You just can’t be in two places at one time. As much as there is plenty to go around, you can’t split yourself in two without negative consequences. And that’s why I found myself on a ship in India and not on my usual vessel, which is now in Australia. Twice with this company I have obtained an Australian work visa and twice I haven’t gone. Guess I’m just going to taste their whisky instead.
There are a few distilleries to choose from and in my quest to try a few world whiskies I decided to try one from the Starward distillery. This isn’t your typical distillery hidden in a glen or a valley; it’s set up in the middle of Melbourne. Founded by David Vitale in 2007, the distillery makes use of locally grown ingredients and casks from the Australian wine industry. Add some variable hot and humid weather and you get a perfect environment for rapidly maturing whisky.
The whisky I’m tasting today is the Starward Dolce. Limited to 4800 bottles, it is around the 4 year old mark. Matured in Australian Red Wine casks and finished in a dessert wine cask, let’s see if the New World whisky is as good as some of their wines.
Region – Australia Age – 4 y.o Strength – 48% abv Colour – Tawny (1.4) Cask Type – Red Wine / Dessert Wine Colouring – No Chill Filtered – No Nose – Red fruit, strawberries, Raspberries, chocolate, Pink Marshmallow, quite sweet. Salted caramel. Palate – quite spicy on the arrival. Spirit burn to the fore. Ginger, pepper, gives way to sweetness, again with the marshmallow. Dates. Medium mouthfeel, slightly oily. Finish – short and sweet. Pretty pleasant to be fair. The caramel theme carries on and fades into stone fruit. Possibly chocolate coated cherries. The spices drop off quite quickly.
I’m glad the original inhabitants of Australia were poor at evading capture after committing criminal activities, as without those original colonial settlers, we would not have had a whisky as delightful as this one. I picked this one as the tasting notes of fruit were right up my alley and I have not been disappointed in the slightest.
It is worth remembering that despite its young age, the environmental conditions in Melbourne mature whisky faster, and this while still detectably young, drinks like an older whisky than it is. I could go onto wine critics descriptors such as a tango on the tongue, like lambs gambolling across green grass meadows, a party on one’s palate but I won’t. It wasn’t that good. I would however strongly recommend if you enjoy a fruity whisky, this is one to get. I’ll certainly keep an eye out on this distillery.
Once more I take a delve into whisky history, and for your delectation today it’s a trip away from Speyside. In this review, we head up the A9 to the north of Inverness and arrive at the the small town of Tain, situated on the Easter Ross coastline over looking the Dornoch Firth. Of course, it can only be one distillery, and that’s Glenmorangie. The name itself is supposed to translate to the Glen of Tranquility, but I’m no Scots Gaelic expert. As a Doric speaker, English is often a struggle as I tend to mumble. Anyway, it is one of the most mispronounced names in the Whisky World after Bunnahabhain or Allt-a-Bhainne. The hint is to place the emphasis on the ‘MOR’ and the angie should rhyme with orangey. Try it.
Glenmorangie for me is a bit of an emotional distillery. It was where my whisky journey germinated – the absolute Genesis, the big bang event. At that point I had been a casual whisky drinker, but by the middle of 2006 I was a whisky collector by picking up two Glenmorangie Truffle Oak Reserve for £150 a piece. Not that I really knew much about whisky at that time to be fair, it was because as an eating enthusiast (that’s code for fat b*****d) I’m quite partial to a bakers truffle. I hadn’t really discovered the truffles you use pigs to find yet, but I’m available if you want to have a look for some. I had previously visited Glenmorangie in 2001, when on a short break in the Sutherland area with a previous girlfriend. The next time I was regularly in Tain during 2005 / 2006, I was dating a lassie from there, and eventually took a visit to the distillery again with a friend and ended up buying some bottles. The bottles were originally meant for wetting a baby’s head which sadly never came, and were put into a safe place and added to slowly.
The distillery was formed from a brewery in 1843 by William Matheson, who’s family owned the distillery until 1887, when it was bought by the Glenmorangie Distillery Co. who then owned it until 1918. It then passed to Macdonald & Muir who owned it until 2004 when it passed to the French owned Louis Vitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH). The distillery has the tallest stills in Scotland, at around 26 ft 3in tall, or 8m for those of a metric disposition. These are said to make a smoother spirit, as only the purest vapours reach the top, but also this will increase the amount of copper contact with the spirit. Much was made in their promotional material about the 16 men of Tain, the amount of men that used to work in the distillery. However, this has crept up slightly, so they are now known as the Men of Tain.
The distillery takes its water from the Tarlogie Springs to the west of the distillery. When the land near the springs was possibly going to be approved for development, the distillery stepped in and bought 600 acres of land that surrounded them. The barley used at the site is grown by a local co-operative of farmers, and once a year, Chocolate malt is used to create the Signet bottling.
The two drams that are in this review are of the same age, abv and cask type, so should be a good contender for a head to head competition. In the older expression, we can see that the volume is not stated on the label and is given in proof, which means it is bottled prior to 1980. I suspect this is a bottle from the 70’s. Unlike the older Glenrothes I reviewed a couple of weeks ago, there isn’t any tell-tale markings on the bottle saying 50ml which would date it post 1971. The newer dram was ordered via Drinksupermarket, whereas the older one came in an auction bundle.
