilleries whose main purpose is to provide whiskies for blends. As was the case for so many distillery companies, James Buchanan eventually merged with DCL, which would eventually become part of Diageo, although this was not the fate for this distillery – it wasn’t to survive the whisky downturn in the 1980’s and was mothballed at the same time as Convalmore which was also formerly owned by Buchanan / DCL. However, fate was kinder to Glentauchers than it was to Convalmore, and it was bought by Allied Distillers in 1989, with full production resuming in 1992. By 2005, Allied Distillers became part of the Chivas empire, whose parent company are Pernod Ricard.

Today, Glentauchers still carries on, and has been used as a training distillery by Pernod Ricard. Apparently it is a distillery that has limited automation, ensuring that staff have to learn how to distill whisky manually. The malting floors are not part of this as their operation ceased in 1969.

The Glentauchers distillery despite sitting right beside a main road does not have the have the same visibility, yet finding bottles of Glentauchers is not hard. There are plenty of bottlings available from independent bottlers. I own a couple, one being from First Cask, and another being a bottle in the Dancing Stag range from Robert Graham. A quick look online sees that there are bottles available from many of the well known independents such as That Boutiquey Whisky Company, Signatory, Douglas Laing, Berry Bros, but most notably is Gordon & Macphail, probably the oldest continually operating independent bottler, based in the Morayshire town of Elgin, and it is from this bottler we have this week’s sample.

Finding original bottlings of Glentauchers are few and far between. As mentioned above, it is a spirit usually for providing for blends, notably Ballantines. There has been official bottlings – there was a 12 year old released in the 1980’s and in 2000 it was part of a set of 6 different whiskies released by Allied Distillers – all at 46% and 15 years old, meaning that in the case of Glentauchers they were using the DCL distillate. In 2017 an official bottling was released at 15 y.o under the Ballantines brand.


The Bottle

Region

Speyside

Age / Vintage

1991 / 16 years (Bottled 2007)

Strength

43%

Colour

Pale Gold

Nose

Peaches, Honey, biscuity cereals, vanilla, slight apple note. To start with I got a hint of solvent, but that disappeared after I left the glass to sit and breath.

Palate

Slightly oily mouthfeel, yet still quite light. No real overpowering flavours. Spicy oak note with a little fizz on arrival. Sweet, apples, honey, toffee, hay. Hint of lemon peel. Spicy notes soften with the addition of water.

Finish

Short to medium. Oak, slightly bitter, lemon. After water added very slight vegetal taste on departure.

Conclusions

This was a long time coming and I am disappointed in myself that I waited so long to taste this whisky. I’ve always liked the appearance of the G&M distillery bottlings. They look bold and classic, even reminiscent of a bygone age. You see I am a bit of a romanticist about Scottish Malt Whisky, and I prefer to think of it as just a wee industry and not the global behemoth it has become. The diagonal distillery name sloping up to the right reminds me strongly of that other Buchanan owned distillery, Convalmore. If you look at the Diageo Special releases from 2006, 2013 or 2017 you’ll see why.

But we have to move away from the labels, as they do not make whisky taste any better. I didn’t know really what to expect from this whisky, as it is one I have not had before, and I have to say I was very impressed. I drank most of my sample neat, but as towards the end of typing this out, I noticed time was marching on and it was nearly bed time. So, rather than neck it, I decided to see how things would play out with water.

As it was 43%, I didn’t really think it needed water. I really enjoyed the dram neat. I am sure that if it was delivered at a higher ABV, I would definitely be adding water to maybe soften it to get a great easy drinker. My dram from the previous night was a Lagavulin 16, and at 43% that was also drunk without water, and was fully enjoyable, yet I didn’t get all the complexity that you can find in Lagavulin. However getting back to Glentauchers, I don’t feel that there is a complexity there to find in this bottle, but that’s ok. Not everything has to be a challenge and it is important that we remember that we drink whisky because we enjoy it. Constantly seeking for something that isn’t there is just going to lead to a disappointment and spoil what is actually a decent dram.

