The Turn Of An Old Century

Taste Review #82 – Century Of Malts

The one thing I am hope that you are beginning to notice with this blog is that I am not afraid to try blended whisky. While I am trying to pick the more interesting or at least vintage whiskies that I can, often they arrive as the result of a bulk auction purchase, with this release I am away to try being one such example.

The last blend I tried was the Collectivum XXVIII, a blend of 28 single malt whiskies from each of Diageo’s Scottish Malt Whisky Distilleries. Well, superlatives are meant to be broken, and this blend certainly does that with no less than 100 different malts in the mix.

For the record, the malts are; –

Aberfeldy, Aberlour, Allt a`Bhainne, Ardbeg, Auchentoshan, Auchroisk, Aultmore, Balblair, Balmenach, Balvenie, Banff, Ben Nevis, Benriach, Benrinnes, Benromach, Blair Athol, Bowmore, (Royal) Brackla, Braeval, Brechin (North Port), Bunnahabhain, Caol Ila, Caperdonich, Clynelish, Convalmore, Cragganmore, Craigduff, Craigellechie, Dailuaine, Dallas Dhu, Dalmore, Dalwhinnie, Deanston, Dufftown, Fettercairn, Glen Albyn, Glenallachie, Glenburgie, Glencadam, Glen Craig, Glen Elgin, Glen Esk, Glenfarclas, Glenfiddich, Glen Garioch, Glenglassaugh, Glen Grant, Glengoyne, Glenisla, Glen Keith, Glenkinchie, The Glenlivet, Glenlochy, Glenlossie, Glen Mhor, Glen Moray, Glenrothes, Glen Scotia, Glen Spey, Glentauchers, Glenturret, Glenugie, Glenury Royal, Highland Park, Imperial, Inchgower, Inchmurrin, Inverleven, Isle of Jura, Kinclaith, Knockando, Ladyburn, Lagavulin, Laphroaig, Ledaig, Linkwood, Littlemill, Longmorn, The Macallan, Macduff, Mannochmore, Miltonduff, Mortloch, Mosstowie, Ord, Pittyvaich, Old Pulteney, Old Rhosdhu, Scapa, Speyburn, Springbank, Strathisla, Strathmill, Tamdhu, Tamnavulin, Teaninich, Tomatin, Tomintoul, Tormore and Tullibardine.

The whiskies in bold italics are distilleries that are no longer with us. 20 Ghost Malts. Pretty much all of them have disappeared off the face of the planet, with no trace they were ever there. But does inclusion of such malts give this blend a better quality or not. I personally don’t agree with using such rare malts in blends nowadays, as I think it is the last vestiges of the distillery that can last way beyond the buildings; once the liquid is gone that is the last physical proof of the distillery was ever there.

I’ve tried to do a little research about this blend and the thoughts behind it, but there is precious little on the internet about it. I was quite intrigued by it, as the miniature has a very stylish looking bottle, but the temptation was too high for me to ignore so it got cracked open. Let’s dispense with the thoughts and start dealing in the dram facts.


Century of Malts miniature

Details

Chivas Century Of Malts


The Dram

Region – N/A – Blend Age – NAS Strength – 43% Colour -Amontillado Sherry (0.9) Cask Type – N/A Colouring – Yes Chill Filtered – Not stated but assuming Yes Nose – Hazelnut, red apple, pear, a hint of peat, honey, vanilla, orange peel, grassy. Palate -Oily and smooth, restrained on spices, heather honey, covered in smoke but not that peaty although it is in the background. Hints of dried fruits upon swallowing Finish -medium long with heather, apple peel, wood spices. Warming with a touch of bitter sweet sensations. At the very end I got currants. 


Colour from above

Conclusions

Initially it seems a feat that there are 100 malts in this blend, and some rare or discontinued malts at that. But don’t let that blind you, as with that amount in the mix, you are very unlikely to get a taste of any distillery or individual cask character. If you can, I bow my head to you.

One of the small issues I have with this blend is that in the miniature I had of 5cl, on average each distillery is only represented by 0.5ml of fluid. Even in a full size bottle, the average is going to be 7ml. Just over a quarter of a standard Scottish dram. I repeat, if you can taste individual distilleries, then fair play. For me, this is as much a novelty whisky as the Beinn Dubh black whisky.

But in my opinion it shares something else in common with the infamous Beinn Dubh – it doesn’t taste that bad. To be honest I actually could say that even though it wouldn’t be a flavour profile that would attract me to be a regular drinker of this blend, it was a very pleasant sipper. Once I quickly calculated that I wouldn’t be able to pick any flavours out, I made out my tasting notes and sat down to enjoy the rest.

This is still available to buy retail, however only on the secondary market. I’ve seen miniatures for sale at £18 and full size bottles at £160, but this is without any shipping taken into consideration. Is it good value? I would have to say no, I wouldn’t pay that for this whisky, but if you ever get a chance to try it, I would say that it is worthwhile as long as you haven’t over paid for a miniature or cracked open your own full size bottle.

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

No Class in The Master.

The importance of not trying to be important.

Whisky blogging. It’s a total minefield. Whether your writing style is lacking, your opinion misguided, your patter is miserable or all three, there will always be somebody to bring you down with a bump. But regardless of your style, there can be some good points to remember while whisky blogging.

One of my fellow whisky bloggers IM’d me an article from another site (click link). I wished he hadn’t as my previous article had been a rant on why Black Friday is a bad for small retailers and I wasn’t wanting to spend energy on another emotional essay. However, something in the article felt wrong to me. The coin had been put in the slot and the rant button was pressed again for another go.


That button gets pressed far too much!

I’ve been following this site for some time now, but since an event in Jan 2020 which some of the Whisky Twitterati know as ‘Terroir Gate’ where there was a highly questionable article which attacked a fellow blogger who had the courage to question the relevance of Barley Terroir. I’ve had the website on Twitter mute since then. I’m sure they won’t miss me, but it was surely adventurous to challenge a farmer about growing barley. I’m sure the man has forgotten more about crop growing than they know.

The article on which I wish to comment concerns a writer who had the misfortune to have attended a disappointing virtual tasting. For one reason or another the event had come to be tagged a ‘Masterclass’, which ended up in disappointment for the reviewer, who went on to list some admittedly valid points. Despite the valid points, the rant didn’t sit well with me. Indeed, the whole page made me want to put on a tin helmet and go over the trench. I’ll admit to perhaps not following my own advice, but in this case, it is with good cause.


Advice Piece # 1. Don’t put people down publicly when trying to make yourself look good.

The whisky community is supposed to be friendly, isn’t it? Well, while the tasting was disappointing according to details provided in the article, anybody who knew about that event will be able to identify the host and the see the very public criticism of him. Pretty bad craic to run the event down then patronise the host afterwards. To write how “they might make a master one day if they keep on learning” does give the impression of the author looking down on this individual. It certainly seems to be a standard editorial policy for this site on a few occasions. The author seems to have forgotten even Masters can still learn daily.

Has the writer heard of the principle of “praising publicly, criticising privately?’ It’s a standard requirement in my industry, where failing to do so and humiliating a colleague in front of their peers not only sees the offender being ostracised, but also at risk of losing their teeth in a Glasgow style kiss. After all, the host himself didn’t call it a Masterclass, but regardless, I would say there is an onus on anybody attending these events virtually or in person to perhaps take such labels with a pinch of salt, unless you know the host, their experience and the drams involved. Quickly looking at these drams would suggest that these weren’t anything I’d associate with a Masterclass as I can get them straight off a supermarket shelf here in Scotland.

