Glenturret 10-year-old

Bought: Whisky Galore 5th August, 2014

76/100 – Whisky Bible 2014
88/100 – Ralfy, of
Review: – Ralfy – Glenturret 10yo – YouTube (July 2013)

Like the Deanston 12yo I last blogged about, there’s a similar disparity in marks between Jim Murray in his Whisky Bible and Ralfy. All Jim says about his 76/100 is “lots of trademark honey but some less than impressive contributions from both cask and the stillman”. If you then watch Ralfy’s video review you’d be forgiven for thinking he was talking about a different whisky altogether. He talks about how professionally it was made (perhaps they replaced the stillman for Ralfy’s bottle?!) and how fresh and complex it is. Also Ralfy mentions that he’s drunk 17yo whisky that tasted younger than this Glenturret 10yo.

Whoever’s view I have, all that truly matters is my own personal opinion once the stopper goes pop. My vintage Glenturret 8yo is running low so I needed to replace it and the 10yo was the obvious choice. It’s readily available here in the UK. Naturally I’m hoping I side with Ralfy’s view once I’ve tasted it. The only versions of Glenturret that Jim Murray marks in the 90s are by two independent bottlers in Germany. I managed to find a 5cl sample of one for about £10 but at £12 postage to the UK, it makes no sense ordering it. Certainly not if the 10yo is as good as Ralfy says.

Glenturret 10yo 70cl

Deanston 12-year-old

Bought: Whisky Galore 5th August, 2014

75/100 – Whisky Bible 2014
88/100 – Ralfy, of
Review: – Ralfy – Deanston 12yo – YouTube (October 2012)

I wrote on my blog last year about a miniature bottle I got of this Deanston 12yo. I still haven’t drunk it but I eventually tried the Deanston 12yo for the first time in a pub this year. Jim Murray, in his Whisky Bible, thinks the nose is out of sync and the finish is “full of bitter and undesirable elements”. But I didn’t detect that at all. Admittedly, I’m not one that spends much time nosing my whisky. Generally I’m too keen to get at it!

As for Jim’s criticism of the finish, I wonder if our opinions differ because I added water and he didn’t?! At the start of the Whisky Bible, Jim says “don’t add water! It releases aromas but can mean the whisky falls below 40% so it is no longer whisky.” It’s a fair point but, if the strength doesn’t agree with your palate, then water is your friend. Ralfy adds a drop of water, and at 46.3% the Deanston can take a bit of diluting and still remain at 40% or above. Perhaps that extra water smoothed out the finish that Jim complains about because I didn’t taste it. My view is it’s worth experimenting with water for your own tastes. It’s not as if the Scotch Whisky Association are standing over your shoulder ready to shout “THAT’S NOT WHISKY!!!” just because it dips below 40%. Come on Jim! Lighten up and have another dram!

Deanston 12yo 70cl

Talisker 18-year-old

Bought: Whisky Galore 5th August, 2014

94/100 – Whisky Bible 2009
94/100 – Whisky Bitch – her view on YouTube (November 2013)

If you want a visual impression of what this dram tastes like I recommend watching the video by the Whisky Bitch. Her expressions tell you that this Talisker is an orgasm in a glass! And if you ever get it as a present from someone, they clearly really, REALLY like you!

It seems this bottling doesn’t always get released each year as it’s missing from the Whisky Bible 2013 and 2014. I had to go back to my 2009 version (I must get the years in between!) to get a rating. Jim Murray (Whisky Bible author) says of this malt “wonderful, almost unbelievable softness to the arrival” and “what happens on the palate is a masterful telling of the Talisker tale: all what should be is there and in perfect proportions. Exceptional.” He scores the overall balance and complexity a perfect 25/25.

For any lover of the Talisker 10yo who hasn’t tried any older versions from the Skye distillery, the 18yo is the step-up of dreams. It’s a reasonable price for its age, and reviews suggest that the 25yo and 30yo Taliskers are no better (it would be hard to beat!). Although Jim Murray says about the 20yo “I’ve been tasting Talisker for 28 years. This is the best bottle ever!” It scores the same mark (95/100) as the 57 Degrees North but costs £400, if you can track it down. As I write this the 18yo is £64 and the 57 Degrees North is £57.

