Old Pulteney 17-year-old

Bought: Whisky Galore, 6th March 2015

95/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
87.14/100 – Whiskybase (average from 105 member votes)
91/100 – Ralfy – His review on You Tube here (March 2012)

Scoring over 87/100 on Whiskybase, 95/100 in the Whisky Bible, and 91/100 from Ralfy, I don’t know whether to drink this whisky or worship it. Michael McIntyre would have us believe that when we look at something on Amazon we always want to read the 1 star “it slapped my wife” reviews. Of the 5 reviews on Amazon for the Old Pulteney 17yo, four give it 5/5 and one gives it 4/5 with the comment “wonderful”. Try as I might, I can’t find a bad word said against this whisky. And believe me, I’ve tried!

So, it comes as no surprise that I’ve been after this whisky for a while. I first spotted it in the book ‘101 Whiskies to Try Before You Die’ by Ian Buxton. He includes the 17yo instead of the 21yo because he considers the latter “just a trifle over-aged”. He feels the 17yo offers the best combination of taste, maturity and value in the Old Pulteney range.

Scoring 95/100 in the Whisky Bible classifies this Old Pulteney as a ‘superstar whisky that gives us all a reason to live’. It scores a perfect 25/25 for taste where the author, Jim Murray says “one of the softest, most beautifully crafted deliveries in the whisky world. Absolutely faultless.”

Old Pulteney 17yo 70cl

Compass Box ‘Orangerie’

Bought: Amazon, 5th March 2015

77.24/100 – Whiskybase (average from 19 member votes)

Amazon enticed me again with another ‘Daily Deal’ this time with an unusual whisky from one of my favourite independent bottlers, Compass Box. I love ‘The Spice Tree’ and I’ve had my eye on the ‘Orangerie’ for a while now. Controversial, or ground breaking? Liqueur or ‘whisky with a difference’? Adding a hint of orange has certainly raised a few eyebrows in the whisky world, leaving some drinkers either loving it or hating it.

I was interested to read recently that Amrut, the Indian whisky distillery, have released the world’s first orange-infused single malt called Naarangi. I’m guessing the master blender at Amrut tried the Orangerie and was impressed enough to risk blending a single malt with a citrus zing. You can read about the Amrut Naarangi here.

For a video review of the Compass Box ‘Orangerie’ check out the following ‘Scotch Test Dummies Review’:

Compass Box Orangerie NAS 70cl

Bain’s Cape Mountain

Bought: Amazon, 5th March 2015

85.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
90/100 – RalfyHis review on You Tube here (October 2011)

I bought this bottle of Bain’s Cape Mountain from Amazon for £28, free postage, thinking I was getting a bargain. About a week later it came up as a ‘Daily Deal’ for about £20. It goes to show that it sometimes pays to wait. Nevertheless, at under £30 for an interesting whisky all the way from South Africa, it still feels like a good purchase. 5 reviewers on Amazon give it an average of 4.4/5 stars.

This is a single grain whisky, so not as complex as a single malt. Tucked away at the back of the Whisky Bible, the author Jim Murray says of this dram “a lively, attractively structured whisky with more attitude than you might expect. Some lovely nip and bite despite the toffee and surprising degree of soft oils.” Scoring 85.5/100 classifies this bottling as “very good to excellent whisky definitely worth buying”.

Bain's Cape Mountain NAS 75cl

Cardhu ‘Gold Reserve’

Bought: Tesco, 3rd March 2015

73/100 – Whiskybase (average from 2 member votes)

Released in 2014, this NAS (non age statement) Cardhu has yet to inspire many votes on Whiskybase. With so few, it’s unfair to use the score to form an opinion about this whisky. Looking on Amazon, there are 11 reviews for the Gold Reserve, 9 of which give 5/5 stars, and 2 give 4/5. One of the reviewers that gave 4 stars only docked a star because the bottle is cheaper in supermarkets even when Amazon have reduced it in a ‘lightening deal’. That’s hardly the fault of the whisky!

Comments on Amazon include “delicate and mellow”, “gorgeous”, “subtle flavours and a warm finish” and “much too nice to share”. Overall, it seems this new Cardhu is well liked.