It’s a good point that you should be able to assume anybody with a Masterclass title connected would have an associated qualification – and I agree that it should, though there is still no guarantee of quality being present. The industry does lack regulation in many areas, but without casting aspersions on these titles just because some parade their being a Keeper of the Quaich or having a WSET qualification like a bull strutting his stuff in a field of cows, it still is sadly no guarantee of quality.

I’ve worked with some highly ‘qualified’ people in my industry that seem to have more degrees than a compass. While working in West Africa, we asked a guy to make the teas for the crew came back and every single tea or coffee was cold. As he’d never made tea or coffee before, he didn’t know you had to boil the kettle.

On the same ship, another guy couldn’t get the kettle under the tap of the small hand basin we had in our washroom. So rather than filling it with a cup like everybody else, he put the kettle into the toilet bowl and flushed. 10/10 for ingenuity, 0/10 for application – toilets on a ship often flush with filtered seawater.

The point is that you can still have a qualification but not be exposed to all aspects of the industry. Nobody knows everything. Doesn’t necessarily make you a w*nker. That leads nicely onto point 2.


Even John Knox knew nobody enjoys being talked down to.


Advice Piece # 2 – No Profanity

I’ve been in an engineering trade since I left school. Being a tradesman and Scottish means that swearing often comes naturally. The F bomb is not a big deal at all. The word w*nker hardly registers on the scale. But was there really a need to use it on a whisky review?

Does the author think are people w*nkers because they don’t know everything? We were all enthusiastic amateurs at one time, possibly overly so. Perhaps it would be better in the article not to be so rude but suggest that it’s better not to pretend what you know and when caught out, a simple admission should suffice coupled with a resolve to find out?

It’s not a crime to not know, especially when the host didn’t put himself in the Masterclass slot. As people with more experience, we should always build up and encourage in the whisky community rather than knock down those with less knowledge. Unless you want to look like a twat.

Advice Piece # 3 – Keep the Negativity levels low or non-existent.

I once spoke to somebody in the whisky industry about writing articles and one of the things I told them was that I felt that despite the amount of people in the industry and who follow it, it is a small world. Especially in Speyside where there are quite a few people involved in the production side. We discussed the website in question for this article and I mentioned the levels of negativity that often come out. The person just smiled, so I know I’m not alone in my thoughts.

While you should never be afraid of criticising a product or something that deserves it, there are ways and means of doing so. If you want a rant, at least make it entertaining. A regularly negative drone just gets boring. Far from challenging the industry or individuals, you’ll just start getting ignored. If you don’t like something, say it’s not for you, Don’t judge others for liking it and don’t constantly bang on about it.

I’ve never lived more than 15 miles from a Single Malt distillery. I can see one from my house. It has had its (fair) criticisms over the years, but nobody intentionally makes a poor whisky. You never know who will see what you write, and certainly running down a business in a small local community is definitely bad craic, regardless of who owns it. You only end up closing more doors than opening new ones.


The Whisky Police were finding it hard to put in yet another condescending comment. But they managed.


Advice Piece # 4 – Don’t be hypocritical or at least admit it when you are.

Hypocrisy. We all do it from time to time. And I am aware in what I’m writing I’m not following any of my own advice apart from this one. It’s ok to be hypocritical as long as you acknowledge it. Sometimes the situation changes and you must go back on your word. Don’t worry about it, just be open. I’ve had to be when I got caught out in the past with Macallan Folio 5 being released in far larger numbers than before, and I was forced to flip it. And I don’t hide how much I hate flippers. Thankfully I wasn’t very good at it, making a profit after fees of £37.50, so that sweetened a bitter pill, and being open about it preserved my integrity.

Going by the tone of the article I was sent, it is extremely hypocritical to slate somebody for having an ego when obviously displaying one yourself. I don’t think I need to add more to that.

Plus, being funded to maintain your independence? However you do it, this has potential to undermine your independence, something this site seems to hold dear. Patreon use for recovering expenses is fair enough, but you can get unlimited hosting and bandwidth for under £300 a year. But unless it’s a job (I’m assuming it is), should you not keep a hobby self funding? That’s the only way to preserve total independence. I’m not suggesting any thing is improper by using Patreon, but if you are funded by donation, that’s because people like what you publish. Human nature being as it is, if people are going to pay you for what you publish, the likelihood of you continuing to put out the same kind of content continues. Hence the egotist ranting often seen on the site perhaps?

I certainly don’t expect others to pay for my hobby or whisky, unlike many Patreon funded Whisky pages.

Advice Point # 5. Have a clear point to the end.

Often when this site publishes a rant, it doesn’t always have a clear point all the way to the end. They seem to have the maxim of “why use one word when several will do?”. Some of their contributors seem to have swallowed a Thesaurus. But what gets me is in some cases, the bones of the article don’t always seem to support the review at the end. In my mind, the worst example was the review of The Lakes Distillery release of The One, The write-up before had nothing at all to do with the whisky being reviewed, and was just an ill-judged irrelevant rant. Had I been the owner of the Lakes Distillery I would have been furious that my product was tied into this negative publicity.

The day they published ‘No Masterclass’ it must have been a slow news day for the team, as even though the reviews were relevant, it still seemed to be tacked on. The reviews just seemed like an easy way to get more negativity in. Personally, I’d think it better to keep a rant away from products, unless the rant is to do with the product in question. You don’t want to necessarily bite the hand that feeds you. Far from challenging producers, you will just encourage them to ignore you while you feed your sycophants. And this will mean things are unlikely to change for some.

As the site and people involved will invariably see this, what will be interesting to see is if I am subjected to a similar treatment that the other party in Terroir Gate received. Of course, they have a right of reply, but how it is done may be interesting and will certainly show their professionalism when it comes to responding criticism.

Unlike some, I’ve never felt the need to fly a kite with regards to my experience in the whisky world. I’ve been collecting since 2006, but that doesn’t make me an expert. Neither does living in a region heavily connected to the Scotch Industry, though I can say I probably know enough. But like tasting a whisky, our opinions on the same subject can differ. After all, some people think Bells is tasty, but that doesn’t mean they should be shot down for it. However, for this particular website in question, in their ‘About’ section, when they say difference of opinion is OK, do they really mean it, or are we dissenters “the poor little lambs’ condescendingly alluded to ?

It isn’t always Masterclass. Not always classy. As for the w*nkers, I’ll let you decide. But if you want a serious review site, Matt ‘The Dramble’ is a better bet in my humble opinion.


Yours in Humiliation, Hypocrisy, Negativity, Swearing and always in Spirits,

Scotty


Photo Credits

Keyboard – Authors Own

All Other Images – Shutterstock

Playing the Fool

Taste Review #81 North British 30 y.o (Dramfool)

Do you ever get hung up on something that you want but can’t get? One of the downsides of whisky blogging is that sometimes you taste a sample of something and it just drives you to want more of that thing. In this case it was That Boutique-y Whisky Company’s Invergordon Single Grain whisky. Batch 15 at 42 years old was the oldest whisky that I’ve reviewed so far, although there are two older Invergordon samples waiting in the wings plus another 4 stretching between 9 and 25 years old, hopefully enough to slake my new found thirst for this distillery.