Talisker 18yo 70cl

Isle of Jura 12-year-old ‘Elixir’

Bought: Sainsbury 29th July, 2014

77/100 – Whisky Bible 2014
83/100 – Ralfy, of
Review: – Ralfy – Isle of Jura 12yo – YouTube

Although Jim Murray’s score of 77/100 in his Whisky Bible might sound quite low, it’s still classified as “average and usually pleasant though sometimes flawed”. Jim’s full review of this whisky states “fruity, spicy and a little sulphury I’m afraid. Those who can’t spot sulphur will love the caramel-fruitcake enormity.” So the ‘flaw’ in this case is Jim Murray’s unfortunately ability to detect sulphur (poor chap!). I certainly can’t and I never want to. Ralfy makes no mention of it, saying it’s a good example of a Jura and better than the Superstition (and definitely better than the 10yo, which he hates!).

Caramel added, chill filtered, and a mere 40% – it’s amazing the Elixir scores so well but, it goes to show that these elements, which often get a bashing in reviews, don’t really make a huge difference in marks, even from the connoisseurs. Basically, if the underlying whisky is good, it’s usually a pleasant dram even if the distillery haven’t put the icing on the cake with natural colour, non-filtration, and extra strength.The distilleries can if they want, but sometimes they choose not to so they can charge more per bottle when they do! For doing less they charge more – yes, that sounds like the world of business to me! :)

Jura Elixir 12yo 70cl

Highland Park 2005 Cask Strength

Bought – Shop4Whisky (via Amazon), 28th July 2014

It’s rare for me to buy a whisky without a review, unless it has some trustworthy qualities. In the case of this latest acquisition we have:

  • Highland Park (a favourite, and generally always reliable)
  • Cask Strength (provides body, a kick, and long finish that I love)
  • Produced by Gordon & MacPhail (bottling company with high standards)

So there wasn’t much of a gamble getting this whisky. I’ll be very surprised if, when reviews start to appear, that this bottle gets slated.

Gordon & MacPhail, the independent bottlers of this Highland Park, say “each expression in our Cask Strength range is unique. A small selection of casks is carefully chosen and the contents bottled – always at natural strength and colour, with no chill filtering. We invite you to savour Single Malt Scotch Whisky in its simplest form.” But it’s not a free invitation, obviously! :)

Distilled on 18/04/2005 in first fill bourbon barrels, and bottled on 07/03/2014, which makes it an 8-year-old whisky. Description on the bottle says “malt, vanilla and fruit aromas. A subtle smokiness develops. The palate is peppery with citrus flavours. A creamy finish with a cigar ash edge.” Just so long as that doesn’t mean someone flicked their cigar into it before it was bottled! :) I jest of course. Sounds delicious!

Highland Park 2005 70cl

Yamazaki 12-year-old

Bought – Tesco, 28th July 2014

90/100 – Whisky Bible 2013 (2014 edition has less to say)

I had a drink of this whisky in a bar in Aberdeen at the start of July and decided I had to get a bottle. Like the 10-year-old I bought in May, the 12-year-old seems destined to be discontinued, so I was pleased to find it in my local Tesco. Probably not for long, so get it whilst you can (it’s also available on Amazon UK with free postage). The review of this malt has almost disappeared in the Whisky Bible 2014, so I had to go back to the 2013 edition to find a more detailed review. Jim Murray, the author, summaries with “a complex and satisfying malt”.

The Yamazaki 12-year-old also features in the book ‘101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die’ by Ian Buxton, where he remarks how staggering the growth in whisky sales in Europe from Japan has been within the last decade. Long may it continue if the quality of this 12-year-old is anything to go by!

Yamazaki 12yo 70cl

Highland Park ‘Svein’

Bought – World Duty Free, Aberdeen Airport, 6th July 2014

82/100 – Malt Maniacs (average from 4 reviews)

I’m such a numpty! For years I’ve been flying to and from Scotland via Heathrow or Gatwick and gazing longingly at the whiskies in shops like World Duty Free. I say ‘longingly’ because I didn’t think I could buy anything because I wasn’t travelling outside of the EU, or even the UK! If you ask me to look in a cupboard for something, chances are I wont be able to find it, so it’s hardly surprising it’s taken me years for the penny to drop. I was in Heathrow at the end of June, due to fly to Aberdeen, drooling over the whiskies on the shelves when I finally saw the little sign beside the prices saying “Available to ALL passengers”!!! What?! Really?! I then realised that only some of the spirits were restricted to non-EU passengers and I had a fine selection of whisky to choose from, even though I was flying within the UK. I made a note of a few that interested me:

  • Highland Park ‘Svein’ 1ltr – £37.99
  • Highland Park ‘Einar’ 1ltr – £48.99
  • Macallan Select Oak 1ltr – £48.99
  • Old Pulteney ‘Noss Head’ 1ltr – £43.99
  • Auchentoshan ‘Heartwood’1ltr – £46.99
  • Auchentoshan ‘Springwood’ 1ltr – £41.99
  • Johnnie Walker Collection 4x20cl – £80.99 (£95.81 on Amazon!)

I was hoping to get the Johnnie Walker Collection on my return from Scotland but it wasn’t available in the smaller selection at the Aberdeen branch of World Duty Free. Although some may argue that airport whisky shops allow distilleries to offload a lot of no-age statement, young whisky on the travelling market, reviews for these bottlings are generally above average, and clearly offer good value for money, even compared to supermarket prices of similar products. Having finally seen the light, I’ll be a regular whisky buyer in airports from now on!

Highland Park Svein NAS 70cl

Linkwood 25-year-old

Bought – Whisky Galore, 24th June 2014

91/100 – Whisky Bible 2013

I got a miniature of the Linkwood 25yr last year and I said I wouldn’t drink it until I was in a position to replace it. Well, happy birthday to me! My gift to myself is this classic, timeless release of Linkwood by Gordon & MacPhail. As Jim Murray says in his Whisky Bible review “if anyone is capable of making a Linkwood tick, it is G&M: wonderful!” The best part according to Jim is the taste, where he says “fabulously refreshing with a continuous retracing of its malty steps.”

My brother remembers this whisky as a favourite of our uncle Hamish, so I’m delighted to add it to my collection. G&M seem to release this 25-year-old periodically as Jim Murray has removed it from his 2014 Whisky Bible, which suggests it’s been discontinued for now. My only disappointment is that there’s no date of distillation on the bottle, which makes it difficult to tell the difference between each release of this 25-year-old.

Linkwood 25yo 70cl

Talisker ‘Young & Feisty’ Provenance

Bought – Whisky Galore, 24th June 2014

86/100 – Whiskybase (average from 3 reviewers)

I’m a big fan of Talisker but, as a whisky collector I’m keen to get as much variety for my buck. That’s why I like buying 20cl bottles when I can find them, and the ‘Provenance’ range are quite good for this. I already have their Blair Athol 20cl in my collection. And 20cl is a good size to allow you to have a dram when you first open the bottle but have enough left to breath and settle over several weeks, even months, as you finish it off. The 5cl miniatures are OK for that initial tasting but then they’re gone. No chance to settle in an open bottle for several future samplings, which is important to get a true understanding of a whisky.

Without any written reviews to go on (although 86/100 from Whiskybase is excellent), I have to wonder if the title ‘Young & Feisty’ is a marketing way of saying “Immature & Unfinished”. As a NAS (no age statement) there’s going to be some young stuff in there, and plenty of it. But, Talisker have an excellent 10yo, which is mature for its age, so perhaps their younger stuff contains elements of this adult smoothness. We will see.

Talisker Provenance NAS 20cl

Macallan Speymalt 2004

Bought – Whisky Galore, 24th June 2014

None, as yet.

I’m not sure how long ago Gordon & Macphail started releasing the Macallan Speymalt but their range goes back to a version distilled in 1938 and bottled 65 years later in 2003. A bargain at over £7,000, if you can find it for sale! Personally I’d rather buy a car. But whenever G&M launched the range, each issue of the Macallan Speymalt tends to get good reviews. That is until the 2003 version (bottled in 2012). Jim Murray, author of the Whisky Bible, scores this bottling 68.5/100 with the remark “One to throw back in the river”. Oh dear. So, with no reviews of the 2004 release (bottled in 2013), buying it was a bit of a gamble. But at £25.80 for a Macallan, I felt it was worth the risk. With the entry-level Macallan ‘Gold’ starting at £36, the Speymalt range is an excellent price to get a taste of a (usually) quality scotch.

Macallan Speymalt 2004-2013 70cl