Come On And Celebrate!

Whisky to mark an occasion

We all know that whisky is an excellent drink to use for a celebration and in Scotland it is very commonly used as such. Events such as the birth of a child have a social celebration known as a ‘Head Wetting’ which is where the birth is celebrated by the father going out with friends for a night out to commemorate the new born. I wonder how many heads are sore the next day when a crying baby may be the last thing that you’d appreciate with a hangover!

An alternative route to celebrate an occasion is to perhaps seek out a special whisky and open the bottle and have a more restrained night (in or out). This was the route I initially took when my daughter was born. 10 years prior I had paid a visit to Glenmorangie distillery and bought two of the Truffle Oak finishes for £150 each. The partner I had at the time and myself were considering the possibility of a child and I thought one of the bottles would be appropriate for a head wetting. However, it was not to be, and the bottles went into the back of my drinks cabinet waiting for that special occasion.

Fast forward 10 years, and my wife and I were blessed with a beautiful baby daughter and the subject of a head wetting came up. I thought about the Truffle Oak Glenmorangie bottles, and how I would love to try one. This was also about the time I had decided to start collecting bottles more seriously so I could perhaps have a little nest egg for the little one when she was older. A quick look on the internet for retail and auction prices for these bottles showed that I was not going to be opening the Glenmorangie, but instead picked a Bruichladdich Yellow Submarine instead. These were the days when you could pick up a retail one for under £200 and auction prices were even lower. It was my first time tasting this bottling, and I suppose the fact that I used it as my head wetting whisky makes it that little bit more special, and not just the fact that it has a tie in with my day job.

Now that we are thinking of picking a whisky to celebrate a pivotal moment in our lives such as a childbirth or a similar occasion, I have been looking for a decent bottle that marked my date or year of birth. I do have a couple from my year of birth, but the vintage bottlings for me just aren’t the same, so I am constantly on the look out for a whisky that was distilled or bottled on my actual day of birth, but this is like looking for a needle in a haystack. So, I have to make do with bottles that were either distilled or bottled on one of my birthdays, and I have been a little more successful in this endeavour.

It was a visit to the GlenDronach distillery in early summer last year that achieved my first bottle – I was driving and couldn’t drink, so had to sit out the end of the tour tasting, but the guide then pointed out that their hand filled bottle was distilled on what I quickly worked out to be my 19th Birthday. This 26 year old bottle was quickly snapped up and I even got a wee sample to try. Driving away from the distillery I had calculated that I had shot my bolt a bit early. My birthday was in 4 days time, the date the whisky turned 27 years old. I managed to sneak away to get another bottle which was bottled and distilled on my birthday. I would imagine there are very few bottles like that available and it joins the Glenmorangie Truffle Oaks in my remote storage where I can’t be tempted to open it.


Guess which one was bottled at 27 years old to the day? The same day that I turned 21 again too!

It was a Facebook messenger conversation a couple of months ago that made me think of this once more. One of my former work colleagues had asked me about the possibility of getting a bottle of whisky that had the date of his son’s birthday on it. Now, I made him aware that the chances of me being able to find one were as likely as trying to find a drop of wine in the North Sea (not quite what I said, but a lot more acceptable for public consumption!) but I’d have a go. An initial search on the internet was unsuccessful, but I told him to leave it with me and I’d have a go. Challenge accepted!

I’m now going to be writing this article so you can see what I tried and how I was eventually successful. Just to warn you, it took a month and while I did achieve my aim, it was not without it’s frustrations.

A simple Google search will just throw up too many random results. You will easily find the vintage year, and you might even be lucky enough to get the correct month, but if this is going to be a momento of a birth, it isn’t close enough. The vast majority of vintage whisky just has a year on it, so to achieve the correct date we will have to look at three main types of bottlings to secure a victory – Hand Fills, Single Casks and Special Editions. Because most bottles are filled with whisky that is the result of a marriage of casks, you will never be able to achieve a date of distillation. I think that this is important, as the date of the birth will coincide with the date of the whisky creation, which for me gives a more powerful symbolism to the bottle.

