Ileach

Bought – Lincoln Whisky Shop, 4th March 2014

Ratings:
81/100 – Malt Maniacs (average from 2 reviews)

Ileach is one of those mystery Islay malts that has been around for years, which is why I find it surprising that I can’t find it in the Whisky Bible 2014. Perhaps I can’t see it for looking! If anyone finds it, please let me know. Reading around on the internet, the Ileach seems to be a young Lagavulin, although I also read this about the Finlaggan. One or other might not be true. I feel a taste test coming on!

Ralfy, the great YouTube whisky reviewer, hasn’t discussed this 40% Ileach but he’s reviewed the Cask Strength version twice. In 2010 he scores it 82/100 then in 2013 he gives it 88/100. It seems the makers of Ileach are getting better. Interestingly, in Ralfy’s 2013 review he says he bought two bottles from two different locations. Both had a different colour, so not the same batch, but the high standard was the same for both bottles. He mentions the use of caramel but still rates the Cask Strength version very highly. And at £38 for a bottle it’s a tempting price for any Islay fan. A cask strength Lagavulin would set you back over £70.

Ileach NAS 5cl

Royal Brackla 1991

Bought – Lincoln Whisky Shop, 4th March 2014

Ratings:
84/100 – Whisky Bible 2006
83/100 – Malt Maniacs (average from 4 reviews)

Issued in 2005, this bottling of Royal Brackla by Gordon & MacPhail appeared as a new entry in the Whisky Bible 2006 where Jim Murray says of it “wonderful honey thread on the nose, but the oak jumps in a little too early”. A small negative but getting 84/100 it’s classified as a “good whisky worth trying”.

On the Gordon & MacPhail website they say this 2005 release is now discontinued, and only miniatures are left in the shops. But it seems that several Royal Brackla releases have since appeared in the Connoisseurs Choice range. In 2014 the Whisky Bible has a newer version from 1995 that gets 88/100 and another version from 1997 that gets 84.5/100. Looking online, the most commonly available Royal Brackla in the Connoisseurs Choice range is now the 1998 starting at £33 for 70cl. It’s a safe bet that this would score in the 80s too.

Royal Brackla 1991 5cl

Glen Keith 1993

Bought – Lincoln Whisky Shop, 4th March 2014

Bottled in 2011, this Glen Keith is at least 17 years old, if not 18. When hunting for reviews I found another two ‘Connoisseur’s Choice’ bottles from 1993, one bottled in 2005 and the other in 2009. This 2011 seems too recent to have got a review but comments on the bottles from 2005 and 2009 suggest it’s likely to be average/good. At least it’s 46% so it will have a decent kick to it. Not a malt that would set the whisky world alight but an interesting one to compare with my earlier bottle of 1983 Glen Keith.

Glen Keith 1993 5cl

Auchroisk 1993

Bought – Lincoln Whisky Shop, 4th March 2014

Ratings:
80/100 – Malt Maniacs – average from 2 reviewers, one of which is:
78/100 – Whisky Fun (January 2009)

Again I have another example of a miniature by Gordon & MacPhail where they don’t mention when it was bottled but the 70cl version does. It seems this was bottled in 2008, so it’s at least a 14-year-old, possibly 15. Serge Valentin of Whisky Fun says it’s a “typical average Speysider, not really mindboggling but perfectly drinkable.” Since I love Speyside whisky, that sounds find by me!

Keith Wood mentions in his comments on Malt Maniacs that there’s quite a long finish with redcurrants providing a slightly bitter aftertaste. I’ll have to watch out for that. It’s always nice when you find a non-cask strength whisky that has a long finish because you feel you’re getting more value from your dram.

Auchroisk 1993 5cl

Glen Scotia 12-year-old

Bought – Lincoln Whisky Shop, 4th March 2014

Ratings:
81/100 – Whisky Bible 2009
79/100 – Malt Maniacs (average from 1 reviewer)

In the Whisky Bible 2014 there’s a new version of this “aged 12 years” Glen Scotia. I had to go back to my 2009 bible to find the rating and the story. Although 81/100 is a reasonable mark, Jim Murray says it’s “murder by Caramel”. But without the addition of caramel, Jim would have scored it in the high 80s. Apparently there’s something about it that is very appealing but being slightly ruined by the caramel.

In the 2014 bible, the new version of this 12yo gets 89/100, has no added caramel, is unchill-filtered and has risen to a pleasant 46%. You have to wonder if Glen Scotia distillery listened to Jim’s review in 2009 and made appropriate changes. I’m tempted to track down the new version and save this miniature for a taste comparison.

Glen Scotia 12yo 5cl

Tullibardine 1993

Bought – Lincoln Whisky Shop, 4th March 2014

Review: Daniel Jakobsen, Youtube

One of the annoying things I’ve discovered about some Gordon & MacPhail miniatures is that their labels don’t always have the same information as their bigger 70cl brothers. This Tullibardine is a perfect example. According to the Malt Maniac’s database there is a Tullibardine 1993 that was bottled in 2003, and another bottled in 2004. I then discovered Daniel Jakobsen’s review on Youtube for an 18yo Tullibardine distilled in 1993 with exactly the same label on it as my miniature, except my bottle makes no mention of when it was bottled up. Very frustration!

Does it really matter which bottle it is?! Not really. Whether it’s Daniel’s, the 2003 or 2004, none of them get an excellent rating. The distillery was closed between 1994 and 2003 so I’m wondering if the problem with the taste is due to how the casks were kept doing this period. Perhaps the temperatures weren’t controlled correctly.

