Category Archives: whisky Shop

Glengoyne & Tamdhu Tasting Notes

Founded in 1933, Ian MacLeod Distillers are one of the unsung independent distillers and bottlers in the UK, despite being the 10th-largest Scotch whisky company in the world.  This may be because much of the company’s business is behind the scenes – they are one of the largest suppliers of own-brand whiskies to bulk markets and some of their biggest brands are marketed mostly overseas.

In the UK, the company has a reputation among whisky cognoscenti as a reliable source of high quality, great value whiskies. Ian MacLeod have a diverse range of proprietary and independent bottlings, with Smokehead, Chieftain’s Choice and Isle of Skye among the most prominent.  The company is not just involved with whisky – they produce a variety of other gins, vodkas and rums and in 2016 they acquired Spencerfield Spirits Co, producers of Edinburgh Gin.

Ian MacLeod  & Co. became Ian MacLeod Distillers in 2003 with their acquisition of the Glengoyne distillery; Tamdhu distillery was purchased in 2011 and relaunched in 2013.  In October 2017 it was announced that Ian MacLeod had acquired and were rebuilding the lost Lowland distillery Rosebank – a stunning coup that gladdened the hearts of whisky fans the world over. It’ll be a while yet before there’s any new Rosebank to be tasted, so we’ll be focusing on Tamdhu and Glengoyne today…

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Glengoyne 18 Year Old, 43%, £82

Nose: Hot-buttered brown toast and a rich brown sugar aroma, then raisins, flapjacks, oatmeal, Digestive biscuits. Develops a pleasant leafiness, and prominent vanilla and biscuity aromas never allow the sherry to dominate.

Palate: Medium-full; a very clean, generous, soft mouthfeel with a little tingle. The flavours sync clearly with the nose: bready and biscuity with the fruitcake sherry sweetness again prominent without being too dominant – the balance is excellent, with a really crystalline barley edge rounded out by a hint of soft vanilla and chocolate cake.

Finish: That clear barley edge with a generous, warming, spicy tingle. The balance here is flawless. The sherry and spices fade slowly to reveal a delicate chocolate note.

Comment: Clearly, I don’t drink enough Glengoyne. This is a brilliantly put-together whisky and while the wood is impressive – obviously excellent casks – it’s the punchy, unpeated barley character that really impresses me. In short, the distillate and the oak complement each other beautifully, and that’s down to great cask selection and masterful blending.
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Glengoyne 21 Year Old, 43%, £120

Nose: Big sherry, a much deeper oak presence than the 18 year old. Gingerbread, cinnamon biscuits and rich Dundee fruitcake.  Develops malt loaf, cooked raisins, muscovado sugar, homemade wholemeal bread, old church pews, cookie dough, old soft leather. In these days of ‘wood technology’ and various techniques designed to pimp the whisky, it’s an absolute joy to encounter a more old-school sherry-cask character – and not even the slightest hint of the dreaded sulphur.  

Palate: Follows on perfectly from the nose – a big hit of brown sugar sweetness initially, then settles down into lovely fruitcake and patisserie notes.  A strong nuttiness – brazil nuts, hazelnuts, noisette – then milk chocolate and Ovaltine, before the cooked fruit returns with a spicy overtone.

Finish: Lingering fruitcake, candied mixed peel and growing spices – cinnamon, nutmeg, faint white pepper. Again, the balance is exquisite.  Nothing feels overblown, the sherry and spices sit beautifully together and there’s enough clear barley punch to keep the whole thing rounded.

Comment: I don’t understand why so many whisky companies – some of whom have far vaster resources than IMD – waste so much time and money trying to game the system with ‘wine-treated’ or ‘sherry-seasoned’ casks that aren’t really sherry casks, or multiple re-rackings, red wine finishes and so on. The formula is simple: make the best distillate you can, put it in the best bourbon or sherry casks you can afford and you’ll most likely end up with a very good whisky. This is Exhibit A – a great after-dinner option, especially with Christmas coming up. This could easily steal the show on the big day.