Fortunately before I opened the older sample I noticed signs of sediment, so with the seal in doubt, the coffee filter procedure was employed. I am happy to say that once opened, I could see the seal appeared to be in good condition.
Glenmorangie 10 (1970’s)
Region – Highland Age -10 y.o Strength – 70 Proof (40%) Colour – Pale Straw (0.2) Cask Type – Bourbon Colouring – Yes Chill Filtered – Yes Nose – sweet and sour – honey, caramel, bit of hay, slight hint of smoke and brine. Citrus. Slight funk from bottle. Palate – Quite oily, the legs are quite impressive for its age, subtle arrival of wood spices. Barley, citrus (orange peel) honey, cinnamon. Honey, slight smoke continues from the nose. Finish – medium long. Bitter orange, caramel, smoke, hessian sack, coconut, hint of brine and sulphur. Warming and slightly astringent on the finish. Hessian probably the bottle funk. adding water (2ml) increased the hessian and brine notes and added pineapple to the palate and finish.
Glenmorangie 10 (The Original
Region -Highland Age -10 y.o Strength – 40% abv Colour – Pale Gold (0.3) Cask Type – Bourbon Colouring -Yes Chill Filtered -Yes Nose – Sweet, quite light, natural honeycomb, peach melba, slight citrus, little brine, almond, nougat. Palate – Sweet arrival. More malty, barley once again, oak, coconut, reminds me of the pink / white bars of iced coconut.vanilla. Finish – medium. A burst of a savoury note after swallowing. Then sweet / sour. Oak, chocolate, brine, peppery. a touch of candy floss and almond. Adding 2ml of water smoothes things out a bit and reduces the savoury note at the start of the finish.
The trouble of doing these reviews of newer versus older whisky is that it is after all, pretty subjective. On the eye, although my iPhone photography may not show it, the newer dram is certainly clearer and more fresh looking in the glass. By colour there is not much to tell them apart, and even on initial nosing before I rested the drams, the noses on them were remarkably similar. So much so I had to mark one of the glasses so I would know what one is what.
But as I am writing this, I am writing with a sinking heart as the dram I didn’t like, I’m wondering if it is just to my taste or if it is genuinely the worst of the two. It had the shorter finish of the two, and if I am going to be honest, tastewise it wasn’t the best. Then again I look at it from another perspective. The strong taste just after swallowing while not to my pleasure, highlighted something in the whisky that was probably more relevant – a lack of balance. Both drams were soft initially, but the older example had this continuously, and while it did produce that lovely oaky woody spices in the same proportions as the newer example, nothing really overpowered anything else.
For me, what I look for in the whisky normally is the nose, palate and finish. I’m looking for notes, aromas, full on flavours and spices, yet having such a large burst of a savoury flavour at the end, the newer expression of the 10 year old just does not hold the same balance. And for that reason I am going to say I preferred the older expression.
The next pair of drams come from a relatively modern distillery and is the youngest distillery on my quest to find out whether or not older generation whisky is any better than its contemporaries in today’s market. The Auchroisk distillery was built in 1972 by International Distillers and Vinters to produce whisky for their J&B blends, and joined their Speyside portfolio of Knockando, Glen Spey and Strathmill. Production started in 1974, but wasn’t until 1986 that it was released as a single malt. Unfortunately it hit one main issue; how do you pronounce the name? Would the target market be able to ask for this whisky correctly? For me as a native Scots Doric speaker of the Scottish North East, I can tell you that there are many ways to pronounce many of our locations, and they’re all wrong. For a quick example, the Aberdeenshire village of Strachan is pronounced ‘Straan’; Finzean is pronounced ’Fing-inn’ and Aberchirder is known as ‘Foggie’. Fraserburgh is called the ‘Broch’. Just don’t ask why. Obviously the head honchos at IDV (that’s heidy-bummers in Scots Doric) decided that they didn’t want to engage an any geographical name nonsense so decided to release the whisky under the brand ‘Singleton’.
Well, that worked for a wee while, but this was retired in 2001 when the distillery became part of the Flora and Fauna range. And now we have to learn how to say Auchroisk; it’s aw-thrusk. Don’t believe any of the non-Doric speakers telling you it’s Orth-rusk. That might be how it sounds to you if you have a silver spoon up your bottom, but it’s wrong. To be honest, even if you get the the pronunciation wrong, you’ll easily be understood should you be lucky enough to see this in a bar.
The Singleton range wasn’t fully retired. By 2006 it was used again for three distilleries – Glen Ord (marketed heavily in Asia), Glendullan (marketed in US and Canada) and Dufftown (marketed in Europe). These are termed ‘recruitment’ malts which get people lured into buying Diageo’s more premium produce such as Mortlach. To be honest, it can’t be used for linguistic simplicity as if you can’t pronounce these three distilleries then perhaps you are either not old enough to drink or maybe whisky isn’t for you. Certainly don’t try ordering a Bunnahabhain; only on grounds of the tongue twisting challenge you’d face. Stick to Bells, it will be directly on your level.
As you may all know by now, I’ve got a wee bit of a fondness for the Flora and Fauna whiskies, but will the older one be better? I’ve not got a full size Auchroisk open at the moment, so will have to use a mini from Drinks By The Dram, along with a miniature which obtained in a multiple bottle auction lot. The older whisky was distilled in 1983 and bottled in 1993, making it 10 years old. It’s time to see how they compare.
