Highland Park 1994

Bought – Best of Whisky, Holland, 26th August 2014

Ratings:
87/100 – Whisky Bible 2014
83.14/100 – Whiskybase (average from 37 votes)

Originally this bottling by Highland Park was made for Travel Retail, so only available in selected airports. Last time I travelled in July there was no sign of it in Heathrow, or Aberdeen airport. It seems it has been superseded by the HP Warrior range. I found this bottle when doing my first online whisky shop from Holland, so it was a pleasant surprise to discover something unavailable in the UK.

Although Jim Murray in his Whisky Bible gives this HP an excellent mark in the high 80s he’s disappointed that it could have been so much better. He concludes with “the finish is dull and the usual complexity of the malt is vanished behind a murky veil”. Without this it would have scored in the 90s. A shame but 87/100 still classes this HP 1994 as “very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying”.

Video review by Frozen Summers here.

Highland Park 1994

 

Highland Park 10-year-old

Bought – Best of Whisky, Holland, 26th August 2014

Ratings:
81/100 – Malt Maniacs (average from 4 reviews)
80.88/100 – Whiskybase (average from 51 votes)

This 10yo is an original bottling from Highland Park distillery but impossible to find in the UK. So much so it doesn’t appear in the Whisky Bible, that’s how obscure it is! So I was delighted to find it when doing my first online shop abroad in Holland. Reviews suggest this isn’t earth-shatteringly brilliant whisky but a pleasant example of a young Highland Park. Who can grumble with that?!

A comment on Whiskybase suggests this bottle was only produced for the Dutch and Canadian markets. Another reviewer said they prefer it to the 12yo and 15yo versions, which only goes to make it more intriguing!

Highland Park 10yo 35cl

Macallan 12-year-old ‘Fine Oak’ 70cl

Bought – Best of Whisky, Holland, 26th August 2014

Ratings:
95.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2014
81.74/100 – Whiskybase (average from 147 voters)

This is a 70cl upgrade of a miniature I bought a few months ago. I wasn’t expecting to get a full bottle because, having been discontinued, the cheapest is £100. That’s until I discovered Holland! Although I’m not the first person to discover Holland because there’s definitely people living there, and some of them sell whisky! :) The Macallan was priced at €52.50, which equated to £42 at the time of purchase, £58 cheaper than the best UK price. The second best UK price was £200! Do I have “MUG” written on my forehead?! When getting whisky sent from Holland to the UK you need to find good deals like this to cover the cost of postage. This was a perfect find!

For more of my ramblings regarding this whisky please see my post about the miniature version here.

Macallan 12yo Fine Oak 70cl

Aberfeldy 21-year-old

Bought – Best of Whisky, Holland, 26th August 2014

Ratings:
92/100 – Whisky Bible 2014
88/100 – Malt Maniacs (average from 3 reviews)

There I was, minding my own business, when I spotted someone on a whisky forum saying they ordering Scotch from Holland. Until then I’d only ever bought whisky from within the UK but I was aware there were bargains to be had on mainland Europe. I contacted the said forum member and he confirmed how easy it was to order alcohol from Holland. He mentioned he was getting the Aberfeldy 21yo £30 less than the cheapest UK price, so I had to have a look! Wouldn’t you?! I only selected 5 bottles but, even adding in €16 for delivery I saved £100 compared to UK prices. Another added bonus of buying from abroad was getting whiskies that aren’t available in the UK. These were a Highland Park 1994 and 10yo which I’ll be blogging about soon.

With the price of Aberfeldy whisky in the UK I wasn’t expecting to upgrade my miniature of the 12yo I got last year, so getting the 21yo was a nice surprise. It’s the first whisky in my collection to come in a plush box with a satin-like interior. Fancy! Jim Murray describes the smell of this dram in his Whisky Bible as “superb!” then says of the taste “uniquely nutty delivery screams “Aberfeldy!”; creamy texture without losing complexity. Out of the oils vanilla rises cleanly”. He summaries with “a distillery I have long held in very high esteem here gives a pretty clear view as to why.” And on that note I would say my hunt for the perfect Aberfeldy has come to an end. That’s just as well because there’s plenty more distilleries to sip around!

