Top Of The Drops

What floated my boat in 2020.

Well it’s come to the end of the year almost and it goes without saying that all of us are pretty much looking back on a year that never happened. The coronavirus has changed so much in our lives, very little of it good. I hope you have all managed to cling on and will look towards 2021 as being a better year.

The one thing for me that did change is that I reviewed about 45 drams for my blog, and as I am often asked what I have as my favourite, I think I should do a quick review. After all, that’s what everybody else seems to do, and why should I be any different?


A decent whisky, despite being quite young. Didn’t make the top five, but would buy again. Gets into the top 5 of attractive bottles though.

Firstly, I could not pick an absolute favourite. That was too hard. Secondly, it had to be obtainable so if you want to try it, you can without breaking the bank. So that whittles out Yellow Submarine, which while still easy enough to get, it is only available on the secondary market at silly prices. Same goes for most of the silent distilleries I reviewed.

So without much more pomp and ceremony, my picks for 2020 were in no particular order

  • Glenallachie 15 – £65
  • Glendronach 18 – £97
  • Speyburn 10 – £25 if on offer. Around £30 otherwise
  • Glenlivet Captain’s Reserve – £45
  • Glenglassaugh Revival – £38

I picked all of these as despite them not being the best whisky in the world, after each dram I instantly wanted another. Only the GlenDronach is getting pricey at about £100 a bottle.


A good value dram and a pleasant surprise

For the drams that are not easily available or limited edition, I would pick

  • Macallan 10 y.o – £400+ at auction including fees
  • Glenfarclas 2005 14 y.o Cask 2588 – released at £150
  • TWBC Invergordon 42 Batch 15 – £180+ at auction including fees
  • Allt Dour 8 – Robertson’s of Pitlochry – £55 (still available at time of writing!)
  • North British 30 Single Grain (Dramfool) – £95 on release.

Allt Dour. My review is responsible for at least 10 sales.

Just goes to show you that you do not have to spend much for a decent dram, plus it is important that you aren’t a dram snob. Never thought I’d enjoy the Glenlivet or Speyburn so much.

In all fairness, if rarity or lack of accessibility wasn’t an issue, the Allt Dour would win top spot, with the Invergordon following closely behind. But because these drams have limited availability it’s hard to recommend them as overall winners. The Allt Dour at the time of writing is still available from Robertson’s of Pitlochry, but I’d be quick in getting one before they all go. I’ve bought a second one already.

We’ll skip over the worst whisky. It’s the last review of the year. Pay attention as I do vent my spleen quite extensively. That will be published on 30th December. Remember that you may well like what I don’t, and half of what I write in my very infrequent negative reviews is meant for entertainment

Cheers to Scotty’s Drams for the recommendations.” While i enjoyed Haig Clubman, it didn’t make the top 5.

Turning the tables somewhat but what was your dram of the year? Did you buy and actually open a Macallan? Have you gone crazy for the latest wave of inaugural bottlings? Drop me a line and let me know your favourites. If I can, I might even try to review them.

Lastly, thanks for all your support. It’s good to know so many people read what I write. The best thing you can do for me is encourage your whisky loving friends to like or follow one of the social media streams I use (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or even this WordPress blog). It will only encourage me to publish more, assuming that’s what you want!

Wishing you all the very best for the New Year. May your 2021 be much improved over this year past. Stay safe, keep looking forward and get ready for year 3 of Scotty’s Drams.

Yours in Spirits

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


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

Except – Haig Club / David Beckham – c/o Diageo.

Blend It Like Beckham

Taste Review 20 – Haig Club Clubman

The man himself

In this review, we find ourselves in unfamiliar territory, and we commit one of the cardinal sins of the dedicated single malt fan (can you guess what it is yet?) and yet, everything turns out ok.