Singleton of Auchroisk 1983
Region – Speyside Age – Vintage but believed to be 10 y.o Strength – 40% Colour – Amontillado Sherry (0.9) Cask Type – States Sherry on label Colouring – Not known but likely Chill Filtered – Yes Nose – Honey, raisin, green apples, smells quite creamy and oily, vanilla, pipe tobacco Palate -A good balanced oak spice, peppery, ginger, nutmeg, honey, green orchard fruit, a note of hay. There is a cardboard note that I am assuming is the seal but does not linger if the spirit is held on the tongue. Finish – medium long. Oak spices slowly dissipate leaving honey and pepper to linger on the tongue. Custard and wet brown paper with a slight hint of sulphur. 2ml of water increases the fruitiness on the palate and almost killed the cardboard note. Got a taste that reminded me of coconut on my second dram.
Auchroisk 10 year old Flora And Fauna
Region – Speyside Age – 10 y.o Strength – 43% Colour – Jonquripe Corn (0.4) Cask Type – Colouring – Yes Chill Filtered – Yes Nose – Subtle honey, vanilla, pears in custard, hint of barley and lemon. Palate – Quite citrusy arrival with a bitter taste, leading into peppery oak and green apple peel. Caramel sweets – Werther’s Originals Finish Short. Burst of peppery spices with a bitter lemon chaser. Herbal. 2ml of water definitely smoothed this whisky out. Strangely it lengthens the finish but didn’t really alter much of the taste profile. Perhaps a bit more caramel in the palate.
It became quickly apparent that these whiskies had only 2 things in common – the place of their birth and their age. The earlier whisky has been finished in Sherry casks, though I have a doubt that it was a full maturation. The 10 year old seems to have a bourbon only profile. I have a source that has told me that Singleton is possibly ony
These whiskies were the only official bottling from this distillery. Its 2001 appearance along with three other Speysiders (Glen Elgin, Glen Spey and Strathmill, in the Flora and Fauna series seems to be a way of adding to the range as other distilleries were closed (Pittyvaich and Rosebank) or sold (Aberfeldy, Aultmore, Balmenach, Bladnoch, Craigellachie, Royal Brackla, Speyburn). The standard Flora and Fauna range is bottled at 43% so this is a positive move to step up from the Singletons basic 40%.
The other noticeable difference was the colour of the spirit. Both drams I suspect are not natural colour, the older one being darker but this had come from a Sherry cask, so it may be expected to have a different shade. Can’t help but think it has a bit of assistance in its colour like Trump. This sample was coincidentally drunk on the day Trump lost his day job to an older man. Fancy that.
Despite only a 3% increase in abv, the dram did seem a lot brighter, sharper. There was a similar warmth in both drams nose but the sherry notes didn’t come out in the older bottle until I was on the second dram. The older bottle also seemed to have been suffering a bit from old bottle effect, as the cardboard note reminded me of the seal. However this seal was tight and in good condition, so I don’t know.
Here is where it gets hard. I prefer sherried whisky to bourbon only maturation, so to pick a winner between these two is not easy. I preferred the nose and palate on the older dram, yet the newer dram was more punchier, had a bit more bite, and responded to water a bit better.
Going to have to put this one down to being an inconclusive result. If you get either dram, both will give you the same levels of enjoyment, it just depends on your tastes.
Once upon a time….. yeah, that’s not how this story is going to turn out I’m afraid. No Hans Christian Andersen here, this is strictly adult story territory here. The emblem of Glengoyne is a Swan, so whether or not one of these whiskies graduates from an ugly duckling to a graceful swan remains to be seen. I tend to like happy endings here at Scotty’s Drams.
I’ve reviewed Glengoyne 10 before and to be honest I wasn’t that impressed. However it didn’t stop me buying an 18 year old 70cl bottle when the range had a facelift and it was going cheap on Amazon. Of course I know what I’ve said about shopping on Amazon for whisky, but this was a rare occurrence. I still buy the majority of my spirits from independents. But would this time be any different? Would I notice a difference in taste?
Glengoyne is a Highland distillery (only just) as the dividing boundary is on the road outside. The stills are in the Highland Region and the warehouses are in the Lowland region. It is currently owned by Ian Macleod Distillers, who also own Tamdhu. They have owned the distillery since 2003, when they bought it from Edrington. The spirit made here is completely unpeated.
As this is a comparison review, I’m not going to say too much about the distillery history, but concentrate on the whisky. The two bottles I have are both 10 years old and both at 40% abv. The older one has suffered a little evaporation it seems despite having quite a tight seal. This was bottled in the 1980’s so we can forgive a little bit. The modern version was bought in 2020, just before the rebrand. Let’s see what one gives the best dram experience.
Glengoyne 10 (old)
Region -Highland Age – 10 y.o Strength – 40% Colour – Deep Gold (0.8) Cask Type – Sherry, possibly Bourbon in the marriage Colouring – Not known but suspect Yes Chill Filtered – Nose – Toffee, Raisins, Vanilla, quite fruity, slight cereal note. Green apple. Palate – Toffee and vanilla continue, with the raisin note decreased slightly. Leather, slight liquorice notes, and a hint of nut. Soft oak with a waxy mouthfeel. Nut and oak increase with water. Finish – medium. Sweet with soft oak spiciness, chocolate, mocha and butterscotch. Adding water increases spices at the end. There is also a slight interaction from the bottle.
