It’s Dram Stupidity

Why Silly Season now seems to be year long

For those of us lucky enough to be born Scottish and or live in Scotland, you need to have a sense of humour about the weather. It seems that we only have two seasons a year – summer and winter. Only summer seems to last for two weeks and those two weeks may not coincide with actual summer months. There’s been a few occasions when I’ve been walking around in March in short sleeves. Mind you in Aberdeen there are a few people who dress with barely enough clothes to stave off hypothermia then remove a couple of layers for a night out. The Norwegians have a saying that goes along the lines of that there is no such thing as bad weather, only a poor choice of clothing. Appropriate enough, as I type, I am actually in Norwegian waters on a Norwegian crewed vessel within sight of the Norwegian mainland.

Weather here has been changeable and we’ve had some spectacular weather, but now we’ve got misty gloom and have had for a couple of days. Guess the Norwegians have similar seasons to the Scottish, including the season that seems to be getting year long in the whisky world – silly season. This is not the sole preserve of the whisky world and can be widespread in many situations, but once again I see the usual stupidity over prices being paid for bottles. Interestingly enough it is for a Norwegian whisky.

The whisky in question is the first release of Bivrost Niflheim, a single malt whisky from the Aurora Spirit distillery in Lyngen, Northern Norway. It is the world’s most northerly distillery at present although with whisky superlatives there is always a chance that could be surpassed. The first 20 bottles are available for sale in the current Whisky Auctioneer auction. This isn’t the first time that Whisky Auctioneer have exclusively sold first produce from a distillery – they have also had similar auctions for the Israeli Milk and Honey Distillery and also the Strathearn Distillery in Perthshire.

I’d like to draw your attention to the price currently being bid for the bottle one of the Norwegian whisky. It’s currently at the time of writing £6400 plus auction fees. Out of the 20 bottles at auction, 7 of them have broken the £1000 barrier, and the cheapest bid is currently £500. Forgive me for perhaps stating the obvious, but have people lost their marbles?

Lets look at the whisky in question – No Age Statement, only 50cl. The cheapest this whisky will be is £1 per millilitre. Thats a lot of money for a whisky of only 3 years old. I suppose that is fine for a collectors item, but very expensive for a drinking whisky and I’d wonder how much the price will mature in the secondary market. It all depends on the success of the distillery I would bet. I can tell you I paid £800 for two bottles of the first release of Strathearn’s spirit in the auction that Whisky Auctioneer ran in 2016. Strathearn has gone on to be quietly successful, being sold to Douglas Laing in 2019. Where it goes from there and whether or not my bottles go up in value remains to be seen, but I only pay at auction what I can afford to lose. The good news is that following their sale, Strathearn is likely only to go up in value. But will Bivrost Niflheim do the same?

Now let me suggest something to you. There is a certain kudos to having the first bottle from a release and a greater kudos to having the first bottle from the first release. But £6400 worth? The jury might be out on that one though I’d imagine it’s not. I know that for that money I’d much rather pay that for a decent Macallan knowing full well that I would get more enjoyment out of that than a whisky that few will know the actual taste and quality of.

And here is my kicker – will further releases taste any different to these 20 bottles in such a way that would make the £6400 taste like a bargain? I’d proffer not. I’m going to suggest that people are paying over the odds for a bottle that may cost £100 realistically, and for a three year old whisky I’d also suggest even that is an overpayment.

Fear Of Missing Out or showing who has the largest testicles in the collecting world is what is driving these prices. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t wish to disrespect both Aurora Spirit or Whisky Auctioneer. Their whisky is one I would be very happy to try and I do plan to buy a bottle from this distillery on account that I spend a lot of time in Norway. Plus it’s about time I looked to whisky outside Scotland I think. For the past 5 years I’ve done a lot of business from Whisky Auctioneer and find them a very decent company to deal with. For both companies, this auction is a great way to generate business and publicity – WA definitely needs positive support given their recent drama with the Perfect Collection Auction being disrupted by cyber attack.

With a certain amount of hindsight bearing in mind I have bought bottles at these sorts of auctions, these events only generate a little bit of price blindness which must please both the distilleries and auctioneers. However, what may be impulse bidding with the heart and not the head can be bad for the buyer and the subsequent secondary market price. I doubt the prices will go on to match the current level of bidding.

Let’s look on the other side. Small distilleries with a great product will generate hype. Daftmill being a great case in point. As much as it is a good dram, is it worth the prices now being seen on the secondary market? I don’t personally think so. The Cuthberts want it to be drunk and enjoyed, but often those paying silly prices on the auction sites are forcing reasonably priced first releases out of the hands of drinkers.

In my closing opinion for this article, I believe there is a bubble that is waiting to be burst and some people will be affected. The hype in the market will fuel a monster that will one day implode. As silly season seems to be a year round thing, this may come sooner than some people think.

(to be continued……)

Read about Arctic Whisky here – http://bivrost.com

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

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

And now there are two

Taste Review #61 – Talisker 10 and Talisker Skye

Last week I did something on Scotty’s drams that I hadn’t done in some time, and that was review two whiskies in the same article. So pleased was I with the result, I decided to do the same again this week, as I still have a shelf of a kitchen cabinet absolutely ‘stappit fu’ (that’s the Doric dialect for stuffed full) with miniatures. In an attempt to clear things out, I am going for it again.

Once again, this review of two minatures from the Talisker distillery were part of a three bottle set of which I have already reviewed the Talisker Dark Storm. It was a present from my wife, and reminds me of our last visit there in 2013. I’ve actually been there twice, and am quite familiar with the spirit that the distillery produces. For years Talisker was the only whisky distillery on Skye, and this is proudly proclaimed on the bottles I have before me. However there nothing worse in an age where things are changing so rapidly that what is fact and gospel one minute becomes outdated the next. There is another whisky distillery on Skye at Torabhaig which started producing in 2017, so hopefully soon we will be seeing spirit from there. When will we see Diageo update the Talisker labelling will remain to be seen.

The Talisker Distillery has existed since 1830’s, but wasn’t always a success on account of its remote location – even in today’s times it is still a pretty remote location. It wasn’t until it was taken over by Roderick Kemp and Alexander Allen in 1880 that things started to turn around. Kemp sold his share in 1892 to purchase the Macallan distillery, and in 1895 Allen died and it passed onto his business partner Thomas Mackenzie who was already involved in the Dailuaine distillery on Speyside. It was three years later when Talisker, Dailuaine and Imperial were merged into a single company. Mackenzie himself died in 1916, and control of the distillery was eventually gained by DCL which eventually evolved into the modern day drinks giant Diageo. It is a very important single malt for them, and by 1998 it became part of the Classic Malts selection.

The distillery has a visitors centre, which is very similar to other Diageo visitors centres, but I can recommend the tour very much. It is a beautiful journey to the Isle of Skye, travelling up from Glasgow on the A82, then cutting away from the Great Glen on the A87 all the way to the Isle of Skye, passing the Five Sisters of Kintail, Loch Duich and Eilean Donan Castle (Highlander Movie) and then over the Skye Bridge. The journey across Skye on a good day is little short of breathtaking when you get the view of the Cuillin Hills. Well worth the journey.