Two absolutely cracking drams from Glengoyne, so the stablemate Tamdhu has a lot to live up to! Onwards…

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Tamdhu Cask Strength, 58.3%, £57.95

Nose: Once more, there’s a big sherry hit straight off the bat.  There’s a big emphasis on rich brown sugar character initially, then milk chocolate, walnuts and hazelnuts, vanilla ice cream, chocolate milkshake. Becomes earthy, with notes of autumn leaves or compost, old bookcases.  I have to assume, given the lack of an age statement, that this Tamdhu is a relative youngster, but whatever the actual age is, this is a nose of admirable character and maturity.

Palate: Full-bodied but not too hot or punishing to the tastebuds. Remarkably palatable at full strength.  A huge initial sweetness without being cloying, then plum duff, sugared almonds, nougat and chocolate cake.  Once again, as with Glengoyne, the barley edge of the distillate comes through strongly, providing a counterpoint to the generous sweet oak. The fruitcake, chocolate and dried nuts are all here, with faint vanilla custard and bark. Very intense, well-defined flavours. With water:  Swims well and can handle plenty of water without losing its shape. The water brings more old oak character to the fore alongside chocolate milk and golden syrup.

Finish: Very long and satisfying finish. Young, sherried, cask strength drams can be very bitter at the death but there’s none of that here. It’s strong, sweet and spicy, certainly, but never goes over the top.

Comment: With a NAS whisky bottled at 58.3%, you might expect a certain brutality, but while this is a powerful dram it’s certainly far from vicious.  As with the Glengoyne, there are clear signs here of an adherence to traditional standards, excellent wood policy and serious skill in the cask selection and blending. Long may this dram confound our expectations. What’s clear is how criminally underrated both of these distilleries are.

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JOIN US ON OUR FIRST GIN TASTING

We’re excited to announce we will be teaming up with Halewood International to host our first ever Gin tasting.

Halewood boast a quality selection of Gins with the following featuring on the evening.

  • Whitley Neill Gin
  • Whitley Neill Rhubarb and Ginger Gin
  • Whitley Neill Raspberry Gin
  • Liverpool Rose Petal Gin
  • Aberfalls Sweet Violet Gin Liqueur
  • Aberfalls Orange Marmalade Gin

The tasting will be held on Friday 10th August 2018 at Blackpool Football Club in The Directors Box .  All attendees should arrive at 19:30 for 20:00 start.

On arrival you will be greeted by a member of the Whisky-Online team and offered a Mystery Gin & Tonic and a selection of Canapés.

Our host Jenny from Halewood will be delighted to educate everyone throughout the evening and will be keen to talk you through their 6 different gins on offer. Jenny will also be keen to guide you on the perfect serves for each Gin.

All Gins tasted on the evening will be avalible to purchase with a 10% discount. please note discount is only avalible at the event. 

Tickets are £30.00 per person and can be purchased by contacting Debbie or Tim on 01253 620376 or tim@whisky-online.com

Book now to avoid disappointment as tickets are limited.

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Daftmill Inaugural Release Tasting Notes

It’s been a long time coming, but Daftmill distillery is finally making its debut on the whisky scene. We’ve got a sample of the enigmatic Lowlander’s Inaugural Release which I’ll be trying shortly, but first here’s some history and background on this most unusual and enigmatic of distilleries.

What’s so unusual about Daftmill? Well, they just do everything their own way. The distillery is a side-project on a working farm in Fife, an hour’s drive north of Edinburgh, and distillation takes place sporadically during the main farm’s quiet periods: two months in summer and then between November and February.

If you’ve never heard of Daftmill before and are wondering what all the fuss is about, here’s a few facts and a potted history.

Daftmill was established by brothers Francis and Ian Cuthbert in 2003 with the conversion of old mill buildings on the farm into a microdistillery. The License to Distil was granted in 2005 on St. Andrew’s Day (30th November) and the first cask was filled on 16th December of that year.

 

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The Cuthbert family have been producing malting barley in Fife for six generations – Francis and Ian’s grandfather finally bought the estate in 1984 – and also grow potatoes and herd cattle. The Cuthberts are believed to be only the third owners of their land since the 13th century.