I paid £7.80 for my 5CL sample in the Edinburgh Woollen Mill in Inverness. It’s a very touristy shop, and I was only in there to conduct some business connected to my wife’s business. It was when walking past the till I noticed the miniatures for sale. Of course, in a shop like this, you know that you are probably paying over the odds, but this is a bottle I always wanted to try. I had the chance to buy the 1996 bottle, but I noticed this 1991 hiding behind a few others. Going by the flawed mantra of older is better, I dug this one out – if I remember rightly it was also cheaper, so it satisfied the needs of my inner Aberdonian. Result!

A little bit of research into the bottling codes on the label reveal that this was bottled in 2007, which makes it 16 years old. I had seen something about the 1991 vintage also being bottled in 2010, but this is unconfirmed. This means the distillery was definitely producing before coming out of mothballs in 1992, and this must be some of the first spirit created by Allied Distillers.


Glentauchers in Allied Distillers collection circa 2000

While this bottle is discontinued, a quick look on auction sites reveals that it is available under £50, and if you are lucky this will also include auction fees, though you might have to add a little more to also cover the P&P. I think that this represents good value, and I would be happy to pay that for this dram. Therefore you will not be surprised to find out that I do recommend this whisky and if I see this as a 70cl bottle, I would be happy to buy it for my drinking collection. It would be sad to miss it, just as I miss the hair raising adrenalin rush of going round the bend next to the distillery now the camber has been sorted. My undercrackers are more grateful though,

One last tip before I go – I forgot to mention that there is no such place as Glentauchers. The distillery was built on the site of Tauchers Farm, and Tauchers Wood is on the other side of the road. Thought I’d better mention it in case you want to have a pilgrimage up a non-existent Glen.

Yours in Spirits

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


This is written as a hobby, and I appreciate your likes and shares, either on WordPress, or why not visit one of my other social media channels. Lets spread the whisky love!

Scotty’s Drams encourages responsible drinking. To find out the facts about drink, and where to find help if you need it visit Drinkaware.co.uk by clicking on the link.

Photo Credits

All Photos – Authors Own

Question Your Beliefs

Why you still need to challenge your whisky favourites to avoid taste blindness.

For those of you who read this weeks taste review of Monkey Shoulder this article will make more sense, but it isn’t really that necessary to have done so. This is going to be a short piece on how we should always look back on what we have drunk in the past and consistently re-evaluate our experiences.

For a couple of years, Monkey Shoulder was the blend I used to recommend and when travelling was what I often drunk when other options were limited. I never really thought to question it much as I enjoyed drinking it and others did to. Then my travel patterns changed and I wasn’t travelling the same routes, so my opportunity to drink Monkey Shoulder was limited which gave me a break from it for a little while.

It was the tail end of last year when I was asked to do a whisky tasting that I used Monkey Shoulder as a blended whisky. A fair enough assumption as it is a good enough value blended malt and given there were at least three decent malts in recipe, I wasn’t expecting much problems. Only I was wrong. A couple of people said they didn’t like it, pointed out its flaws and said they wouldn’t drink it again. I felt a little bit embarrassed as this was totally opposite to what I had been expecting, though we know that everybody has different taste buds and what is steak for one guy might be mince for the next. One thing was for certain – a review of the whisky and my thoughts about it had to be done.

Fortunately this tied in with the chance to also taste the Smokey Monkey and thus provide a decent comparison between the two. The results are in my article in which I found the smokey version definitely not to my taste and was also able to see the flaws in the original version. My excitement in it was slightly jaded almost to the point I could say that I felt let down by the beverage that I placed so much faith in. So what has happened?

Let’s make the bottler the scapegoat as that would absolve me of saying or doing anything wrong. Batches can vary in taste and recipes can be slightly tweaked depending on availability of casks for vatting. That’s the easy, lazy and possibly incorrect way of thinking which although possibly true, the case may not be the root of the problem. For that we have to look into ourselves and think about how we have changed as whisky drinkers, not just in our palates but also our expectations.

