Glenmorangie 10-year-old (old style) with glasses

Bought – Online Auction, 6th June 2014

94/100 – Whisky Bible 2006

I was fortunate enough to inherit a bottle of Glenmorangie 10yo from the 1990s so I know how good this single malt used to be. It’s still excellent today but I have to wonder if it improves a little with age in the bottle. My 1990s version definitely has a fuller flavour and taste experience when compared to the new ‘Original’ 10yo. But were could I get more of this vintage Glenmorangie? The answer was simple – an online auction.

One nice thing about Glenmorangie is that it doesn’t cost a lot at auction. With the distillery producing so much, there are plenty of old bottles kicking around, which keeps down the price. I’d noticed two identical lots to my one, with the engraved glasses, going for £25 each at a previous auction in April 2014. I set my maximum bid to £25 and won with £22.50. Fantastic!

Unfortunately the winning bid at auctions isn’t what you pay. If only it was that transparent! When all the calculations were done I was presented with a bill for, wait for it,… £53! More than double my winning bid. This included commission, VAT, postage (£12) and optional insurance of £12. Having bought from this auction house before I refused the optional insurance and paid £41, which isn’t bad for a 70cl bottle of vintage malt with two distillery glasses. I know they pack the bottles well so I felt confident nothing would be broken in transit.

It doesn’t take a genius to realise why I dislike auctions. You have to be very careful you remember all the ‘hidden’ costs that get added at the end, and not get too enthralled and engrossed in the bidding frenzy. Worst of all in my opinion is the optional insurance, when postage is already being charged at £12. Surely the insurance is included in the delivery, as with most online whisky shops who can charge as little as £5 for several bottles?!

Glenmorangie 10yo and Glencairn Glasses 70cl

Glenglassaugh ‘Revival’

Bought – Amazon, 3rd June, 2014

75/100 – Whisky Bible 2014
82/100 – Malt Maniacs (average from 4 reviews)

I’ve been saying for months that I’d finished my whisky collection, having an example of single malt from every active distillery in Scotland. Technically I was wrong because I had ‘spirit drinks’ from Glenglassaugh that were too young to legally be called ‘whisky’. I knew Jim Murray (Whisky Bible author) wasn’t a fan of the ‘Revival’ but everyone should be his or her own judge. At 46%, non-chill filtered and natural colour, the Revival has the makings of an excellent whisky, so long as the creative process has gone well.

In March 2014 I found myself in The Grill, an excellent pub and whisky bar in Aberdeen, Scotland, wondering what to drink. I decided to try the Revival and instantly loved it. Jim Murray’s issue with this whisky is the poor choice of casks (he recommends ex-bourbon rather than new sherry butts) and the presence of sulphur. Thankfully I didn’t detect the latter and I was very happy with the sherry maturation. The average score of 82/100 from the Malt Maniacs is good, so I’m glad someone else agrees with me. It’s definitely one worth trying, especially if you see Amazon selling it at a good price AND free delivery.

Glenglassaugh Revival 70cl

Writers Tears

Bought – Marks & Spencer, 3rd June, 2014

93/100 – Whisky Bible 2014

I received a top-tip on the WhiskyWhiskyWhisky forum that this Irish pot still whiskey was reduced to £25 at Marks & Spencer. Another on my wishlist so it was time to go out and get it.

If there was a prize for the most words written by Jim Murray about a whisky then Writers Tears must be a close winner. In the Whisky Bible 2014 it gets nearly half a page! You have to wonder if Jim thought that a whiskey named in the memory of writers demanded the use of more writing!

93/100 classes this whiskey as “brilliant!” Jim Murray says of the taste “works beautifully well” and scores this element 24/25 (so effectively 96/100!). I also found 3 ratings on the whisky review site ‘Whisky Connosr” giving two scores of 85/100 and one of 89/100 so it’s not just Mr Murray that loves this dram. It seems it’s the blend of pure Pot Still with single malt that’s got everyone’s taste buds dancing. Clearly something the makers of Writers Tears have got very, very right.