Aberfeldy 21yo 70cl

Glenfarclas 2003

Bought – Marks & Spencer, 22nd August 2014

Ratings:
84/100 – Whiskybase (average from 3 member votes)
87/100 – Ralfy, of http://www.ralfy.com
Review: – Ralfy – Glenfarclas 2003 – YouTube (December 2013)

This Glenfarclas 2003 is 43% and not to be confused with the 46% version being sold exclusively at ‘The Whisky Shop’. Initially I thought it was the same but it seems that Glenfarclas provide Marks & Spencer with a different, less alcoholic version. They probably don’t want their customers swaying uncontrollably down the High Street. Nevertheless, Ralfy in his video review says this 43% behaves more like 46%. So much for watering it down! The Whisky Bible provides a review for ‘The Whisky Shop’ version, giving it 83/100 but no mention of the M&S bottle. Thankfully other reviews are available online and 84/100 on Whiskybase is a very good mark. My bottle cost £35 from M&S but the version at ‘The Whisky Shop’ costs …. brace yourself … £62.99! Don’t all faint at once.

When Ralfy first opened his bottle he says it tasted “raw, aggressive and unsettled”. He than poured out some of the whisky into a sample bottle to give the remaining whisky a change to breath, which apparently resulted in a big improvement. All in all he is very impressed with this Glenfarclas. Always good to hear having spent money on it!

One thing Ralfy mentions, and I’ve noticed about Glenfarclas, is their value for money when it comes to older bottlings. For example, today’s prices for a 21-year-old bottle from the following distilleries would cost:

  • £118 – Highland Park
  • £108 – Glenfiddich
  • £93 – Glenlivet
  • £85.50 – Old Pulteney
  • £70 – Glenfarclas

These are the best prices I found using Whiskymarketplace, with the Glenfarclas 21-year-old available for £70 from ‘The Whisky Shop Dufftown’. At the same time ‘The Whisky Shop’ is selling the 21yo bottle for £115. £45 more! It goes to show that it pays to shop around.

Glenfarclas 2003 70cl

Glenfiddich 14-year-old ‘Rich Oak’

Bought – Sainsbury, 15th August 2014

Ratings:
90.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2014
82.8/100 – Whiskybase (average from 144 member votes)
80/100 – Malt Maniacs (average from 5 reviews)

On behalf of all people who buy whisky miniatures, I’m going to have a grumble. Glenfiddich used to, until recently, sell a triple pack of 5cl bottles, one each of their 12yo, 15yo and 18yo. Several supermarkets sold them for £10-£12. They’ve now repackaged it, replacing the 18yo with the 14yo, which is a cheaper whisky but the price remains at £10-£12. The Whisky Bible ranks the 18yo as 95/100, and it’s generally considered a better quality malt than the 14yo. But, will anyone really notice? Will anyone care? Am I just ranking for the sake of it? Yes, it’s the latter.

The Whisky Bible gives quite a lengthy review of this 14yo, saying of the taste “soft oils”, “sensation of passing barley”, “oak-laden notes”, “spices” and “creamy mocha”. You’d be forgiven for thinking you were reading the options in a coffee shop, such is the variety of flavours in the Rich Oak. But it’s the finish that the author, Jim Murray, praises the most, saying “possibly the best phase of the experience. The vivid, surging oak has cooled and some barley oils mingle in a relaxed fashion with the sweetening, very mildly sugared mocha”. In summary Mr Murray says “Delicious, thoughtful whisky and one to tick off on your journey of malt whisky discovery”. But if only it were 46% instead of 40%, he says.

If it’s any consolation (to me), the bible allocates more words to this 14yo than it does to the 18yo, and the 18yo is also 40%, so there! Perhaps I need to find a cask strength Glenfiddich and do a bit of blending to bring the strength up for this 14yo. It’s only a matter of time in my whisky journey before I start mixing my own.

Glenfiddich Rich Oak 14yo 70cl

 

Highland Park 25-year-old

Bought – Highland Park Distillery, 14th August 2014

Ratings:
96/100 – Whisky Bible 2014
87/100 – Malt Maniacs (average from 18 reviews)

Now here’s a mystery. The ratings I mention above are for the original bottling of the HP 25yo at 48.1%, and miniatures of this are still available on the Highland Park website. But a full 70cl bottle on their website, and other online whisky shops, is 45.7%! Clearly it’s a different whisky. But the Highland Park website use exactly the same description for both versions of the HP 25yo. I don’t have my finger on the pulse of what’s happening at the distillery but it seems like there’s a new version of the 70cl on the market. The miniatures I have are the old version, which has been discontinued. The fantastic ratings are for the OLD version, so I can only hope the new version keeps the high standards. At £175 for 70cl, you’d have to hope so!

