Feb 162015
 

This post completes the current Aultmore trilogy, as the future holds a release of a 30 and a 35 year old expressions. To this point, we have explored the Aultmore 12 (and loved it), and the travel retail exclusive 21 year old (and was less than blown away), which brings us to the 25 year old.

Photo Credit: GEOGRAPH.ORG.UK

Photo Credit: GEOGRAPH.ORG.UK

The distillrey was established by Alexander Edward (owner of the Benrinnes, Craigellachie and Oban distilleries) in 1897, just in time for the big whisky bust years, and being partially owned by the Pattison brothers, it promptly closed until 1904, then stopped production during World War I due to barley shortages. The distillery didn’t really make it back on its feet until its 1923 purchase by Dewar’s, bringing it into the DCL fold in 1925.

In 1971 Aultmore was expanded and capacity doubled with the installation of 2 new stills, currently producing at full capacity making 3,000,000 litres of spirit per year, the vast majority of it going into Dewar’s blends. There were only three official bottling: A Flora and Fauna 12 released in 1991, a Rare Malt Selection 21 year old cask strength release in 1996 and an official 12 year old released in 2004 that just disappeared off the markets at some point (some digging brought up this picture).

The current release of a full core range is part of Bacardi’s very recent push into the single malt market with the “Last Great Malts” series bottling full core ranges from the Dewar’s distillery portfolio. Craigellachie came out in 2014 with a 13, 17, 19, 23 and 31 year old series, Aultmore with a 12, 21, 25 and in the future adding a 30 and 35 year old with Royal Brackla and Macduff (The Deveron) to the offerings in 2015.

There is one issue with this series which I have addressed in my review of the Craigellachie 23 – pricing. Bar none, this series was priced at the very top of their age classes (with the Craigellachie 23 even overreaching the class), and the Aultmore isn’t different. The 25 year old is priced at £296, compared to Glenfarclas’ £117, Glenlivet’s £199, Glengoyne’s £235 and Bunnahabhain’s XXV at £218, all of whom are better whiskys (in this writer’s humble opinion and with any other applicable disclaimer inserted here 🙂 ).

Photo Credit: whiskyshop.com

Photo Credit: whiskyshop.com

Aultmore 25 Year Old (46% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Gold, thin legs with liquid residue left on glass.

Nose: Deep clean honey, floral notes, dusty spices and a hint of that clean coal fire I detected in the 21 year old. There’s citrus, but less lemony than the 21 and some orange showing up in the sweetness.

Palate: Sweetness first as it runs on the tongue, then the spices hit followed by the very zesty citrus. A mature freshness is to be found in this bottle, with a full bodied yet light mouth feel.

Linger: Honey, light bitterness, a lingering sweetness with spice in the back of the throat. After some time, the very long finish produces green apples once the spices abate. This expression has an excellent finish!

Conclusion

Putting the price issue aside, the extra four years deliver a dram which has matured into a more interesting dram than the 21, and has a little more of what made the 12 a great tipple in it. Nevertheless, I like the 12 better, so I won’t even go into the value for money aspect, which is self evident.

 

Feb 142015
 

This is a milestone post for Malt and Oak, as today’s post is our 200th. I did a year in numbers post on December 31st, so I’ll spare you the numbers recap, but will take this opportunity to thank you for your readership, feedback and engagement!!

Photo Credit: almightydad.com/

Photo Credit: almightydad.com/

On to the whisky now….I’m tasting the new Bacardi “Last Great Malts” Aultmore releases. My (very positive) review of the 12 year old appeared within the series on entry level malts, and can be found here. Having completed that series, I’ll explore the other two Aultmore expressions, the travel retail 21 year old and the 25 year old, with a 30 and 35 year old expressions planned for the future.

Photo Credit: whisky-discovery.blogspot.com

Photo Credit: whisky-discovery.blogspot.com

Like the Craigellachie expressions, the official bottlings are ex bourbon cask matured. On the one hand, this allows the spirit to really shine through, on the other hand, with the younger Craigellachie expression, this choice was to the detriment of the whisky. With Aultmore it isn’t, and the 12 year old is actually a wonderfully complex and fresh whisky, and one that will make its way to my own cabinet. And here’s where the 21 year old came up short: On the one hand, it lacks the endearing freshness of the 12, and on the other hand, it has not truly developed a character of its own. I haven’t yet had the 25 (I’ll get to it over the weekend), so I can’t make the comparison to it yet, but the 12 year old is the better of the two, and if you factor in value for money considerations, is a walkaway winner.

Aultmore 21 Year Old, Batch 107 (46% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Gold, slow forming slim legs.

Nose: Honey, light spices, wet moss, a sour note, lemon (but not a clean lemon scent), lightly vegetal note and a curious coal fire note. A few drops of water tease out more of the toasted/coal scent.

Palate: Lemony citrus, dusty spice, some sweetness and then a light note of bitter citrus comes through.

Linger: Sweet lemon, very spicy in the back of the throat and a tartness on the inside of the cheeks. A sensation remains in the mouth for a while (a warmness and a tartness) but almost no discernible flavors.