Glengoyne 10 y.o (new)
Region – Highland Age – 10 y.o Strength – 40% Colour – Yellow Gold (0.5) Cask Type – 30% Sherry, 70% Bourbon Colouring – No Chill Filtered – Yes Nose – Toffee, Green Apple, Honey, Lemon, a hint of cereal. Quite crisp Palate – Apples, grass, waxy mouthfeel but not a heavy wax. Almost indistinguishable oak note, faint white pepper. Finish – short. Ginger. Lemon, Apple. Adding water to this dram made little difference to N,P & F.
Some fairly damning opinions here. I will hold back from saying that they are ‘facts’ as this is just my experience.
The manufacturer has been quite open about how the new bottling is put together. This should be applauded when many distilleries say nothing about the make up of their whiskies. This one was Sherry cask (15% European Oak and 15% American Oak) and 70% refill bourbon casks. To be frank, I struggled to taste much of the sherry effect in this dram.
Let’s contrast this to the 1980’s version. Despite the obvious effects of age, this dram in the nose alone screamed “I’ve been in a Sherry Cask”. I do believe there has been a touch of bourbon cask involvement, I can’t tell you if the spirit has been re-racked or married with bourbon cask. Whatever it is, the oak notes are a lot more pronounced, where in comparison the new version the oak notes were almost missing in action.
My main thought is whether or not this whisky has fallen foul of poorer quality casks or more reliance on bourbon maturation. The modern 10 isn’t a bad whisky and although I haven’t enjoyed it particularly over the past two reviews, that is just my personal taste. Too many people enjoy Glengoyne for me not to accept it is a decent brand, and perhaps that I’ll enjoy something a wee bit older. I’ve an 18 y.o miniature for that purpose.
You can buy the old style Glengoyne at auction for around £80. Bit pricey for a drinking 10 year old but I’ve tasted a lot worse and paid a lot more for it. Be aware it’s a screw top, so the seal may not be perfect and the waxed cardboard will have an effect if it has been incorrectly stored. The modern Glengoyne retails around the £30 mark.
Despite being from an old bottle and slightly evaporated, the old style Glengoyne wins hands down, mostly due to having a superior nose and palate.
Ever bitten off more than you can chew? I certainly have. Whilst it seemed like a good idea to compare old and new versions of whisky to see if we did have it better back in the day, I’m now faced with a massive backlog of drams. It’s becoming pretty daunting having to face constant dramming to enable me to complete this series before I head off to work again.
Such is the demand on my time, I have had to make the difficult decision to ramp up my publishing to 2 reviews a week. That’s up to 4 whisky reviews. It’s not just the case of sitting with an easy sipper; to review you aren’t just drinking the liquid, but constantly thinking and analysing what is in your glass.
Region – Lowland Age – 10 y.o Strength – 43% Colour – Cask Type – Not Known Colouring – Yes Chill Filtered – Yes Nose – Rich Toffee, Honey, Heather. Quite fresh considering the age of the bottle Palate – quite a light mouthfeel, not oily but more like syrup from canned fruit. Citrus, slightly floral too. Peppery Finish – medium short. Peppery and malty at the end.
Auchentoshan 12 (2018)
Region – Lowland Age – 12 y.o Strength – 40% Colour – Cask Type – 10 years Bourbon / 2 years oloroso Colouring – Yes Chill Filtered – Yes Nose – Malty. Smells as though something has gone off, vegetal note, nutty, toasted bread. Caramac bars. A whiff of smoke.Palate – quite oaky and agressive. Definite taste of smoke, perhaps char from the cask, as I believe this to be unpeated. Mixed spice, honey, a slight sourness such as passion fruit. Finish – medium/short. Bit citrusy and sour with a slight whiff of TCP. Pretty insipid.
I have to say that I wonder why Auchentoshan decided to move from a 43% age statement at 10 years old to a 12 year old at 40%. It is without a doubt one of the more backward things a company could have done, especially in the age where consumers are more discerning. Both drams were chill filtered, both appear to have colouring added. While the 10 year old is from an era where these things are acceptable, whisky drinkers are wanting more nowadays.
Both drams lacked any complexity and adding water did nothing to them for me. After an hour with the 12 year old after adding water I found to be drinkable. I’m no expert, but I feel that the use of a re-racking for 2 years in Oloroso casks may be as a result of the use of tired, worn out wood. The char in the 12 year old was particularly noticeable to the point I almost thought it was peated. I didn’t get a lot, if any of the sherried barrels. More evidence of worn out wood.
Why they don’t bottle at 46%, natural colour and non chill filtered astounds me. Being triple distilled, you’d expect a smooth dram, but this wasn’t. One thinks the more diluted product at bottling and poor wood means that the distillery are attempting to maximise profits. The assumed re-racking of this offers little benefit. No matter how much you polish a turd, it’s still a turd. However, I’m not saying it this whisky is rubbish because I didn’t like it.