A drop in the ocean

The first thing we have to acknowledge is that one brand of whisky in the spirits world is like a drop in the ocean – so easily lost when compared to other brands. Many of us don’t have the chance to taste many different whiskies either through opportunity or lack of financial means. For people in this situation it means that they will tend to stick to the same brands for whatever reason. It goes without saying whatever your circumstances as a whisky lover that you will try to go for the best you can afford or obtain. However we may become blind to its faults. There is no shame in this as it is human nature to defend things we like or are special to us. For instance, my dog. Lovely, gentle Labrador but can be a bit of a poo eater, constantly casting hair, hungry and is definitely a shagger. I tend to ignore these flaws as I love my dog and his flaws are often written off as character.


How could you not love this? Maksimus puts on his most pathetic look.

Thinking back to the whisky world there may eventually be a special offer which gives the opportunity to try something else to which takes your fancy and it becomes your new favourite, though your former favourite still holds a place in your estimations. You may still recommend your whisky you used to love as It could be that it is good value, but you may be oblivious to the things that make it out not as good as you think. Eventually you get brought back down to earth with a bump and it hurts when it’s pointed out.

With so many bottles out there, many of us are trying different things, but are we really forming a relationship with that whisky so that we know all of its highs and lows, or are we completing a bottle and moving onto the next new thing? Within this blog, it is something that I struggle with, as I am constantly tasting different whisky and don’t often get the chance to really get to know some of the drams. In the past year I’ve reviewed 74 whiskies (that includes the backlog yet to publish) but there is no way on earth that somebody could drink 74 full bottles in that time.

The one thing that also works against us as whisky enthusiasts is those who are always trying the next new thing. There is nothing wrong with this as whisky will require to be innovative to move on, but part of me also feels that this creates a new problem. How can we say that a new whisky is entirely different from one that we have tasted in the past? With millions of permutations there has to be some similarities between bottlings surely? Even in my limited reviews I can tell you I’ve tasted two drams that had I known no better I would have said was Ardbeg because of the main characteristics of the spirit.

Don’t feel disappointed with this – I never said that I was an expert, I don’t pretend to be and I certainly don’t intend to be. This is about a journey to try different whiskies and there will be some I like and some I find that are not to my taste. I wrote about them to get your opinions too and to share my thoughts, not to get plaudits.

There is a defence for all of us. Currently there are about 130 distilleries in Scotland alone. If each distillery had 5 core expressions and released a new one every year, how long do you think it would take you to taste them all and do you think you’d be able to compare them to each other? Not to mention all the whisky that has been made in the past nor single cask releases…. see where I’m going with this? And I haven’t touched on Irish, Japanese, American or Indian whisky yet…..

If you want the proof, watch an online blind tasting and see how many people are able to identify random whiskies. You’d probably not be surprised at the failure rate. I feel it is only those with a super educated palate and a great memory would be capable of such a feat. These people do exist, but seem to be few and far between.

Back To The Monkey Shoulder.

Going back to my original point, with so many whiskies available, it probably isn’t easy to compare each one with every other, and after a while the taste scoring means little. I bet that I could return to Monkey Shoulder again in a couple of months and enjoy it again. Perhaps the bottle I used for the tasting had been open too long and was oxidised? Our palates evolve and what is good at one time may not be so good in the future or become even better.

There is another danger of constantly tasting new things that are popular and that is the law of diminishing returns. Once you taste something great, you will not be so impressed with the more mediocre drams. The availability of such great drams mean you may be in the trap that previously enjoyable whisky isn’t so good, and what is great is in limited supply. That’s a thought for another article though.

In conclusion, will I stop drinking Monkey Shoulder or recommending it? No. I still think the original Monkey Shoulder is an easy to drink, good value blended malt. I will perhaps change why I recommend it though. And of course, I’m going to challenge you to every now and again challenge the whiskies you like to see how they stack up against the new whiskies being released. Being loyal to a brand is great, but can blind you to its drawbacks.

Slainte Mhath!

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


This is written as a hobby, and I appreciate your likes and shares, either on WordPress, or why not visit one of my other social media channels. Lets spread the whisky love!

Scotty’s Drams encourages responsible drinking. To find out the facts about drink, and where to find help if you need it visit Drinkaware.co.uk by clicking on the link.