Try as I might, a bottle of aged Invergordon kept eluding me. At auction, each new sale seemed to see the prices going higher and higher, leaving me wondering if it was really worth the chasing. Common sense me said it wasn’t but the devil on my opposite shoulder told me the whisky-nomics were all ok and I should press on to achieve my aim. Of course, the devil on your back was never going to leave it like that and he also suggested I could look at other aged grain whisky.


Dramfool 30 year old North British Single Grain whisky

Thankfully, the common sense took over and I began to look at other distilleries. It was while I was perusing the website of The Speyside Whisky Shop in Aberlour that a 30 year old bottling from the North British Distillery appeared, bottled by Dramfool, a company started by Bruce Farquhar in 2015. I’d seen Dramfool produce before but didn’t know much about them, though I’d been recommended their whiskies before by Matteo the shop manager.

I knew even less about the North British distillery, other than it was a grain distillery in Edinburgh. However a little research on the internet reveals that it is one of the largest distilleries in Scotland, according to its website it is capable of producing 70 million litres of grain alcohol a year. Now thats a lot of spirit! Lets not forget that the distillation of grain alcohol has a different process from malt whisky, the former not relying on the batch process of the latter, but utilising the continuous distillation method of a Coffey Still.

The distillery was founded in 1885 by Andrew Usher, a pioneer of blended whisky when it became legal for single malt and grain to be blended together. The distillery opened in 1887 and has been going ever since. Its grain product forms the backbone of many blends. The current owners of the distillery are Diageo and the Edrington Group, owners of The Macallan and Highland Park. There isn’t really a lot to say about the distillery apart from there are occasional original bottlings available, but mostly any output as single grain seems to be the forte of the independent bottlers.

Details

North British 30 year Old (Dramfool Bottling 30th release)


The NB 30 year old dram

Region – Lowland Age – 30 Years Strength – 48.2% Colour – Old Gold (0.6) Cask Type -Refill Bourbon Colouring – No Chill Filtered – No Nose -Solvent; polished wood, candy floss, pineapple, vanilla Palate – the character of the nose carries over into the palate with the addition of chocolate sponge, walnuts. Slight lemon note. Finish – medium to long. Solvent continues with hints of coconut, wood spices. 


Colour – definitely looks like a bourbon casked whisky

Conclusions

This was my first ever go at a single grain from the North British distillery. Did I enjoy it? Yes. It had a lot of the notes that I remember from my TBWC Invergordon. The devil on my shoulder was right, it is right and proper to chase aged grain whisky. While this might not be of the same age as the Invergordon whisky, I don’t think that matters. The taste and ease that this whisky was able to be drunk, even neat made me very happy with my selection. Even happier as I bought two….

Furthermore, now I have another independent bottler to keep an eye on. This is exciting and I cannot wait to see further releases, in particular single grain.

This bottle cost me £90 from the Speyside Whisky Shop. It is now sold out and isn’t available on the Dramfool website either. Was it good value? Yes, I believe it was. It’s not a distillery you see a lot of releases from, it was cask strength and 30 years old. NC and NCF means that it has a perfect spirit presentation. If I had only bought one bottle I would have been watching the auctions for another but I have one in store just waiting for the day I crack it open or sell it.

I would say if you see this bottle for under £120 and you fancy trying aged grain whisky, this is a good start.

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

Insane In The Membrane?

How Black Friday Causes Specialist Suffering.

I have to apologise from the very start of this article. Of course that is not like me at all, no Sir-ee! Mainly because the title of this article is from the a song on the Cypress Hill Album ‘Black Sunday’. Ok, wrong day I suppose for what I had in mind for this article. And while it is NOT like me, I actually own this album and listen to it on a rare occasion and enjoy it. You can’t listen to shoegaze all the time (apparently). What is at least accurate to some degree in my opinion is the topic today does have a slight whiff of insanity about it, although probably of a type we may not be aware of and suffer from in varying degrees. It’s about how we allow ourselves to become blind to the obvious.


The pin is out of the grenade. Time to get heads down. Incoming!

Once again my conscience has been pricked to write an article in defence of a body of people that have been undera silent attack for quite some time and since March 2020 this has been intensified. Unfortunately it is whisky drinkers that seem to be the people who allow it to happen, albeit not doing the attacking themselves. Given how friendly the whisky community is, I’m surprised that there seems to be little promotion and concern to people that are vital to our hobby, passion, or more to the point – obsession.

Independent whisky shops have had a tough time of it for some time now. This is something I raised on my blog Facebook page back in March of this year, going as far to break my anonymity and release a couple of videos. Use the Facebook links below to navigate to the page if you want to see the videos. In most cases these smaller retailers cannot compete with online retailers such as Amazon and don’t have the collective buying power of chains like The Whisky Shop, Oddbins or Majestic to name one or two. And you can forget any hope of being able to complete with any of the supermarkets.

What triggered this was the amount of people who seemed to be upset that there seemed to be not very many Black Friday deals on Amazon this year. I’m not having a go – in full disclosure I’ve bought booze from Amazon when I’ve seen a bargain, but usually it is when I cannot get a bottle anywhere else at that time. An Old Pultney 17 was my first bottle that I did this with just after it was discontinued and latterly when Glengoyne 18 was slashed to £70, though that was just before the change of packaging and it was bought for stash. Maybe for later of course…


Some independent retailers like a laugh on Amazon. Only £80 – £120 including fees at auction.

In a quick moment of research, certainly here in the UK are a myriad of places that do online only retailing. Drink Supermarket, Master Of Malt, Drinks Direct, 31 Dover, and Spirit Store are just a handful and I’d be sure that this would be replicated overseas where specialist whisky retailers may be thin on the ground. Even Whisky Exchange which does have a couple of shops probably makes the vast majority of its profits from online trading.

Look. I’m not trying to make anybody feel bad about seeking a bargain. It’s been a tough year for everybody with many people locked down for long periods of time; people losing their freedom, contact with family and friends, their jobs; people possibly losing a lot more. And I can hardly hold the moral high ground as I have made the occasional purchases from some of these retailers, especially Master Of Malt as the Drinks By The Dram give me a chance to taste older or more expensive whiskies without having to cough up for a full bottle. However let’s look at this from a slightly different perspective.

While online shopping may be very convenient and cheap (as an Aberdonian I can assure you this is very close to my heart!), let’s look at some very plain to see facts that often get ignored and I see no evidence to the contrary that we seem to be suffering selective blindness to these issues. Amazon does not need your money. Tesco, Asda, Waitrose and Sainsbury’s do not need your booze money. Let’s face it, despite the fun of #WhiskySanta, a company giving away £250,000 of drink does not need your booze money. However the hypocrite in me is very happy to promote the company by making my #WhiskySanta wishes. If they are generous enough to ‘pay’ quarter of a million quid for over a month of free social media advertising I’m taking my chance. You can bet your bottom dollar that an independent retailer of Whisk(e)y would probably wet themselves if they thought they could make £250,000 of profit, let alone be able to afford to give it away. And they certainly do need your custom.


A Facebook post by a local retailer. If you live close to Inverurie, Aberdeenshire I’m told it’s a great place for the ‘over the shoulder Boulder holders’. It’s not just whisky retailers that struggle against Amazon.