The ten year old, whilst lacking in complexity was a pleasant, though underwhelming experience and I much preferred this one. Adding water to this made it more relaxed and easy to drink, though I didn’t get any extra tastes from it. The experience was similar to my last review of a 1990’s Auchentoshan, which i did enjoy though this older edition was better.
It’s a shame, as I’ve always been put off slightly by the amount of non age statement whisky Auchentoshan have released. While I am sure they are all competent whiskies, I’m reluctant to try it if this what an age stated whisky is like. I guess I’ve just not had the right nip from this Clydeside distillery yet.
Mmmm, I really struggled with a title for this review. Nothing really seemed to be quite right, and in the end I settled something that to the more delicate of minds isn’t just ‘not quite right’ but more to the fact it’s ‘very wrong’. Initially I had thought of the Rolf Harris song ‘Two Little Boys’, but then given his history was probably an inappropriate choice. With the term ‘Laddie’ being an affectionate and non-predatory nickname for Bruichladdich whiskies, you can see I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. Whatever I put resulted in sounding like I had a lifetime membership of the Gary Glitter and Jimmy Saville fan clubs, but I can assure you here that the 10 year olds we are speaking about are definitely whisky.
Bruichladdich isn’t a new distillery. Situated by the shores of Loch Indaal on the west coast of Islay, Bruichladdich has always been a bit of an oddball amongst the Islay distilleries, mainly because of the unpeated nature of its spirit. Peat is used in the distillery for the medium peat Port Charlotte and heavily peated Octomore bottlings, but not for the core Bruichladdich releases. The distillery was built in 1881 by it’s owners the Harvey Brothers. Their ownership came to an end in 1937, and by 1954 it came in to the hands of Distillers Company Ltd, a forerunner of Diageo. However, their ownership was short, and it was offloaded to AB Grant, who also owned the Bladnoch Distillery.
Bruichladdich changed hands again in 1968 when it was bought by Invergordon Distillers, who in turn in 1993 became under Whyte and Mackay. By 1995 Bruichladdich was deemed surplus to requirements and was closed in 1996. In late 2000 it was bought by a private consortium who included Mark Reynier. Coming from a wine background, Mark had also founded the independent whisky bottler Murray McDavid along with 2 others, so perhaps buying a defunct distillery on Islay was the next logical step.
When it was set up, Bruichladdich was a modern distillery, having been purpose built rather than developed from farm steadings. Unfortunately (depending on how you look at it) the distillery had seen very little in modernisation throughout the years. It had been used as a blend fodder factory for much of its prior ownership. Much of the original equipment is still in place, including an open top mash tun, one of a few still in existence. When the distillery was bought, between Jan and May 2001, the distillery equipment was dismantled and given an overhaul then reassembled. It still seems to this day that Bruichladdich is like a working museum, but who can argue with the quality of the liquid?
With a background in wine, you can be sure that Mark was familiar with the concept of ‘terroir’, which is how the local environment, microclimate and soil can all influence the crop of grapes that make wine. Mark had decided to apply this to whisky at Bruichladdich, and has since gone on to apply this to the new distillery he is now involved in at Waterford, Ireland. We will be discussing this at a later date, as that is a minefield of opinions on its own!
The other thing that needed doing at Bruichladdich was an improvement of its wood policy. Much of the existing spirit was re-racked, and a bottling plant was also constructed. However it was in the days of when the distillery had little money that they bought equipment from the Inverleven distillery which was being demolished. Of course, it was also around the time of the Iraqi Supergun, weapons of mass destruction so sailing a barge of distillery equipment past the Holy Loch, where the UK nuclear deterrent was based was always going to result in attention being paid. This came in the form of the US Threat Reduction agency notifying the distillery that one of their webcams was out, so Big Brother was definitely watching! It gave rise to a 19 year old bottling called Whisky Of Mass Distinction (get it?) This was joined by WMD II with the discovery of a Royal Navy ROV, but you can read that story here in my previous review of this whisky.
Mark sold the distillery to Remy Cointreau in 2012, so what direction it will take now will remain to be seen, bearing in mind what gets distilled usually isn’t released for 8-10 years. It doesn’t seem to be much has changed.
As much as I hate the term ‘fanboy’, I have to tell you that I own more Bruichladdich than any other distillery. This ranges from the first 10 year old whisky to be released by the distillery, my bottles being signed by the distiller Jim McEwan through to the latest release, Octomore 11. I like their whisky, especially the heavily peated stuff, which tends to be quite young though this still works. I’ve never come across miniatures of Bruichladdich very often, but a recent acquisition of around 50 miniatures, most of which went back to auction saw 4 Bruichladdich minis – 2x 10, 15 and 17 year olds. I sold all but one of the 10’s so I could taste it at some point. The older style Bruichladdich came from a bulk buy of miniatures so I could get the one I wanted; in this case it was a Glenury Royal. But with my project of comparing old with new, I have something that I can taste and review to see if older was better.
Bruichladdich 10 (old)
Region – Islay Age – 10 yr Strength – 40% Colour – Jonquiripe Corn (0.4) Cask Type – not known Colouring – possibly but on account of colour not likely Chill Filtered – Yes Nose -Solvent. Honey, vanilla, malt, green orchard fruit like a peeled Granny Smith apple, grassy. Palate– quite pleasant and unassuming. Honey flavour continues from the nose and is quite dominating, but wood spices start to take over with a sparkling dryness. No brine note that I would have expected from a coastal distillery. A slight cardboard note though. Apple tart without the cinnamon Finish – Relatively short and uninspired. The palate continues with a mild toffee note which quickly fades. You have to hunt for a brine note but it’s there.