All content and photos are subject to copyright and may not be used or reproduced without permission.

Getting Lost Isn’t So Bad

Taste Review #55 – The Lost Distilleries Blend, Batch 10

Welcome to this week’s whisky review, and we continue to work through my rather large stash of miniatures to bring you tastes throughout Scottish Whisky (and beyond – but not just yet!). This one is a superlative whisky, and I will almost have to call it a unicorn whisky though it is a lot more than that. For this review, the blend I will be reviewing is a blend of several unicorns!

When thinking of the lost distilleries, my mind cast back to one of the more famous, or infamous signs in Aberdeenshire, that of Lost. This road sign has been stolen countless times, to the point that the sign arm is now welded to the pole, and more substantial concrete put around the base. For you that do not know, Lost is actually a farm close to Strathdon, and you could be forgiven for feeling lost when you don’t find anything substantial. There are certainly no distilleries here, although the A944 through Strathdon takes you through the Cairngorms and joins onto the A939 Cockbridge to Tomintoul Road. Essentially the back door to Speyside going over the ski route to the Lecht resort. With a change of direction at Corgaff towards Braemar opens up the opportunity to visit some of the Perthshire Highland distilleries over another ski-route through Glenshee, officially the highest main road in the U.K.


One of Aberdeenshire’s more famous roadsigns

So, now it is time to refocus on whisky. Why did I pick this dram? As per usual, I was doing my usual troll through the auction sites to see if there was anything worth buying in the bargain basement, and two small samples of this came up, and I got them for an absolute steal given the normal price for the drams.

Let me just list the distilleries that are in this blend.

  • Port Ellen (Islay / to be reopened)
  • Brora (Highland / to be reopened)
  • Glen Mhor (Highland / demolished)
  • Rosebank (Lowland / to be reopened)
  • Caperdonich (Speyside / demolished)
  • Imperial (Speyside / demolished)
  • Mosstowie (Speyside – distilled in now decommissioned Lomond Stills at Miltonduff)
  • Glenisla (Speyside – experimental peated whisky reportedly made at Glen Keith Distillery)
  • Glenlochy (Highland – demolished)
  • Craigduff (Speyside – experimental peated whisky reported to be either Strathisla or Glen Keith)
  • Port Dundas (Lowland – Single Grain Whisky / demolished)

That is some roll call of whisky, so let’s get cracking on it!


The sample

Region

Blend

Age

NAS

Strength

51%

Colour

Golden Straw

Nose

Slightly solvent to begin with – wood polish moving quickly onto vanilla, chocolate, cafe latte, almonds. A hint of smoke

Palate

Oily mouth feel. No large kick considering its strength. Sweet to start with, with raisin and vanilla notes, Toffee building into some spicy oak notes. Light smoke

Finish

Quite long. The spicy oak continues, almost like curry spices. Warm and tempered with a creamy feel. A slightly bitter note at the end.


The Dram

Conclusion

This dram confuses me a bit. There is an impressive roll call of spirit in this dram that is never going to be seen again. Lets face it, even with some of the distilleries being rebuilt will not result in an identical spirit of the past. Given this fact, one has to wonder why they have done this, as the individual character of each malt has been lost. I have to say though, the oily mouth feel made me think of Clynelish, so I am wondering if this is a remnant of the Brora component in this mix.

The solvent and polished oak are clearly from the grain whisky, and given my experience previously with the Invergordon 42 year old excited me a bit, but most of it got lost until the end when a spicy oak built up.

There is an elephant in the room. A 70cl bottle of this dram costs around £350. I hate to say it, but this is not worth that at all. I do realise that you cannot get any of the component parts cheaply at the moment, and in any case, a 70cl bottle of any of them would probably cost as much as this blend. So I’m left feeling kind of lost. I think if I had a chance to buy a blend with lost distilleries in it, I’d more likely be buying a bottle of Johnny Walker Blue Label Ghost.

But my friends, let us find an upbeat note. Master of Malt charge £26.65 for a 3cl nip of this. To me that is still not good value. However, I was lucky enough to pick up 2 of these samples at Whisky Auctioneer for £16.80. Now that is a bargain. Sadly, this blend wasn’t really to my taste, so I may be looking for a new home for the second sample.

