Dram Review: Auchentoshan – Batch 1 (That Boutique-y Whisky Company)

I was sent this sample by the chaps at Master of Malt. It’s from their range of whiskies labelled “That Boutiquey Whisky Company”. See this post for a little bit about the range.

A little about the label of the Auchentoshan: It depicts famous “mixologist” (what we in the UK call a barman who can make good cocktails) Ryan Chetiyawardana mixing up a storm. It is evocative of Auchentoshan on account of the fact that Auchentoshan is excellent for mixing due to the triple distillation that takes place there (See my review of the Auchentoshan distillery tour here).

Here are the dramstats:

AuchentoshanTBWC

  • Price £63.95 from here
  • ABV 47.1%
  • 50cl

Nose: Initially there is some aftershave and lavender, but this quickly fades. Then Vanilla and a mature corn whisky. Some of the casks in this have been very active and there may even be a percentage of virgin oak. There is a brown sauce note with fresh baked bread. It really sweetens out given time with cinnamon spice coming through.

Palate: Very sweet, lots of red summer fruits, vanilla custard, cinnamon spice, white pepper and oak.

Finish: Pepper, spicy oak then strawberry whips, creamy vanilla milkshake and custard creams.

Verdict: This is the nicest Auchentoshan I have tasted and it’s not even close! However, I wouldn’t say it was a typical lowland. It’s almost like a well matured grain in certain aspects of its character. I’m a fan. MoM know how to blend a good whisky!

Now, here is that part where I say if I would buy a bottle for myself. It’s tricky here. On the one hand I like the whisky and it is affordable. On the other it’s over £60 for only 50cl, which would work out at £89.53 for a full size one. That is in the price range that I’m willing to pay only if I really love the whisky or if I was a fan of the distillery and wanted a bottle with the unique label. This is excellent whisky, the best toshan I’ve tasted, but I wouldn’t buy it for myself. The liquid is excellent and I’m sorry that my sample is gone, but what you love is so personal, this isn’t it for me and it is therefore out of my price range.

Dram Review: Caperdonich -Batch 3 That Boutique-y Whisky Company

This is another review from the Master of Malt range of That Boutique-y Whiskies kindly sent to me, by them, for review.

The range is based on whiskies from a being blended by the chaps at Master of Malt, then bottled “Boutique” style in 50cl bottles with artist designed labels that evoke something of the distillery in question.

The label on the Caperdonich bottles depicts the legendary pipe that ran between now closed Caperdonich and it’s sister distillery Glen Grant. Here are the dramstats:

CaperdonichTBWC

  • Price £135.95 only from here
  • ABV 45.7%
  • 50cl

Nose: Malty, vanilla and ovaltine. Macdonalds chocolate milkshake. Cinder toffee and baked pear. Vanilla, icing sugar. Milk Chocolate distinctively comes through so that crunchie bars are the lasting impression. With a drop of water there is a note of Caramac bars.

Palate: Really connects with the nose (which is something I personally like in a whisky). Sweet malty vanilla, cinder toffee, milk chocolate and oak comes through.

Finish: Very sweet, aspartame, hint of turkish delight, pears and vanilla malt.

Verdict: I could really destroy a bottle of this! Lovely stuff! However, way out of my price range. I’m not saying it’s over priced. Caperdonich is a closed distillery after all! I’m saying I wouldn’t buy it because it’s not really in my price range (except for exceptional whiskies maybe once every couple of years).

 

Dram Review: Deanston batch 1 – That Boutique-y Whisky Company

Thanks to the chaps at Master of Malt for sending me a sample of this to review.

As stated in previous reviews, whiskies from That Boutique-y Whisky Company are blended (or created) by the chaps at master of malt and give a boutique style presentation with 50cl bottles and uniquely designed labels tailored to the distilleries represented by the whisky.

The Deanston label depicts the conversion of and old cotton mill into Deanston distillery, an event that happened in the 1960s. Giving a nod to the date, the picture shows 2 hippies watching the delivery of a pot still.

Here are the dramstats:

DeanstonTBWC

  • Price £46.95 only from here.
  • ABV 50.8%
  • 50cl

Nose: Fig rolls, green apple and sultana cereal bars. Dunked rich tea and gariboldi biscuits. Apple astro belts. This is quite true to the standard Deanston 12 year old expression. Time in the glass leads to woody notes and fresh baked sultana cake.

Palate: Oak, chalky mouthfeel. Apples from the nose are not immediately present and it takes water to tease out some mild apple and sultana cake.

Finish: The apples make an appearance then the chalky oak completely dries the mouth. Spitting feathers here! With water some faint green apple and woody notes give way to pepper. More water doesn’t release any further notes from the nose, it just drowned the whisky.