It is now time to continue with our whisky journey and proceed with the tastings.

Region

Highland

Talisker 10

Strength – 45.8%. Colour – Amber. Nose – Smoke, Slight Peat, Brine, Citrus, Seaweed, a shell fish note too. A caramel toffee note appears after adding water with a light vanilla in the background. Palate – Not as agressive as the nose may suggest. Quite a full body with a very pleasant mouth feel. It coats the mouth very satisfactorily. Smoke, light peat. Malted cereal, sweet and peppery. Finish – Medium – long. Quite spicy and peppery with an explosion of oak spices and a nice sweet peppery note continuing.

Talisker Skye

Strength – 45.8%. Colour – Amber. Nose – Smoke and light peat. Less than the 10year old. Stewed orchard fruits, toffee, a hint of liquorice allsorts. Palate -Not as full a body as the 10 year old. A good bit lighter, but still lightly oily. Smoke and peat levels are much more subdued here compared to the 10 year old, yet is still unmistakably a Talisker. The brine is more noticeable due to the lower smoke levels and there. Finish– Much shorter than the 10 year old and not as much spice, but still the smokey sweet peppery finish.

Conclusions

There is a reason that Talisker is important to Diageo. It is such a pleasant drink to have. Yes, it may be a mass produced whisky but that is something that should be disregarded as we should be judging on our experience alone. It has been some time since I have tasted Talisker 10, especially since I took a shine to Laphroaig 10, but I would say if you are wanting to experiment with peaty whiskies, I’d start with some Highland Park 12 then move onto Talisker 10. It has such a lovely mouth feel, and what is really beneficial to the drinker is the smoke and peat aren’t too strong. The underlying sweetness rescues you from any residual phenolics so you don’t feel as though you are drinking a bottle of TCP.

Talisker Distillery alongside Loch Hariport

Moving onto the Skye – it is a little brother to the 10 year old. Much more approachable and if you are a bit of a peat and smoke virgin, then this would probably be better than simply leaping into the 10 year old. The mouthfeel is still familiar, but has less body, and for my palate a bit less satisfying, but I prefer the more heavier peated whiskies when we have moved into the peated styles.

Thinking back to my previous review of Talisker Storm, I remember that being quite aromatic in the smoke and peat departments, with a long finish which became quite tedious in the end. Plus the aroma was as such I could smell the glass of whisky from the other side of the room. It was an average whisky, but I wouldn’t rush to recommend it. However, these two that I have reviewed above I can recommend, as they are very easy to drink and not overpowering in any sense, but still give a quality drinking experience. Of course, there will be plenty of other whiskies that may be challenging, but if you are just looking for an easy going experience with medium smoke and peat, then these two will hit the spot.

However, there are down sides to the equation. Both of these whiskies have colour added, which makes me sad, as I’d like to see a difference between the two to help me realise without tasting that these two are different spirits. Only one of the spirits tasted this time have an age statement, and this was the better of the two with the fuller mouth feel. Whether this is coincidence and the NAS Talisker has a majority of younger whisky which gives a lighter feel is just a guess, but I don’t think its far off the mark.

We have to end on a positive though, and after how good it tastes, we then have to think of how much it costs. While I cannot comment on the cost of the three miniature set at the time as it was a kind gift from my wife to reminisce of our time on Skye, you can pick these up at a whisky retailer for around £16 mark. The full size bottles of each bottle can be picked up for around £43 (10 y.o) and £45 for Skye. As Diageo are moving away from 5CL miniatures at their visitor centres, the 10 year old can also be bought in 20CL size for around £16. To be honest, I think these prices represent good value, and if I fancied a change from Laphroaig, Talisker would be where I’d go to.

Yours in Spirits

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

Talisker Distillery – Shutterstock

All Other Photos – Authors Own

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

Double Trouble

Taste Review #60 – Balvenie Doublewood 12 & 17

It may come as no surprise to some of you that I may eventually find myself in a wee bit of trouble regarding whisky and it is so that this has eventually come to pass. During the lockdown and a short period of illness, I decided that it was time to clear out my study for it was starting to look a little bit like there had been a World War 2 bombing raid. There are a few bottles of whisky in there to go into storage, and the special bottles that are yet to be opened for review, but most of all there is my stash of miniatures that I have purchased so I can do my usual taste reviews. These miniatures are what is causing my problems, for I have found out that I don’t have the odd one or two, I’ve got about 80.

Now, 80 miniatures is not a lot, especially for those of us who collect them, but it was never my intention to collect miniatures though I have to admit I do have one or two of sentimental value that I will be keeping. 80 miniatures is a lot of reviews, and that doesn’t even count the whiskies that I have in full size bottles to be tasted either. It leads me to the problem that I have to overcome somehow and this I am going to do by cheating a little bit and do a vertical tasting. Fortunately I have a few distilleries in my miniature box where I have more than one vintage, so a vertical tasting is probably the most efficient way of dealing with things.

Within my stash of miniatures, I have the remains of 2 gift boxes, one was actually a gift from my wife, but the other one was bought from Wood Winters in Inverness, and was from the Balvenie distillery. The set originally contained the 12 and 17 year old Doublewood whiskies and also the 14 year old Caribbean Cask Balvenie which I reviewed last year. I think enough time has gone by and I can now review the other two, and start cutting down on the number of bottles in my collection

It is said that while the city of Rome was built on Seven Hills, Dufftown was built on Seven Stills built in the late 19th Century – These were Mortlach, Dufftown, Glendullan, Convalmore, Parkmore, Glenfiddich and Balvenie. The distillery of Pittyvaich was built within the Dufftown distillery complex in 1974 and Kininvie was built within the Balvenie site in 1990. Parkmore distilery closed in 1930 due to water quality problems, Convalmore succumbed in 1985 during a turbulent time for the whisky industry and Pittyvaich closed in 1993 when it’s output for blends was no longer required.

Balvenie is a distillery that still retains a malting floor, although this does not provide all the malt required for production. The stills utilise shell and tube condensers instead of the traditional wooden worm tubs. It is also a malt that you will not see as an independent bottle – owners William Grant and Sons (who have owned Balvenie since its construction in 1892) ‘teaspoon’ their casks that they sell on to ensure that it cannot be sold as Balvenie (or Glenfiddich for that matter) in order to preserve their market share. Balvenie has a small amount, reportedly 1% of Glenfiddich added to it, and is known as Burnside. Vice versa, Glenfiddich has 1% Balvenie added to it and is known as Wardside. Both Glenfiddich and Balvenie are present in the blend ‘Monkey Shoulder’ along with Kininvie, and nowadays Ailsa Bay may also be part of the mix.

Balvenie has a visitors centre nowadays, but it is very hard to get a tour, which often need to be booked months in advance – I’ve tried and failed! It is reported to be an excellent tour and it is one that I really want to visit, having already been to the Glenfiddich distillery some years ago. It is also on the pricey side (£50) but is limited to 8 people and is reported to be one of the best tours that you can get in a distillery.