The miniatures of this discontinued 25yo are still available on the HP website for £12. At 5cl they are one 14th of 70cl, so 14 x £12 is £168 (if it’s even possible to still buy 14 miniatures). I don’t know how much the old 70cl was being sold for but I doubt it was much less than £175 (that’s the cheapest I found online. Highland Park are selling it on their website for £250). It’s rare to find a miniature that costs less than 1/14th of its 70cl counterpart. If you’re a collector of miniatures then this is definitely something to add to your collection. I spotted one selling at auction for £15.50, so £3,50 more than buying it directly from Highland Park. It goes to show, it’s already making money as an investment, even at 5cl in size!

Highland Park 25yo 5cl

Highland Park 21-year-old

Bought – Highland Park Distillery, 14th August 2014

Ratings:
82.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2014
89/100 – Malt Maniacs (average from 9 reviews)

When you look at the Whisky Bible rating of 82.5/100 you’d be forgive for thinking this was a good whisky yet nothing special. But, the Malt Maniacs score this 21yo 89/100 and they only gave the HP 18yo 88/100, when the Whisky Bible scores it an amazing 95.5/100! Here we have the wonderful world of opinions. Stick 3 whisky drinkers in a room with one bottle to try and you’ll get at least 4 opinions. And if they try the bottle again after a week of letting it breath, opinions will change – some for the better, some for the worse.

In fairness, the rating for this HP 21yo is a little more clear-cut. Jim Murray’s Whisky Bible score of 82.5/100 would have been higher if it weren’t for his sulphur sensitivity. As he says “bad news: a sulphured sherry butt has found its way into this bottling”. When I think how rare it is to see reviews mentioning sulphur, I’m beginning to wonder if Jim Murray’s taste buds no longer reflect those of your typical whisky drink. After relying on the Whisky Bible for so long, I may start changing my source for reviews to such places like Whiskybase and Malt Maniacs, where ratings are an average from numerous voters, not just a single opinion.

Highland Park 21yo 5cl

Highland Park 18-year-old

Bought – Highland Park Distillery, 14th August 2014

Ratings:
95.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2014
91/100 – Ralfy, of http://www.ralfy.com
Review: – Ralfy – Highland Park 18yo – YouTube (May 2012)

It’s been proving harder and harder to find miniatures of the HP (Highland Park) age-statement range, so a few months ago I decided to go to the source and look on the Highland Park website and their online shop. The 30yo was available, then a few days later (when I was about to place an order!) it had sold out. I contacted HP directly and they confirmed they no longer had any miniatures of the 30yo. They also said, and I quote “we are discontinuing all of our miniature range excluding the 12 year old.” (email received 9th June 2014). Eeek! Time to place an order, so I got the 18yo, 21yo and 25yo.

The HP 18yo is one of the true heavy-weights of the whisky world. I’ve never seen a bad word said against it. It gets one of Ralfy’s highest scores in nearly 500 reviews, and Jim Murray in his Bible says of the taste “eye closing beauty” and goes on to say “this is a must have dram”. It’s just a shame a full 70cl bottle is so expensive (currently about £90) when other great 18-year-olds like the Talisker are £25-£30 less. At least with a miniature I can experience that “must have dram” Mr Murray insists that I have. Don’t mind if I do Jim, old chap! It’s a shame it’s not his round, or I’d have it in a pint glass! :)

Highland Park 18yo 5cl

Old St Andrews ‘Clubhouse’ 70cl

Bought – ASDA, 13th August 2014

Ratings:
82/100 – Whisky Bible 2014

An upgrade! My miniature of the Clubhouse has finally been surpassed by its big brother, the 70cl version. I was a bit concerned it might be 50cl because there appears to be two sizes of the big version mentioned online, and sometimes even the sellers get them muddled up. If you go shopping for this blend then watch out for that.

When I posted about my miniature of the Clubhouse last year I mentioned the Whisky Bible score but not what the author, Jim Murray, had to say, which was “not quite the clean, bright young thing it was many years back. But great to see it back in my nosing glass after such a long while…” This had me reaching for my 2009 copy of the Bible and, sure enough, no Clubhouse or any of the Old St Andrews range. I went back to 2006 and there they were. Back then the Clubhouse scored 90/100, which was the best of the bunch with a 5yo scoring 77/100, an 8yo scoring 69/100 and a 12yo scoring 88/100. Although standards for the relaunched Clubhouse have slipped (in Jim’s opinion), the new aged-statements (Twilight, Fireside and Nightcap) appear to be an improvement on their predecessors. It’s clearly swings and roundabouts, or should that be ‘swings and putts’?! :)

Old St Andrews Clubhouse 70cl