Verdict: I loved the nose as a first dram of the evening, but I couldn’t get close to it on the palate or finish so this isn’t one for my tastes. I concede that this nose is more complex and, in my view better, but I do prefer the standard Deanston 12 (reviewed here) to this.

Dram Review: Aberlour Batch 2 – That Boutique-y Whisky Company

Thanks to the chaps at Master of Malt for sending me a sample of this to review. It’s the second Aberlour from the range of “That Boutique-y whiskies”. These are whiskies from a single distillery blended by the chaps at Master of Malt and given a boutique style presentation with 50cl bottles and a uniquely designed label.

The Aberlour label contains a picture of the only bar in Aberlour, The Mash Tun. As regular readers will know I’ve just returned from a full week in Aberlour and Mrs Dramstats and I spent 4 nights in the Mash Tun having a good time (I’ll soon be posting a review of the place). Looking at this bottle does put me in mind of Aberlour and of that holiday and so I think the label does its job here.

Here are the dramstats:

AberlourTBWC

  • Price £50.95 only from here
  • ABV 51.2%
  • 50cl

Nose: Custardy vanilla then lovely clean sherry notes with juicy raisins, sultana, muscavado sugar and the classic Aberlour red dessert apple note. This is exactly how I wish a’bunadh could be like again. Rich christmas pudding. The addition of water takes it up another notch with the fruit getting juicier and cinnamon spices coming through and the whole nose becoming sweeter.

Palate: It’s a’bunadh like it used to be, yet even better! An explosion of dark and dried fruit with red apple, cherry, blackcurrant and christmas pudding. There is also a sense of sticky toffee pudding note. In fact this would be the perfect accompaniment to a sticky toffee pudding.

Finish: Some spicy oak muscles in on the fruit and both vye for position, each taking its turn in the lead as the mouth begins to dry leaving a memory of good christmas pudding.

Verdict: I think the general consensus with the whisky bloggers I know is that Aberlour a’bunadh has gone down hill since the early batches. I reviewed batch 42 here and I had a fair few drams of the latest batch 44 in the Mash tun whilst in Aberlour 7 days ago and I agree. The old batches were excellent but, my opinion is that the chaps at Master of Malt have taken it to the next level. This is not a’bunadh, it is a Master of Malt creation. However, it is so evocative of the style and yet so improved it’s almost as if they are saying: “this is how we would do A’bunadh”. It’s easily the best Aberlour I’ve had. The sherry is clean, the nose is delightfully complex and yet unmistakably Aberlour. Yes you get a smaller bottle but I would buy this over any a’bunadh any day. Because of holiday memories, the label only makes me want a bottle more.

Dram Review: Invergordon batch 1: That Boutique-y whisky company

I was sent this sample by the chaps at Master of Malt. It’s from their range of whiskies labelled “That Boutiquey Whisky Company”. Firstly, a little about the concept:

Master of Malt are creating whiskies from individual distilleries (when these are single malt distilleries, they are creating single malts, when grain distilleries, single grain) by blending different casks from the same distillery together. They then give these whiskies a “boutique-y” style presentation with numbered 50cl bottles with uniquely designed labels designed to evoke something of the distillery. Some of the labels tell an old distillery story, some evoke characters connected with the distillery, and some are just freakin’ awesome (see the Aultmore shark battling a raptor label).

On the Invergordon label, it depicts a an amusing cartoon of a Coffey still (the type of continuous still used at most grain distilleries). This is a blended grain whisky and I know for a fact that there are some really old whiskies in here (40+ and 50+ year old whiskies). Here are the dramstats:

InvergordonTBWC

  • Price £59.95 only here
  • ABV 41.6%
  • 50cl

Nose: Smoked paprika, corn, cola, vanilla, spicy BBQ sauce, aniseed, baked caramelised onion, pepper, Spearmint, sweet flan pastry. A fireworks note appears after time in the glass, like catherine wheels (not sulphury), then malty ovaltine and furniture polish. It’s absolutely excellent.

Palate: Pepper, sweetcorn, vanilla, toffee popcorn, cherry coke and cola bottles.

Finish: Vanilla cream, tobasco, cola bottles and cherry coke with a vanilla float.

Verdict: This is soooo good. Grain whisky is massively underrated. At the price it works out at £84 for a full sized 70cl bottle. That’s in my “I would only buy this if I absolutely loved the whisky” price range. I really do though. Given the age of some of the grain here and the action on the nose, I actually think this is a bargain and the reason it can be is probably that grain whisky is so underrated. I just hope I get paid before they sell out!

Glenfarclas distillery tour review

Last day of the holiday and time for one last tour. Glenfarclas had been on my bucket list since the last time I was in Speyside (3 years ago), so I was looking forward to this one.