Speaking of local experience here in the Highlands, I can think of at least 4 local-ish (50 miles away still counts as local!) independent whisky retailers that have suffered the double whammy COVID has delivered. Not only were they forced to close their businesses when COVID first took hold, the businesses concerned were also in tourist areas, so once they’ve been allowed to open, there’s a lack of the normal crowds to sell to. I’m thinking of shops in Aberlour, Dufftown, Tomintoul, Pitlochry, Tyndrum, Inverary and Skye to name a few. The cancellation of the Spirit Of Speyside festival this year hit our region hard and without the same footfall, the whisky retailers in the area have had to rely on online sales to generate income. It doesn’t mean independent whisky retailers in large towns and cities aren’t suffering too – at least they have more chance of local footfall than one in the middle of the Cairngorms.


A brilliant Discovery from an independent shop and bottler in the tourist area of Highland Perthshire.

The majority of independent retailers have not got the same profit margins to reduce stock prices and remain viable. Some are forced to deal with wholesalers as they cannot buy directly with the distilleries or bottlers, further reducing competitiveness with online only businesses. To be fair to Amazon, there is plenty of independent traders use Amazon market place, but this is still not perfect as this still involves selling fees that further reduce margins. And therein could be the reason that there wasn’t so many Black Friday deals – perhaps the majority of them in the past have been supplied not from Amazon but small traders. They certainly cannot afford to be giving massive discounts at the moment.


Independents have greater overheads that the online only businesses don’t. And unlike Amazon they don’t have methods of avoiding a fair tax bill

The greatest benefit to dealing directly with an independent trader is that you’ll receive something that you’ll never get online – by buying over the phone or in person you’ll receive a personal service. Think about this when you next shop with an independent whisky retailer. They can tell you what is new. They usually have a great knowledge of the whiskies they sell. If you can visit one, you may get to try before you buy; something that has often seen me buy more than expecting to. You can build a relationship where the retailer may be privy to information that maybe of interest to you and they may tell you first, or at least keep a hard to find bottle back for you. At least one Whisky Twitterer has said he enjoys this type of situation and I have also found myself in this pleasant position too.


Never has a Twitter sponsored advert been so appropriate on the day of publishing.

This whole subject brings me back to a similar situation in a different retail environment; music. As I alluded to at the start of this article, I’m heavily into music, especially indie / shoegaze / post rock. There used to be a shop in Aberdeen called One-Up, of which I was a very regular customer. I always used them as the chances of finding something new, exciting and possibly undiscovered was high. But the ultimate draw was the service. The staff were excellent and one in particular, the well known shoegazer in local circles, Yogi Duncan used to recommend bands and albums to me so I could listen to it before making a decision. This was music I’d never have heard otherwise and would not be likely to see the suggestion on iTunes. You just don’t get that specialist service online and are at the mercy of an algorithm to suggest what you might like in the futureW. Just because some tracking cookie sees I’ve bought one album, doesn’t mean I’ll like the whole genre though it’s certainly cheaper to take a risk on a £10 CD than a £70 bottle of whisky.

It came to pass that CD buying fell out of fashion. People turned to downloads and with large overheads compared to online sales and a desire of one of the business partners to retire meant on the 18th of January 2013, One-Up closed for good. Since that store has gone, I’ve gradually fallen out of buying music. Perhaps it’s my age having an influence as well, but in the past 2 years I’ve found myself downloading more and more; my once proud music CD collection all but stagnated. For me nearly 8 years on, I and many others from the North East of Scotland still mourn the loss of One-Up


Gone yet not forgotten. And sorely missed by many. Thanks for the memories Yogi.

Regardless of my feeling, while digital retailing doesn’t mean we’ll fall out of love with whisky (goodness no!) it does mean we risk slowly falling out of touch with a more intimate way of connecting with the industry. If we only see what is advertised on line or by who we follow on social media, to me it just becomes a cacophony of marketing noise and other people’s opinion. The lack of personal contact within the whisky retail industry really means to me we are all perhaps following around on each other’s coat tails and are at the mercy of anonymous algorithms and advertising budgets which pigeon-hole us and see us getting targeted into purchasing blandness.

Let’s be clear however, as there is more we can do. It isn’t just spending our hard earned cash at independent whisky retailers that helps. Many of us on social media have our own blogs. Why not give one of the independent retailers a shout out on your blog? Review a bottle bought from them. Better still, if they bottle their own or have exclusive bottles to their shop, review one. I recently did, and the email that I received from the owner was one of pure gratitude. Not just because I genuinely enjoyed the whisky he had bottled, but because as an independent retailer in an area highly dependent on tourism it had been a tough year and he was over the moon to see his products promoted in such a way. 


It’s understandable we all have a budget but try to spend wisely whilst maximising your whisky purchasing power and remember the small guys

My blog is tiny and insignificant. However due to my review of his whisky, I know of 7 confirmed bottle sales as a direct result of what I said. Maybe only 1.13% of the bottling run, but that is sales that put money into a local business and a local economy; not into the bottomless pockets of CEO’s who don’t care a jot about whisky but just want your cash. If you don’t spend your whisky money at Amazon or get a Black Friday deal from an online only retailer, they aren’t that likely to go bust. Of course not everybody has the funds to avoid being frugal when it comes to whisky purchases, this year especially. The Mr Grumpy in me understands the situation and there is nothing wrong with that. Note: I’ve seen some whisky cheaper in an independent shop than on Amazon. Some retailers do promotions on free shipping if spending over a threshold amount. Shop wisely.


For Goodness Sakes! He’s gone off on one again. Don’t worry. Almost finished.

2020 has a lot of negative things to look back on. Don’t let it be the beginning of the end for a friendly independent whisky shop. Perhaps make an effort to reduce or let go of our building dependence on cheap online only sales. Once lockdown is finished, be sure to pop into one of the independent spirit retailers close to you. They’ll thank you for it. 

Feedback is welcome on this subject. My aim isn’t to offend but highlight the smaller businesses that struggling on an already uneven playing field. What’s your opinion?

Postscript

After One Up closed, Yogi Duncan was working in an Oddbins in Aberdeen. He could have become my shoegaze, wine and whisky guru, but sadly I left Aberdeen the same year as the lights went out at One Up forever. Then the nearest independent music shop was Imperial Records in Inverness, but sadly this closed the following year in 2014. Another store with a stunning customer service lost to the digital shopping paradigm, a service made more special due to the owner Mark and I having some great conversations based on initially realising a shared love of the music of Galaxie 500.

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

One Up, Allt Dour; – Authors Own

Old Pulteney 17 – Amazon

Katsize Lingerie – Facebook.

All others – Shutterstock

Old vs New:- Glenfarclas 10

Taste Review #80 – Glenfarclas 10 Old vs New

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 first rule about fight club…… both drams remain silent.

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

Details

Glenfarclas 10 (Old)


Old Style Glenfarclas from 1990’s

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.


The two contenders side by side.

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.


Up to date expression of 10 year old Glenfarclas

Conclusions

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.

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

Anything But Dour!