Aside from the barley they keep for their own distilling, Daftmill sell the rest of their crop to other distillers, with Edrington Group (Macallan and Highland Park) being their biggest customer.

The distillery is, therefore, arguably the most self-sufficient in Scotland, with their own barley and water from the Daftmill stream. There is a story that Daftmill got its name because this stream, which originally served the mill, appears to run uphill.

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Apart from the stills, the spirit safe and the mash tun which were made in Rothes, all the equipment and work to convert the old mill into a distillery was sourced within a few miles of the distillery. Francis conducts almost the entirety of the distillation process himself with occasional help from his brother Ian, whose day job is running the estate quarry.

The production process is geared towards generating a fruity spirit, which means clear wort, long, slow fermentations of 96-100 hours and slow distillation with minimal foreshots and very narrow cut points. The stills are small, are charged below capacity and have large condensers, all to ensure lots of copper contact for the spirit, again to try and ensure a light, fruity style.

Byproducts of the brewing and distillation process are used on the farm, with a heat exchanger heating water to help prevent the duck pond freezing over in winter, spent grains being fed to the family’s prize beef herd and even the distillery effluent being used as fertiliser.

The distillery currently produces just 20,000 litres of alcohol per year and even during the distilling seasons production is not continuous as the main business of the farm must take precedence. In practice, this has led to the filling of around 100 casks per year, making Daftmill one of the lowest-producing distilleries in Scotland.

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Around 90% of Daftmill’s new make is filled into fresh bourbon casks, the majority of which are from Heaven Hill, with the remainder being sherry hogsheads and butts. The casks mature onsite in the distillery’s dunnage warehouses.

This small scale production was certainly rare when Daftmill began production, if not unique – Kilchoman, which also began production in 2005, originally shared many of the same characteristics.  But in many other ways – most obviously commercially – these two distilleries are poles apart.

Kilchoman were straight to market the moment their spirit came of age, with a high profile press launch and accompanying hoopla, a robust marketing strategy, an expanding range packaged in bespoke bottles and literally hundreds of single cask releases for shops and independent retailers around the world.

An expansion in its third year of production now means that Kilchoman’s theoretical capacity is already over six times larger than Daftmill’s 20,000 litres a year. Indeed, with well over 400 different bottlings in just ten years since their spirit became whisky, Kilchoman’s Whiskybase page would already make a completist collector weep.

Daftmill, on the other hand, might appear to a casual observer to be almost deliberately obscurist. Marketing has been almost nil – the distillery’s website could easily be believed to have been created in 2005 and not updated since. There is no visitor centre on Daftmill farm and tours are available only by appointment in advance.

But all this is because Daftmill are only interested in their product, only concerned with the quality of their whisky. Back in the mists of 2013, I attended the inaugural Dramboree whisky festival in Aberfeldy, the highlight of which was the first Daftmill whisky tasting ever to have been conducted outside of the distillery, which was then in its eighth year of production.  The spirits we tasted were already fantastic, but Francis’s mantra has been nothing if not consistent: “We’ll release it when we think it’s ready.”

That moment has finally arrived. The Inaugural Release of Daftmill is a small bottling of just three casks, but its impact will be far-ranging. This is not just another very welcome addition to the expanding range of Lowland distilleries. With Daftmill, we whisky fans are blessed with a fully evolved new single malt in a style that was almost extinct.  

The first fill bourbon casks used for the inaugural release come from the earliest distillations at Daftmill; the whisky is twelve years old and has been bottled at 55.8%.  The release is limited to 629 bottles: 250 of these were allocated by ballot by the company’s distributor, Berry Bros & Rudd with another 250 being split between eager retailers in the UK and internationally. We are very excited to have got our hands on a few bottles of this historic whisky, which will be available on our website from Sunday 17th June at approximately 5pm. We have a small allocation so it’s first come first served.

Daftmill Inaugural Release Tasting Notes by Whisky-Online

Nose: Very clean with the expected vanilla from the first fill bourbon, and underlying notes of autumn leaves and old polished bookcases. A little nervous at first, but settles down quickly and the vanilla fades into the background behind porridge, cereals, cream, honey and cranachan. Develops ripe green apples, nougat, milky Weetabix, hard icing sugar and faint scratched lemon peel. Water releases sweet cinnamon and milk chocolate aromas.

