Elijah Craig 12-year-old

Bought – Marks & Spencer, 16th September 2014

79/100 – Whisky Bible 2014
91/100 – RalfyElijah Craig 12yo – YouTube (October 2010)
– In Ian Buxton’s book “101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die”

You might be wondering why I have two bottles in the picture below. So am I. Marks & Spencer were selling it for £5 less than anywhere else, even online. When I bought a bottle they gave me a ‘£5 Off’ voucher if I spent £25 or more so I got another bottle, this time £10 less than anywhere else. 2015 was meant to be my bourbon year but it looks like I’ve started early. Perhaps a lucky friend or relative will be getting my second bottle for Christmas.

I need to get the Whisky Bible 2011, which will include bourbons the author (Jim Murray) tried in 2010 when Ralfy also reviewed the Elijah Craig. In 1996, the distillery that produce Elijah Craig was mostly destroyed in a fire. The 12yo reviewed in the 2009 bible gets 86/100 but the author is suspicious that this is old stock, rather than an example of post-fire production. By 2014 Jim Murray knows the bourbon is from the new distillery and he’s not exactly complimentary. I’d be interested to know what Ralfy would think if it now.

The good news is that the majority of recent reviews for this bourbon on ‘Master of Malt’ are 5/5 stars. I adore the bottle shape, and the 47% is a good strength to give the drink some depth. I also see that the last reviewer for this bourbon on Whiskybase gives it 93/100. Perhaps I’ll be keeping that second bottle after all!

Elijah Craig 12yo 70cl

Laphroaig 10-year-old

Bought – Morrisons, 13th September 2014

90/100 – Whisky Bible 2014
89/100 – RalfyLaphroaig 10yo (Islay Region) – YouTube (May 2013)

What whisky collection would be complete without the Laphroaig 10-year-old?! It’s an Islay classic, which Jim Murray in his Whisky Bible opens his remarks with “impossible not to nose this and think of Islay” Personally I’ve never been to Islay but, if it smells like the Laphroaig 10yo, you’d only have to take a deep breath to get drunk! Sounds like my sort of place. Mr Murray says about the taste “one of the crispiest, peaty malts of them all” and apparently it’s a favourite of Prince Charles. That fact alone might have made him King of Scotland had independence been declared. That’s assuming Rab C. Nesbitt wasn’t available.

Looking at the scores from Whiskybase and Malt Maniacs, they’re mid to high 80s out of 100, which is excellent. Basically, if you like peated whisky, or want to try a full-on peat experience, the Laphroaig 10yo is the one to go for. It’s in most supermarkets in the UK, and easily available online around the £30-£34 mark. If you like it then next on the Islay shopping list would be the Ardbeg 10yo at around £40-£45.

Laphroaig 10yo 70cl

Glenmorangie 12-year-old ‘Quinta Ruban’

Bought – Morrisons, 11th September 2014

92/100 – Whisky Bible 2014
89/100 – RalfyGlenmorangie Quinta Ruban – YouTube (March 2014)

Ralfy’s comparison between the ‘Quinta Ruban’ and the old ‘Port Wood’ finish by Glenmorangie is very interesting, especially as I have a miniature of the Port Wood from an auction last year. Once I get around to cracking open the Ruban I’ll have to do my own taste compassion with my mini.

Would you walk into a bar and ask for a bourbon and port cocktail? Probably not, unless you were so drunk you were close to standing on a table and singing songs about goblins and giant Martians eating your house. The Quinta Rubin has gone through a process of double maturation, spending most of its initial life sucking the flavour out of bourbon casks, then being finished for a period in port casks. The flavour combination sounds a bit suspect but Jim Murray, author of the Whisky Bible, summarises his review with “this is a form of cask finishing that has progressed from experimentation to certainty”. And who better to get it right than the 16 men of Glenmorangie when they’re not busy with their 8-a-side football matches.

If you like Highland single malts but want something a bit different then the Quinta Ruban is worth tracking down. In the UK several supermarkets stock it, and with Christmas approaching there’s a good chance it will get discounted. Morrisons had a mad moment and reduced it to £27.99. Sadly I’d bought it the week before when they’d initially discounted it to £35. Even at that price it was a bargain.

Glenmorangie 12yo Quinta Ruban 70cl

Macallan ‘Gold’

Gift – Nickolls & Perks, 9th September 2014

89.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2014
80.38/100 – Whiskybase (average from 60 member votes)

I’d tried the Macallan ‘Gold’ in a bar in Scotland and was considering buying a full bottle until Nickolls & Perks sent me a free miniature with my last order. As a collector this ticks it off the list for a while but I’d still like to get a full bottle eventually. The Whisky Bible says of the taste “it is the (chocolate) biscuity barley laced with honey and maple syrup that blows you away” and the author summaries with “no Macallan I have tasted since the first in 1975 has been sculpted to show the distillery in such delicate form.”