To find hand fill bottles with a specific date, the easiest way to achieve this if you ever want to have a bottle of whisky bottled on the date of your offspring’s birth is to get a friend to visit a distillery and purchase a handfilled bottle on the day that your child is born. I would suggest it may not be polite for you to do this when your significant other is going through labour and may create considerable friction in your relationship. There is no way that I would try that, although I was close enough to a distillery on the date of my daughter’s birth!

With hand filled bottles, I would suggest that there is a slight drawback to know that somebody else bottled it, so loses it’s personal touch to the special event that you are trying to commemorate, but that all depends on how special you want this to be. By far the easiest bottles to find are those from single casks, where it is easier to find a larger availability of dates, and certainly easier to search for.

If you think a single cask bottle would be appropriate, then you have to ask yourself will it be drunk? Of course, it depends on whether or not you are giving it to somebody or keeping it for yourself. But to help you search I found it is easier to look at distilleries that are consistently producing good single cask produce. What you may find that if you can get a date that is within a couple of days of your requirements, it is a case of being patient. Sometimes distilleries go through a run of bottling single casks. I found this to be true of GlenAllachie as one of my early targets to source a bottle for my colleague, but could only get within 2 or three days and not the actual date – close but no cigar.


Distillery releases at visitor centres are good bets as they often list both distilling dates and bottling dates. They also include distilleries long lost or without visitor facilities

Since these bottles were unlikely to be found at retail, I decided to hit the auctions. The simplest way to search was to look for a particular vintage year. If there was too many results, I found I got mixed returns by using different date formats in the search boxes of the auctioneers. You have to be persistent in trying everything. You also need to be smart about filtering your search results – being Aberdonian I always search for the low prices first as why would you want to pay more than you had to?

To cut a long story short, eventually I got a hit on a bottle from the Arran Distillery. This took me about 3 weeks searching every now and again when I had a spare moment. Initially I found a bottling from the day before the required date, but when I realised the date I needed was a Friday, then I found other bottles of the same whisky from the following week so then I was certain there would likely be similar bottling on the date required. Some further persistence paid off and within a couple of hours found the bottle I needed.

Let’s just say I hadn’t found THE bottle, but only had identified the edition I needed to find in the auctions or rare whisky shops. But if you have been paying attention to what I write, you will know that if something has been in an auction once, then it will turn up eventually in the future. You hope that it is not an in-demand bottle or that you don’t get somebody else bidding against you which will possibly force the price up. And it is here you have to make a difficult decision – how much do you pay for the bottle you are searching for? How important is the significance of the date?

Well, I took the common sense approach – I looked closely at the bottle – it had condition warnings about the state of the outer packaging, and what wasn’t noted was slight damage to the front label. The next thing you have to consider is how many of them were produced?.l Because this was a wine cask finish in a single cask, just over three hundred were available on the date I required. Researching the prices of other auctions revealed a hammer price between £85 and £150, but I didn’t do a thorough search, as it was only to give me an idea. Using my usual auction strategies, I obtained the bottle for a hammer price of £65 which adding the usual fees and P&P came to £85.


Captured prey – the Arran bottle acquired.

Whilst this is not a whisky that was distilled on the date required, given that this was over 14 years ago and the amount of releases since then, it was going to be like searching the world for a specific grain of sand. We can choose to look at it from the sense that the bottled product was created on the same day, and hopefully that has enough significance for the recipient whether it gets opened or kept in a cupboard for a wee while longer.

Of course, when thinking of celebrating significant birthdays, if you are close enough to a distillery that does hand fill, I would suggest taking a trip there with the intended recipient to commemorate not only the day, but a proper day out making memories. In the case of my colleague, this is what I suggested happens for his child’s 18th and 21st birthdays. Will these bottles be worth anything financially? Only if somebody else wants the same date, Indeed my GlenDronach handfill is making about £60-£70 more than I paid for it at auction, but then factor in the fees, then no, it’s not making a lot more, but time will tell. There will be a demand for vintage whisky in the future, but whether or not sherried whiskies are popular in the future remains to be seen. Vintage GlenDronach frequently does well at auction so not too worried.

I haven’t mentioned much about the third type of bottle – special editions. These will be rarer and therefore harder to find, especially for a specific date. And we know what this is likely to do for prices but regardless we have to know what the prices are so we aren’t overpaying.