Balvenie Doublewood 12 & 17

The two whiskies that I am going to taste for you are from the Doublewood range, and have been matured in refill American Oak barrels and Hogsheads that have contained bourbon They have then been finished in 1st fill European Oak Oloroso Sherry casks, then married in an oak tun for another 3-4 months to allow individual barrels to marry together. Wood finishing was a process that was developed by Balvenie Malt Master David Stewart in 1982 and is now a very popular process throughout the industry. The 17 year old has just been given an extra 5 years maturation.

All this typing is making me thirsty, so it is time for me to get cracking on with the tasting.


Region

Speyside

Balvenie Doublewood 12

Strength – 43%. Colour – Honey Gold. Nose -Sweet. Stewed Fruit. Raspberry Jam. Brioche bread. Elements of citrus. Digestive biscuits Palate – Medium body, Note of astringency. Vanilla, honey, walnuts moves to a bitter finish. Finish – medium, drying. Tannic with a sour note. For me water smooths the astringency a bit, but increased the sour notes.

Balvenie 12 year old Doublewood

Balvenie Doublewood 17

Strength – 43%. Colour – Old Gold. Nose – Quite sweet on the initial nose. Candy, Icing sugar, Apple peel, a light aroma of freshly cut wood. Raisins. Palate – Quite a light body, Spicy – polished wood, vanilla, dried fruit. Finish– Medium, spicy, cinnamon, slightly drying.

Balvenie 17 Doublewood

Conclusions

In all honesty I wasn’t really expecting that much having the 12 year old. I have had this before, and it didn’t float my boat, and the only reason for buying this set was to try the Caribbean Cask without committing to buying a full bottle. I think this was the wise choice.

As is usual, I always do my taste tests without doing any research into tasting notes, but do compare afterwards, as I want to see if I was far off the mark. I was surprised to see so many other people saying that this was a sweet whisky, but I only got the sweetness in the nose, but not the palate and certainly not the finish. In the case of the 12 year old, adding water only increased the sourness for me. In all I was quite disappointed.


Both drams side by side

The 17 year old was different. Between the two I felt that this was the lighter whisky. Perhaps being in the wood mellowed it a bit. I didn’t find the wood quite so strong here, and the nose was less fruity but had a much more pleasant sweetness. I felt that this dram did not need water, although I was pushed towards adding water to the 12 year old spirit. I definitely feel that the extra 5 years in the cask has made the spirit mellow out somewhat into a much more pleasurable experience.

While people speak of complexities in these drams, I didn’t get that. For me the sourness of the 12 year old drowned out any subtle flavours for me, and the mouthfeel on the 17 year old was just a bit too light for my preference. But this doesn’t mean to say it’s a bad whisky, as plenty of other people rate Balvenie as a brand, but not everybody can like everything.

The one thing that I noticed is that my miniatures were both at 43% whereas a full sized bottle of the 12 year old doublewood is only 40%. Both these drams appear to have been chill filtered and both have the addition of E150a colouring. I was a little disappointed in the latter – the alarm bells were ringing when I placed the drams side by side and they were the same colour, despite the 5 year age difference.

The 12 year old can be found in your local friendly whisky retailer for around £39 and the 17 year old is around the £110 mark. I would suggest that I do not find this a price I would pay for the 17 year old, although while I did not enjoy it, the 12 year old is more reasonably priced. I would however suggest to seek out miniatures of these drams before you pay such sums of money to see if you will like it or not, as had I paid for full bottles I would currently be disappointed. Your taste experience may be different to mine, but in this case I will be trying something else from the Balvenie warehouse in the future.

Yours in Spirits

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.

Cover Your Ass(ets)

Why you need to protect your collection

I’ll begin this article with a very large apology. I am sorry that there has been no weekend article for a couple of weeks, but I’m back at work, and I haven’t been able to arrange anything. Fear not, at least I have enough taste reviews to post, as long as this trip doesn’t extend beyond 12 weeks. Not having adequate cover of articles is a risk I have to take given that I can have an unpredictable work pattern, which will only get worse as the recession in the oil industry continues.

Turning our mind to our whisky collections, a lack of cover is a pitfall that we shouldn’t let ourselves fall into. Buying a bottle here and a bottle there is an easy way to building a modest collection but it easily builds into a monster that we can have no control over. Suddenly you can be faced with a collection that may not be covered under your home insurance. Even if you fully intend to eventually drink the bottles that you have bought, I’m well aware that this may not happen and with the increase in value of some bottles on the secondary market you might have a considerably higher value of collection than you expect.

Now, what would be the case if the worst was to happen and there was an accident that destroyed your collection? It could very well be that you have a small, inexpensive collection and your home insurance will cover it. But what if you go through your list of what you lost to find it worth a lot more than you realised and you aren’t fully covered? What if you have a Speyburn Flora and Fauna you bought for £35 in 1991 and you find that it is now auctioning for £2000 and is not covered by your house insurance?


Cheap on release. Auctioning for over £2000 now.

The answer is simple – you may need to consider specialist insurance. This is something I have to consider as I have a remote storage unit. My home insurer was not keen about covering my modest collection, most of which is well above 40% abv. The fact I have well over 200 bottles would mean they would not insure me for a reasonable cost given the simple fact of fire risk and value so a remote storage unit made sense. This option may not be appropriate for those with a smaller collection that they intend to drink.

Due to most home insurers insisting that expensive items are insured separately, this can add quite a lot to your premium and may not take into account of increase in market value. It then makes sense that a specialist insurer is needed. I already had one for my storage unit, but went through a broker that recommended me an insurance that was in the end not a specialist whisky insurance and was considerably more expensive and less flexible than a specialist insurer. Thus meant the search was on.

The problem with most storage insurances is that they are quite particular about what can be insured. My initial storage location would only insure me for £10,000 for my whisky, meaning that I could not store my whole collection there, which kind of defeated the purpose of having a storage unit in the first place. In my current storage location, I found the optional site supplied insurance being quite expensive which would have resulted in a £50 a month charge. Having done a little shopping online, I came across a site that would insure me, but wasn’t too much cheaper at £550 a year for £30,000 of insurance. Still pretty expensive, and not that flexible.

The good news is that as I do my social butterfly bit around the various whisky people in the area, I came to be recommended a company called Bruce Stevenson Insurance Brokers, based in Edinburgh. This was much more flexible. As long as I had proof that I owned the bottles I was insuring, then I would be able to claim market value should the worst happen, or to the value of an independent valuation provided by a whisky specialist such as Rare Whisky 101. I’m not going to go into the ins and outs of the policy, as each situation could be different, but as an Aberdonian where cheapness matters, I was getting better cover for £200 less a year. What I also found was that I was able to phone the company with my initial enquiry and deal with person when buying my policy. I feel the personal touch is so important, especially when the joy of whisky is sharing not just liquid, but experiences. From speaking to my broker I was able to pick up hints and tips that would be missed in a completely online transaction.