Taste Review #79 – Allt Dour 8 Year Old

One of the great things in any journey is that while you may have a final destination, there is no stopping you falling down a wormhole, being sidetracked, a metaphorical stop to sniff flowers on a whisky journey. Certainly as I write this I’m still serving 14 day’s quarantine in Indonesia and I have fairly fallen down the YouTube wormhole. It’s funny how one video topic often leads to another, and whilst I started looking at whisky and historical videos, I’m now at the point of considering a cruise, buying a Volvo (just like the middle aged man I am) and possibly thinking how good it would be to own a caravan – all based on video suggestions.

Of course, none of this will be happening, certainly not in the near future, but whisky can be like that. When you taste one you really like, there is always the option of trying others similar. In this case, I’ll refer you to Robertsons of Pitlochry. It is run by Ewan McIlwraith, a man of considerable experience in the whisky industry. He is also a judge for the World Whisky Awards, so he obviously knows his carrots from his onions when it comes to whisky.

I happened to have to go down to Pitlochry to pick up some auction winnings. Pitlochry is a nice, Highland Perthshire village and is a tourist trap. There are a couple of whisky shops there and it made perfect sense to visit them all. Ewan was serving that day in the shop and invited me to have a sample of a Single Cask Benrinnes. Of course, with Benrinnes being one of my go-to Speysides, I obliged. Now, this one had a bite, and while I cannot remember the tasting notes, it was superb. I bought a bottle straight away.


The Robertsons Of Pitlochry Benrinnes bottle with some of its relatives.

And that was my mistake. I put that bottle into store, and I still wish that I’d bought two in order to taste one. Of course, I can always open up the one I have but, but, but, but ….. I want to save it. What a bummer. And so it came to pass that into a wormhole I fell, as I have now kept an eye on any Robertsons Of Pitlochry cask releases.

Fast forward to August 2020. Once again I was looking to see if anything had appeared on the Robertsons of Pitlochry website. And once again the hook was there. A single cask, cask strength Allt Dour at 8 years old. Wasn’t sure what distillery it was so did a wee bit of research. It turns out for this bottling, the distillery have not allowed Ewan to use the distillery name on the label. I’m going keep you in suspense for a bit longer, suffice to say I have reviewed the core release whisky from this distillery before.

For those of you who do not know about Pitlochry, it is a nice small town in Highland Perthshire. It sits in the shadow of the 841m high Ben Vrackie, and has the River Tummel flowing to the west side. Loch Faskally was created when a Hydro Electric Dam was placed across the river, construction being between 1947 and 1950. There is a salmon ladder to allow spawning fish up the river and is part of the tourist attraction at the dam. Of course these are currently closed due to Coronavirus but worth a visit when they reopen.

There are also two whisky distilleries, one slightly outside town, Blair Athol and Edradour are both located at Pitlochry. Both have visitor centres, but as usual it is worth checking they are open before going.

The local area is quite beautiful and worth looking into, but this whisky cannot wait any longer so it is time to move on.


Allt Dour Bottle and Dram

Details

Allt Dour 8 Year Old (Robertsons Of Pitlochry)


The Dram

Region – Highland Age – 8 years old Strength – 59.2% Colour – Burnished (1.1) Cask Type – 1st Fill Sherry Colouring – No Chill Filtered – No Nose – Rich sweetness – creamy caramel, dried fruit raisins, prune. Very more-ish. Adding water, I got a small note of mint toffos. That’s showing my age somewhat. Palate Quite a hit of spirit. Oily mouth feel. Rich dark fruits, toffee and blackcurrant for me dominate. Water tempers the arrival somewhat with a tantalising sweet hit as the whisky goes over the taste buds. The blackcurrant is somewhat reduced and there is an increase to the toffee note. Plum and blackberry are also present in this party on the tongue. Finish – Long. quite a bit of heat when taken neat. A quick burst of blackcurrant, wood spice, ginger. Even with water, there is still a lovely oily coating, leaving with a fruity sourness and a hint of sulphur. Very pleasant.

Conclusions

If you haven’t already worked it out, the distillery in question then I’ll let you know it’s Blair Athol. The distillery takes water from the Allt Dour Burn, and was a good choice of name for when the distillery name could not be used in this case.

This is the 2nd youngest dram I have reviewed, the youngest being the Octomore 9.1 at 5 years old. Younger whisky doesn’t mean bad whisky necessarily. If done correctly it can mean lively, exciting whisky and this certainly meets that benchmark. I had wondered if this would have tasted better at 10 or 12 years old but at first fill Sherry, the cask may have demolished the spirit character. It’s an engaging dram with a good level of complexity which the water will help you tease out. I feel I need more time with this dram to get the full benefit, but on first taste, wow!

This is a great dram that marks all the presentation boxes. Age Statement, Cask Strength, Non Chill Filtered, No added colour. What’s more, it’s only £55 on the Robertsons of Pitlochry website (click on link). That’s a lot of whisky for small money. I gather one of my page followers has already bought three for export to England. Good choice Sir!

It turns out I’m not the only one that thinks it’s great. Well done Ewan!


Recognition!

So, I didn’t learn my lesson from the Benrinnes. I only bought one. However 618 bottles were made so hopefully by time I am ready I can get another…..

…..or it’s back down the wormhole.

Yours In Spirits

Scotty

Postscript

To be honest, if it wasn’t for the fact this is a limited release, it would easily be my whisky if the year 2020. Since I’ve been away from home, the memory of the dram is so powerful I cannot wait to get back for another one.

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

Except screen grab – Facebook

What’s The Score?

a personal view on whisky scoring

Being an Aberdonian comes with some hardships. It’s a grey city with often grey humoured people. Many of my work colleagues know Aberdeen as “Aberdoom”, perhaps because they have to hang around the city while waiting to go offshore. It’s not that bad really. Often it’s worse. Only joking, it’s a fantastic small city which is much misunderstood and is on the doorstep of some of Scotland’s most beautiful scenery and attractions. Visit the castles, especially Dunnottar and you’ll soon get what I mean. Plus, going to Dunnottar puts you close to the Carron Chipper, birthplace of the legendary Deep Fried Mars Bar – two historical superlatives in one day! Aberdeen and Shire are rocking!


Dunnottar Castle. Setting for Mel Gibson’s Hamlet. Hiding place of Scotland’s Crown Jewels and a fantastic afternoon out. It’s a stunning setting

The local football team have been successful in the past with two European trophies in 1983, the most European Cup success of any Scottish football club so far. Take note Rangers and Celtic fans. Two stars on the breast. Things haven’t been so successful since the departure of Alex Ferguson, but as a local lad I have to say I keep an eye on their progress, despite leaving the city some years ago.


Look at those two sparklers above the badge

To be fair, I don’t follow football that closely. Once upon a time when I was a student with an obligatory long fringe in my eyes and walking through the St Nicholas Centre I was pounced upon by a local reporter asking my opinion on who would win the Scottish Cup. I didn’t care who was playing in the 1991 Scottish Cup as it was only Dundee United and Motherwell. Aberdeen had won it the previous year, so I brushed him off by saying I was a Clachnacuddin supporter, an Inverness based Highland league team that is probably the lowest professional level in Scottish football. Little did I realise my photo had already been snapped. Wished I had known as it had been raining, I was sodden in my student camouflage jacket and my hair was a mess. The next day I had my moment in infamy when my quote and photo appeared in the local newspaper. Since then I’ve followed Clachnacuddin out of sympathy after the extensive ribbing I received after the publication of my comment. They join Aberdeen as a team that often gives me cause to wince when I see the scores from their latest games, though I always wish them well.


not the best copy but I found the infamous article!