Lastly, sometimes it is just down to luck. You just need to keep your eyes open when looking around distilleries, especially for single cask releases. Independent bottlers are also often good for detailing dates such as Signatory vintage. It is just a case of looking around.

Of course, you could always have a cask filled on that very date, but that’s an entirely different kettle of fish, and I’d advise you to look at my articles on cask purchase before proceeding down a very expensive route if you hope to taste it.

I hope this has given you a few pointers. Funnily enough as I was writing this article, somebody contacted me about this very issue, although they were looking for vintage Macallan. Talk about good timing! Cone time I will be looking for a vintage whisky for my daughters birth date, but as she’s not even four yet, there may be some time to go yet before anything is released.

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.

Photo Credits

All Photos – Authors Own

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

Index of articles here


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

Technical Difficulties

Why normal service isn’t always possible.

In the United Kingdom, we are now into our third week of lockdown due to the Coronavirus. This has caused a mild difficulty for me writing Scotty’s Drams; some of it you may notice and some of it you may not. For those of you who follow my blog through WordPress and not the other social media channels I use will have noticed that sometimes I re-publish pages. There is a good reason for this – the majority of my blog has been written on my phone, but occasionally I choose to type it on a laptop. This is because I can publish an article a lot quicker. For some reason what was on my phone and on my laptop wasn’t matching up and was causing a bit of an issue. It has caused some of the previous blogs to disappear, and I’ve had to republish.

The other slight technical difficulty is trying to monitor the passage of time. Being on lockdown has very much been similar to working offshore where the only way you know the passage of time is either looking at the calendar or by the menu for the day. So this means I am writing my weekend article on a Friday again, as the week has blasted past without me realising I have to put some thoughts down.

Anyway, despite the boredom of lockdown, I have still found myself tied up with various things, and this has meant that I have not written a Saturday Article. I could, but I feel that this would be of lower than normal quality, which is a path that I do not want to go down. However, I have made my third video, which I will give a link below that teaches us how to drink whisky in a very rudimentary way, but covers all the basics – especially the last point! I will do a more serious video later. All I can say is that I am glad I was able to nail the video quickly, as it could have ended up a bit messy! For those on you who do not follow Scotty’s Drams on Facebook, the link to the video is here.

Moving away to something a bit more positive, I often quote from Winston Churchill. Of course, being Scottish I am not a big fan of Winston’s politics or his ideas of empire, but the man also knew how to speak with many famous quotes and orations. One of my favourites was the one he made about how a pessimist sees the difficulties in opportunities and how an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty. Using modern technology has been great to communicate our love of whisky along with being able to share it, with events on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook. Being a less than sociable person, I have shied away from these, as they are a bit too impersonal, and if I can’t meet or speak to people in person I’d often not bother joining in – I’d rather enjoy whisky in the immediate company of people. As is so many times the case in the whisky community it is each to their own preferences, and if you can get something out of this, I’d encourage you to take part.

Lastly, a couple of weeks ago I hinted that perhaps Scotty’s drams could have a gathering. Of course current events totally blow the chance of that happening right out of the water this year, but I am thinking of perhaps in early spring next year? Let me know your thoughts so I can get an idea of numbers and to what you’d find more beneficial – a city meet up for a night, or a couple of nights in Speyside region, perhaps taking in a distillery tour? Mull it over and let me know so I can formulate a loose plan,

Sorry for the low content of whisky thought this week, but next week will be better. Maybe.

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.

Photo Credits

All Photos – Authors Own

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

What's The Story, Tobermory?

Taste Review #54 – Tobermory 10

The latest review crosses over to the island of Mull. It’s been a while since I’ve done a west coast island that isn’t Islay, and seeing as there is only one distillery on Mull, it is an easy one to cross off the list.

I have a small confession, and this is one that shouldn’t affect things too much. Actually it’s two confessions, but still that shouldn’t matter. Getting the first confession out of the way, Tobermory is a distillery that I have absolutely no experience of at all, but for me that is not a bad thing as my Scotty’s Drams project was all about getting into things I wouldn’t normally drink. I’ll come to the other confession in a wee while.