Slainte Mhath!

Scotty

Index of tastings here

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This blog is written as a hobby. If you liked this article, consider following the blog by clicking on the icon at the bottom of the browser page somewhere to get tastings, visits and articles to your email inbox. Or join me on my other social media channels below. Also, feel free to share, and spread the whisky love ❤️❤️


Scotty’s Drams encourages responsible drinking. To find out the facts about drink, and where to find help if you need it visit Drinkaware.co.uk by clicking on the link.


Photo credits

Whisky Photographs author’s own.

Roadsign to Lost FarmStanley Howe / Creative Commons licence CC BY-SA 2.0

Spring Is Here!

Taste Review #53 – Springbank 15

It is not often I can tell you I have perfect timing. Usually it is only perfect to say the most inappropriate things to the most inappropriate people but this article is perfectly timed. Although the bulk of review was written in mid January, it turns out it has become the first review published in British Summer Time for 2020. Spring is here, even if we can’t wonder about to enjoy it.

This is a review from yet another one of my auction bargains. This one is a favourite distillery amongst many whisky drinkers, but one I don’t have a lot of experience of due to preferring Highland or Speyside malts. But this is exactly what my web blog was supposed to do – force me off of the usual produce and try something new.

The Springbank Distillery is in Campbeltown, on the Kintyre Peninsula, and is next door neighbours with the Glen Gyle Distillery which produces the Kilkerran Single Malt. There is another distillery in town, the Glen Scotia, but that’s it. Three distilleries for a place the size of Campeltown is not bad, but it is worth remembering that at one point there were over 30 distilleries on the Kintyre Peninsula at one point.


Springbank tube

Springbank was legally opened in 1828, but there had been a long tradition of illicit distilling in the area . The original owner, William Reid sold it to his brothers in law, John and William Mitchell. William eventually left the partnership, and John’s son Alexander joined him, and that was the start of the company known as J & A Mitchell. The family firm still own the distillery to this day, and also own the next door Glen Gyle distillery as well as Cadenheads, a whisky bottler that had originated in Aberdeen in 1842, and was taken over by Mitchells in 1972

The Springbank Distillery is unique in Scotland as it is the only whisky distillery at present (Jan 2020) to malt, distill, mature and bottle on the same site. The malting floor provides all the malted barley required for production, unlike other distilleries that use malting floors as a supplement to bought in malted barley. It also produces three brands of single malt, Springbank (Lightly peated, partial triple distillation), Longrow (Heavily peated, partial triple distillation), and Hazelburn (unpeated, full triple distillation). It also uses a shell and tube condenser on the wash still and No 2 Low Wines still, plus a worm tub on No 1 Low wines still.

The Springbank distillery has a visitors centre, so rather than me wittering on about it, how about you take a tour there?* I’m needing to get cracking on with this whisky!



Region

Campbeltown

Age

15 years

Strength

46% ABV

Colour

Amber

Nose

Sweet, very light wood smoke. Fresh cut grass, caramel, vanilla, pineapple

Palate

Good mouth feel. Slightly oily and fizzy, ginger,  sweet from the get-go, nutty, pepper, raisins, a bit of orange zest, as the sherry gets tempered by a small bit of citrus. Very slight sulphur note.

Finish

Long finish, slightly dry. the sherry notes drag out, but with a slight oaky bitterness in the end. Spiciness continues on from the palate chocolate, vanilla there too.Right at the end. 5 minutes after a sip, I got a briny note.


The dram

Conclusions

I have to say that I am pretty surprised that despite being a peated whisky, I just can’t taste it. I can say that I get the very light smoke in the nose, but when it came to the palate it was missing in action. Research online has revealed to me that the peating level for Springbank is only 8-10ppm, whereas I do prefer something at least double that. There is a hint for me that I need to maybe try some Longrow, as I have not had this or the Hazelburn before. As I said earlier in this review, I am mostly a Highland or Speyside fan myself.