Palate: Medium-full, sweet but lively mouthfeel – not cloying at all. Mostly the cereal, patisserie and sweetshop flavours from the nose: marshmallows, nougat, honey, plus the Weetabix and a more noticeable nuttiness – unsalted almonds and brazil nuts.  Faint Playdoh puttiness and pastry dough offset by a citric note. Water smooths the edges and adds notes of flapjacks and very faint summer fruit.

Finish: Good length, drying, sweet notes of pastry and a returning polished oakiness.

Comment: A startlingly mature release from a distinctly leftfield operation. Very high quality spirit – remarkable, considering that this is from among the very first casks to be distilled at Daftmill.

Daftmill Inaugural Release will be followed by annual Summer and Winter releases reflecting the distillery’s production cycles – this philosophy was already in place at the 2013 Dramboree tasting and the differences between the Summer and Winter output are striking. There are also plans for four single cask releases each year.

Just about everyone at that fabled Dramboree tasting five years ago would have bottled some of the six and seven year old whiskies we tasted that night on the spot if they’d had the option, but despite its modest, self-effacing demeanour Daftmill has always had luxuries that few, if any other recently-founded distilleries could afford.

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Where the vast majority of new distillers are hamstrung by crippling start-up costs, Daftmill already owned their site and their raw materials, so only needed to renovate their building and pay for their equipment. With no staff to pay, the company only needs to sustain its running costs.

And while other new distillers have to produce gin or vodka to bring revenue in and make ends meet while they wait for their whisky to mature – not to mention paying for advertising and marketing costs – the distillery remains a side project from a working, profitable family farm business.  

Daftmill answers to no investors hungry for a quick buck; there is no marketing department, no focus group, no overwhelming drive to expand or conquer the world. The Cuthberts have been able to make their own decisions on how and when to distil and how and when to come to market. Their only goal throughout all of this has been to make the best Lowland-style whisky that they are capable of producing. For the future, their sales need only to pay to keep the distillery running. The product design is in keeping with the rest of Daftmill project: minimal, unfussy.

But this image of the distillery as a side project – almost a glorified hobby for a man with a demanding full-time job – completely belies the pride that anyone who has met Francis Cuthbert will have detected as soon as he opens his mouth to talk about it.

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Francis demonstrating the high-tech winter cask transportation device

Now, finally, we have a product to put with the name. Daftmill was almost a secret, or at least a frequently forgotten, almost theoretical whisky. You can be sure that if Francis had never thought it good enough, the product would never have been bottled.  

With these new whiskies, the genie is finally out of the bottle and that forgotten status is irrevocably changed. It’s probably fair to expect that a lot more people will be phoning up for those appointment-only guided tours. But don’t expect a visitor centre just yet…

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Fathers Day Whisky Offers

Fathers Day is upon us once again, and after Christmas it’s the biggest weekend of the year in the world of whisky.  Across the country, happy Dads will be receiving bottles of whisky on Sunday 17th June, so here at Whisky-Online we’ve made a little guide with some great Fathers Day Whisky Offers to help make sure you get your Dad the right thing this year.

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First up, for Dads who like a lighter style of whisky, we’ve got the Auchentoshan American Oak.  This replaced the old Auchentoshan Classic a few years ago and it’s a light, easy-drinking intro to Lowland single malt, as well as being a perfect example of young, fresh bourbon cask-matured whisky. For Fathers Day, we’ve slashed the price by a huge £14 from £34.95 to £20.95 – and there’s even a free Auchentoshan glass included!

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At the other end of the spectrum, for Dads who like big flavours and high strength whiskies, we’ve got a Fathers Day offer of £5 off the Speyburn 2006 Cask Strength bottled by Gordon & MacPhail. This one is from a refill sherry butt – and from the deep colour, we’d guess this was a pretty active cask. It’s a classic sherry profile: rich and full, with fruit cake, demerara sugar and spices, and it’s been bottled at a chunky 59.2%. This is a steal at just £46.95.

