Cross over to the dark side

Taste Review #30 – Octomore 9.1 Dialogos

It’s no real secret that I enjoy two styles of whisky, sweet or smoky. Sometimes I can go as far as saying I like them both together. Yes, sometimes nothing can beat an excellent Speyside whisky, but sometimes I just want more.

One thing I haven’t done yet on Scotty’s Drams is drink a really young whisky for review. You may think that young whisky is rubbish, but that is not necessarily so. Take a look at one of my much earlier articles about the myths of age by clicking here. We all know that NAS whisky is hiding younger produce, so it is a brave move to advertise an age statement of 5 years.

I sense a challenge!

Having said that, Octomore is just a peated Bruichladdich, so there isn’t a lot of risk here, so when I saw it advertised as the worlds peatiest malt, I was in for a piece of that action.

The Dialogos part of the release name is meant to mean – ‘written or spoken conversational exchange between two or more people, and a literary and theatrical form that depicts such an exchange’.

Personally I think it just represents a heap of marketing bollocks.

Bottle and dram

Region

Islay

Age

5 years

Strength

59.1% a.b.v

Colour

Pale Gold

Nose

Smoke. Lots of it. Sweet notes of toffee, vanilla, floral too.

Palate

Smooth. No real problems despite being cask strength. Fudge, smoke, oak wood, nuts.

Finish

Long, maritime finish with a hint of sea salt. Treacle, molasses, peat.

Conclusion

Despite the peatiness of this whisky, coupled with its youth, it was an extremely nice dram, and if I saw a bottle of it at a good price, I would buy without hesitation. If you are a Laphroaig fan, this is for you. Outclasses Ardbeg completely.

Tube and bottle (tyndrum whisky)

This goes to prove my point in a much earlier article on the blog that young age is not a disqualification from being a decent whisky. If this was a much older dram, it might have lost that lightness and just been overpowering.

Bottles of this are available online for around £115, but always check your local friendly whisky retail specialist. My dram cost £10 for 25ml at the Grill Bar in Aberdeen.

Incidentally, it isn’t the worlds most peated Scotch whisky. For the time being that is the Dialogos 10 year old at a 167ppm. The challenge continues.

Slainte Mhath!


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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

– authors own unless otherwise credited

Eyes Open For Free Whisky!

Now that I have your attention…….

It’s not all that it seems, but potentially there is a way to score free or cheap rarer whisky.

Regular readers of my blog will know of my habit of scouting auctions for miniatures, mostly for taste reviews. One of my particular habits is looking at batches of miniatures and hopefully there will be something there that I’ll want. This weekend was no different, and the Whisky Hammer auction ended, with me being a winner again.

Spot my target…..

If looking for a smaller sample of rare whisky, it’s worth paying close attention to these batches. The main grab of my recent win may be appear to be the Scottish Parliament miniature with the glasses. But look carefully. Although there is a couple of bottles of lower fill, there is also a GlenDronach 12, a Strathisla 8 and even the Royal Lochnagar 12 is at least a single nip. But look closely. A Connoisseurs Choice Brackla 1974. That is my main target.

How do we get the ‘free’ whisky?

I’m not interested in the Scottish Parliament glasses or nip. The GlenDronach and Strathisla don’t really appeal either. So I’ll look out one or two other miniatures I am not interested in, lump them in a wee box, and put them off to auction. As I only paid £22.40 for this lot, if I get £15 back, I’ve only had to have paid £7.40 for a whisky that if I was to buy in a bar would probably cost £10 a nip. So effectively I paid £7.40 for £20 value. That is a steal in my book – over one dram for free.

Moral of this story? If you want to get the bargains, look closely at the fine details of the deals on offer.


Picture Credits

Bottle photos taken from www.whiskyhammer.co.uk under fair use.


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.

Excess All Areas….

When too much is not enough

Just a short article this week, and probably won’t be a very popular one amongst alcohol enthusiasts, but it is one that needs to be said. After all, a pendulum has to swing both ways.