As the tour began, we stood in front of a number of portraits (below) and were introduced to the Grants (John and Georges), the family that have owned the distillery for generations. Much like when you do a Glenfiddich or Balvenie tour, a great deal is made out of being “family owned”, but it does feel a little different here. The family still live on site (in fact we saw them making a snowman in their driveway from the window in the wash back room), and there is something about the location and the whole operation that just *feels* like a family business.

Into the distillery we went and the first site was the biggest malt mill I have seen (It didn’t say porteus either). Apparently this bad boy can grind 8 tonnes per hour but has lasted since the 60s because it’s never been run at 8 tonnes per hour. This may raise some questions in your mind. All I’ll say is, mine too but I didn’t ask them as it didn’t seem like that sort of tour.

Onto the tun room and the wash backs, both made from stainless steel. The brilliant thing about this room just wouldn’t come out on my camera phone. The large windows to the left of this picture of the wash backs look out onto the snow capped Ben RInnes (and we are pretty close to it here). A fantastic setting for a workplace!

The stills looked fairly tall and had a bulb to help promote a lighter spirit (though some of this may be negated by the descending line arm). The spirit safe was roped off as you can see from the pictures. I really didn’t like this touch. Other distilleries don’t have problems with rogue tourists twiddling knobs and collecting feints etc, so why are these guys worried?

We were not taken to a warehouse, but we were allowed to look in the window of the filling store. Now here is where the tour guide told us something that I found very surprising. Apparently Glenfarclas use sherry casks and, if they use bourbon barrels, they must be 3rd fill (or 4th, 5th etc) so that, in the words of our tour guide, “they don’t impart any flavour to the final spirit and affect Glenfarclas’ sherried profile”. I can see the sense in this as Sherry casks can cost 10-12 times bourbon casks and this might be a way to get more spirit at the right age cheaper. I was just stunned that they’d admit to this on a tour. Surely something like “We prefer bourbon barrel notes such as vanilla to be more mellowed, as they would be after a number of fills, so that they add a subtle complexity to the profile of Glenfarclas”, would be more par for the course?

The tasting was to be held in a room panelled using wood from a salvaged ship, the SS Empress Australia. Nice!

The tour usually comes with a tasting of Glenfarclas 10 year old. However, I had heard on Whiskycast that there was a new distillery only edition available. The whisky was the last distilled in 1999 before the turn of the millennium and had been maturing in Sherry since then. The bottles are sold as 1l and are at cask strength. Our guide let me taste this instead (after I explained I had a full bottle of Glenfarclas 10 at home). Here are the dramstats:

  • Price £60
  • 1 litre
  • ABV 56.3%
  • Distillery only

Nose: Honey, vanilla, brandy snap, fig rolls. There is a blend like quality to the malt (i.e. in the flavour profile) and this is no bad thing. Maple syrup comes through with a little water.

Palate: Lots of honey and caramel. It’s slightly sickly, very sweet and a touch biscuity with fig rolls. Sherry is definitely there but it’s not a deep rich oloroso type sherry, but almost a cream sherry. There is a very creamy mouthfeel with maple syrup and barley sugar coming through with a touch of water.

Finish: Pepper, barley, fruity biscuits (fig rolls, gariboldis), with lingering honey and barley sugar.

Verdict: It’s definitely not what I was expecting from a sherry cask but it’s pretty awesome and £60 for 1l cask strength is a freakin’ steal!

Overall Verdict: Overall I liked the distillery and the whisky but I was disappointed with the tour. For a family place, there were too many corporate touches that served to make the visitors feel unwelcome (e.g. not showing warehouses and roping off the spirit safe). I am holding these guys to a higher standard, yes, but they do make a lot of their family ownership, and yet you don’t feel as if you are invited into their home as a guest, but as if you are a health and safety concern. When the experience is compared to that offered by William Grant and Sons at the Balvenie or even Glenfiddich, though the scale of the operation is huge in comparison, you still feel like they are showing you around their home. However, for the price of the tour (£5), this is definitely a place to visit. The breathtaking nature of the location, the view from the wash backs and the dram at the end are worth the entry fee.

 

The Balvenie distillery tour

I picked up this tour whilst out distillery bagging earlier in the week (see this post). I rang the number on the sign and it turned out they were open by appointment, so we booked a tour.

After the crazy blizzard that blighted our trip to Glendronach, it was actually a lovely day. We’ve really seen all 4 seasons in Scotland on this trip!

Upon arriving we were welcomed by our guides David and Noni. We were offered tea, coffee and shortbread and a chat around the sofas whilst waiting for the other members of our party. Right from the start this tour had a different feeling about it. As if you were guests of the distillery to be looked after as you would be in a restaurant or hotel.

We started the tour in the Balvenie maltings. It turns out that Balvenie malt a percentage of their own Barley and even have a farm that grows a portion of it. The barley that they malt is peated to a low level and is mixed with unpeated malt that they buy in.