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Lots of Dads like peaty, smoky whisky and we’ve got a pair of malts on offer that fit that particular bill. First up is the old favourite Big Peat from indie bottlers Douglas Laing. Big Peat is an Islay blended malt containing whisky from several Islay distillers including Ardbeg, Bowmore, Caol Ila and, remarkably, Port Ellen, so if your Dad (or you!) haven’t tried it, now is a great time to rectify that – it’s reduced by £5 from £35.95 to £30.95.  

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The other peated malt we’ve got on offer is slightly left of centre – it’s from Speyside rather than Islay. Benriach have been making peated malt alongside their standard drams since 1983, and this release has been fully matured in quarter casks, allowing the oak more influence in less time. Benriach Peated Quarter Cask is also reduced by £5 for Fathers Day, from £49 down to £44.

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Finally, for Dads who are fans of rich, smooth whiskies, we’ve got a pair of Glenfiddichs on Special Offer for Fathers Day. The 18 year old and 21 year old are the pick of the Glenfiddich range, with the 18 year old being a good soft, contemplative dram and the 21 year old a great after-dinner malt thanks to an extra layer of sweetness afforded by a finishing period in rum casks.  The Glenfiddich 18 Year Old comes with two glasses in a special gift pack and a hefty £8 Fathers Day discount brings the price down from £68.95 to £60.95, while the Glenfiddich  21 Year Old comes in a handsome gift box and has been reduced by a whopping £19 to £110.

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We hope you like our Fathers Day Special Offers – if you need more inspiration, why not check out our Top Ten Whiskies Under £50, Top Ten Whiskies £50 to 100 and Top Ten Whiskies Over £100? You could also check out other whisky gift packs on our dedicated Whisky Gifts page or if all else fails, why not get your Dad a Whisky-Online eVoucher this Fathers Day and let him decide for himself?

 

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Crabbie 30 Year Old Single Malt

The name of Crabbie has remained famous throughout its long history in the Scottish drinks trade but latterly only for the company’s peerless Green Ginger Wine, an essential ingredient in the Whisky Mac cocktail, and more recently for a successful alcoholic ginger beer.

This was not always the case.  The Crabbie company can trace its roots back to 1801, when Millar Crabbie first established an upholstering company in Edinburgh. Millar Crabbie soon switched to grocery and from there to import and export of spices, blending and distribution of cordials and eventually, under the control of Millar’s son, John Crabbie, blending whisky.

The company flourished and by the middle of the 19th century had acquired extensive warehousing and bonded premises in Leith and the Haddington distillery in East Lothian which produced grain spirit for the company’s products until the middle of the 1860s.  Subsequently, in the 1880s, Crabbie was involved in the foundation of the North British grain distillery alongside Andrew Usher and William Sanderson, and became the first chairman of the board.

Crabbie 12-year-old from around the fifties

The Crabbie company continued producing blended whiskies throughout the 20th century but its fortunes dwindled following its acquisition by Diageo forerunner Distillers Company Limited in the 1960s. Production of the company’s own brand whiskies ceased in the 1970s and the Crabbie brand was sold in the 1980s to MacDonald and Muir, owners of the Highland Queen blend and Glenmorangie distillery.  

Halewood International acquired Crabbie in 2007 and set about reviving the brand, first with the previously-mentioned ginger beer. The new owners have ambitious plans for Crabbie, last year announcing a proposed new Edinburgh micro-distillery to produce both gin and whisky.

In the meantime, to continue the brand’s renaissance Crabbie have introduced two new sourced whiskies, an 8 year old Highland dram and a single cask 30 year old Speyside single malt bottled at natural strength from a refill Oloroso sherry butt.  Just 330 bottles of the 30 year old have been released for the UK, but luckily we’ve managed to secure a small parcel of stock, and of course we had to try it. Here’s our tasting notes:

Crabbie 30 Year Old Single Speyside Malt, 48.6%

Nose: A symphony of oak and fruit straight off the bat: the kind of really, really classy polished old wood and hints of raisins and cooked apples that lets you know straight away that this is a great whisky. There’s pretty much everything you’d want: autumn leaves, damson jam, sponge cake and a wonderfully floral edge of orange blossom and honeysuckle. Develops more on patisserie with fruit cookies, then fine milk chocolate, coffee ice cream and roast hazelnuts. The integration and balance are absolutely fantastic, nothing dominating, everything intertwined.