So, in conclusion my whisky collection is now more adequately protected for less money. Winner winner chicken dinner. Except with the saving of more coin, I’ll be eating steak instead of chicken – once I get off this floating prison. Mind you, being offshore means I can always shop online for more whisky with the savings made. Scratch that – I already have almost wiped out the savings by buying Edition 3 of the Tamdhu Dalbeallie Dram. Ooops.*

I’ve provided a link below for you to look at should you wish to insure your collection separately, but it is worth thinking whether or not your existing home insurance will cover the whisky you have.

www.brucestevenson.co.uk

Please be aware that I am only recommending this company based on my personal experience, coupled with being recommended my many people I have spoken to in the whisky retail and fellow collectors. This recommendation is completely independent and I am not receiving any payment or gratuity for this article.

Keep safe!

Yours In Spirits

Scotty

* considerably more whisky than 2 bottles have been purchased.

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.

A Distillery with a Dirty Dark Secret

Taste Review #59 – Mannochmore 12 Flora And Fauna

This blog has already been responsible for the disclosing some secrets. Most notably it has been my short lived career as a flipper and hypocrite, not to mention the confession that seems to have flown well under the radar about one of my go-to blends that features the image of a well known bird. But let’s move on from me and move onto the whisky I’ll be reviewing this week which also has a dark secret, with the emphasis on dark.

The Mannochmore distillery was opened in 1971 by DCL on the same site as Glenlossie. These distilleries sit within a small pocket of distilleries that straddle the A941 Elgin to Craigellachie road which also includes BenRiach, Longmorn and Glen Elgin distilleries. It uses the same water source as Glenlossie, the Bardon Burn, although Mannochmore is by far the larger producer, capable of producing 4.5 million litres of spirit a year, compared to the much older Glenlossie’s 2.8 million litres.

Mannochmore is one of those distilleries that isn’t that well represented by its current owners, Diageo. There are very few official releases available, mostly limited to Manager Dram bottles or the occasional Diageo Special release – another thing in common with Glenlossie. Indeed, the only official release for both distilleries is the Flora and Fauna bottling and I am away to review the 12 year old Mannochmore for you now. However, a quick look online reveals that Mannochmore is easily available from many independent bottlers.

But before we go any further, we have to move onto that dark secret I mentioned. In 1996, Diageo released a whisky that was controversial to say the least. I don’t know how many of you have heard of a whisky called Loch Dhu, but this was a whisky that was dark beyond belief, marketed as a ‘Black Whisky. It was clearly beyond doubt that this was the result of some heavy use of artificial colouring. The result was a Marmite style whisky, which means like the yeast based spread it was something you either loved or hated. Unfortunately for Loch Dhu, most people hated it and the bottling was soon withdrawn. It is becoming a bit of a collectors item, but I am convinced that most people won’t be drinking it.


The sample

Speaking of drinking, it is time to move onto the whisky I have chosen for this week’s review. Hopefully this one is going to taste a lot better than Loch Dhu is reported to be.


The dark secret. Apparently disgusting.

Region

Speyside

Age

12 years old

Strength

43% ABV

Colour

Light hay

Nose

Slight whiff of alcohol, Buttery, honey, floral notes, straw, toffee

Palate

Oily mouthfeel, but not too heavy. A quick burst of wood spices, then quite creamy and sweet. Ginger, Vanilla and Lemon.

Finish

Medium Sweet, spiced wood, continues a ginger theme with added pepper. Slightly astringent, creamy lemon zest at the end.


The dram

Conclusions

If you are looking for a complex whisky, then this is not it. However it is quite a decent dram but I soon found out that it is not one to set the world on fire. I can tell you that it has most likely been chill filtered and the chances of it having colouring within are quite high, but the pale colour would seem to suggest that this is probably a minimum amount. But then again, Flora and Fauna whiskies were never intended to be world beater premium whisky, and for all the short comings this whisky has, it was a very pleasant pour.

The spicy wood notes are quite pleasant and controlled, and do not hide a floral nose nor the creamy vanilla and floral notes in the palate.

This whisky is one I have a couple of bottles of as part of my Flora and Fauna collections. It was one of the 17 out of the original 22 that were also produced with a white cap to denote the 1st Edition. This however was a dram from one of the sample bottles that were available on The Whisky Exchange for around £5, but I can’t remember as I have had this sample for some time.


Mannochmore Flora & Fauna 12 – full size

A full sized bottle should cost you about £50, but its availability may not be the greatest. Your specialist spirit shop should be able to source this if they don’t already stock it, or you can find it online easily enough. Based on paying £50 for a 43% whisky that is only 12 years old with colouring and chill filtered, it may not represent the best value. Although it is a pleasant sipper, I don’t think I can tell you it is an interesting enough dram to be good value at that price. At some point you might just have to take a chance and take the plunge to try it. I can assure you that if a purchase of this bottle is made, you will probably enjoy it if you are not seeking a challenging complex drink. There is no doubt in my mind that you will not have an extreme reaction that you may have had in drinking the Loch Dhu black whisky, so if you do see it, why not take a chance and try it?

Yours in Spirits

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

It needn't be dreary in the Garioch.

Taste Review #58 – Glen Garioch Founders Reserve.

Believe it or not, my title this week does actually rhyme. It does help if you are from the North East Of Scotland to know how to pronounce Garioch or at least you could have heard it from others in your whisky journey. But for those unfamiliar with Doric, the pronunciation is ‘Geery’. It rhymes with dreary, but then I have already told you that. And Doric lives up to many of the often underhand tricks that English can also play on its non-native speakers, and that is that sometimes it is pronounced ‘Garry-och’, but usually only when it is being used as a surname.


The Doig Ventilators over the disused kilns. Blue skies as well.

Glen Garioch distillery is one of the oldest in Scotland, having been established during 1797 in the Aberdeenshire village of Oldmeldrum, a small market village some 18 miles north of Aberdeen. Currently it is the most eastern distillery in Scotland, a title that it obtained in 1983 when Glenugie beside the port of Peterhead closed. It was my local distillery when I lived in the land of ‘Fit Like’ (Doric for how are you?), and passing through Oldmeldrum, it was easy to spot the two ventilators on the top of the kilns, yet I never visited. Not until early March this year when I was staying in Aberdeen and I decided to treat my parents to an afternoon out. Despite Aberdeen and shire’s reputation for dreary grey buldings, weather and equally grey and dour people, this was a glorious early spring day with a treat of some blue skies.


The malting barn. Floors sadly out of use.

Glen Garioch was established in 1797, although it is reckoned that they were legally distilling before that, albeit there is no existing proof. Two brothers, John and Alexander Manson started the distillery just to the south of the Aberdeen – Banff road. They were in a perfect position for one of their main ingredients – Barley. The North East of Scotland produces massive amounts of barley, and according to our guide, 40% of Scottish barley used in whisky production comes from the Garioch valley, which is entirely possible, as during summer the fields are full of barley, and the soil is good quality with lower levels of nitrogen, which distillers like.