Bruichladdich 10 (modern)
Region – Islay Age – 10 yr Strength – 46% Colour – Pale Gold (0.3) Cask Type – not known Colouring – No Chill Filtered – No Nose – bit more solventy, can detect a brine note mixing with the honey. There is definitely a malty, almost readybrek background. Creamy fruit dessert. Palate – definitely more sweet on the arrival, with more presence of wood spices. Ginger, Apple, citrus (lime?) can taste a green Rowntree’s fruit pastille. Slightly floral as well. A strong brine character. Finish – the finish is much more expressive. There is a creamy exotic fruit to it – Pineapple tart.
The more modern bottling was a different kettle of fish. It had some similar characteristics in the nose, but was more forward – possibly the result of the higher ABV. The older sample did make me think that the wood policy at Bruichladdich wasn’t the best. There was just no excitement there at all. It turned out I was right in my assessment as I am writing the conclusions the day after the tasting. I purposely don’t do any or much research prior to tasting, as I don’t want my notes to be influenced by what I have read.
I have to say without a doubt that in this case, older was definitely not better, and the newer sample was much more drinkable, much more fresh and much more aromatic, even though it looked as though the newer bottling looked as though it was the one that had suffered from a small bit of evaporation.
Without a doubt, had the older sample been my first taste of Bruichladdich, I’d have probably not given the distillery much of a thought. While not a bad whisky, it lacked any punch. Of course I only have an idea of the age of the bottle, but the spirit definitely comes from the 90’s. The clue is in the label – the Bruichladdich Distillery Company was founded in July 2000, which would possibly mean this is spirit made from the previous owners. The fact it’s a little bit boring, yet with no major flaws indicates it is not from the new regime.
While writing these notes, I did think about what I could do with the leftovers. With one at 40% and the other at 46%, I decided to make my own Bruichladdich single malt at 43% by mixing the two together. It was still drinkable, but the older spirit definitely held the newer one back. You can now see that the policy of re-racking wasn’t desirable, it was probably necessary.
The older style dram in a full size bottle can still be picked up at auction relatively cheaply. The newer version is similar, with a hammer price of around £50. It was also discontinued a few years back, so perhaps in due course a newer 10 year old expression may re-emerge, though nowadays the Classic Laddie bottling is probably the closest you will get nowadays.
We come to the second round in the battle between old whisky and new whisky. In the first round we found out that I preferred the older whisky. But will it be the same on this occasion?
Glenfarclas is a distillery in the Speyside region of Scotland. Situated to the north of the tiny village of Marypark, Ballindalloch, the distillery was started by Robert Hay as a farm distillery. Although it was only granted a licence to distil in 1836, there is evidence that distilling was happening for some time before that. By 1865, the distillery had been bought by the Grant Family, who have held it ever since.
The water source for the distillery comes from springs on the slopes of Benrinnes, the tallest hill in the local region. Glenfarclas is known for putting its spirit into sherry casks for maturation, with a mixture of European Oak Oloroso Hogsheads and butts being used. Glenfarclas is one of the few distilleries to directly heat their stills from underneath. In the early 1980’s steam was tried, but this altered the quality of the new make spirit, so it was back to direct fire.
I’ve always enjoyed the whisky made at Glenfarclas. It’s a good, solid reliable performer. I didn’t really take to a 15 yr old sample I had at one point, but that has been very much the exception. It came to pass that I had a visit to the distillery in October 2019, but seeing that I was driving and a law abiding citizen, I couldn’t partake of a sample. The distillery give drivers a 5cl bottle of the 10 year old, so when a bottle of 10 year old of yesteryear came into my possession, then the stage was set for what would become this head to head. Without any further ado, let battle commence
Glenfarclas 10 (Old)
Region -Speyside Age -10 years Strength – 40% Colour – Auburn (1.5) Cask Type -Oloroso Sherry Colouring – No Chill Filtered -Not Stated, suspect yes Nose -Instant hit of sherry sweetness. Strong smell of raisins and sultanas, toffee, vanilla, chocolate, light oak. Palate – Instantly warming, sweet honeycomb, dried fruit, cinnamon spices with a light fizz on the tongue. The mouthfeel is like a big hug, covering the mouth in a syrupy blanket. Finish – Long and smooth with honey and spices warming the mouth and throat.
Glenfarclas 10 (New)
Region – Speyside Age – 10 years Strength – 40% Colour – Old Gold (0.6) Cask Type – Oloroso Sherry Colouring -No Chill Filtered – Not stated, suspect yes Nose -Sweet, honey, toffee, malt, barley, grassy Palate – oily, same spicy note as the old version. I find this more malty and less honey and dried fruit impact. Finish – Medium. Spicy tones fade off quicker than previous. Honey continues and I’m left with a bit of burnt rubber at the end – sulphur.
Both very strong drams. The old version of the 10 yr old started off with a disadvantage, in that I didn’t realise that this bottle in the time I had it in my possession had a slightly loose cap, resulting in a wee bit of evaporation. However in the end, it was the older version of the 10 year old expression that won. In my opinion not by a little bit, but by a country mile. The sherry cask influences were much more apparent in the older expression and there was a much more mouthfeel, despite the evaporation.