Tobermory pier and Main Street

What did excite me about this review more than anything else was this was one of the easiest titles to come up with. I do try to make it a little bit witty or to reference something else, or even be a bit risque, though for some reason I had the Oasis song ‘What’s The Story Morning Glory?’ in my head for this entry. However, those of us with young kids should remember the Children’s BBC programme ‘Balamory’ which was based around a fictional island community set in Tobermory. The catchphrase was “What’s the story in Balamory?”. I didn’t want people to think that was my favourite watching. I still prefer Danger Mouse, The Magic Roundabout and Rhubarb and Custard. Damn! I’m showing my age…..

So what is the story in Tobermory? Well, it’s one of the oldest distilleries in Scotland, having been founded in 1798, a date proudly proclaimed on it’s bottle and on the side of the distillery. It was formerly known as Ledaig (pronounced as LetchAIG) and was formally licenced in 1823. It went through a couple of other owners before coming into the hands of Distillers Company Ltd, a fore-runner of Diageo, who closed the distillery in 1930 due to the fall out from prohibition in the USA. The distillery was silent for another 42 years until reopening under the Ledaig Distillery (Tobermory) name in 1972. However, production had to be halted by May 1975, as storage space had run out at the distillery due to delays in a bonded warehouse being built. This eventually caused the loss of 14 jobs, and the distillery went into receivership.

However, all was not lost, and the distillery did reopen in 1979 (which is the year one of my favourite ever songs was released – Are Friends Electric?) but this time under the name of Tobermory Distillers Ltd. This sadly did not last long, and after three years the distillery fell silent again. Some of the bonded warehouses were sold off for conversion into apartments and other storage uses, which made it look as though the days of Tobermory having a distillery where probably slipping away. The early to mid 1980’s were a dark time for Scottish distilleries, and many other more notable sites closed, especially if they were too small or limited in space to modernise, or had higher costs.

Of course, we all know this story has a happy ending, and the distillery opened in 1989, and by the 1993 it was taken over by current owner Burn Stewart, who themselves got taken over in 2013 by the South African company Distell, who also own the Bunnahabhain distillery on Islay and the Deanston distillery in the Highland region.


The Distillery at Tobermory

This isn’t a big distillery, and in 2017 it closed for two years for upgrading, but the capacity of the distillery was not altered, and remains at 1,000,000 litres a year. That isn’t a lot, especially when you consider that the distillery also produces two runs – There is the unpeated whisky which is marketed as Tobermory, and the heavily peated whisky known as Ledaig, which is peated to around 30-40ppm. This leads me to my second confession – for a long time, I was under the impression that Ledaig was a separate distillery. It wasn’t until about 3 years ago I realised, even though I’d been collecting whisky on and off since 2006. Well, there you go. Drinking Famous Grouse isn’t my only shame!

It seems going by the distillery web page that there are only currently 4 core bottlings, and the 10 year old that I have to taste for you today seems to have been discontinued. however this has been replaced by a 12 year old. There is also a 42 year old bottling, and on for Ledaig there is a 10 year old and an 18 year old available.

Anyway, writing all this info before I have a sip has given me a mouth as dry as Mother Theresa’s sandals, so let’s move onto the process of getting some whisky down my neck. My wee dram has been airing while I typed this up, so should be fully ready for a tasting.


The bottle

Region

Highland

Age

10 Years Old

Strength

46.3%

Colour

Light gold

Nose

Quite a fruity hit at first with a very active green apple there, followed by malty notes and some creamy vanilla and caramel. Light oak.

Palate

Quite assertive but not overpowering in the arrival. Noted a slight astringency in the development, but all very polite and pleasurable. Fruity, in that there are apples and pears there, perhaps stewed as there is a bit of sweet leading to bitter in the development. The astringency fades and a nutty gingerbread appears, and the start of a maritime note. This is drying on the mouth which leads onto the finish

Finish

Medium to long finish. Very pleasant. I got quite a bit of salt in the start of the finish, with the continuing gingerbread spiciness. Perhaps a bit of star anise as well. Right at the end, a chocolate note develops.