Glen Garioch passed through a few hands before becoming part of DCL in 1937. This continued until the late 1960’s. DCL (a forerunner of Diageo) in the mid to late 1960’s needed a distillery to produce heavily peated malt, as there was a problem with droughts on Islay and Caol Ila was getting refurbished. They had a choice between the original Clynelish distillery (now known as Brora) or Glen Garioch, but unfortunately the Oldmeldrum distillery had problems with its water supply and Brora was chosen to supply the heavily peated malts. DCL sold Glen Garioch to Stanley Morrison (who also owned Bowmore) in 1970, and his first task was to find another water supply. The manager at the time, Joe Hughes contracted Alec Grant (the father of the current manager) who found a spring on nearby Coutens Farm. It’s known as the silent spring, as it could not be seen or heard flowing, but enabled the distillery to increase its production tenfold.

The next crisis to hit Glen Garioch, along with many other distilleries in the 1970’s was the fuel crises in the 1970’s. The cost of operating the distillery was high, but Stanley Morrison installed heat recovery equipment, which allowed heat from the distilling process to be recycled, and was used to heat the kilns as well as feeding heat to an acre of green houses and a further acre of poly-tunnels for growing tomatoes and kiwi fruits. This came to an end in 1993. Sadly in 1994, the distillery also brought an end to malting its own barley, preferring to buy in ready malted barley.


The Porteous Mill is still going.

In 1994 the distillery was bought by Beam, and by 1995, Glen Garioch fell silent. 1995 was the last time the distillery regularly produced a peated malt. However, it isn’t all bad news, and by 1997 after some renovation, the distillery opened again, producing an unpeated malt.


The three stills. Spirit still No.1 out of service.

Glen Garioch is an old, small distillery. It only produces 500,000 litres annually from one wash still and two spirit stills, albeit the No.1 spirit still is currently out of service due to the copper now being too thin. Apparently the wash still has the longest Lyne arm in Scotland. You can still see the tradition coupled with the modern; the Porteous Mill, the old Kilns plus stainless steel washbacks and mash tun squeezed into old buildings. But does the tradition convert into making a decent whisky? Well, it’s time to find out


The sample

Region

Highland

Age

No Age Stated

Strength

48% ABV

Colour

Light Golden Honey.

Nose

Malty, biscuity, sweet. Very light smoke to it. Fruit, Apple, touch of floral – I get a whiff of Turkish Delight of it. Vanilla is in there too.

Palate

Slightly oily mouthfeel. Sweet vanilla, creamy buttermilk and green apples. Hint of citrus sharpness with wood spices.

Finish

Short but quite a spirit glow on the way down. At 48% I’d advise adding water, which I had to do afterwards. Dry, but not astringent. Oak spices, a hint of smoke, probably from the Bourbon barrel. Citrus is in there as well, and only became apparent at the end as the spirit left my mouth fairly dry, but it was like lime and a hint of chocolate.


The dram

Conclusions

If there is one thing I can say about my tour at Glen Garioch, our guide Chris gave an excellent tour and one that was full of information and passion about the distillery. However, (and this was not his fault) the tour was to fall short with the whisky supplied for tasting. The basic entry Founders Reserve is actually not a bad whisky, but after having such a good tour and quite a pleasant nose and palate, the finish totally let it down for me. It’s a shame as I had been smelling it a good portion of the way home in the car due to a leaky sample bottle, and my mouth was watering. The unfortunate reality was that my mouth became like the Sahara Desert afterwards, and I needed to take the water I had set aside for adding to the dram. Because I was doing my typical Aberdonian thing and was too tight to spring for a 5CL sample, I made do this time with the 1.5CL sample given by the distillery.

Although the finish was a bit too dry for me, it wasn’t not in a lip and tongue puckering way. The warmth in the spirit I think just overpowered the nice aromas and palate, which to me was just a little bit disappointing. However, Glen Garioch Founders Reserve is not alone in this – many whiskies I seem to sniff turn out to have either a palate or finish that didn’t match the aroma. My favourite whisky of the past 12 months was exactly like that. Again, it may have been better had I hadn’t been tight and sprung for at least a 5cl miniature.


Casks sleeping

So, with that last point in mind, don’t pay too much attention to what I say on this review, as I just don’t have enough liquid to build a relationship with this whisky and understand all the various components. However, it did become more pleasant with a drop or two of water. I would say that the vintage expressions or those with age statements would be a lot better. It is my opinion that they have bottled this at 48% to hide the fact there is some young whisky in it, but it shows in a very slight rough edge. But that’s just my opinion. There is the good point that at 48% you know that it is not chill filtered, but unfortunately this has got colouring added..

I was tempted to buy a bottle of the 15 year old they had for sale there, as it was £85, and I thought that was just a bit too rich for me. It’s not unreasonable to charge that much for that age of whisky, but you know you can get it cheaper elsewhere. I’ve come to realise that unless it is a special limited release, you’ll always get whisky cheaper elsewhere compared to the distillery shop. Tourists don’t always have the same purchasing opportunities compared to the locals.

Do I recommend this whisky? No, I personally will not be buying a bottle of it, but that’s not to say you shouldn’t. At 48%, this gives you an excellent opportunity to play about with water to see the effects drop by drop, but I’d say best maybe try doing this with the 12 year old. It is also bottled at 48% and costs around £45. The Founders Reserve costs around £35, which for a 48% whisky is indeed good value, and while I think this whisky will appeal to some, it didn’t appeal to me. With the aroma I can sense there is something good happening with this distillery, though not this expression. Perhaps I need to pop in past while next in the area to maybe buy a couple of miniatures to retry at the later date.

Yours in Spirits

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

This Is Not A Drive-By.

Taste Review #57 – Glentauchers 1991 (G&M)

Glentauchers is one of those distilleries that flies beneath the radar. I have to say that it doesn’t seem to be well known at all. And in all fairness, I fly past it on a regular basis as it is right beside the A95, halfway between the Morayshire town of Keith and the hamlet of Mulben. Flying past it is maybe stretching it a bit. There is a bend right beside the distillery houses where a bridge also narrows the carriageway slightly. Up until 5 years ago or so, there was also a strange camber on the road as you went over the bridge which used to force you out into the middle of the road as you went round the bend. I’ve lost count of how many times I have passed it and almost needed a change of underwear. Yet still have to sit and review one of its whiskies.


Glentauchers Distillery

The Glentauchers distillery was another of those distilleries built at the end of the 1890’s, and was established by James Buchanan & Co. to provide fillings for its Black And White blend. This was to become a role that the distillery was to play for its whole life so far, as one of those distilleries whose main purpose is to provide whiskies for blends. As was the case for so many distillery companies, James Buchanan eventually merged with DCL, which would eventually become part of Diageo, although this was not the fate for this distillery – it wasn’t to survive the whisky downturn in the 1980’s and was mothballed at the same time as Convalmore which was also formerly owned by Buchanan / DCL. However, fate was kinder to Glentauchers than it was to Convalmore, and it was bought by Allied Distillers in 1989, with full production resuming in 1992. By 2005, Allied Distillers became part of the Chivas empire, whose parent company are Pernod Ricard.