It was after I had purchased the bottle of Haig Club in order to do the taste review of a single grain whisky (and a cheap one at that), I noticed the price in the supermarket was £22 for 1 litre but £25 for 70CL. This is a bargain, and shouldn’t be argued with, but as a personal licence holder, I know pricing like this is actually against the recommended guidelines in Scotland which are set down for ‘on sales’ in licenced premises. However it is allowed in off-licence sales as long as it is above the minimum price per unit. It is seem as bad craic in the regulatory world to actively encourage a person to drink or buy more than they normally would, and could fall in the bracket of irresponsible promotion.

George regretted his second Famous Grouse

It got me thinking about our attitudes to alcohol. While I have no qualms about anybody who reads the dribble I write on my blog having a problem with alcohol – we are all grown ups after all, for some they have no control. It is when one or two isn’t enough, and you rely on alcohol to relax.

I’m not wanting to preach what you should and shouldn’t do with regards to drinking – that is up to you to decide, but over consumption of alcohol has well documented negative effects on a person’s health. It doesn’t stop there, as excessive over consumption also affects those around you like your family and friends. This is why I try to emphasise quality alcohol over the quantity of alcohol consumed. After all, so we not want to experience the finer things in life?

So, how much is too much?

The amount of alcohol that is safe to consume according to the UK government has changed over the years. The Royal College of Physicians recommended these limits as a guide.

Low Health Risk – Women up to 14 units, men up to 21 units

Increased Health Risk – Women 14 – 35 units, men 21 – 49 units

High Health Risk – Women over 35, men over 49

The problem was with these guidelines was that people tended to save them for the weekend and drink them in one or two consecutive days. As a student I seem to remember doing something similar, but this is known binge drinking and is now recognised as quite harmful to health.

Current recommendations are for women 2-3 units a day and men 3-4 units a day, with 2 or three alcohol free days a day. The current NHS guidelines are 14 units per week for both men and women (Aug 2019).

But what is a unit? How do we calculate the amounts we are drinking?

To calculate the units of alcohol there is very simple calculation.

% abv x ml / 1000.

Therefore a 40% whisky nip of 25ml can be calculated

40 x 25 = 1000

1000 / 1000 = 1 unit.

This will highlight why we need to be careful with cask strength whiskies. A 63% whisky would have a unit value of almost 1.6 units. Bear in mind these are measured amounts that are standard in the UK. It could also be 35ml, which makes our 63% pour have a value of 2.2 units. Plus, how many people actually measure their pours at home?? I do, having a 25ml and 50ml jigger. I’m not being tight, I’ll happily pour more, but it gives me and my guests an idea of how much they are drinking and can pace accordingly.

Pours in other countries can be a standard 40ml, so remember this while abroad.

There are further dangers of mixing your drinks. How many of us may have a glass or two of wine with a meal? One small 125ml glass of 12% wine is 1.5 units. How many of us have the big glass(es)? Add a couple of aperitif whiskies after and your 14 unit weekly budget is reached and beached with hardly any effort.

Driving isn’t the perfect mixer for your drink

There is also the issue of drink driving. Don’t even assume that there is a safe limit or time for you to start driving after a drink. Just leave the car at home, or be a responsible adult and have a drink free day. The average healthy adult can metabolise 1 unit of alcohol an hour, from the point you stop drinking but this can vary from person to person. If you have your 14 units of alcohol in one day, don’t think of driving the next day. And if you plan enjoying yourself in Scotland, then the drink drive limit is nearly half that of the rest of the UK. Take a public transport, get the wife to drive you to work or just pull a sickie.

It’s easy for me to preach. I work in a job I have to go without booze for weeks at a time, but who doesn’t enjoy a drink after work? Truth is that living with a toddler and in a rural area where I rely on being able to drive, I need to be careful, or life gets difficult.

I’m going to leave it to you to decide what is right for you, but put the gut rot down and let’s continue to concentrate on quality over quantity.

Don’t become a muppet with drink

If you feel you want to know more about this subject, please visit the independent Drinkaware website. It is full of helpful information. Click here to visit the site. This link will appear at the bottom of all my blog posts from now on.

Keep informed. Keep safe. Keep Enjoying – responsibly.