Writers Tears Whiskey 70cl

The Tweeddale Blend 10-year-old (First Release)

Bought – Robbie’s Drams, 29th May, 2014

89.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2013

The 12-year-old version of this blend has been on my wishlist for a while because Jim Murray gives it 94.5/100 in his Whisky Bible. So why did I end up buying the 10-year-old that scores 5 points less? Because of the history, and I was surprised to see it was still available. Its been superseded by the 12yo (and now a 14yo) but when I saw the 10yo on sale at Robbie’s Drams I had to have it. The 10yo was the first release of the Tweeddale Blend since the 2nd World War. A blend produced by Richard Day until 1940 was rediscovered and reproduced by his great grandson Alasdair Day with this first release being issued in May 2010, 70 years later. Wow!

89.5/100 is still an excellent mark. Jim Murray says of the taste “beautifully weighted and structured” and “the non-filtration and 50% malt content combo has paid dividends”. It’s also 46% so it packs the sort of punch you’d expect from a good single malt.

Although the 12yo is still on my list, I’m very glad I found the first release so I can have my malty slice of whisky history.

Tweeddale 10yo 70cl

Black Bottle (old style)

Bought – Robbie’s Drams, 29th May, 2014

94/100 – Whisky Bible 2006
89/100 – Ralfy, of
Review: – Ralfy – Black Bottle – YouTube (March 2009)

Having recently bought the new 2013 revamped version of the Black Bottle, I was determined to track down the old style. This lead me to Robbie’s Drams in Ayr, and their online shop. At £14.99 it was a very good price for a whisky that’s no longer made, so I bought it. Tesco had been selling them off last year for £12 but sadly they’d all gone by the time I got there.

In 2006 this old version of Black Bottle won one of Jim Murray’s ‘Whisky Bible Awards’ with the score of 94/100. He said of the taste “the outcome on the palate is explosive: rampaging peaty malts put firmly in their place by crisp grain with a unique mouthfeel style” and “a blend that has to be tasted to be believed….a must for the sideboard.”

In Ralfy’s YouTube review from 2009, he says the blend is made up from all the Islay malts, excluding Kilchoman, which was too young to be used in 2009. Quite a change from the more Speyside-based Black Bottle we have today. Although I like the new version, a criticism when compared with the old is how ‘thin’ it has become. Hardly surprising when you think how thick Islay malts can be. But one man’s thin is another man’s sophisticated. I will have to compare and contrast.

Black Bottle old 70cl

Tullibardine ‘Sovereign’

Bought – Sainsbury, 23rd May, 2014

89.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2014

I tend to think of Tullibardine as one of the more obscure Scottish distilleries, so I was surprised and delighted when I saw this bottle of non-aged statement ‘Sovereign’ on a shelf in my local Sainsbury supermarket. Matured in bourbon barrels, Jim Murray in his Whisky Bible 2014 review describes the bourbon aromas as “an entire regiment of delicate oaky tones from the standard butterscotch through to polished oak floors.” He then summarises with “beautifully salivating despite the intricate oak notes.”

The colour is quite light, which suggests no added colour, although this isn’t declared anywhere on the bottle or box. What is stated, very proudly, is a quote from Jim Murray from 2008 saying “we are getting to the stage where Tullibardine is now becoming one of the true great single malts of Scotland”.

Clearly a whisky with pedigree and promise.

Tullibardine Sovereign NAS 70cl

Glenlivet ‘Nadurra’ 16-year-old

Bought – Waitrose, 22nd May, 2014

95/100 – Whisky Bible 2014
87/100 – Ralfy, of
Review: – Ralfy – Glenlivet Nadurra 16yo – YouTube (March 2011)

I like the Glenlivet 12yo, I love the Glenlivet 15yo ‘French Oak Reserve’ and I thoroughly enjoy cask strength. It was only a matter of time before I grabbed myself a bottle of the Glenlivet Nadurra 16yo, which combines the quality I’ve come to expect from Glenlivet with the oomph of cask strength. Being first introduced in 2005, there has been at least one issue of the Nadurra (Gaelic for ‘natural’) every year since. Ralfy’s version in 2011 is 53.6%, the one in the Whisky Bible 2014 is 53%, and the bottle I bought from Waitrose last month is 56.1%. Although the Malt Maniacs haven’t reviewed my version, of the 13 releases they mention, the average is about 83-84/100. Very good indeed!