We find ourselves not in the territory of single malts, but single grain whisky. This is a first for me, as I’ve never been one to try grain whisky, apart from the various ryes and mashes from the States. There are 7 grain distilleries in Scotland – Invergordon, Cameronbridge, Girvan, Loch Lomond, Starlaw, North British and Strathclyde. All are in the Lowlands apart from Invergordon and Loch Lomond, which are classified as Highland whiskies.

Scottish Grain whisky is distilled in a column still, which allows continuous distillation rather than the batch method of pot stills. It also achieves a purer new make, which has removed most of the impurities. This makes it smoother, and was responsible for the rise in popularity of whisky in the mid to late 1800’s. It wasn’t until 1860 that it was allowed to blend malt and grain whiskies together, although vatting malts and grains separately had gone on for years. Allowing blending smoothed out the experience of some of the rougher malts of the time.

And so we move onto Haig Club Clubman. A permanent addition to the range being promoted in a collaboration between David Beckham and Diageo, the owners of the Cameronbridge distillery and media guru Simon Fuller. The range was started with Haig Club, which is a little bit more expensive. This is a whisky I didn’t really want to review but the circumstances were that it was on offer and it was too good a deal to ignore.

My bottle.

John Haig opened the Cameronbridge distillery in 1824, just after the 1823 Excise act made distilling of whisky cheaper. It is the largest Single Grain Distillery in Europe.

And onto the taste test.

The dram

Region

Lowland

Age

No Age Statement

Strength

40% a.b.v

Colour

Pale Gold

Nose

Coconut, wood spice, vanilla, butterscotch

Palate

Custard, coconut, Scottish tablet, creamy grain,

Finish

Short – vanilla, butterscotch, cereal notes.

Conclusion

This is quite a sweet whisky, and having been matured in ex Bourbon casks, there is quite a vanilla and caramel/ toffee influence with a cereal note to it and overall it’s quite light and unassuming. The aftertaste is quite sweet but short, and after a while I felt as though I’d drunk a Jack Daniels and coke.

And, having felt I’d already crossed the Rubicon in taste testing a single grain, I thought it would be a great idea to add coke to see what the fuss was about and break one of the unspoken (and unjustified) taboos about not adding coke to whisky.

Looks so wrong in a Glencairn glass…..

You see, when researching Haig Club, I found a lot of negative comments about it, about how it was rough, cheap, a rip off, only fit for cleaning drains or mixing with coke. And here is my point – it was a whisky designed to be mixed, especially with coke. It will never replace a good single malt, or even a really fine grain, but in all fairness it wasn’t too bad. As much as I wanted to hate it, I couldn’t.

The overall policy for Scotty’s Drams is that you should drink the whisky you like and the way you like it. Nothing else matters. While I can advise on how to drink it, and why it is best not to add ice etc, especially to a fine single malt, if you choose to ignore this, then that’s fine! The choice is yours.

And back to Haig Clubman. Yes, it isn’t the best whisky in the world. Yes, it is a bit too light to be a good whisky (for me, in my opinion), but is it bad? Definitely not. And it was quite refreshing with coke added.

So. Ignore the whisky snobs, haters and the misguided. This is a whisky you can have in your cabinet or on your shelf and know you are getting value for money. I bought mine when it was on offer in Tesco and was £22 for 1 litre, but the 70cl was £25. Odd pricing, which I am pretty sure goes against Scottish licensing guidelines, but that’s a subject for another article. Also you might be able to get this cheaper elsewhere, as Scottish drink laws mean there is a £0.50 minimum cost per unit of alcohol, so over the border it may be sub £20.

This may not happen in your home…

You may see this in your specialist whisky stores, but don’t hold your breath. Look out for the rarely bottled Cameronbridge Single Grain instead.

Finally, my last comment is that despite drinking the David Beckham whisky, at no point did my football skills improve or was I surrounded by women. Oh well, I never really liked Posh Spice anyway.

Slainte Mhath!


Photography taken from Haig Club website and used under fair use policy.


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