And that is what is good about Springbank. For those of you who like peat, or don’t mind it, the taste will be there. If you don’t like peat that much, then no worries, as it really isn’t overpowering, if you can taste it at all. There is a really pleasant sherry note to this whisky, but with a slight hint of sulphur at the end, but not enough to make me think there was something wrong. Although my bottle was in excellent condition, it was a slightly older bottling from the late 90’s / early 2000’s by my estimates going on the packaging, so I am not too concerned that the time in a miniature bottle with its metal screw cap has tainted it. It was by no means as powerful as the Bowmore that I have recently reviewed.

This whisky is matured in both ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks, although I am not at this point aware of at what proportions or what sherry, but am going to guess at Oloroso, as it didn’t have for me the outright sweetness that a PX cask often brings. Adding water to me increased the toffee and sherry notes – I only added a half a teaspoon, and it pretty much killed the sulphur note that I detected.

All in all, a very pleasant whisky, and one I can definitely recommend. I don’t think I will be buying a big bottle of this one, as I think I will prefer something either a little stronger, a little peatier or a little older. Maybe a combination of all three! However, I would not rule out buying a 70cl bottle if I saw it at a good price, as this is a good value, honest malt and scores 4/4 on our ABCD checklist – age statement, 46% bottling strength, Non Chill filtered and not coloured.

I can’t give you a price for this miniature, as it was part of a collection in an auction lot, but the standard 70cl bottle can be bought for around the £60 mark, which for a malt of this age and quality is not a bad deal. However, that is if you can get one. Springbank, due to the fact it makes 3 different malts, and also malts its own barley means that supply is an issue and it does run out from time to time. But be patient if you want to try it, or consider looking on auction sites. The internet is your friend for buying in this case.

Slainte Mhath!

Scotty

* after COVID-19 restrictions end. Visitor centre currently closed March 2020.

Index of tastings here

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This blog is written as a hobby. If you liked this article, consider following the blog by clicking on the icon at the bottom of the browser page somewhere to get tastings, visits and articles to your email inbox. Or join me on my other social media channels below. Also, feel free to share, and spread the whisky love ❤️❤️


Scotty’s Drams encourages responsible drinking. To find out the facts about drink, and where to find help if you need it visit Drinkaware.co.uk by clicking on the link.



Photo credits

All photos – Authors own.

Speculate to Accumulate

Do not be afraid of the not perfect.

The more regular of my readers will appreciate that I do tend to use a lot of miniature bottles for my reviews. This is due to a certain amount of expediency because of my work away from home and being away for more than half the year gives me limited time to drink full bottles. I have to say that I end up giving a lot of it away to my friends (you know who you are!) in order to kill bottles so I can move on to open something different.

The problem with this is that I am an inveterate bottle chaser, and this week was no different. My final sales of miniatures happened this week, and I managed to get some more decorative cask ends for the Strathspey hotel my wife runs. However, for me an online whisky auction is pretty much like doing your shopping at Aldi’s in as much as you can go for milk and bread, yet walk out with a 4″ grinder and a car tool kit as well. I ended up perusing the other miniatures for sale and came across a set of 4 miniatures at a relatively cheap price. The bait was in the trap, and the bottle chaser was sniffing around.


The four drams. Only Coleburn is silent, having closed in 1985. Only one official bottling was released – the 1979 Rare Malts. Most production went into Ushers or Johnny Walker Red. The other distilleries are still producing.

The drams in question were older bottlings from the Gordon & Macphail ‘Connoisseurs Collection’. Gordon & Macphail have had some great bottlings in the past and I already have a few of their miniatures in my collection, though these are unicorn drams that I wish to taste and possibly review the experience for you in the future. The drams I won this time are.

  • Coleburn 1965
  • Dailuaine 1971
  • Speyburn 1971
  • Tomatin 1970

I was after the Coleburn and the Speyburn and in the end with auction fees I paid about £27 for all 4. However there was a big drawback – the fill levels were low. But does this mean I have been foolish or ripped off? I don’t think so, and I’ll spend the next few paragraphs explaining why I feel I haven’t been either of these and why perhaps you should take a chance.