Now I’ve done my bit of public responsibility, we can now look towards the next taste review. And don’t worry. I’ll still alert you to the drinks bargains I see.


This blog is written as a hobby. If you liked this article, consider clicking here to visit my Facebook page or liking sharing this article by clicking on icons below.

If you prefer not to use Facebook, follow the WordPress blog by clicking on the link below which will deliver any blog posts to your inbox, including reviews, distillery visits, whisky news and advice.


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.

Whisky Auctions for Beginners

There is no doubt at all that there has been a massive surge in the popularity of whisky, and no more so can this be seen in the proliferation of on-line auctions. This can be a good way of building a collection for drinking, for investment or for finding that unusual gift. So how do these sites work, and what are the advantages and the pitfalls of using these sites?

Getting Started

A quick search on Google will reveal several websites that offer specialist whisky auctions. I’ll supply links at the end of this blog post for these, so if you are interested, you will be able to see for yourself and decide if the whisky auction scene is for you. The sites I am registered with are Whisky Auctioneer (in Perth), Scotch Whisky Auctions (Glasgow), Global Whisky Auctions (Glasgow) , Just Whisky (Dumfermline), Whisky Online Auctions (Blackpool), Grand Whisky Auctions (Invergordon), Whisky Hammer (Ellon, Aberdeenshire), and Whisky Auction.com (Germany). Of course there will be many more sites world wide, but these are the ones which I use due to them being close to where I live, or have reasonable shipping charges.

Usually all of these sites require a small, non-refundable payment to register, typically £5 / €7 to try and discourage spam accounts, and also to ensure the person registered with the site is over 18. It’s as simple as that. And now the whisky world is your oyster.I

Start Bidding

And now it is time to scan through the site to see what interests you. Once you find something that you wish to purchase, then its time to place a bid. Before you place any bid, there are a couple of things that you need to take into account in order to keep yourself financially safe, and perhaps bag yourself a bargain.

1. Know the how much you are willing to spend. This is this most important thing you need to take account of. By not sticking to this, you are at risk of spending more than you can afford, or perhaps more than the item is worth. It is also worth remembering that the hammer price is not the final price that you will pay.  The final cost will be the hammer price, plus somewhere around 10-15% commission. You will also have to pay VAT on the commission, which in the case of businesses is not VAT recoverable. If you are getting the item delivered you will also have the courier costs and the optional insurance which is typically 3%. An example would be a hammer price of £50. 10% commission +VAT = £6. Delivery costs typically £10 for a single bottle. 3% bottle insurance £1.50. Total cost £67.50. Although this may be a small increase, the effect of the commission etc increases greatly as the price of the bottle goes up.

2. Know the value of what you are buying. This may not be the most obvious, but is very easy to get caught out on. To be honest, I have been caught out badly with this once, but thankfully got away with it. The thing is that auctions can be fun, and it is very easy to get carried away, hence why the most important rule is the first one above. However if you don’t know the value of what you are bidding on, you can easily be overpaying. This can be avoided by doing your research prior to bidding. Search other auction sites, or google the bottle to see if there is a trend in the price, and to see what they generally go for. It is then you decide whether or not what you want to spend is sufficient, or if you need to adjust your limits upwards or downwards. Don’t just go on the last sale price or only from one site. You might find that one site does manage to get slightly better prices than others.

3.Google Google Google. While this post is concentrating on auction sites, don’t limit your research to just whisky auction sites. It could be that the bottle you are bidding on is still available in the shops for less than the typical auction price. One great success I have had recently was when I was recommended the 2017 Bunnahabhain Moine Oloroso. This was out of production, and the video blog I was watching was saying how if you see one on a shelf, buy it! Well, I did a thorough Google search, and as had been advised, every site was saying sold out. I was just away to give up, but scrolled through one last page and lo! and behold – a retailer with 2 in stock. A split second later, I had both bought for £157 including delivery. I then looked up auction prices and found typical price is £120-£180 for a bottle! And remember the additional costs underlined in point 1. This has made my bottles a very worthwhile investment. The only explaination why the price in auction may be higher is that perhaps the bidders are in a country where particular bottles are not available or they are desperate to obtain a bottle.