I find it interesting that I get a small burst of sulphur at the end of the new expression, which is the same as the 15 year old I reviewed last year, but not in the older edition. I wonder if it is something to do with the evaporation? Perhaps the spirit has had (more than adequate) time to breathe and oxidise. Those greedy whisky angels have had more than their fair share.
Glenfarclas 10 is available in shops for around £35 to £40. The older style is only available on the secondary market, and the 1990’s edition has gained in value somewhat, with prices up to around £115 including auction fees.
Next head to head in around a month’s time will be from the Benromach distillery.
It has been a challenging time trying to get Scotty’s drams restarted after the drama of my wee flooding. To be fair it’s pretty easy to get the blog back on keel, all I have to do is drink whisky and write about it, not exactly a hardship. However trying to find the time in doing so when looking after a four year old means this is more easily said than done. Once the wee one is in their bed, all I can think of is having a coffee and looking to see what is on TV. I just want to switch off and not have to review a whisky or write about it.
Looking over my boxes of miniatures, I can see that I have quite a few pairs of different whiskies, one older and one more recent. Back in the day when I started Scotty’s drams I thought about thinking about some preconceived ideas and challenging them, such as blends are inferior to single malts, and the best whisky is old whisky. Well, there is one idea that I have been thinking about for some time and that is whisky from a different era is better than the whisky we have now. This is relevant to me in some way, as one of the bottles that got damaged in my flood was an old bottle of Macallan from the 90’s I’ve tasted this 10 year old before and I have to say I feel having compared it to Double Oak, the 90’s Macallan trounces it.
Now there is several reasons for this to be, but is it the same across the whisky spectrum and can it be proved? With those several doubles of differing eras sitting in my study, this not only gives me the chance to perhaps try and determine if this theory is true, it also gives me the chance to clear out a few bottles relatively quickly.
I’m planning to do one of these comparisons a month minimum,with whisky from every Scottish region. I only lack a spirit of yesteryear from Campbeltown, with the mass majority being from Highlands and Speyside. Samples include Benromach, Glenfarclas, Clynelish, GlenDronach, Auchroisk, Glen Keith, Auchentoshan, Bruichladdich, Highland Park, Glengoyne, Glenrothes and Linkwood. As close as I can, I’ve managed to secure whisky of the same age statement or cask type. However the Benromach is an old style 12 year old with a new style 10 year old. That might not be comparing Apples and Oranges, but a bit like comparing a Ford Sierra with its replacement the Mondeo.
I’m not convinced I’ll get a definitive answer, but there is a definite direction of travel on the three pairs I’ve tasted so far. I’m not going to reveal what it is until I post the relevant reviews.
This week has seen a bottle kill in the collection, the infamous Beinn Dubh from the Speyside distillery. Despite what many may think about it, I quite like it. I’m not rushing out to buy a bottle in the near future as I’ve quite a few more on the go that need to be cracked open, but I’m glad I tried it and would buy another in time. The bottle definitely improved as it went down as oxidisation took effect. The other whisky that I have looked forward to killing is the Glen Keith distillery edition. My earlier review “Giving Keith a Kicking” was perhaps a wee bit unkind. I’ve tried it in the best of the worst single malts to include in a hot toddy and it still failed miserably. The winner in that wee experiment was Jura Journey believe it or not. Anyway, as part of an effort to move some bottles closer to being killed, I tried some Glen Keith again.
It was surprising. It still isn’t really my taste, but was a lot more palatable after being open for over 6 months. I have to say I enjoyed it. Therefore after finding an old style Glen Keith in my miniature pile, I’m quite happy to perhaps review this one once more. It goes to show you that sometimes you just need to be in the mood for second opinions, or some whiskies really need a bit of time to open up and to be given a second chance. However, unlike the Beinn Dubh, I will not be buying a second bottle. The Coop sold it for £20 for a reason!!
Ergo – always give something second chance. I have rarely disliked a whisky but always have gone back to make sure. I’m kind of pleased I did this time.
Anyway, hopefully I can get another few reviews done for you soon. I’ve 2 weeks of isolation coming up in the near future so I’ll have no excuse not to write something down before I go back offshore. There is a host of drams to have, some older, some recent and some newer distilleries. Amongst them are Highland Park, Glenury Royal, Kingsbarns, Tamdhu, Braeval and Allt-a-Bhanne. There may also be whisky that isn’t Scottish….. and as I type some other samples have arrived from a Scottish exile in Belfast. My friend Nick has sent me some Glenugie, Cask Strength Benrinnes and Edradour along with the chocolate malt from Fettercairn. These go into the sample pot as well and will be reviewed as soon as I can.
Last week I did something on Scotty’s drams that I hadn’t done in some time, and that was review two whiskies in the same article. So pleased was I with the result, I decided to do the same again this week, as I still have a shelf of a kitchen cabinet absolutely ‘stappit fu’ (that’s the Doric dialect for stuffed full) with miniatures. In an attempt to clear things out, I am going for it again.