The fill levels

Firstly, a rip off in an auction is not possible. In fact a rip off can only happen if you were sold something and you what you received was something that did not meet defined expectations. An auction house clearly shows the bottles on sale and will provide more on request. If you were prepared to pay the price with as much information as provided, then you have not been ripped off – you’ve just made a mistake.

Have I been foolish? Perhaps, but that is a matter of opinion. These drams could cost hundreds to buy as an individual full size bottles. I am going to be able to taste rarer drams for a fraction of that. If I was to find these drams in a whisky bar, I could imagine to pay £25+ for a dram for each one of these. It is worth saying that each of these drams have at least 25ml in them, some close to full. So potentially I have £100+ worth of drinking whisky.

Of course, with low fill levels, there are some drawbacks to this, and I have to acknowledge this. If the fluid level is low, then this means that whisky has evaporated out. I find that miniatures are particularly susceptible to this, and is one of the reasons I never recommend people collect miniatures unless they are aware of its risks and they are stored properly. Of course some people do collect these, but it’s not my thing. The risk of evaporation for me is too high and I personally feel I’d rather drink the miniatures.

One big problem with evaporation is that our largest concern should be that alcohol evaporates quicker than water, so there is a good chance that these drams which were bottled at 40% will not be at 40% when I try them. But that is a risk that I take, and while I am well aware that I will not get the full flavour that I would have got had it been fresh, I will still get an idea of what it would have been like.


A good way to taste long gone distilleries. Linkwood still going, Glenury Royal closed in 1985 and was demolished soon after. Imperial was silent more often than it was operational, falling silent in 1998 for the last time and was finally demolished in 2013 to be replaced by the Dalmunach distillery.

As with any proposition I put to you, this needs some sort of perspective. While I know that my bottles are compromised, what about that £30+ nip you buy in a whisky bar? Once the seal is popped, that bottle is on countdown as oxidisation and evaporation takes place. Certainly the whisky bars I see don’t gas their whiskies once they have been opened. That means in the case of the more premium but less popular whiskies, you’ll never be getting a fresh like new dram. You’ll never know how much of the fill level is due to evaporation. Let’s extrapolate that thought by remembering that the lower the fill level goes, the evaporation rate increases. My gamble with the miniatures doesn’t seem quite so foolish now, does it?

The above thought was one I have had for some time. I remember last year when I visited a bar that sold a 72 year old Macallan at £5000 a nip. Once opened, the evaporation and oxidisation processes have started. I wouldn’t imagine at that price it will be a quick seller, therefore is the person getting the last dram truly getting the value of such a whisky?

As I have said in my title, sometimes you have to speculate to accumulate. By taking a chance in spending some money, you can also taste rarer or older drams. By all means, you know they will not be perfect, but neither is that bottle of Macallan somebody has that’s been hiding at the back of the cabinet and was opened in 1983 to celebrate Aberdeen winning the European Cup Winners Cup. And has now been saved to drink only at special occasions. As an Aberdonian I can say that perhaps you’ll be waiting another decade to see silverware at Pittodrie….. There’s a good chance your whisky will have gone to the angels by that time.


Banff – bombed by the Luftwaffe in WWII didn’t survive the 1983 whisky loch and was closed that year. Convalmore fell two years later but is growing in popularity. Royal Brackla has changed hands since this distillation but is still going.

As usual, exercise some restraint when looking at bottles that are less than perfect. There will be a point when it will not be worth what the auction value is. Only pay what you can afford to drink, with an eye onto how much liquid is left in the bottle. Research what other similar bottles are selling for. And as usual, my best tip is to keep an eye on the assorted miniature collections in online auctions. Sometimes a unicorn whisky can be hiding in amongst others, as I found with my G&M Royal Brackla. You can always do what I did and sell the remainder of the miniatures again at auction and make enough money back to effectively make the unicorn you’ve hunted free. Fortune favours the brave!

Yours In Spirits.

Scotty

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Scotty’s Drams encourages responsible drinking. To find out the facts about drink, and where to find help if you need it visit Drinkaware.co.uk by clicking on the link.

Photo Credits

All photos – Authors own