Today, Glentauchers still carries on, and has been used as a training distillery by Pernod Ricard. Apparently it is a distillery that has limited automation, ensuring that staff have to learn how to distill whisky manually. The malting floors are not part of this as their operation ceased in 1969.

The Glentauchers distillery despite sitting right beside a main road does not have the have the same visibility, yet finding bottles of Glentauchers is not hard. There are plenty of bottlings available from independent bottlers. I own a couple, one being from First Cask, and another being a bottle in the Dancing Stag range from Robert Graham. A quick look online sees that there are bottles available from many of the well known independents such as That Boutiquey Whisky Company, Signatory, Douglas Laing, Berry Bros, but most notably is Gordon & Macphail, probably the oldest continually operating independent bottler, based in the Morayshire town of Elgin, and it is from this bottler we have this week’s sample.

Finding original bottlings of Glentauchers are few and far between. As mentioned above, it is a spirit usually for providing for blends, notably Ballantines. There has been official bottlings – there was a 12 year old released in the 1980’s and in 2000 it was part of a set of 6 different whiskies released by Allied Distillers – all at 46% and 15 years old, meaning that in the case of Glentauchers they were using the DCL distillate. In 2017 an official bottling was released at 15 y.o under the Ballantines brand.


The Bottle

Region

Speyside

Age / Vintage

1991 / 16 years (Bottled 2007)

Strength

43%

Colour

Pale Gold

Nose

Peaches, Honey, biscuity cereals, vanilla, slight apple note. To start with I got a hint of solvent, but that disappeared after I left the glass to sit and breath.

Palate

Slightly oily mouthfeel, yet still quite light. No real overpowering flavours. Spicy oak note with a little fizz on arrival. Sweet, apples, honey, toffee, hay. Hint of lemon peel. Spicy notes soften with the addition of water.

Finish

Short to medium. Oak, slightly bitter, lemon. After water added very slight vegetal taste on departure.

Conclusions

This was a long time coming and I am disappointed in myself that I waited so long to taste this whisky. I’ve always liked the appearance of the G&M distillery bottlings. They look bold and classic, even reminiscent of a bygone age. You see I am a bit of a romanticist about Scottish Malt Whisky, and I prefer to think of it as just a wee industry and not the global behemoth it has become. The diagonal distillery name sloping up to the right reminds me strongly of that other Buchanan owned distillery, Convalmore. If you look at the Diageo Special releases from 2006, 2013 or 2017 you’ll see why.

But we have to move away from the labels, as they do not make whisky taste any better. I didn’t know really what to expect from this whisky, as it is one I have not had before, and I have to say I was very impressed. I drank most of my sample neat, but as towards the end of typing this out, I noticed time was marching on and it was nearly bed time. So, rather than neck it, I decided to see how things would play out with water.

As it was 43%, I didn’t really think it needed water. I really enjoyed the dram neat. I am sure that if it was delivered at a higher ABV, I would definitely be adding water to maybe soften it to get a great easy drinker. My dram from the previous night was a Lagavulin 16, and at 43% that was also drunk without water, and was fully enjoyable, yet I didn’t get all the complexity that you can find in Lagavulin. However getting back to Glentauchers, I don’t feel that there is a complexity there to find in this bottle, but that’s ok. Not everything has to be a challenge and it is important that we remember that we drink whisky because we enjoy it. Constantly seeking for something that isn’t there is just going to lead to a disappointment and spoil what is actually a decent dram.

I paid £7.80 for my 5CL sample in the Edinburgh Woollen Mill in Inverness. It’s a very touristy shop, and I was only in there to conduct some business connected to my wife’s business. It was when walking past the till I noticed the miniatures for sale. Of course, in a shop like this, you know that you are probably paying over the odds, but this is a bottle I always wanted to try. I had the chance to buy the 1996 bottle, but I noticed this 1991 hiding behind a few others. Going by the flawed mantra of older is better, I dug this one out – if I remember rightly it was also cheaper, so it satisfied the needs of my inner Aberdonian. Result!

A little bit of research into the bottling codes on the label reveal that this was bottled in 2007, which makes it 16 years old. I had seen something about the 1991 vintage also being bottled in 2010, but this is unconfirmed. This means the distillery was definitely producing before coming out of mothballs in 1992, and this must be some of the first spirit created by Allied Distillers.


Glentauchers in Allied Distillers collection circa 2000

While this bottle is discontinued, a quick look on auction sites reveals that it is available under £50, and if you are lucky this will also include auction fees, though you might have to add a little more to also cover the P&P. I think that this represents good value, and I would be happy to pay that for this dram. Therefore you will not be surprised to find out that I do recommend this whisky and if I see this as a 70cl bottle, I would be happy to buy it for my drinking collection. It would be sad to miss it, just as I miss the hair raising adrenalin rush of going round the bend next to the distillery now the camber has been sorted. My undercrackers are more grateful though,

One last tip before I go – I forgot to mention that there is no such place as Glentauchers. The distillery was built on the site of Tauchers Farm, and Tauchers Wood is on the other side of the road. Thought I’d better mention it in case you want to have a pilgrimage up a non-existent Glen.

Yours in Spirits

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

Not all Superstition is bad.

Taste Review #71 – Jura Superstition

For those of you who don’t know, mariners can be superstitious. I know of fishermen in the North East of Scotland have plenty of little things in their mind they they consider to be unlucky – mentioning the word Rabbit or Salmon is meant to bring no good and neither are having a woman on your fishing boat. And don’t dare consider washing out your sugar bowl. Shooting an Albatross would be probably the final icing on the cake to guarantee a maritime disaster or perhaps an empty fish hold.

As a person who also has spent the majority of his working life at sea, I also have a few superstitions and practices. As an ROV pilot, me and many of my colleagues are a bit nervous about mentioning the word ‘reterm’ which is a shortening of the word ‘retermination’. A reterm is when you have to cut the yellow flying tether between the ROV and the deployment system, or the main lift umbilical between the launch system and the deployment system. Not technically complex, though a main lift umbilical is more intensive and takes around 12 hrs to complete. Usually mentioning the word reterm is seen as chancing fate and is frowned upon by many.


An ROV sitting on top of a subsea manifold being viewed by another ROV. The other ROV tether is visible to the right. Best not broken.

I have no whisky superstitions, but when a bottle of Jura Superstition turned up in a bulk buy of auction whisky miniatures, I did become a bit wary. I’m not a fan of Jura, especially the last NAS offering I tried, the insipid Jura Journey. Would this one be the same? I was sort of hoping it wouldn’t be, as Jura is owned by Whyte and Mackay who also own Dalmore distillery which do have a good range of decent malts and the lesser known Fettercairn distillery. Their master blender Richard Patterson is a well known personality in the industry and has overseen the creation of some great drams, yet sometimes appears to drop the ball when it has come to Jura Journey and Fettercairn’s Fior, though that’s just my opinion.