Scoring may be important when it comes to sports competition, but what about for whisky? We often see reviews of whisky giving a score out of a hundred, but what does it mean or even matter to us whisky geeks? 

What seems to be the most popular way of allocating a score is analysing the different stages of whisky tasting, namely nose (aroma), palate (taste), body (weight – is the whisky light and watery or thick and heavy), mouthfeel (Is it oily, waxy? How does it coat your mouth? For me this ties into body), finish (sensations after swallowing) and balance (do any of the flavours or sensations overpower the others?).

Unlike sport where scoring follows well defined criteria, tasting doesn’t and I’d propose that can’t ever do so because it depends on too many factors, some physiological and some subjective. As we are all unique, each one of us will have a different ability to taste due to our unique set of tastebuds, our experience of taste and smell sensations, our medical history and current state of health. A drinkers preference can be influenced by what they’ve recently consumed, altitude, their mood and their perceptions of the whisky that can subconsciously creep in from the appearance of the liquid, hence why many blind tastings are done with coloured glasses. 


Whisky Scoring – can be as complicated as Cricket

For instance, I like sherried and peaty whiskies, though not necessarily both at the same time. In theory I might not take to a more delicate Lowlander from a bourbon cask and mark it down accordingly. Or, I might sample a whisky after a curry earlier on in the day and thus miss the subtle notes. 

There is a fact that you can’t identify a smell or taste if you haven’t experienced it before. By all means you will be able to explain what a sensation reminds you of, but you have to wonder what has gone into the mouths of whisky tasters that describe the tastes of the more weird and wonderful taste descriptors. 

I’m a bit guilty of this – I do believe that I described the TBWC Invergordon 42 year old as reminding me of polished wood. I’ve got a memory of standing idle in the older part of my primary school with my head against a varnished and heavily polished old door frame. I can’t remember if the smell was so strong the vapours were also landing on the back of my tongue as I breathed in, or if I licked it – both are possible but in my defence I was no older than 9 years old at the time. However it is a taste / smell sensation that has stuck in my head for close to 40 years. I can still picture that part of my old school in my minds eye as I type, and this illustrates a way we build up our memory bank of taste profiles as we move through our lives and taste whisky. 

Getting back to scoring, we can see that there is not really a fool proof method to decide a score for whisky. If you can’t determine flavours, it can be harder to accurately assess a whisky. And with each of us being biologically different and with different outlooks, it is potentially less possible to get a reliable score based on so many variables across so many opinions. Plus, how do we set each criteria? We’d need a point of calibration to decide what was bad and good in each situation. I guess most people will describe the level of pleasure in each stage of their experience of a dram and that is the most reliable yet still subjective point we have.


Sadly discredited for the wrong or right reasons (depending on what issue you are thinking of), the scoring system and methodology Jim Murray used often generated controversy

A National Geographic article that I read in the past while waiting in a doctor’s surgery suggested that if you can taste more than six flavours in your drink at any one time, then you are perhaps not being honest with yourself based on the ability of the human body to experience flavours. However a lot of reviews are given based on experience over several drams while the bottle lasts. Even in my reviews where I often use miniatures, I’ll drink it in two distinct sittings to get a better idea of the dram. Adding water changes the spirit again and can unlock hidden gems of taste explosions within a single sitting so we have to look at a dram over a period of time to get more accurate knowledge to be able to give a score. 

In the journey towards a summary before I meander more than the River Spey, whatever score you give it, that is just your score and your opinion. The person that it will be most useful to is you. Using your scores over the life of a bottle, or each time you buy the same whisky again, you can track your experience. The trouble is that it is all relative. You need to establish a baseline of what you find a competent whisky of that style, as there is no point of comparing a heavily peated Islay against a delicate triple distilled Lowlander. By setting a baseline for each style, you can perhaps score relative to that. Problem is that your baseline preference could also change over the years. 

Any baseline has to be middle of the road. If you pick one too high, then other whiskies may unfairly not compare favourably. Same goes for picking too low a benchmark. Most other whiskies will taste brilliant after that. 

And this is why I personally don’t like scoring whiskies, as it’s one more thing to concentrate on when we should be just enjoying a drink. I prefer to comment on value for money, whether I liked the whisky or not, whether I’d buy it again or recommend it. This should be enough, though that is just my opinion. 

If you want help picking a new and tasty dram, scores can be helpful if you look across a broad range of opinions. That will give you a general idea of whether it’s good or not. Consistently high scores are a good indicator that the whisky isn’t rubbish. Even then, I’ve bought and enjoyed a whisky that regularly scores in the low 70’s. The recent official release of Allt-a-Bhainne is the one that sticks in my mind. I’ve recommended it to others who have also enjoyed it, but also one or two that haven’t. It’s opinion, not fact. For further guidance then look at the cask type, the peat level, ABV, not to mention price when considering a purchase based on review scores. 

Above all else, this is YOUR whisky journey and nobody else’s. If you want to score whiskies, please do. Just remember a highly scored whisky by others doesn’t mean that you’ll like it. In my opinion scoring doesn’t have to be that important in the bigger scheme of things. Unless it’s for Aberdeen or Clachnacuddin football team.

postscript 

Since my impromptu declaration of support of Clachnacuddin, I’ve gone as far to buy a replica Clach football shirt. They’ve even managed to win the Highland League since my impromptu declaration of support. Ironically, they’ve won the Highland League more times than any other club – 18 times. Since I’ve moved to the Highlands they’ve seemed to have resumed their position at the lower ends of the league table. But I will still support them. C’mon the Lillywhites!


Clachnacuddin FC @ Grant Street Park. Field of Dreams. Mostly broken ones at the moment, but never give up!

As an aside and still within a whisky relevance, prior to 1993 there used to be three football clubs in Inverness – Inverness Caledonian, Caledonian Thistle and Clachnacuddin. Caledonian Thistle played at Telford Street Park, which backed onto the Glen Mhor distillery. After a merger of Caledonian and Caledonian Thistle, the new team Inverness Caledonian Thistle moved to Caledonian Stadium, beside the Kessock Bridge. In 1996, Caledonian Stadium was demolished and joined Glen Mhor and the adjacent Glen Albyn distilleries in becoming a retail park.

Aberdeen are one of the most frustrating Scottish teams to follow. However you need to support the team from your city of birth. I still have my 7” single from the successful 1983 Cup Winners Cup campaign. You can relive the classic song and reminisce on YouTube by clicking here Plus like those who remember where they were when JFK was shot, I remember what I was doing on 11th of May 1983. Watching a victorious Aberdeen side beat Real Madrid on the television. For many Aberdonians this was probably a more important point in their life timeline.

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

Dunnottar Castle – Herbert Frank (CC-BY 2.0) image cropped

Evening Express 14/05/91 – British Newspaper Archive / DC Thomson

Cricket Scoreboard – Networldsports.co.uk

AFC Replica Shirt – afc.co.uk

Whisky Bible – shop4whisky.com

Grant St. Park – @clachfc (Twitter.com)

Benrinnes Blockbuster

Taste Review #78 – Benrinnes 13 Madeira Finish

Do you remember where you were when JFK was assassinated? Or when Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon? Mmmm bad examples as I wasn’t even thought of then. Perhaps maybe 9-11, as everybody who remembers that should be of legal drinking age. I was on the Tog Mor, the vessel that lifted the Mary Rose from the Solent, only when the Twin Towers were collapsing we were in Tunisia building an oilfield.