The poured dram

Conclusion

This wouldn’t normally be a go to malt for me, which is a shame, as this was really pleasurable, and I liked the notes I got from this whisky. The main points in my round up would be the fruity aroma, the gingerbread spice which has quite a constant spicy feeling in the mouth, though in a really nice way. It is important to know that I sampled this dram neat, and with being 46.3%, it didn’t seem to be. It was just right and well balanced between spirit and cask. Best news is that I found another sample in my hoard.

I don’t know where this whisky matures, but the maritime notes are there, and although not that strong to begin with, build up quite nicely, but don’t become overpowering. The one thing that concerns me is after I made my notes up for the taste test, I had a look at other notes to see how mine compared. I was surprised to see that people were recording a peat and smoke there. I never got that at all, especially because this is supposed to be an unpeated whisky. However, I wonder if they are experiencing something left over from the production schedule of Ledaig?

I can’t tell you how much this sample cost me, as I bought it at Inverness airport, but I don’t think it was much above £6. However a full bottle will set you back around £50. This in my opinion is a bit much for a 10 year old whisky, but given the enjoyment I got, not unreasonable. However it is discontinued so price may rise. If price is not a concern, then it is a good malt, and scores 4/4 on our ABCD scale – Age statement, Bottling strength of 46.3%, No Chill Filtering, and although it doesn’t mention on the bottle or box that it is not coloured, a bit of research on sites selling it in Germany reveal it is not coloured. This must be a Burn Stewart thing, as the Deanston bottles are similar. Not being subjected to artificial colourings is something that should be shouted out.

If you want something a bit more available and cheaper, I would suggest the Old Pulteney 12, but this has a stronger maritime note.

Slainte Mhath!

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


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

Tobermory Main Street – Tom Parnell. Shared under the Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0 Licence

Tobermory Distillery – De Facto – Shared under the Creative Commons CC BY-SA 4.0 Licence

All Other Photos – Author’s Own

Kicking It Old Skool

Taste Review #52 – Macallan 10 (Old Style)

No. I am not trying to get down with the kids. I am definitely not a cool person. But today’s review will be a refreshing piece of nostalgia, and we are going to be looking at whisky that many being produced today need to learn from. There may be a bit of Macallan bashing, but this is purely incidental, certainly not intentional and could be equally aimed at many other distilleries.


1990’s Macallan

How many of us remember a time when whisky was good? Hasn’t it always been good? Can it get any better? With Single Malt Whisky having exploded over the past couple of decades, the choice has never been better. However with this taste review, I want to put a concept to you. I want each of you who reads this to think about it to yourselves. And if you can be bothered, I’d appreciate feed back, either in the form of a comment below the article, through facebook, instagram, e-mail or even twitter. If your only means of communicating with me is carrier pigeon, then by all means send it, however I can’t promise that my dog won’t eat it. So if you are General Melchitt and your pigeon is called Speckled George, definitely don’t send it. (Fans of Blackadder Goes Forth will get the reference!)

I’m going to put to you the concept that some whisky is not better than it used to be. I would say it is demonstrably not worse per se, but definitely not as good as it used to be. I would say this has happened and continues to happen due to the large amounts of different editions through different age statements, non-age statements, cask finishing and the lack of decent aged stock available. This is something that all distilleries will suffer from. Each one is trying to obtain, keep or improve its market share.

For a while, I have felt that this applied to Macallan. This is not because I want to rebel against Macallan, as everybody seems to like them and I don’t want to rebel like a stroppy teenager. It’sbecause I feel the focus has moved. While I still believe that they do still make quality whisky, I feel that quality is definitely subdued. This was highlighted to me during a visit to their distillery in October last year.

The building itself is a marvel. You will have never seen a distillery like it, and I doubt if we will ever see one again, certainly not in the near future. Outside it looks more like an extension of Tellytubby land, but inside you can see the architectural masterpiece it is. The tour is good value too, albeit it seems very corporate, although now thinking about it, this is not a mistake. This is deliberate.

The Macallan archive is a wonderful masterpiece, with hundreds of bottles on the soaring shelves. But it is here we start to make our comparisons. One of my bugbears with Macallan is the amount of NAS they are releasing. To look across the way, we see the shop, where many of the products there have no age statements. But as I said before, some of what I am saying about Macallan can be applied to many distilleries, as aged stocks run low.