For an insight into the taste of the Gold Reserve, here is a video by Horst Luening:

Cardhu Gold Reserve NAS 70cl

Hakushu Distiller’s Reserve

Bought: Sainsbury’s, 24th February 2015

83.19/100 – Whiskybase (average from 34 member votes)

This bottling by Hakushu is too new to be included in the Whisky Bible 2015 but, of the 11 bottles which get reviewed from the Hakushu distillery, non score less than 91/100, which classifies them as ‘brilliant’. Clearly Jim Murray, author of the bible, is impressed with the output from this Japanese company. Know as ‘the mountain forest distillery’ Hakushu was founded in 1973, deep in the forest of Japan’s Southern Alps. Its location sounds quite idyllic!

At the heart of this NAS (non-age statement) single malt is what the distillery refer to as their ‘young talent’, which other sources say is whisky younger than 10 years. This is lightly peated, which they mix with a second ‘heavily peated’ malt. The final ingredient is a whisky matured for approximately 18 years in American white oak casks to add depth and body.

The rating on Whiskybase is very good, with one reviewer summarising with “a very affordable and quaffable Japanese dram.” It can be purchased in one or two superstores here in the UK for £42 and has achieved between £35-£90 at auction.

Hakushu Distiller's Reserve NAS 70cl

Old Pulteney 8-year-old 100 Proof (57%)

Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 24th February 2015

88/100 – Whiskybase (average from 5 member votes)

Back in the 2006 edition of the Whisky Bible, the Gordon & MacPhail release of the Old Pulteney 8yo scored 85/100 but it hasn’t been mentioned in recent years (even though you can still purchase it online). That was the 40% version but I have the vintage (or ‘retro’) 57% from the 1980s. If I’d realised how well loved it was on Whiskybase (88/100 is a fantastic score) I would have attempted to get a bigger sample than a miniature! Aaaah, except a 70cl is quoted with a price of £237.60! My miniature was closer to the 60p than the £237.

The only written review on Whiskybase for this bottling summarises with “an intense Old Pulteney from the past” having said of the taste “hot and spicy (pepper). Oily and creamy. Fruity in particular oranges and tangerines. Slightly peaty ” For those of you familiar with Old Pulteney, there are some classic elements showing through in this potent blast from the past.

Although I have quite a few examples of Old Pulteney, this is my first experience of one over 50%. The Whiskybase rating has convinced me to add a ‘cask strength’ Old Pulteney to my wishlist. Is there one out there I wonder? The hunt is on….

Old Pulteney 100 Proof 8yo 5cl

Blair Athol 8-year-old

Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 24th February 2015

78.67/100 – Whiskybase (average from 3 member votes)

I bought these two miniatures (5cl and 3cl) of the Blair Athol at auction, mainly because nobody else was going to, and I needed a few more bottles to justify the cost of postage. Having seen the Blair Athol 8yo sell at auction before, I knew I wouldn’t have much, or any competition. Sadly, it’s never been a single malt to set the world on fire or attract much interest.

I had to take a guess on Whiskybase as to which Blair Athol 8yo my purchases are. I believe the bottles date back to the 1980s. There is no mention of an 8yo Blair Athol in the Whisky Bible, even as far back as 2006. Clearly the distillery realised they were flogging a dead horse and decided to change to a different version.

I have quite a soft spot for Blair Athol, even if I have no great experience of the whisky produced there. The distillery is based in the heart of Pitlochry, where I visited family, and enjoyed many a happy holiday there in the 1970s and 80s. I intend to visit the distillery one day, and take a trip down memory lane with a tour of the town. If the whisky is as delightful as the surrounding countryside, I’ll be in for a treat!

Blair Athol 8yo 5cl 3cl

Pittyvaich 1993 Connoisseurs Choice

Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 24th February 2015

Bottled 2005 (left) – 77.4/100 – Whiskybase (average from 7 member votes)
Bottled 2009 (right) – 79.83/100 – Whiskybase (average from 8 member votes)

I’ve complained before about Gordon & MacPhail miniatures not having the same information on them as their bigger counterparts. I didn’t hold out much hope of matching a review against either of my minis of Pittyvaich until I saw “Bottle Code JE/AAB” on Whiskybase. I thought it looked familiar, so I examined both my bottles. Sure enough, looking through from the back, I could see “JE/AAB” printed on the reverse of the front label. This means one of my bottles (left in the picture below) was the first ‘Connoisseurs Choice’ release in 2005. Distilled in 1993, this whisky is 12 years old. Scoring 77.4/100 on Whiskybase isn’t brilliant with comments of “light and unimpressive” but also “a bit unusual (in a good way)”.