Once again, this review of two minatures from the Talisker distillery were part of a three bottle set of which I have already reviewed the Talisker Dark Storm. It was a present from my wife, and reminds me of our last visit there in 2013. I’ve actually been there twice, and am quite familiar with the spirit that the distillery produces. For years Talisker was the only whisky distillery on Skye, and this is proudly proclaimed on the bottles I have before me. However there nothing worse in an age where things are changing so rapidly that what is fact and gospel one minute becomes outdated the next. There is another whisky distillery on Skye at Torabhaig which started producing in 2017, so hopefully soon we will be seeing spirit from there. When will we see Diageo update the Talisker labelling will remain to be seen.
The Talisker Distillery has existed since 1830’s, but wasn’t always a success on account of its remote location – even in today’s times it is still a pretty remote location. It wasn’t until it was taken over by Roderick Kemp and Alexander Allen in 1880 that things started to turn around. Kemp sold his share in 1892 to purchase the Macallan distillery, and in 1895 Allen died and it passed onto his business partner Thomas Mackenzie who was already involved in the Dailuaine distillery on Speyside. It was three years later when Talisker, Dailuaine and Imperial were merged into a single company. Mackenzie himself died in 1916, and control of the distillery was eventually gained by DCL which eventually evolved into the modern day drinks giant Diageo. It is a very important single malt for them, and by 1998 it became part of the Classic Malts selection.
The distillery has a visitors centre, which is very similar to other Diageo visitors centres, but I can recommend the tour very much. It is a beautiful journey to the Isle of Skye, travelling up from Glasgow on the A82, then cutting away from the Great Glen on the A87 all the way to the Isle of Skye, passing the Five Sisters of Kintail, Loch Duich and Eilean Donan Castle (Highlander Movie) and then over the Skye Bridge. The journey across Skye on a good day is little short of breathtaking when you get the view of the Cuillin Hills. Well worth the journey.
It is now time to continue with our whisky journey and proceed with the tastings.
Strength – 45.8%. Colour – Amber. Nose – Smoke, Slight Peat, Brine, Citrus, Seaweed, a shell fish note too. A caramel toffee note appears after adding water with a light vanilla in the background. Palate – Not as agressive as the nose may suggest. Quite a full body with a very pleasant mouth feel. It coats the mouth very satisfactorily. Smoke, light peat. Malted cereal, sweet and peppery. Finish – Medium – long. Quite spicy and peppery with an explosion of oak spices and a nice sweet peppery note continuing.
Strength – 45.8%. Colour – Amber. Nose – Smoke and light peat. Less than the 10year old. Stewed orchard fruits, toffee, a hint of liquorice allsorts. Palate -Not as full a body as the 10 year old. A good bit lighter, but still lightly oily. Smoke and peat levels are much more subdued here compared to the 10 year old, yet is still unmistakably a Talisker. The brine is more noticeable due to the lower smoke levels and there. Finish– Much shorter than the 10 year old and not as much spice, but still the smokey sweet peppery finish.
There is a reason that Talisker is important to Diageo. It is such a pleasant drink to have. Yes, it may be a mass produced whisky but that is something that should be disregarded as we should be judging on our experience alone. It has been some time since I have tasted Talisker 10, especially since I took a shine to Laphroaig 10, but I would say if you are wanting to experiment with peaty whiskies, I’d start with some Highland Park 12 then move onto Talisker 10. It has such a lovely mouth feel, and what is really beneficial to the drinker is the smoke and peat aren’t too strong. The underlying sweetness rescues you from any residual phenolics so you don’t feel as though you are drinking a bottle of TCP.
Moving onto the Skye – it is a little brother to the 10 year old. Much more approachable and if you are a bit of a peat and smoke virgin, then this would probably be better than simply leaping into the 10 year old. The mouthfeel is still familiar, but has less body, and for my palate a bit less satisfying, but I prefer the more heavier peated whiskies when we have moved into the peated styles.
Thinking back to my previous review of Talisker Storm, I remember that being quite aromatic in the smoke and peat departments, with a long finish which became quite tedious in the end. Plus the aroma was as such I could smell the glass of whisky from the other side of the room. It was an average whisky, but I wouldn’t rush to recommend it. However, these two that I have reviewed above I can recommend, as they are very easy to drink and not overpowering in any sense, but still give a quality drinking experience. Of course, there will be plenty of other whiskies that may be challenging, but if you are just looking for an easy going experience with medium smoke and peat, then these two will hit the spot.
However, there are down sides to the equation. Both of these whiskies have colour added, which makes me sad, as I’d like to see a difference between the two to help me realise without tasting that these two are different spirits. Only one of the spirits tasted this time have an age statement, and this was the better of the two with the fuller mouth feel. Whether this is coincidence and the NAS Talisker has a majority of younger whisky which gives a lighter feel is just a guess, but I don’t think its far off the mark.
We have to end on a positive though, and after how good it tastes, we then have to think of how much it costs. While I cannot comment on the cost of the three miniature set at the time as it was a kind gift from my wife to reminisce of our time on Skye, you can pick these up at a whisky retailer for around £16 mark. The full size bottles of each bottle can be picked up for around £43 (10 y.o) and £45 for Skye. As Diageo are moving away from 5CL miniatures at their visitor centres, the 10 year old can also be bought in 20CL size for around £16. To be honest, I think these prices represent good value, and if I fancied a change from Laphroaig, Talisker would be where I’d go to.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.