4. Don’t be tempted to up your maximum bid. As the auction draws to an end, you may find yourself outbid. In many auction sites, as the price goes beyond certain thresholds, the minimum bid increase goes up. For instance, below £100, some sites only allow bid increases at a minimum of £5, but above £100 it may rise as high as £10. Beyond £500, some sites have a minimum increase of £50. You can see how it will get expensive very quickly. Only increase your maximum bid if you are fully comfortable in doing so. Remember that it is ok to walk away, as most bottles I have walked away from have appeared in another auction within a year, and I’ve often got them cheaper.

5. At the end. At the end of the auction, if you have the highest bid, then you win the bottles. If an auction ends at 7pm, the auction extends by between 5-10 mins if there is a bid within a set time before the auction ends. This is to defeat sniping software and gives people the chance to up their bids. Depending on the site, some extend the whole auction until there is no new bids for 5 mins, and others only extend the auction for each individual bottle. So you may win a bottle, but other bottles are still availble for bidding. TOP TIP If you are desperate to win a bottle, sometimes it is better to bid, but keep your maximum bid right to the end – as people are usually only informed that they have been outbid by e-mail. Given the delays in the system, you can always put in a last minute bid, and hope that the person you are bidding against doesn’t have their email program running. This is a bit sneaky but is entirely within the rules of every auction site. However this may start a bidding war, so be careful!

6. Pay your bill. Not long after the auction ends, you will get a bill for your purchases. These often require payment within a week, but some of them require payment within 3 days.

Purchase Cheap Whisky

One of my favourite ways of getting new whisky to try, is to search the entire auction, but set the search results to display low to high prices. At the bottom end of the auction are usually the mass produced blends such as Famous Grouse or various blends used for export, and also miniatures. I’m a big fan of this method of bargain hunting, and usually go for the miniatures. This can work out a lot cheaper than buying the same whisky in a bar, and you can still get aged whisky as well – a recent purchase of Benrinnes Connoisseurs Choice miniatures included a 1968, 1972, 1973 and 1978. One caveat is that whisky sold in Scotland is subject to the minimum price laws, which dictate a minimum price of 50p per unit of alcohol. This has meant some auctioneers placing minimum initial bids to cover this.

Have Fun!

I have to say that I enjoy the excitement of an online auction, and if you follow this guide, you should remain safe. Of course, what you bid on is solely a matter of taste, but be sure not to exceed your limits. The time I got caught out, I bid over £1400 for a Glenfiddich only worth £500. I only got away with it as somebody else bid £1500. They didn’t pay, and claimed that their computer had been hacked. This was probably not the case, and it is more likely drunk bidding. So stay sober and just wait for your newly acquired drink to arrive!

Links 

Dalwhinnie Dram Head To Head

I finally got around to doing my first tasting on behalf of Scotty’s Drams. Two samples of Dalwhinnie to taste compare and share the results with you. It’s tough work but somebody has to do it! Actually I don’t have to do it, but might as well……

Both samples were as a result of visiting the distillery but being the responsible driver, I didn’t get to taste at the time, so my samples were bottled to go.

If you don’t know, Dalwhinnie is supposed to be the highest distillery in Scotland, but that can be disputed with Braeval in Glenlivet. Dalwhinnie is at 1145 feet above sea level whereas Braeval is at 1163 ft. Difference is that the Pernod Ricard owned Braeval is fully automated and only needs one person to run it. And it’s a malt few have heard of, as official releases are extremely rare, but you can more easily pick up independent bottlings, but are still not common.

Dalwhinnie is a distillery that sits just outside the village of the same name, and is a prominent landmark by the side of the A9 north of Drumochter Pass. The distillery was founded in 1897, but was originally named the Strathspey Distillery, being owned by the Strathspey Distillery company, who also owned the distillery in Kingussie. In 1898, the Strathspey Distillery Company went bankrupt, possibly as an aftermath of the 1896 Pattinson Crash, and the distillery was sold. At this time, the new owners renamed the distillery Dalwhinnie and the rest is history. The Kingussie Distillery went silent in 1911, and was demolished in the 1920’s. Only one row of cottages remains, and it is rumoured a lot of the local houses are built of the stone from the former distillery.