Any fellow collectors reading this will notice that the photo of the miniature below shows a badly damaged label. This is how it arrived from the Lincoln Whisky Shop, and it clearly didn’t happen in transit. They knew I’m a collector but, even if they hadn’t, this product is sub-standard and they should have told me in case I didn’t want it. I suppose the good news is it’s not worth keeping so I get to drink it! :)

Tullibardine 1993 5cl

Littlemill 12-year-old

Bought – Lincoln Whisky Shop, 4th March 2014

Ratings:
69/100 – Malt Maniacs (average from 4 reviewers)

I want to start by thanking the independent bottler ‘Lady of the Glen’ for sending me a sample of their latest bottling, a 21-year-old Littlemill. The day after it arrived in the post I was contacted by Lincoln Whisky Shop about an order I tried to place with them 5 months ago. Yes, 5 months later and they got in touch. Unbelievable! But they had the 3 miniature bottles of Littlemill 12-year-old I’d been after and at £4.50 each I had to say yes. Now I’ve gone from having no Littlemill to swimming in the stuff!

Reading the history of the Littlemill distillery, it seems sad that it’s dead and buried. A lowland (just) distillery with a strong claim as one of the oldest licensed distilleries in the world. Like Auchentoshan, it has the lowland trait of being triple distilled but I keep reading about an oily character to the taste that seems common in whiskies from this area of Scotland. Perhaps something you’ll either love or hate but, having been dismantled in 1997 and burnt down in 2004, examples of this malt are getting scarce. If you can find a bottle, it’s worth buying and trying. Speaking of which…

Lady of the Glen will be selling full 70cl bottles of their Littlemill 21-year-old here, from the end of March 2014 until stocks run out.

Littlemill-12yo-5cl

Tullamore Dew

Bought – Tesco, 3rd March 2014

Ratings:
85/100 – Whisky Bible 2014
82/100 – Ralfy, of www.ralfy.com
Review: – Ralfy – Tullamore Dew – YouTube

As Ralfy says in his video, Tullamore Dew is produced by Jamesons, so there’s quite a clear connection when it comes to the taste. This bottle of dew says on the label that it is a blend of all three types of Irish whiskey – golden grain, pot still and malt. Tullamore Dew is considered to be a good place to start if you’ve not tried Irish whiskey before, and it’s certainly inexpensive and readily available. Tescos had this reduced to £16 from £20, so I thought I’d add another Irish whiskey to my collection.

Although Scotland is the spiritual home of whisky, historians always tip their hat at Ireland as the place where whiskey originated. It therefore seems a shame that there are hardly any distilleries in Ireland, and less than a handful of these are independent. Come on Ireland, let’s have some more WHISKEY!!! :)

Tullamore-Dew-Irish-Whiskey-70cl

Shieldaig Speyside 10-year-old

Bought – Wrights, The Lion Brewery, Farnham, 26th February 2014

Ratings:
85.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2014

When I spotted this bottle in the off licences it was behind the counter and I didn’t see the “Shieldaig” on the label. What was visible from a distance was “Speyside, 10-year-old” so I naturally thought I was getting the standard 10yo single malt from the Speyside Distillery. When I got the bottle home and studied the label, all became clear. I did a bit of research online and discovered that ‘Shieldaig’ is an independent bottling by William Maxwell & Co Ltd. The “Speyside” merely implies that the contents is a single malt from the Speyside region but from which distillery is a mystery.

Having now realised that this was an obscure, independent bottling, I was surprised but delighted to find a review and rating for it in the 2014 Whisky Bible. 85.5/100 means this malt is “very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying”. Jim Murray says in his comments that this dram is “friendly, sweet, bursting with barley”. And at £20 I’m beginning to wish I’d bought more than one bottle!

Shieldaig-Speyside-10yo-70cl

Glen Grant Major’s Reserve

Bought – Wrights, The Lion Brewery, Farnham, 26th February 2014

Ratings:

85.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2014
80/100 – Ralfy, of www.ralfy.com
Review: – Ralfy – Glen Grant Major’s Reserve – YouTube

One of the nice things about going into a local, independent off licences is, you never know what you might find. It’s like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates but very alcoholic and only for those 18 or over. I’d never been into Wrights of Farnham but I’d driven passed many times. Finally its time had come! Behind the counter, along the top shelf, they had the usual suspects – Glenfiddich, Glenlivet, Old Pulteney, etc., until my eyes stopped at a Glen Grant. I’d heard of the Major’s Reserve but I couldn’t remember what ratings it got and I’d missed Ralfy’s video review from January (shame on me!). But I knew that £19.49 was a good price, even when compared to online prices. I had to have it!

Having now watched Ralfy’s video, I’m still glad I bought this malt. Yes, I know it’s young (Ralfy says the oldest malt in it is 7yo maximum) and maybe it’s best mixed with something else but it’s Jim Murray’s bible remark about the taste that sells it to me. He gives the taste element a very high mark of 23/25 (effectively 92/100!) and says to forget the nose and the finish and enjoy the tasting part in the middle “such is the fresh beauty of the malt and stunning honeycomb threads which tie themselves around every taste bud”.

Interestingly, Jim complains that the finish is “caramel-rich” yet, as Ralfy points out, the light colour of the whisky suggests little use of caramel, certainly in terms of enhancing the colour. Jim says the caramel is there because nearly all the sherry butts at Glen Grant have been used up, so caramel is being added instead of that natural sherry sweetness we get from maturing in sherry casks.

Glen Grant The Major's Reserve 70cl