Glenlivet Nadurra 16yo 70cl

Glenfarclas 12-year-old

Bought – Waitrose, 22nd May, 2014

94/100 – Whisky Bible 2014
80/100 – Malt Maniacs (average from 4 reviews)

Although Ralfy (of hasn’t reviewed the 12yo, it was a comment on his video review of the 10yo that caught my eye. Another whisky drinker had bought the 12yo about 6 months ago and said “an absolute shocker in my opinion, smells of bland nothingness, golden syrupy taste enhanced by a whole load of sulphur.” Interesting. Jim Murray, author of the Whisky Bible for the last 10 years, is the king of spotting sulphur. If there’s even the slightest hint of it he’d be frothing at the mouth in disgust. But he gives the 12yo an amazing mark of 94/100 and lavishes the whisky with praise. No mention of sulphur. I don’t always agree with Mr Murray but in this case I think the Ralfy commenter must have had a bad bottle.

The Whisky Bible review sums this malt up with “a superb rework of an always trustworthy malt.” And “what a sensational success!” In 2009 the Whisky Bible rated this whisky 89/100 so it has changed in recent years.

The Malt Maniacs rating of 80/100 is so-so. Interestingly I had to go back to the 1979 release of this 12yo to find a lower rating than 80/100, so it seems that not everyone is in agreement that this latest Glenfarclas 12yo is the best ever. Well that’s ratings for you! Even if you find one person agreeing with you about one whisky, chances are they wont when you both try another. But it does seem that, unless you get a rare bad bottle, this 12yo is a decent dram and considered a good example of a Speysider.

Glenfarclas 12yo 70cl

Balvenie ‘Signature’ 12-year-old (batch 5)

Bought – Morrisons, 22nd May, 2014

92/100 – Whisky Bible 2013 (batch 4)
85/100 – Ralfy, of
Review: – Ralfy – Balvenie 12yo Signature (batch 2) – YouTube

Morrisons had this on sale and it was only when I checked the Whisky Bible 2014 that I discovered why – it wasn’t there! It’s been discontinued. I had to go back to the 2013 bible to get some facts and figures. I have batch 5, Ralfy reviewed batch 2 in 2009, and the 2013 bible includes batches 1, 3 and 4 with the following scores:

-         93/100 – Batch 1
-         89/100 – Batch 3
-         92/100 – Batch 4

As much as Jim Murray (author of the Whisky Bible) loves this Balvenie, his consistent complaint across all the batches is the lack of strength. This single malt has everything else except it’s only 40%. Ralfy agrees saying it promises so much but there’s a weakness on delivery due to the lack of alcohol. He suggests 46%. At 40% Rafly recommends little or no water.

With all this talk of a Balvenie whisky being amazing if it was 46% or more, it looks like the 15yo ‘Single Barrel’ is next on my shopping list. At 47.8% Ralfy scores it at 91/100, which is very high from him. It sounds like the Signature on steroids, or at least with the added oomph to make it amazing. Nevertheless I’m looking forward to trying the Signature, which promises to be extremely good.

July 2014 Update – I tried the 15yo ‘Single Barrel’ and I wasn’t impressed, so that’s off the shopping list. In the same tasting I tried the Springbank 10yo which was amazing, and blew the Balvenie out of the water!

Balvenie Signature 12yo 70cl

Black Bottle (version since 2013)

Bought – Sainsbury’s, 20th May, 2014

83/100 – Ralfy, of
Review: – Ralfy – Black Bottle – YouTube

Now here’s a controversial blend, at least to those who used to love the old version of Black Bottle. Last year it had a complete overhaul, changing the blend, the bottle shape and even the bottle colour! It won new fans but sent some of the old dramsters into a froth of despair! How could they ruin their beloved Black Bottle?! Well, from reading reviews, I found some PR (probably taken from the blender’s website), which explained that the new blend is a throwback to the original formula, more in keeping with the recipe created by the Graham brothers in Aberdeen at the turn of the 19th century. And the new bottle pays homage to the early days too. The old-style, dumpy bottle was green but this new one is black, which is where the blend got its name. So, instead of this being a modern marketing ploy, it’s actually a new version that pays homage to the original Black Bottle.

In March 2014 I tried this new blend in several bars in Aberdeen, Scotland, and it tasted fantastic! I vowed then to get a bottle, and I did. Well done Sainsbury for stocking it, and putting it on special offer! As I’ve said before, I’m more of a Speyside fan than Islay so the changes in the new Black Bottle work well for me.