Macallan has been known as a distillery that exclusively used sherry casks, and one of the six pillars of Macallan is the quality of their casks. However, since 2004, they have been releasing whisky that has been made not just in sherry casks, but now uses Bourbon casks. Not that I have a problem with this as such, as this doesn’t make a bad whisky. However, it just isn’t as good as what has gone before from Macallan in my opinion.


one of my old style Macallan bottles

The tour I took at Macallan also gave us a sample of 12 year old Double Cask which is matured in American and European Oak, and the 15 year old Triple Cask which is also matured in a Bourbon cask. This, as far as I know isn’t the result of re-racking but a mixture of casks in the vatting prior to bottling. I never got a chance to try them at the distillery, as I was driving – and of course we all know drinking and driving is definitely not cool. So I got them to take home.

This fact was something that excited me, as I had a sample of a 10 year old Macallan from the 80’s or 90’s which I had been given by Matteo at the Speyside Whisky Shop, and I really wanted to write a review that compared all three, but the samples from the whisky tour just didn’t give me enough to write an objective review. However, although both drams were quite pleasant there was something that was very obvious to my palate. The old style whisky blasted the other two into outer space. Just no comparison.

Here are my tasting notes for the older whisky.


12 Year old 1990’s Macallan

Region

Speyside

Age

10 years

Strength

40 % abv

Colour

Deep gold

Nose

Proper sherry nose. Dates, plums, raisins, tobacco note, hot chocolate powder. More of a toffee note appears when water added. 

Palate

Instant, intense sweet hit on the arrival, with pretty much every note in the nose also on the palate. 

Finish

Medium to long, gently fades away. Slightly drying in the finish, toffee, dried fruits and a hint of spicy wood.


The dram

Conclusions

What I write now may be paraphrased from another article that I have written elsewhere about Macallan, but I’ll try and keep to the appropriate portions here.

I am indebted to Sorren at ocdwhisky.com for an article he wrote about whisky blogging. One of the things he said was that no whisky manufacturer deliberately makes a bad whisky. I know I might have had a bit of a rant over Jura Journey and Glen Keith, but Sorren is right. It’s just tastes are different, and you can’t like everything. However, that doesn’t mean that distilleries can get away with reduced quality whisky.

Of course, with a shortage of aged stocks, plus a decline in sherry drinkers has probably meant that sourcing quality casks has become harder and certainly more expensive for Scotch whisky producers. I would contend that Macallan has safeguarded the premium casks for their more expensive whiskies, which can cost thousand of pounds. However, they aren’t going to be doing that exclusive for whisky that is in the sub £100 bracket if they can get away with it. Use of Bourbon casks reduces the demand for sherry casks. This is something Macallan has been releasing since 2004. So, my concept I am trying to get you to think about is that have Macallan (or other producers) slowly weaned us off the premium whisky and onto something that is still good, but not as good?

I certainly feel this way, as the old-skool sample that I had was absolutely fantastic, and I almost regret giving my brother-in-law a small sample of the small sample I received. In a normal state of mind I wouldn’t have shared, but my brother in law is a good bloke and he very much appreciated his share. Is it a case of what we used to get as a standard 10 year old is now the quality standard for the 18 year old or above? I may have to take the plunge and buy a more expensive bottle to find out, or chum up my more generous Macallan drinking friends.

This is why I feel that with Scotty’s drams it is good to use the samples of older whisky, in particular my bargain basement miniature buying at auction is actually a valid exercise. The ten year old Macallan in the picture above is auctioning for around £300. The 12 year old I’ve seen as high as £450. A smaller sample is good for reminding us what has gone before and gives us a point of reference.

What is your take on this subject?

Slainte Mhath!

Scotty

Index of tastings here

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Sorry for the double publishing – there was an error generated that caused the link to display incorrect information. It won’t happen again. Actually it probably will, but I will still be sorry.


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 Photographs author’s own.

Under The Hammer

Why you need to be careful with on-line auctions

For a few years now I have been a regular user of on-line whisky auctions to start boosting my collection, as well as selling some of my bottles that I have no further need to keep. Recently I have spent some time selling around 40 miniatures at auction and was very happy at the price that I received. I also was selling my Macallan Folio 5, which I needed to get rid of on account of the amount released – it didn’t have the rarity value that I desire to enable to keep it. Of course, I then had to contend with the flippers and those also offloading their Macallan purchases that didn’t meet their expectations.