The distillery on Jura was established in 1810 by the Laird of Jura to create employment on the island, but had intermittent use, finally closing in 1901, possibly as a result of fallout from the Pattinson crash. The main issue with Jura was that an island distillery was always going to make it more expensive to produce from – everything has to arrive or depart via ferry from Islay via Port Askaig on Islay. It wasn’t until the late 50’s that work started in rebuilding the distillery. This included the installation of taller stills (over 7 metres tall!). First spirit started flowing in 1963 and by 1974 single malt whiskies were being released.

The single malt we will be sampling today was first released in 2002 and is very lightly peated. It was joined by the more heavily peated Prophecy in 2009. The range was revamped in 2018 and Superstition was discontinued. Let’s pay a visit to a whisky that has passed on.


Jura Superstition 5CL

Details

Region – Highland; Age -NAS; Strength – 43%; Colour – Deep Copper; Nose – Cereal notes, straw slight hint of smoke. Honey. A bit of brine in the background; Palate Slightly waxy mouthfeel- medium body. muesli, toffee, a hint of honey with more smoke. Now the light peat becomes apparent but not like an Islay. Finishmedium. The oak spices arrive now, with vanilla, smoke, slight dryness and a hint of brine at the end.


The dram

Conclusions

Well, surprise surprise. I actually liked this one. Maybe that’s an overstatement, but it had a lot more to offer than Jura Journey. I’m actually grateful that in my whisky journey that I’ve made the decision not to let one whisky I didn’t enjoy spoil my view of the distillery. I’ve sort of got a small bias against Whyte and Mackay brands, as I’ve not really enjoyed the few samples I’ve had from Fettercairn either, but that has also had a range upgrade recently as well.

I think the muesli notes perhaps come from the relatively short fermentation period of 54 hrs. There were also cereal notes that I detected in the nose. This spirit has been matured in Bourbon casks, has been chill filtered and also has added colour, thus scores 0/4 in the ABCD check list. However I ‘got’ this whisky. The brine influence along with a light peat gave a lovely smokey maritime feel.

If it was available, I’d give this a thumbs up and would recommend this as an easy introduction to peated whiskies, but alas it is no more. I’ve taken a look online and am struggling to see it available anywhere. It may be best to try auctions to try this whisky. It was RRP at £35-ish as a guide, so you should be able to pay less than this for a 70cl bottle.

I think my next Jura will have to be one of the age statement releases.

Yours in Spirits

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

Question Your Beliefs

Why you still need to challenge your whisky favourites to avoid taste blindness.

For those of you who read this weeks taste review of Monkey Shoulder this article will make more sense, but it isn’t really that necessary to have done so. This is going to be a short piece on how we should always look back on what we have drunk in the past and consistently re-evaluate our experiences.

For a couple of years, Monkey Shoulder was the blend I used to recommend and when travelling was what I often drunk when other options were limited. I never really thought to question it much as I enjoyed drinking it and others did to. Then my travel patterns changed and I wasn’t travelling the same routes, so my opportunity to drink Monkey Shoulder was limited which gave me a break from it for a little while.

It was the tail end of last year when I was asked to do a whisky tasting that I used Monkey Shoulder as a blended whisky. A fair enough assumption as it is a good enough value blended malt and given there were at least three decent malts in recipe, I wasn’t expecting much problems. Only I was wrong. A couple of people said they didn’t like it, pointed out its flaws and said they wouldn’t drink it again. I felt a little bit embarrassed as this was totally opposite to what I had been expecting, though we know that everybody has different taste buds and what is steak for one guy might be mince for the next. One thing was for certain – a review of the whisky and my thoughts about it had to be done.

Fortunately this tied in with the chance to also taste the Smokey Monkey and thus provide a decent comparison between the two. The results are in my article in which I found the smokey version definitely not to my taste and was also able to see the flaws in the original version. My excitement in it was slightly jaded almost to the point I could say that I felt let down by the beverage that I placed so much faith in. So what has happened?

Let’s make the bottler the scapegoat as that would absolve me of saying or doing anything wrong. Batches can vary in taste and recipes can be slightly tweaked depending on availability of casks for vatting. That’s the easy, lazy and possibly incorrect way of thinking which although possibly true, the case may not be the root of the problem. For that we have to look into ourselves and think about how we have changed as whisky drinkers, not just in our palates but also our expectations.

A drop in the ocean

The first thing we have to acknowledge is that one brand of whisky in the spirits world is like a drop in the ocean – so easily lost when compared to other brands. Many of us don’t have the chance to taste many different whiskies either through opportunity or lack of financial means. For people in this situation it means that they will tend to stick to the same brands for whatever reason. It goes without saying whatever your circumstances as a whisky lover that you will try to go for the best you can afford or obtain. However we may become blind to its faults. There is no shame in this as it is human nature to defend things we like or are special to us. For instance, my dog. Lovely, gentle Labrador but can be a bit of a poo eater, constantly casting hair, hungry and is definitely a shagger. I tend to ignore these flaws as I love my dog and his flaws are often written off as character.


How could you not love this? Maksimus puts on his most pathetic look.

Thinking back to the whisky world there may eventually be a special offer which gives the opportunity to try something else to which takes your fancy and it becomes your new favourite, though your former favourite still holds a place in your estimations. You may still recommend your whisky you used to love as It could be that it is good value, but you may be oblivious to the things that make it out not as good as you think. Eventually you get brought back down to earth with a bump and it hurts when it’s pointed out.

With so many bottles out there, many of us are trying different things, but are we really forming a relationship with that whisky so that we know all of its highs and lows, or are we completing a bottle and moving onto the next new thing? Within this blog, it is something that I struggle with, as I am constantly tasting different whisky and don’t often get the chance to really get to know some of the drams. In the past year I’ve reviewed 74 whiskies (that includes the backlog yet to publish) but there is no way on earth that somebody could drink 74 full bottles in that time.

The one thing that also works against us as whisky enthusiasts is those who are always trying the next new thing. There is nothing wrong with this as whisky will require to be innovative to move on, but part of me also feels that this creates a new problem. How can we say that a new whisky is entirely different from one that we have tasted in the past? With millions of permutations there has to be some similarities between bottlings surely? Even in my limited reviews I can tell you I’ve tasted two drams that had I known no better I would have said was Ardbeg because of the main characteristics of the spirit.

Don’t feel disappointed with this – I never said that I was an expert, I don’t pretend to be and I certainly don’t intend to be. This is about a journey to try different whiskies and there will be some I like and some I find that are not to my taste. I wrote about them to get your opinions too and to share my thoughts, not to get plaudits.

There is a defence for all of us. Currently there are about 130 distilleries in Scotland alone. If each distillery had 5 core expressions and released a new one every year, how long do you think it would take you to taste them all and do you think you’d be able to compare them to each other? Not to mention all the whisky that has been made in the past nor single cask releases…. see where I’m going with this? And I haven’t touched on Irish, Japanese, American or Indian whisky yet…..