The average score and comments on Whiskybase are a little less grandiose than in the Whisky Bible. Having tried the Gold I would agree with a member of Whiskybase who describes it as an entry-level single malt. If you’re after a good Speysider at a reasonable price then the Macallan ‘Gold’ is certainly a contender. But it’s a bit like getting a pair of tartan socks for Christmas – it’s OK, definitely warming, certainly Scottish but nothing to write home about.

I’ve been monitoring the price of the Macallan ‘Gold’ in UK supermarkets for over a year now and it’s never been discounted from its price of £36, which has started to creep up in some locations. £36 puts it in the same price bracket, or slightly more than a discounted Aberlour A’bunadh, which smashes the Gold out of site for nose, body, flavour, taste, strength, finish and being everything good about Speyside. For what the Gold is, it should be £30 maximum but you’re paying £6 more because of the Macallan name. Heck, who am I kidding?! I’m a designer labels whore so I’ll be getting a full bottle soon! :)

Macallan Gold 5cl

Macallan 12-year-old ‘Sherry Oak’

Bought – Nickolls & Perks, 9th September 2014

93/100 – Whisky Bible 2014
84.87/100 – Whiskybase (average from 229 member votes)
88/100 – Whisky Bitch – Her review on YouTube (February 2014)

There are times during any form of collecting, be it whisky, stamps, shoes, motorbikes, etc, when you can have a mad moment. This can often be followed by a collector questioning why they do what they do, especially if they also believe in saving the planet, helping the poor and curing cancer. For me these moments of doubt can hit at any time but especially if I spend a lot of money on a whisky that doesn’t really merit the price tag. Enter the Macallan 12yo ‘Sherry Oak’. A mere snip at £66 in September but already a month later it’s up to £74 and rising. But it’s been discontinues, and getting rarer, so shops are gradually hiking the price. My brother remembers it when it used to be about £30, and that’s within the last 10 years. But I’ve fallen into the trap of thinking the Macallan is collectable for a future profit, if I don’t end up drinking it first.

Jim Murray rates the 12yo ‘Sherry Oak’ below the 12yo ‘Fine Oak’ but it’s the other way around with the votes from Whiskybase which are:

  • 84.87/100 – 12yo Sherry Oak, average from 229 votes
  • 81.68/100 – 12yo Fine Oak, average from 151 votes

Personally I do love a more sherried Speysider so I’m likely to side with those on Whiskybase instead of Mr Murray. But when two whiskies are as close as that, you can sometimes find it depends on the day as to which one you prefer. There’s a whisky for all moods, emotions and seasons.

Macallan 12yo Sherry Oak 70cl

Ardbeg Corryvreckan

Bought – Nickolls & Perks, 9th September 2014

96.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2014
89.37/100 – Whiskybase (average from 719 member votes)

If you’d asked me a year ago if I’d get a Corryvreckan before a bottle of Uigeadail I would have said “Corry what?!” I only became aware of the Corryvreckan when I saw it in a ‘World Duty Free’ shop in Heathrow Airport. I did a bit of research and discovered that a heck of a lot of people LOVE this whisky, not least Jim Murray in his Whisky Bible 2014. He waxes lyrical about its wonders, scoring the overall balance and complexity a perfect 25/25. Apparently the taste isn’t too bad either, which Mr Murray scores 24.5/25 and begins his comments with “amazing”! You also don’t get nearly 90/100 from 719 member votes on Whiskybase if you’re not close to perfection. It seems that, Islay fan or not, you’d still get some pleasure out of the Corryvreckan.

Corryvreckan is from the Gaelic meaning “fan of Coronation Street” or “cauldron of the speckled sea”, or one of those. Whatever it means, Ardbeg clearly didn’t give it a name that would be easy to say when a pub rang for last orders. After your 10th slurred attempt at saying it I’d recommend settling with “a beer please”. But you’re unlikely to find the Corryvreckan in a bar. Even the Ardbeg 10yo is generally only located in specialist whisky bars. It’s a shame but then perhaps that’s deliberate by Ardbeg who want to be more exclusive.

Ardbeg Corryvreckan 70cl

The Famous Jubilee

Bought – Waitrose, 7th September 2014

83.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2014

OK Waitrose, OK! I get the message! I’ve never seen so many former prices on a sales label before. “£25.60 reduced to £22, reduced to £20, reduced to £16, reduced to £14”. I’d considered The Famous Jubilee a month or so ago when it was £16 but it was my cousin saying he’d got it for £14 that prompted me to finally get it. What the heck! It’s hardly going to become valuable as a collector’s piece, and I don’t suppose it will set the taste buds dancing but you rarely see a special edition whisky for as little as £14 these days.

Jim Murray’s bible mark of 83.5/100 is very respectable. Even more so when you realise he spotted sulphur in it and deducts marks for that. For those like me who can’t detect sulphur (and don’t want to) it could score into the 90s! Mr Murray says “heavyweight, stodgy, toffee-laden kind of blend a long way from the Grouse tradition.” And “there are redeeming rich honey tones that are a joy.” 83.5/100 ranks it as a “good whisky worth trying” and why not for £14, given how insistent Waitrose have been.