Palate: Medium-full in weight but very full flavours. Big but not overpowering oak attack initially, then hints of marmalade. A flash of dusty bookshelves, faint bonfire smoke, then fruit buns, burnt raisins on the edge of a fruit cake, apple pie, icing sugar, chocolate again, dried figs – absolutely textbook refill sherry. The balance is very good and water isn’t really necessary, but a very small drop lifts a tinned fruit syrup flavour. Gets more nutty with time in the glass.

Finish: Warming and very good length. Cinnamon bark, malt loaf, fruit leather and cracked black pepper on a slow fade.

Comment: Majestic stuff.  This nigh-on perfect refill sherry cask is the epitome of an autumnal whisky, begging for a comfy chair and a fireplace – it’s really got the long-matured, oak-reactive X factor that only a long time in a cask can bestow. There are big, soft-edged tannins and it’s quite warm on first tasting at full strength but the fruit always wins out and the oak is finely-poised but never too dusty or bitter. Just fantastic whisky.

Although we can’t reveal which distillery Crabbie 30 year old is from, we can promise that if the distillery name was on the bottle it’d be cheap at five times the price of this bottling, which is available for £500 here. We suspect there could be a rush on this product once word gets out, so don’t hang around if you want one!

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A Brief History of Connoisseurs Choice

You might already be aware that independent bottler Gordon & MacPhail has just announced a revamp of their ranges, with their Connoisseurs Choice line getting a smart new facelift.  What better excuse for a quick trawl through some of the bottlings in this historic series?

The original Connoisseurs Choice range was the brainchild of George Urquhart and was first introduced in 1968, so 2018 is the fiftieth anniversary of the range. The first CC bottlings had a simple black label featuring a golden eagle or a barrel.  These whiskies, some of which are the first known bottlings from their distilleries, are very highly sought after now and command very high prices. We have several of these legendary bottlings, including this 1963 Glenugie and one of the most famous Gordon & Macphail bottlings, Mortlach 1936 43 year old.

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The fabulous Mortlach 1936 43 year old

The black Connoisseurs Choice labels were replaced around the turn of the 1980s by a short-lived label utilising various shades of brown.  These labels are less rare than the black ones but are still very desirable as they include some of the greatest ever bottlings under the Connoisseurs Choice name, with gems from many now-lost distilleries such as Lochside, St. Magdalene and one of the rarest single malts of all: Kinclaith.

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A true unicorn whisky: Kinclaith 1966

The brown labels were themselves replaced by what is known among collectors as the Map Label.  These bottlings began around 1988 with cream labels and a thumbnail map of the relevant region in the centre – good examples include a series of Ardbegs from the classic 1974 vintage.

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…And even older vintages such as this incredible Ardbeg 1964…

The Map Label was tweaked in 1996 with a colour-coded background label for each region, and redesigned again in 2008, with a return to cream labels with colour-coded banding and the map in the top right of the label.  The previous year, 2007, had seen the standard bottling strength for Connoisseurs Choice increased to 43% from its previous regulation 40%.

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The classic 1996-era map label on a famous Brora 1972 bottling

More changes were to follow: in 2012 the range got another revamp, with embossed G&M bottles, another label tweak and, most significantly of all, another bump in the standard bottling strength to 46% and the dropping of chill-filtration and caramel colouring, delighting the range’s millions of fans.

 

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The post-2012 version of the map label

This 50th Anniversary upgrade is a big new step in the evolution of Scotland’s most long-lived and iconic independent bottling series, with the final departure of the map from the label, a very handsome new bespoke short-necked bottle and the introduction of cask strength bottlings into the Connoisseurs Choice range.  You can check out all our G&M Connoisseurs Choice bottlings, past and present, including a great selection from the new out-turn here.