Throughout this article, I am not going to mention any auctioneers by name, however I will give the websites of the auctioneers that I use for buying, selling or both.

While on-line auctions offer a relatively easy way of buying and selling there are a few things that you need to be aware of that can catch you out. This is in particularly true when you are trying to sell something at the same time as a lot of other people. Unfortunately this was the problem that I had when selling my Macallan, and it isn’t just the auction you are taking part in – there are often two or three on-line auctions running at the same time. Of course many of those in the market will often see the way prices are going between the auctions and will bid accordingly – if they get outbid on one auction site, it is no problem just to start bidding on another site.

In my case, I wanted to offload my Macallan as soon as possible, so I had to pick an auctioneer that was going to hold an auction soonest and that I was able to get the bottle submitted in time. One thing you have to consider is that some auctioneers have better exposure than others, but the flip side is that those auctioneers are also more likely to have more submissions of the same article when it comes to trying to offload a sought after release. One thing that counted against me was that one of the biggest auctions was taking place when my auction started, and it had 200 Macallan Folio 5 for sale. It goes without saying that the more there is of something available, this then suppresses the price somewhat, but the good thing is that for Macallan Folio Editions, the demand is there, so you shouldn’t suffer. Perhaps I should have put that in italics, as there are no guarantees.

If you are worried about the price that you may receive back for any sales, the important thing is to place a reserve on it. This usually costs an extra £4 – £7 depending on auctioneer. I cannot stress this enough – perhaps it is better not to sell something that doesn’t make it’s reserve, and gives you the chance to either re-submit it to another auction or perhaps keep to sell another day. It gives me no pleasure to report that one of my friends in the whisky community went to sell his Macallan Easter Elchies Black 2019 and the auctioneers recommended no reserve. To my friends dismay, there was 90 other bottles in the same auction and as a result lost around £100. So, if you need a return – set a reserve.


Don’t get hammered at auction. Stick to your price and don’t overpay

Setting a reserve is something I think is also being used by some to manipulate the market, especially in the case of new releases. Many auctioneers do not let you set a reserve above Recommended Retail Price (RRP) for 6 months after a new release in an attempt to help stop the flippers setting high reserves to guarantee them a return which in my view is greedy, immoral and detrimental to a whisky release where people see pound signs instead of the liquid in the bottle. Admittedly, the best this can do is just kick the can down the road in limiting the prices, and anybody is free to bid above the RRP, but at least limiting reserves helps others. One auctioneer that I deal with has said they use common sense and don’t limit any reserves but it’s on a case-by-case basis. If it’s not unreasonable, you’ll get a higher than RRP reserve.

Not all auctioneers are the same, and when thinking about the reserves I have seen on other auctions for Macallan Folio 5, one around the same time had a bid on it for £600 and still had not reached the reserve price. In my opinion, the auctioneer is assisting the flippers, and it’s a bit unfair to those who value the whisky over the profit. What was not understandable is that there were several others available in the same auction – so why would somebody bid on one bottle way over the price of others that were available in the same auction that were a lot cheaper. If there is a bottle I want in an auction, and there is more than one available, I bid one, then if I get outbid, I then bid on a cheaper one. I personally think there is more behind the bidding of a bottle that seems to have had more bidding action than others, but we will deal with it later.

Some auctioneers publish reserve prices, and I think that is a good idea, as you know straight away what is expected, and you can tell if somebody has overvalued the whisky. If the reserve is hidden, then you should only bid to a level that you are comfortable with and don’t be tempted to incrementally bid to find out what the reserve is as you may be stuck with a bottle you can’t afford or may be overpaying for.

And this is a really important point. Generally speaking in a conventional auction, you can see who you are bidding against, as there will be an assistant on a phone or at a computer terminal. With an on-line auction you don’t have that facility. Sniping a bid (bidding at the last moment) has been eliminated by on-line auction by any bidding automatically extending the auction, but shill bidding I think is also prevalent as well. While auctioneers say that they are on the lookout, sometimes the bidding patterns don’t make sense, when people are bidding on one item, when there is another one equally as good but a lot cheaper. My whisky auction insider says there is very little that can be done to detect this, as it will only really show up if using the same hub. If your friend or family relative is bidding from another location, there is pretty much no way of telling.