My second bottle from the closed Pittyvaich distillery (pictured right) has the new style label that first appeared in 2009 on a 16yo release of ‘Connoisseurs Choice’. My bottle has the code “JI/AABB” on the reverse of the front label but unfortunately this information isn’t given on Whiskybase, so the rating is a bit of a guess. I’m basing it mainly on the colour of the whisky, since the 2011 release is darker amber. Although scoring better than the 2005 release, a comment summarises this whisky with “winey aperitif style whisky. Not very well balanced.”

Having bought these bottles from an online auction, I had no idea I was getting a 12yo and a 16yo. Either I will do a taste comparison, or keep them as an investment. Pittyvaich distillery closed in 1993 so even miniature examples will be increasing in value.

Pittyvaich 1993 5cl x2

Glenugie 1980 Signatory 16-year-old

Bought: Online Whisky Auction, 24th February 2015

For those of you who have diligently read my words before, you’ll know that I’m not a fan of whisky auctions. But, like a mad butterfly to a flame, they have a certain fascinating that draws me back in. With another auction of whisky miniatures looming, I decided I’d have a go at acquiring a few 5cl bottles from closed distilleries. “What better way of keeping the cost down by getting miniatures?” I thought. How about not bidding!

I did all my research on the bottles I wanted, hunting through previous auctions to find out the maximum price I should aim for. The only problem with this approach is there’s no such thing as a ‘maximum’ price in an auction. It’s what two idiots are prepared to battle up to, with the biggest fool being the last one to stop bidding. There’s also a numbers game going on. If there were 3 regular people bidding on previous auctions, my arrival makes 4. The previous winners may have outbid the others but that’s not to say they reached the maximum they were prepared to pay. I would have to beat that to secure the bottles I wanted.

I set my sights on 9 closed distilleries and placed my bids. I needed to win a reasonable number to spread out the astronomical cost of postage. £15 delivery between 9 bottles is £1.67 per bottle, but £5 per bottle if I only win 3. Unfortunately, as the battle neared its close, I was down to 3 bottles, and two of those were from the same distillery. The hammer fell, as did my heart. What possessed me?!

In the end this mini of Glenugie cost me £18 but, taking its share of the postage, commission, etc, it was really £28.57! I was all set to pour my whisky collection down the sink and take up stamp collecting instead when I had a look on ‘Hard To Find Whisky’. They have the exact same 5cl Glenugie for …. wait for it…. £99.95!

From what I’ve discovered about this bottling by Signatory, it’s not one of their best. Malt maniacs give the bigger 70cl version 68/100 (average from 3 votes) but on Whiskybase a single reviewer scores my miniature 80/100. Clearly it’s better to keep as an investment than to drink.

Glenugie 1980 16yo 5cl

Hammer Head 1989 23-year-old

Bought: Whiskysite, Holland, 16th February 2015

88.5/100 – Whisky Bible 2015
76.56/100 – Whiskybase (average from 27 member votes)
86/100 – RalfyHis review on You Tube here (Dec 2014)

Scotland, the heart of the whisky industry, has been a stable country since the battle of Culloden in 1746. Legalised whisky production, that we know today, started about 50 years later. This means that no Scottish whisky exists from a time when Scotland was having an identity crisis. What’s wonderful (in a historic sense) about the Hammer Head single malt, is that it dates back to before the Czech Republic was called the Czech Republic (named in 1992). This whisky was distilled in 1989, the year the Berlin wall fell, and the iron curtain started to crumble. All this was going on but still the good people of Czechoslovakia found the passion and desire to cask up some spirit, and let it mature in peace for 23 years.

When I say all that, you can understand why some people might think this a ‘novelty’ whisky, rather than something to be taken seriously. But 88.5/100 from Jim Murray (Whisky Bible author) and 86/100 from Ralfy are excellent scores from two people who know their drams. Jim Murray says in his review “don’t bother looking for complexity: this is one of Europe’s maltiest drams…if not the maltiest.” Malty sounds nice! On the other hand, 76.5/100 on Whiskybase shows this whisky might have room for improvement for some tastes.

Whether malty or novelty, I’m still very pleased to have this bottle in my collection!

Hammerhead 23yo 70cl