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Clynelish 2005 from the new Connoisseurs Choice Cask Strength range
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Macallan 18 Year Olds – Tasting Notes

Following on from our triumphant appearance at Old & Rare Whisky Show in Glasgow, we thought it’d be a good idea to publish some tasting notes on some of the whiskies we had on offer at the Show, so that those of you who couldn’t make it can get an (online) taste of what you missed.

First up is a trio of Macallan 18 year olds from different eras. We’ve got a recent Macallan Fine Oak 18 year old, then a 1982 18 year old bottled at the turn of the century and a 1973 18 year old bottled in 1991.

 

Macallan 18 Year Old Fine Oak Edition – often regarded as the best of the bunch from the Fine Oak series, which was met with, shall we say, a mixed response from whisky fans when they first appeared in 2004. The negativity at the time was a reaction against the fact that the Macallan had abandoned its previous principle of only releasing single malt from sherry casks, blending the Fine Oak range with both bourbon and sherry cask-matured spirit. However, let’s let the whisky speak for itself.

Nose: Biscuity initially, with polished wood notes and some honeyed porridge. Classic lighter Speyside character. Develops older ‘church pew’ aromas, apple peelings and hard icing sugar with time in the glass but overall this is quite a restrained nose.

Palate: Mediumweight, with a slightly hot mouthfeel. Classic toasted barley notes and well-integrated flavours from the nose, particularly the apple note. Flapjacks, dry Weetabix, then a cooked lemon sour note.

Finish: Medium length, drying. Tart apples. A little warm but quite gentle nonetheless.

Comments: Fascinating to taste more distillate-driven Macallan, and this is textbook Speyside, but while considered in isolation it’s a perfectly decent whisky, it’s also easy to see why the sherryhead hardcore Macallan fans wanted nothing to do with it. It’s an elegant whisky but lacking in what was considered the Macallan character at the time.

Macallan 1982 18 Year Old – Bottled in 2000 and originally sold at a retail price around £40, although auction prices are now well north of £1000.  1982 is of course the vintage of the famous Gran Reserva bottlings from the early 2000s that were a huge factor in the Macallan boom. Bottled from 100% sherrywood, naturally – the Fine Oak range was a good few years away when this bottling came out.

Nose: Wow, this is definitely more what you expect from Macallan (or at least what you used to expect). Really glorious sherry profile, sweet wood and dried fruits – mixed peel, prunes, dates, dried figs, treacle, cooked raisins, stewed apples. It’s the subtle, perfectly-balanced old oak notes that really kick this up into classic territory, though. One of those achingly gorgeous noses it seems almost a pity to destroy by actually drinking the whisky.

Palate: Medium-full but powerfully flavoured. Yes, this is exactly what you want it to be. All the fruity Dundee cake flavours from the nose, plus the supporting foundation of polished old bookcases. The difference is that the wood is more prominent here, a constant note rather than flitting in and out as on the nose, adding cinnamon and dusty vanilla notes to the swirling dried fruit palate. You’d never call this too oaky though.

Finish: Good length for the relatively light weight. Cooked oranges, cloves, fading cinnamon.

Comments: Absolutely wonderful. One weeps to think that this could be had for £240 a case. Certainly one of the first stops on my (sadly imaginary) Time Machine Supermarket Sweep.

Macallan 1973 18 Year Old – Released in 1991, when whisky was just something you bought and drank rather than collected or invested in, this is sherry-matured Macallan from the distillery’s golden era. This is a fascinating chance to try a relatively younger version of the spirit that would cause such a storm when bottled as a 25 or 30 year old in the late 1990s and early 2000s and was one of the major contributors to the worldwide explosion of  interest in single malt whisky. Auction prices for this bottle are creeping up towards £1500 now.

Nose: Still very sherry-dominated, obviously, but right from the start it’s clear that this is a very different beast to the 1982.  There are many of the same elements, but it’s bolder and with big differences in emphasis. Very upfront burnt raisins, dark toffee, rich marmalade, a little rum fudge, faint (acceptable) sulphur, Christmas pudding, orange liqueur, malt loaf, burnt gingerbread.