The whisky I’m away to review for you today is special as I remember where I was when I bought it. Can’t remember specific month though November 2019 rings a bell. It was on the happy occasion when shopping in Inverness that when my ‘Better Half’ wanted to clothes shop that I was told to amuse myself while she pointed in the general direction of The Whisky Shop.

For once I had no problems complying with her wishes.

However, the Whisky Shop in Inverness is an massively overpriced tourist trap shop and the real excitement is in WoodWinters on Church Street. By time I got the text message to tell me my fun time was over, I’d bought two bottles of whisky and bored the pants off a shop assistant with whisky blether. The two bottles bought were GlenAllachie 12 and an independent bottling of Benrinnes from James Eadie, finished in a Madeira cask. It’s the latter whisky that I bring forward today.


Benrinnes Distillery

I’ve mentioned Benrinnes many times on this site, mainly because it is my favourite Speyside distillery. I have other Speyside distilleries in my virtual hand of Top Trump distillery cards that produce better whisky, but this one is my choice. Benrinnes is generally only released as a 15 year old in the Flora and Fauna range, but I’m discovering it flourishes very well as an independent bottle.

As I’ve reviewed Benrinnes more than once on the blog, I’m not going to run through its history, especially as I have another 2 or three to review. Suffice to say that the distillery sits on the lower slopes of Benrinnes, to the south of Aberlour in Speyside.


In good company

So, instead of retelling the story of Benrinnes, let’s look at the background to James Eadie. Whilst maybe not the most prominent whisky bottler, it is one of the older names in whisky.

Information from the James Eadie website tells us this – James Eadie (1827 – 1904) was a Scottish Brewer, born near Gleneagles, he was one of fourteen children. He was a self made man who eventually became a brewer and an owner of a portfolio of pubs. Eadie has acquired from his father a recipe for blending whisky, which was eventually widely dispensed in over 300 Eadie pubs. The brewery and pubs were eventually taken over by Bass and the whisky lived on but by the 1960’s were fading out. Robert Patrick, the great-great-grandson of James Eadie has revitalised the brand name. Robert has worked for Diageo, Beam Suntory and Ian Macleod Distillers, and is a Liveryman of the order of Worshipful Distillers as well as a Keeper of the Quaich.

With the company in good hands then let’s hope that the whisky lives up to promise.

Details

Benrinnes 13 Madeira Finish


The dram and bottle

Region – Speyside Age -13 years old Strength – 56.1% Colour – Tawny Cask Type – Finished in Bual Madeira Colouring – No Chill Filtered – No Nose – Stroopwaffels, vanilla, cappuccino, raisins. Palate – Malt loaf, nutmeg, apricot jam, slight orange peel hint too. Cinnamon appears with water. Finish – Medium long. Dark Chocolate bitterness, ginger nut spiciness. Citrus peel appears with water. Bitterness lasts right until the end


A generous dram.

Conclusions

Of course, I am going to be biased as a fan of Benrinnes. I’m trying to be as impartial as possible though it is hard to be when this whisky is so tasty. It has the oily, meaty character of Benrinnes in there, in part thanks to the worm tubs, yet the Madeira cask has added dark, sweet notes. I have to say it that I liked this a lot.

I do like the overall presentation of this whisky. Cask Strength, Age Statement, Natural Colour and Non Chill Filtered. The packaging is neat, impressive and in my mind suits the colour of the whisky within.

Speaking of colour, I often thought I could see hint of Rosè wine in the glass but could never catch it in my photos, so I may have imagined that. As I have distributed this whisky to a few of my friends it would be interesting as to what they think.


Under certain light I could see a pink tone. Just not under this light.

Unfortunately this whisky is no longer available at retailers as it has sold out. Only 313 bottles were released and it was a good dram. You may see it on auction sites but the main purpose of me sharing this review was to let you know what independent bottlers can do, and I thoroughly recommend looking at the James Eadie website (click here) to see what sort of produce they make. I am sure they will make a whisky that will appeal to you.

The cost of this bottle was around £67 if I recall correctly but if you see it at auction expect to pay about £100. I’ve seen similar James Eadie bottles go for the same, but while pricey, I’d still say the value is there for drinking but maybe not so much for collecting.

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

Benrinnes distillery – Martin Jenkins under Creative Commons licence CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

All Other PhotosAuthors Own

Height isn’t Everything.

Taste Review #77 – Dalwhinnie 15

The very first review I published at the start of Scotty’s Drams was a Dalwhinnie. In fact it was two Dalwhinnie drams in one – the Winter’s Gold and Distillery Exclusive. By using the links at the bottom of this review you will be able to back track and see what I wrote. So much has changed since I wrote that review – I’ve smartened up the blog format a bit, attempted to take better photographs and have made many more friends in the whisky world, both in the industry and other enthusiasts. Things that haven’t changed are my lo-fi production values (necessary when attempting to upload a blog on the internet equivalent of a 56k dial up modem) and the fact my dog is still not any better behaved. I’ve come up with a term to describe him accurately. “Hyper-social” would adequately describe my friendly old Labrador who still acts like a puppy despite being 9 years old. I’m quite sure the local canines would more relevantly call him “dog nonce”. I guess there is always room for improvement, and we won’t quite give up on Maks for now.


Dalwhinnie Distillery (cisko66)

Dalwhinnie is one of my local distilleries, certainly the closest owned by a global enterprise, the other being Tomatin. Tiny Speyside distillery which can be seen from my house if you know where to look when the leaves are off the trees doesn’t have a look in compared to the output of these two monsters.

Dalwhinnie has this thing about being the highest distillery, which having checked with a hand held GPS I can confirm is not true; Braeval (Braes Of Glenlivet) was a metre higher, but Dalwhinnie is the highest distillery in Scotland with a visitors centre and a damned fine one at that. Standing just on the northern outskirts of the village of the same name, Dalwhinnie is a also few miles north of the Drumochter Pass, the place where the A9 trunk Road and Highland Mainline Railway squeeze between a narrow mountain pass which can be treacherous in winter time.

Funnily enough while Dalwhinnie proclaims itself to be a Highland Malt, it actually does belong in the Speyside Whisky Region, being the most southerly of all the Speysides. It is actually closer to the River Spey than its height rival with Dalwhinnie being as close as 8.1km from the Spey opposed to Braeval’s effort at 17.5km. Remember that every Speyside whisky is a Highlander, but not every Highlander is a Speyside. For the record, Macallan still show themselves as a Highland whisky too.

The location of the distillery gives a welcome sight when heading home, and looks picturesque whether you see it from the road, or while passing behind it when you travel by train. It’s hard to believe you are over 350m above sea level.

Dalwhinnie was founded in 1897 and was originally called the Strathspey distillery, and was owned by the same people who owned the original Speyside distillery in the village of Kingussie some 14 miles further north. The Strathspey Distillery Company went bust in 1898 with both distilleries sold. Eventually Dalwhinnie went on to be the first Scottish distillery to be sold to foreign company in 1905. By 1911 the Kingussie distillery fell silent and was demolished in 1920’s. Only one building still remains between the Duke Of Gordon Hotel and the Ardvonie Road car park. Rumour has it a lot of the local houses constructed soon after used stone from the demolished distillery, which was a similar size to Dalwhinnie. In 1926 after a couple of changes in ownership, the Dalwhinnie distillery eventually was bought by DCL, which went on to become Diageo.