Anyway, onto the whiskies sampled. The two supplied samples were the Winters Gold and 2017 Distillers Edition. Both are non age statements, but the Distillers Edition does give a distilled date and bottled date so can be worked out as 15 years old. Both are at 43% abv and come normally in 70cl bottlings.

As you can see from the photograph, the colours are broadly similar, a nice medium gold colour. Being the same strength, the legs were broadly similar. It was only at the nosing that the first differences became apparent. The Winters Gold has a lovely smoke about it, with a peaty sort of smell, but certainly not overpowering. I got a smell of dried fruit, oak, smoke and digestive biscuits, but my sense of smell is not to be trusted, as my sinuses are knackered. However, the oak is a smell that is registered on most appraisals I’ve seen of the whisky.

The Distillers Edition was totally different. Although a peated whisky, the level is so low, so could hardly detect it. It is a much lighter and sweeter spirit, and while I thought I could smell strawberries and hay, the official taste guide tells me it should be raspberries. Ah well, close enough. This expression of Dalwhinnie is finished in Oloroso Sherry Casks, that gives a sweeter taste to the matured spirit.

On the taste comparison, the Winters Gold to me had a much better mouth feel, and the smoke gave a nice warm feeling. For me the taste of biscuits continued, along with dried fruit. The finish was medium long and pleasant.

The Distillers Edition to me was not so pleasant. The spirit felt a lot lighter in the mouth, and the alcohol burn was much more prominent. The fruit and hay taste continued with slight malt notes as well. There was a definite pleasant spice to it once the tingling of the alcohol had died off. The finish was a bit shorter than the Winters Gold, and despite not being a bad whisky, to me it wasn’t my favourite of the two.

I don’t know if the plastic sample bottle played any part in the taste, as they sat in my kitchen display cabinet for long enough, but I don’t think there was much difference to what one straight out of the bottle may be like.

Other factors that I didn’t contemplate at the time was that Winters Gold is made from whisky distilled in the winter, which apparently gives a different thicker spirit. As Dalwhinnie is one of the few distilleries left to use worm tubs for condensing the spirit vapour into liquid again, the cold water in the tub will definitely be a lot colder during the winter months, allowing for quicker condensation. This can give a thicker feeling spirit. This whisky is quite innovative as this edition is meant to be put into the freezer prior to drinking, but as I didn’t I can’t tell how it affects taste.

As both whiskies are chill filtered, neither of them will display the cloudiness that one occasionally sees when ice is added. Both are have colour added, so there will be a little bitterness as one possibly tastes the E150 caramel colouring.

Final result?

For me, both were pleasant enough to drink, albeit a bit underwhelming. Given the small size of the sample, I never got a chance to dilute with water, which does open some Dalwhinnie whiskies up. But on balance, I’m not in a hurry to buy a full bottle of either, but if I was to try another dram, a miniature of Winters Gold would be my choice.

Being diluted to 43% I feel has affected the experience that can be had from these drams, and I wonder what it would be like at cask strength.

Other Dalwhinnie Trivia

  • This was the first Scottish Distillery to be owned by a foreign company. In 1905 it was sold to an American company called Cook and Bernheimer at an auction for the price of £1250
  • Dalwhinnie has a good visitors centre, which is due to be upgraded. Indeed, more people are employed at the visitors centre than work in the distillery!
  • Dalwhinnie is marketed as a Highland Malt but also falls within the Speyside Region. Under Scottish Whisky Regulations 2009, either term can be applied. Indeed it is closer to the River Spey (8.1km) than it’s Speyside height rival at Braeval (17.5km)
  • Tours are usually free in the winter months,. This may coincide with the silent season, where the distilling process pauses for maintenance.
  • In the very hot summer of 2018, distilling had to be paused due to a cooling water shortage. The supply for the whisky was fine!
  • Website wwww.malts.com

Feel free to add any comments, either here or on the Facebook page. Will be glad to hear your thoughts.