Palate: Medium-full. Mouthwatering sweet sherry oak, and for that reason it’s closer to the 1982 than the nose, but there’s still the same big differences in emphasis. The raisins, marmalade and Christmas pud steal the show, but there’s also cocoa powder, rum’n’raisin fudge and orange liqueur.

Finish: Great length for the strength. The intensity of the flavours fades very slowly, leaving the tongue tingling.

Comments: Where the 1982 was exquisite, balanced and elegant this is mostly all about knockout sensuality, with some hidden depths. It’s Audrey Hepburn vs. Rita Hayworth, Monet vs. Picasso. A fabulously expressive whisky.

 

A fascinating mini-flight, and it’s very tough pick a favourite. Macallan 18yo was always sold as a classic after-dinner malt and if I’d just put away a big steak in a nice restaurant I’d be going for the 1973.  Reading a book or staring into the fire on a winter’s evening, though, it’d be the 1982 every time for me. In such exalted company the Fine Oak doesn’t get much of a look-in, but that’s to be expected and it’s a perfectly drinkable whisky in its own right.

Hope you enjoyed our tasting notes – stay tuned to the blog, we’ll have more updates very soon.

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Whisky-Online Exclusive | Ardmore 1993-2015 Tasting Notes

 

A while back we figured it was high time that Whisky Online had another bespoke bottling done. After much dallying about we went to see the good folks at G&M. A week later four cask samples arrived then a couple of months after that this rather delicious bottling of Ardmore arrived. So, without much further ado here’s Angus’s tasting notes for it.

The Whisky-Online Exclusive bottles are up for sale in the shop right now, £100 a pop, when they’re gone they’re gone.

Ardmore 1993 – 2015 22 Year Old. Gordon & MacPhail Whisky-Online Exclusive. Cask number 5750 a Refill Bourbon Barrel. One of 176 bottles. 70cl. 49.9%.

Colour: Gold

Nose: It is quite immediately Ardmore which I love, this wonderful mix of limestone, gravel, clay and minerals with a very delicate ashy peat and slightly drying phenolic tones – reminiscent of a gentler, latter 1970s Ardbeg. Behind all that there’s lemon skins, citrons, dried herbs, muesli and gorse. This is the perfect kind of wood presence to my nose: shy and retiring with quite a structured and complete feeling of maturity that gives a loud voice to the distillery character. With water… oh nice, white flowers, beeswax and honey on buttery brown toast. All these lovely notes of sunflower seeds, sorrel and more mineral aspects. Just great.

Palate: A tang of wood sap at first gives way to some beautiful and quite elegant tropical fruit syrups – more fruity than your average Ardmore I’d say – then sandalwood, coastal notes of tar, salted liquorice and little touches of gentian. Further notes of orange bitters, greengages, delicate peat oils and more slightly ashy mineral notes. The mouth is almost perfect at this cask strength but lets add some water anyway… it becomes almost bigger with water, the peat and phenols are magnified and almost medicinal now, sort of at the expense of the fruit but it’s no less beautiful for it.

Finish: Long and warm, full of briny, ashy, citrusy, mineral and phenolic qualities. Leaves a big tingle all round the mouth. Quite brazenly Ardmore – which I totally love.

Comments: Not much to say, I love the balance of fruit and peat along with all the other tertiary aromas. I love the fact that the cask plays a perfect supporting role to the shining distillate and I love the fact that it is very much an Ardmore. Really delicious, and a strong swimmer to boot.

Score: 91/100

Whisky-Online Exclusive Ardmore

 

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Glenfarclas Family Casks new 2015 batch

The Glenfarclas Family Casks are always very welcome additions to the shop but on this occasion we’ve put together a rather tantalising selection of almost every vintage from 1963 to 1999 including many releases from the new Spring 2015 batch. As you’d expect there are loads of interesting and juicy casks to choose from. Some of our favourites are the more left-feild choices such as the curiously light 1965, the 1973 from a ‘plain butt’ at a naturally low cask strength of 41.6% and the two 1990 cask from refill sherry butts. Given the age and quality of many of these casks we think they represent great value for money in today’s market for anyone looking for serious, top quality aged malt whiskies. So don’t hang around if you want one…

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