One other hazard of on-line auctions is that you are physically unable to check the merchandise. If you have any doubt at all, make sure that you contact the auctioneer – they will supply extra photos on request, and if it is practicable they may allow an in-person visit to inspect the item. Not so handy for those of us who live in the more remote areas. You need to be sure you understand what you are buying.

I cannot recommend this enough, and be aware of what you are buying. RESEARCH! Know the price for a given condition. I’ve seen many auctioneers optimistically list lots as rare, but they aren’t. A quick look through other auction sites will reveal how often these turn up. I was recently given a wee task to source a bottle with a specific distillation date as a birth date. This wasn’t the easiest to find, and certainly getting harder to source, but does this make it more expensive? No – it doesn’t. If one shows up at auction then you can bet your bottom dollar another one will eventually. Set your price as to what you want to pay and wait.

Deciding your price is crucial. By all means do not bid your maximum price straight away, as often people will keep bidding until they outbid you. Best put a lower maximum in, and as soon as you are outbid, bid again. That way you may be able to pay less than the maximum you were prepared to as some people give up when they see somebody consistently upbidding them.

One thing my auction insider let me know is that they are presented with a large amount of fakes. OK, perhaps not masses, but the percentage is higher than you might expect. I have one bottle that I bought at auction for £35 that was part of my bargain basement hoovering towards the end of an auction to buy a whisky from the 50’s or 60’s. I had to query it, as the volume and strength were not printed on the bottle, and the label felt wrong. While the auctioneer assured me that this bottle was not a fake, I have my doubts, therefore will not be drinking it, but use it as a show piece. Do not assume that the auctioneer has spotted a fake, as it isn’t always apparent, and if they are handling hundreds or thousands of bottles for one auction, there is the chance one may slip through. It is also wrong to assume it is high value bottles that are the ones being faked – those are the ones that are checked more closely. It will be the cheaper ones that may suffer from counterfeiting more often than not.

The archive at Macallan distillery when it opened in 2018 was found to contain suspicious bottles. If they can’t tell, what chance have you got?


One is fake, the other is genuine

My last point is that beware of auction hype. One auctioneer had a superlative auction of a private collection that was to be broken up. Yes, there was some spectacular bottles there, but they were in the minority. A lot of bottles were missing boxes or had low fill levels. Just because it was part of an extensive collection does not make that worth any more. In all it was quite disappointing, Due to the Coronavirus, I am not sure if the second part will go ahead as planned in April 2020, but we will wait and see. Given the quality of the first half, I am a bit underwhelmed. If you have done your research, you will know what it’s worth, and bid accordingly – don’t get carried away and overpay, unless it’s a must-have for your collection, though even then exercise a wee bit of caution.

But for all the pros and cons of on-line auctions, I have bought older bottlings a lot cheaper than I would have got them retail. I have been able to complete collections that would otherwise be impossible, and I have been able to drink some unusual and rarer whiskies. You just have to keep your head when everybody around you in the auction seem to be losing theirs.

There is a list of on-line whisky auction sites I use or regularly browse below.

Slainte Mhath!

Scotty


Whisky Auctioneer – http://www.whiskyauctioneer.com

Just Whisky – www.just-whisky.co.uk

Whisky Hammer – http://www.whiskyhammer.com

Scotch Whisky Auctions – www.scotchwhiskyauctions.com

The Grand Whisky Auction – http://www.thegrandwhiskyauction.com

Whisky Online Auctions – https://www.whisky-online.com/auctions/

Speyside Whisky Auctions – http://speysidewhiskyauctions.co.uk

Royal Mile Whisky Auctions – http://royalmilewhisky.auction

Robert Graham / Global Whisky Auctions – http://www.globalwhiskyauctions.com

WhiskyAuction.com (Based in Germany) – http://www.whiskyauction.com


Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


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 – Shutterstock

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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

Index of articles here


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.