Dalwhinnie 15

Dalwhinnie distillery only has 2 stills, so is not a major producer compared to some. However it does still use worm tubs to condense the spirit coming out from the stills. Due to the average temperature of Dalwhinnie being quite low throughout the year (I’ve read somewhere it averages 6C, but as a local I think that’s a little too high!) the worm tubs ensure a rapid condensation of the spirit vapor from the stills. In 1986, whilst the distillery was getting an upgrade, the worm tubs were replaced by more modern shell and tube condensers but this changed the character of the spirit too much, and the more expensive to run worm tubs were reinstalled.

In 2018 the distillery experienced a shut down of production during an extended period of hot weather. Not due to the lack of water from the Allt an t-Sluic burn, but because the temperature of the water in the cooling system was too high and the worm tubs were not able to condense the spirit effectively changing the property of the spirit.

Diageo announced in 2018 that the Dalwhinnie visitors centre would be undergoing an upgrade. I haven’t been there since 2018, so I’m not sure if it has been carried out, but even if it hasn’t, the visitor centre is excellent as are the staff. But let’s see if the whisky is….

Details

Dalwhinnie 15

Region -Speyside Age – 15 years Strength – 43% Colour -Yellow Gold (0.5) Cask Type – Mostly Bourbon Colouring – Yes Chill Filtered – Yes Nose – Strong green apples, wallpaper paste, lemon peel, sawdust. Oily. Palate – Sweet on arrival with oak spices. Caramel, vanilla, chocolate, unripe pears, lemon zest. Finish – medium long, fruity, warming hint of sulphur.


The Dram

Conclusions

Quite a decent dram, and certainly one worth having in your drinks cabinet. There is good reason why this formed the original Classic Malts selection in 1988 as I found it to be such an easy drinker. Nothing too complex but enough to keep it interesting. The sulphur was well controlled. Funny that, as the out of favour whisky writer (who one fellow blogger made an anagram of the writers name to be ‘Jura My Rim’)* is often banging on about sulphur, yet awarded it 95 out of 100.

I’ve seen online many people complain about this dram being too light, too delicate and possibly being a victim of poor quality casks but I disagree. Nobody knowingly makes a poor whisky, especially when it concerns a single malt that has had quite a long lifespan. Perhaps like my attitude with Maksimus, a bit of perseverance is needed if you think this is a poor malt.

All in all this is an inexpensive, good value easy drinker at a price of £43-£46 in shops. If you are looking for something a little more challenging to drink, this isn’t it. Definitely recommended, especially for those starting out on a whisky journey.

Yours In Spirits

Scotty

* Jura My Rim = Jim Murray.

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 Sample Photos – Author’s own

Dalwhinnie Distillery – cisko66. Used under Creative Commons licence CC BY 3.0

Dalwhinnie 15The Whisky Exchange

A Blended Box Of Tricks

Taste Review #76 – Collectivum XXVIII

One of the things I’ve never done yet on my whisky journey is open up a Diageo Special Release. I’m lucky enough to have 4 in my remote store, three Convalmore (27, 32 and 36 year olds) and the whisky I am about to review today, Collectivum XXVIII. Not exactly a whisky title that trips off the tongue, although a little bit easier than some of the Gaelic names used. This release is the first time that Diageo has released a blend as part of the Special Releases, so hopefully it is a whisky that deserves to have its place in the range.


The Bottle. No nonsense packaging. Scotty’s Drams Approved

So why the strange name? Well this isn’t a blend like any other, it’s a blend of all 28 of Diageo’s Scottish Malt Whisky distilleries. Yup, can you believe there are 28? Well there are and for the record here are their names….

Auchroisk, Benrinnes, Blair Athol, Caol Ila, Cardhu, Clynelish, Cragganmore, Dailuaine, Dalwhinnie, Dufftown, Glendullan, Glen Elgin, Glenkinchie, Glenlossie, Glen Ord, Glen Spey, Inchgower, Knockando, Lagavulin, Linkwood, Mannochmore, Mortlach, Oban, Roseisle, Royal Lochnagar, Strathmill, Talisker and Teaninich.

Boy! That was quite a challenge! I spent 10 minutes by my hotel poolside whilst in isolation to get them all, but forgot Cardhu. Most of these malts have featured in at least one series of whiskies featured by Diageo or its predecessors, covering the Classic Malts, The Singleton whiskies or the Flora and Fauna range. The main exception is Roseisle, which is a distillery that produces malt for blending and has never had an official release yet.


Inside the box.

The box is well presented with the details of all the distilleries. The bottle is well presented being crisp, clear and free of any excess decoration – the sort of things that appeal to me. But what is this behemoth of a blend going to reveal to us? It’s time to crack on and find out.

Details

Collectivum XXVIII


The dram

Region – Blend Age – n/a Strength – 57.3% Colour -Amber (0.7) Cask Type – n/a Colouring – not stated Chill Filtered No Nose – waxy, ginger, leather, smoke, honey Palate – Quite hot neat. Need to add water. Coats mouth and reveals a creamy sweetness. Aniseed, leather, stewed apples, black pepper corns, spicy wood. Slight astringency. Balanced well with peat and smoke in the background.- Finish – medium to long. Wood spices, nutmeg, apple peel, smoke


A look down into the tasty liquid

Conclusions

With so many things going on in this glass it is impossible to identify each individual distillery. The waxy quality makes me think of Clynelish, the smokey and peat make me think of Lagavulin and Talisker. I think to truly enjoy this malt you need to switch off and not analyse it, but just accept it as it is.

The one thing I’ll have to highlight straight away is don’t dismiss this as ‘just a blend’. I kind of made that schoolboy error and attempted to drink this dram undiluted. It wasn’t so much as a contempt for the dram, but I figured I’ve managed Clearic in the past, plus Polish Bimber and lived to tell the tale. Big mistake. There is quite a strong bite to this dram and water will only enhance your experience. Using a pipette, add a few drops of water to break through the complexity layer by layer and you will be rewarded.

Can you taste any of the distilleries in here? No. You can taste elements and hazard a guess but for me when I was attempting to do so spoilt the experience so I gave up. It had been a hectic week when I tasted it so perhaps I was just a bit overloaded. But this is a wonderfully complex dram, with a gentle and gradual application of a few drops of water opening up the whisky like a budding flower. Overall, well balanced and a good sipper.

Being a Special Release there will be limited amounts of this in circulation. Although I have not seen anything confirmed, Special Releases tend not to have much more than 7500 units or less. It cost £150 on release and can be found online at Amazon.co.uk for £124.70 at the time of writing. Specialist retailers may have some available or you can find it on auction sites at the moment around £100-£120. Of course, I didn’t open my stored one, but picked up one at auction for £118 all in.

If you can afford it, it is a worthwhile one to have and while I don’t want to comment on its collectibility, it certainly is a talking point for any collection. The fuss free box and bottle presentation seal the deal for me. While I recommend you try this, the numbers available will be on the steady decline. I suspect a lot of these have been opened out of curiosity, so if you know a friend that has one, perhaps see if they would be benevolent enough to let you try.

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