If you want the proof, watch an online blind tasting and see how many people are able to identify random whiskies. You’d probably not be surprised at the failure rate. I feel it is only those with a super educated palate and a great memory would be capable of such a feat. These people do exist, but seem to be few and far between.

Back To The Monkey Shoulder.

Going back to my original point, with so many whiskies available, it probably isn’t easy to compare each one with every other, and after a while the taste scoring means little. I bet that I could return to Monkey Shoulder again in a couple of months and enjoy it again. Perhaps the bottle I used for the tasting had been open too long and was oxidised? Our palates evolve and what is good at one time may not be so good in the future or become even better.

There is another danger of constantly tasting new things that are popular and that is the law of diminishing returns. Once you taste something great, you will not be so impressed with the more mediocre drams. The availability of such great drams mean you may be in the trap that previously enjoyable whisky isn’t so good, and what is great is in limited supply. That’s a thought for another article though.

In conclusion, will I stop drinking Monkey Shoulder or recommending it? No. I still think the original Monkey Shoulder is an easy to drink, good value blended malt. I will perhaps change why I recommend it though. And of course, I’m going to challenge you to every now and again challenge the whiskies you like to see how they stack up against the new whiskies being released. Being loyal to a brand is great, but can blind you to its drawbacks.

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.

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

Spank Your Monkey

Taste Review #56 – Monkey Shoulder / Smokey Monkey

This review turns it attention back towards blends, and today we are looking at the Monkey Shoulder Brand. I chose this title in my quest to get something quirky and eyecatching. Usually when my wife and I have a pleasurable but not so good for you treat, we say that it’s been naughty, and that it needs punished. Well, what better punishment for a whisky than a good spanking? Any connotations to any other practices is entirely in your own mind. I’m sure the schoolboy humour in some of you will still make you snigger though…… I did!


Monkey Shoulder – Caged Monkey

Monkey Shoulder was released initially in 2005, and was intended to be the sort of whisky that would appeal to younger whisky drinkers that weren’t really into the geeky side of whisky and the old man image. Primarily the focus has been on using the spirit in whisky cocktails. The funky name comes from an affliction suffered by distillery malt men who were employed to turn over the malting barley on the malting floor. Similar to tennis elbow, it caused the arm on the affected side to hang low like a monkey limb, and hence the nickname. Of course this is something that is of a bygone age thanks to modern health and safety laws, and the tiny amount of distilleries that still do their malting in the traditional way.

A part of the William Grant & Sons range, Monkey Shoulder initially was made from spirit that was produced in their three Dufftown distilleries, namely Glenfiddich, Balvenie and Kininvie. However, despite attempts to get this confirmed, this was unsuccessful. However, since the Ailsa Bay distillery has opened, it is open to interpretation if spirit from this Lowland distillery has been used.


Smokey Monkey

In August 2017, Smokey Monkey was released, initially only to the licensed trade, but in 2019 it then became widely available to the general public. Is there much of a difference to these blends, and are they any good?

Smokey Monkey

Smokey Monkey notes in italics

Region

Speyside

Age

These blends have no age statement

Strength

Both whiskies are at 40%

Colour

Both whiskies are Honeyed Gold

Nose

Sweet, caramel, vanilla, malt, hot chocolate powder, cinnamon

Smokey – Sweet smoke with a hint of charred wood. Honey. The smoke isn’t that strong but it hides a lot of any other aromas. I also picked up a note of decay and leather

Palate

Creamy mouth feel, but no real spirit hit in the arrival. Butterscotch, buttery toast, malt, apricot.

SmokeyAgain a creamy arrival, with spices in attendance, oak, vanilla, honey. Slight peat with more heat than the original

Finish

Medium, spicy oak. Finish disappears to nothing if water is added.

Smokey – Same as the original, it is a medium finish with spicy oak augmented by the smokey wood notes and a very slight peat. After a while I got a petrol note too.


Standard Monkey Shoulder on right

Conclusions

The standard Monkey Shoulder used to be a blend that I would recommend. Indeed it is a very easy going blend to drink and if the three malts supposed to be in it are anything to go by, then it should be a relatively good product. This was a blend that I used from time to time in whisky tastings, and never heard many negative comments. However, after a tasting with some relative whisky novices and one person who knew a bit about it, a few of them didn’t like the Monkey Shoulder at all. Now I am wondering if the whisky had oxidised, or if it was just in comparison to the other single malts that I had provided them with before hand. However, I hadn’t given them anything premium to begin with, so I realised that perhaps I had to review my opinion of this whisky.

It also gave me a good chance to review the Smokey Monkey alongside it. I have had a bottle of Smokey Monkey long before it was available to the general public, and soon got a sample sized bottle as soon as Drinks By The Dram started producing them. I must say this has been a very interesting analysis, and not necessarily for good reasons.

I have to admit, that having sat down to taste my standard Monkey Shoulder, it was completely underwhelming. It wasn’t unpleasant, but well it wasn’t great either. Perhaps this has been constructed to be in a whisky cocktail, as when I added water, the finish disappeared completely. I wouldn’t have expected that, but then again being the traditionalist that I am, I don’t generally drink whisky cocktails, and at 40%, I’ve never felt the need to add water.

Moving onto the Smokey Monkey. Oh dear, I really don’t know what to write. I think it is better to say that this was not my cup of tea at all and that is being kind. It was almost the same as the standard Monkey Shoulder, with the addition of some smokey aroma, which to me reminded me of wood smoke more than peat reek. However while I did get a sense of peat, it was fairly muted. Disturbingly I thought I initially got a smell of something decomposing or vegetal on the initial nosings, which isn’t the greatest of starts to a pleasurable tasting. Again, probably better in a cocktail, but I am not likely to be finding out.

One thing I found out when I was doing a bit of research, that initially the recommended serve for this was 2 shots of standard Monkey Shoulder to one of Smokey Monkey, and the idea you added the smokey whisky to your taste. Well, that sort of defeats the purpose doesn’t it? However it does help you sell a lot more whisky in a bar. However, as I found the Monkey Shoulder just to be drinkable and that’s all and the Smokey Monkey pretty unpalatable, I did mix both samples together, and that made something a lot more drinkable, but still not great.

Do I recommend these whiskies? Well, I guess that you should probably realise by now it will be a no, I do not recommend them. They aren’t expensive, being in the order of £29 for a 70cl bottle, but to me, these are just a gimmicky whisky which admittedly may taste better within a cocktail, but smack of more marketing than substance. Kind of disappointing when you think of the brands that go into making this whisky. It’s even more disappointing when you think you can get a litre of Famous Grouse for £20. I think I prefer the Grouse.

Right, because my whisky has disappointed me and I can’t bear to pour it down the sink, I’m away to give my monkey a damned good spanking. That will give the childish amongst you one last opportunity to snigger.

Yours in Spirits

Scotty

Index of tastings here

Index of articles here


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