Here is the malt barn

Below are the floor maltings. It turns out that The Balvenie actually employ a large team and today there were two workers managing the barley and making sure it was turned. We were shown how Barley used to be turned by hand and I got to have a go. Hard work and not difficult to see how so many got monkey shoulder!

We then opened the kiln doors to look at the barley being dried with peat smoke. It turns out that there is a coal fire for generating heat and a small amount of peat is burnt in a separate oven with the smoke mixed in with the heat from the coal fire in the chimney.

From there it was into the main distillery. Interestingly the Mash tun for Kininvie is also in the tun room of the Balvenie. Kininvie is a single malt used in monkey shoulder and in the grants blends and has it’s still house behind Balvenie. Both mash tuns are stainless steel.

In the wash back room we were able to taste both the wort and the wash. They were really going for the whole experience here.

After seeing the stills, it was then outside for a ride in a Jeep down to The Balvenie’s own cooperage! From there we were able to watch the coopers working on casks. You could stand there for hours watching these guys work!

Then it was on to the famous warehouse 24. There were no photos allowed in here, but we did get some unique experiences. Firstly we had a look at tun 1401 and opened the bung to smell the contents. There is some awesome stuff in there!

Next our guide dipped the dog in a 39 year old Bourbon barrel to fill a 20cl bottle for a later tasting. This was a special for warehouse 24 members (though of course everyone in the party was allowed a taste).

Lastly, and most excitingly, we were then shown downstairs to a room with 3 casks from which we could take our own samples by dipping the dog. The idea was that for £25 you took the copper dog, dipped into your cask of choice and filled your own 20cl bottle. I had a sniff of each cask and thought a 16 year old first fill oloroso butt was excellent (and I wanted a go at dipping the dog!).

After what had thus far been an amazing tour, it was onto an extensive tasting.

In addition to the 5 drams you see above, we were able to nose and taste the new make and we also had a go at the 39 year old warehouse 24 special. The 5 drams were The 12 and 17 year old Doublewood, the Single Barrel 15, The Caribbean Cask 14 and the Portwood 21. The Single Barrel 15 was an advent calendar dram and was reviewed here.

Here are some dramstats:

The Balvenie New Make

Nose: Prunes, dates, honey sweet malt, slightly grassy with a vegetal note (peas).

Palate: Very juicy dried fruits and honey sweet

The Balvenie 12 Doublewood

  • Price £30
  • ABV 40%

Nose: The new make comes through. Sweet honey, biscuity, vanilla with a touch of raisin and fig.

Palate: Honey sweet raisins and vanilla. Slightly peppery and spicy with oak. A touch biscuity.

Finish: Peppery oak, vanilla and honey sweetness. The oak dries and tingles.

Verdict: It’s excellent and a top top entry level malt. It’s one you can often get a good deal on in a supermarket too!

The Balvenie Caribbean Cask

  • Age 14 years
  • Price £43
  • ABV 43%
  • Finished in caribbean rum casks

Nose: Honey and golden syrup, banana chips (the sugary ones), a hint of coconut, granola and hob nobs. Hazelnut.

Palate: Banana chips, hob nobs and flapjacks with golden syrup and chopped nuts.

Finish: Lots of golden syrup, nutty hob nobs and a hint of banana chips.

Verdict: This was my favourite Balvenie and I had a couple of drams in a whisky bar later in the week. One I shall be picking up I think.

The Balvenie Doublwood 17 years

  • Price £70
  • ABV 43%

Nose: Green apple, prune and raisin. Sherry comes through with cinnamon spice and a peppery note.

Palate: Peppery sweet, toffee and honey.

Finish: Toffee and caramel with peppery oak then a toffee vanilla fade.

Verdict: It’s a nice dram and there is nothing wrong with it. But I prefer the 12 year old version and so I wouldn’t spend the extra £40 on this.

The Balvenie Portwood 21

  • ABV 40%
  • Price £80

Nose: Marzipan, dark muscavado honey, juicy dark fruits.

Palate: Sweet, rich, peppery oak and treacle toffee.

Finish: Very drying oak with red wine, blackcurrant and jammy sugars.

Verdict: Excellent stuff but I actually prefer the caribbean cask.

Balvenie 1974 Bourbon cask (taken from the cask whilst there).

Nose: Honey, vanilla, citrus, lemon pith, rose water, peat smoke and lots of oak. This just gets woodier as it warms up.

Palate: Icing sugar, vanilla, honey and wood.

Finish: Very drying oak, woody with a touch of smoke.

Verdict: Since you can’t buy this, there is not much point in my saying whether I would buy it or not.

Overall verdict: A really excellent tour. So much happened and it lasted for about 3-3.5 hours! Loved the maltings and the cooperage and the part in the warehouse. We also got a thorough tasting and were made to feel throughout like guests of the distillery, not tourists. The most professional tour I’ve done and value for money at £25!