God save the Queen, and all who drink with her!

Famous Jubilee 70cl

Tomatin 25-year-old

Bought – Nickolls & Perks, 2nd September 2014

89/100 – Whisky Bible 2014
87.7/100 – Whiskybase (average from 35 member votes)

Having bought a full bottle of the Tomatin Legacy, which scores 94.5/100 in the Whisky Bible, I wasn’t really looking to get any more Tomatin for a while. But, fate intervened. Which reminds me, I need to have some strong words with fate because it keeps costing me money! I stumbled across Nickolls & Perks selling a half bottle of the Tomatin 25yo for £40, which seems a good price for its age. Time for some research! The cheapest 70cl bottle I could find was £160, so £40 was looking even better. I found an identical half bottle that had sold at auction in January 2014 for £60, which suggests a good investment. I then read in a Whiskybase review from 2012 that the 25yo wouldn’t be around for long because it was being replaced by the 30yo (which my cousin told me is also being discontinued). I looked around online and, sure enough, Nickolls & Perks are the last place selling it.

Jim Murray’s review of the Tomatin 25yo in his Whisky Bible 2014 is very short and sweet saying “not a nasty bone in its body: understated but significant.” He had more to say in 2013 but he cuts back on the words when a whisky gets discontinued. 87.7/100 on Whiskybase is a fantastic mark from 35 votes. All-in-all, a fabulous malt for drinking or as an investment. But if you’ve not tried Tomatin before and can’t find the 25yo I’d recommend the NAS ‘Legacy’ which is excellent for taste and for price.

Tomatin 25yo 35cl

Springbank 12-year-old ‘Cask Strength’ Batch 5

Bought – Nickolls & Perks, 2nd September 2014

92/100 – Ralfy – Springbank 12yo, Batch 7 – YouTube (April 2014)
90/100 – Ralfy – Springbank 12yo, Batch 9 – YouTube (September 2014)

If you ever try and find out information on a bottle of whisky that’s 20 or 30 years old, good luck! Even the information out on the internet for recent whisky releases can be inconsistent, patchy, or nonexistent. Your best bet is post a question in a whisky forum where true knowledge and experience can be found. I bought this Springbank 12yo as Batch 5 but there’s nothing on the bottle or box that says which batch it is. Based on its strength (53.1%) Master of Malt also used to sell this as Batch 5 but, Whiskybase say it’s Batch 6. I found a bottle being sold on Amazon with 50.3% in the title, 52.3% on the bottle in the picture and 53.1% in the technical details. No mention of the batch anywhere. It was quite hilarious but that’s Amazon for you!

Whichever batch I have, the bottom line is the whisky is phenomenal. As soon as I watched Ralfy’s review for Batch 7, the Springbank 12yo went on my shopping list. If you like the 10yo like I do, then this 12yo ‘cask strength’ release of Springbank has everything required to blow your mind. Well, perhaps not as amazing as that but I’ve yet to see a bad review for any of the 12yo batches. I got Batch 5 instead of 7 because a) it was on sale and b) I’m hoping Batch 7 will still be available next year when I’m able to buy it again. I foresee Springbank becoming one of my regular drams.

Springbank 12yo Cask Strength Batch 5 70cl

Springbank 10-year-old

Bought – Nickolls & Perks, 2nd September 2014

89.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2014
86/100 – Ralfy, of http://www.ralfy.com
Review: – Ralfy – Springbank 10yo – YouTube (January 2011)

Although Ralfy’s review is nearly 4 years old, one thing Springbank distillery is renowned for is consistency. I’d never tasted Springbank until July this year when I was in a whisky bar in Aberdeen. I’d just had a Balvenie 15yo Single Cask, which was OK but not as good as I’d heard. I then had a dram of the Springbank 10yo, and …WOW! It made the Balvenie taste thin in comparison. But, in fairness to the Balvenie, I don’t know how long the bottle had been open, or if I got the right amount of water, and I definitely didn’t wait very long before drinking it. One thing I’m learning as I gain more whisky experience is never to dismiss a whisky after one tasting. There are so many factors that can be tweaked, it sometimes takes several tastings to find the right harmonious balance of elements to make a whisky shine. Perhaps I drowned the Balvenie, or didn’t give it long enough to open up, but everything fell into place for the Springbank. More by luck than judgement.

Jim Murray, author of the Whisky Bible, rates the Springbank 10yo as ‘very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying’ and half a point away from being ‘brilliant’. His final remark about this malt “keeps the taste buds on full alert” was exactly how I felt. It’s a complex and interesting dram that shows a combination of youth and experience, with a lovely full flavour. I’m definitely a Springbank convert!

Springbank 10yo 35cl