Conclusion

On the one hand, the 21 lacks the delightful freshness of the 12 and on the other hand has not developed any type of gravitas from being older. So in one word, this is a disappointment. It also explains why there’s not 15 or 18 year old in the range – there’s simply nothing going on there…

I don’t know how much it costs, but given the pricing the 12 year old and the Craigellachie range, it’s surely priced well beyond its value.

 

 

 

 

Jan 292015
 

As I mentioned in my reviews of the Craigellachie releases of the “Last Great Malts” series (you can see the reviews of the 13, 17, 19 and 23 here), Bacardi decided to take the Dewar’s malt distilleries to market. Craigellachie was first, with ex bourbon cask releases, and if you’re thinking of the Craigellachie 13 as another entry level expression, stop right there! It’s not! The Craigellachie 13 is for much more experienced palates than any of the other entry level expressions. The second series released it the Aultmore with three expressions (the 12, 21 for travel retail and the 25 with a 30 year old planned for a later stage), with Macduff (AKA The Deveron) and Royal Brackla to follow later this year.

Photo Credit: potstill.org

Photo Credit: potstill.org

Unlike the Craigellachie, the Aultmore 12 is a definitely a good entry level whisky, and is suitable both for new and experienced palates alike. I will say, as I have about the Craigellachie, that having it in an ex bourbon cask is very different than most of the independent expressions that were prevalent until the official bottling (many of you probably remember the Aultmore XO story), and it’s a nice experience. I do have samples of the Aultmore 21 and 25, and will get those reviews (with more information about the distillery and Bacardi’s marketing strategy) up right after the series on entry level expressions runs its course.

Photo Credit: thewhiskyexchange.com

Photo Credit: thewhiskyexchange.com

Aultmore 12 (46% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Pale straw, thin and slow legs.

Nose: Honey, vanilla, green leaves, lemon, annona fruit. There’s an underlying dusty sweetness with a fresh note I haven’t come across too often. Time in a covered glass brings out a touch of sourness on the nose which dissipates quickly.

Palate: Sweet honey and a light pepperyness that teases the center of the tongue with a fizz like tickle.

Linger: Sweet on the tongue, bitter on the sides and spicy in the throat in an extremely long and satisfying linger.

Conclusion

This is one of the better 12 year olds on the market today, fully on par to compete with the Bunnahabhain 12 for the top spot in the sixth grade!! No doubt, this bottle will be migrating into my whisky cabinet in my next order.

I am a little concerned with the pricing point chosen for it by Bacardi in the UK (£42-£54). The corrcet pricing reference is, as I said, the Bunnahabhain 12 (~£35), but can be found in The Netherlands for €42.

Dec 042014
 

Before I get to the whisky itself, which is really good, although I liked the 17 better, I have to say something about pricing. Back in August, when the range was announced, I thought these new expressions, in the “Last Great Malts” series bringing the Dewar’s distilleries single malts to market were the biggest news of the year.

By the way, the PR guys did a great job with this short film:

Then the pricing for the Craigellachie range was announced. The 13 and 17 were priced relatively high in their price brackets, £40 and £80, respectively,  but not prohibitively so. As I mentioned in their respective reviews (you can find the 13 here and the 17 here), the merit of the whisky can be debated vis-à-vis the value it offers. My own conclusions were that the 13 did not offer a good value, but the 17 did. The price of the 23 just took everybody’s breath away. £330!! After everybody’s eyes stopped watering, our reaction was that this must be some mistake. The fabulous Glengoyne 25 which I reviewed last week, is only £232, and even there you’ll hear people grumbling about VFM. It has to be a mistake.

Only it wasn’t. UK stores actually charge £330 for this expression. We all filed it under the “crazy but true stories of whisky” and thought no bottle will ever sell. Then the bottles started to surface in continental stores (in Germany and the Netherlands) at a very reasonable €160. Inquiries were made, bottles were bought (including a couple that made their way to Israel) and some sense had to be made in this chaos.

My friend and colleague Yoav, proprietor of the Whisky Gospel blog, made extensive inquires with Bacradi executives, drink distributors and stores and came up with one conclusion: The European bottles were a parallel import, not official Bacardi distribution, and Bacardi has every intention of keeping the official pricing high. As Stephen Marshal, Bacardi Global Marketing Manager for Whisky (you can see him in the video, BTW) told Yoav: “We’re not responsible for retailer pricing, it’s entirely up to them”. Come on, Stephen, If Bacardi sold it to stores for £100 a bottle, instead of £220-£250, consumers would pay £150, not £330. You can find Yoav’s full rant here.

The bottom line is this. It’s very good whisky, worth €160. It’s nowhere in the range of £330 (€420). Not even close!

Let’s take a look at the whisky itself:

Craigellachie 23 Year Old (46% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Deep gold, thin legs with a ring of droplets.

Nose: Honey and open fields, freshly cut leaves, star licorice, coconut jelly beans, wood, Black Tabac aftershave lotion, pound cake. After some time you get those sour notes so prevalent in the series.

Palate: Coconut, honey, spices (cinnamon and faint nutmeg), saccharin, wood and citrus bitterness. The whisky is mouth filling and chewy.

Linger: The signature sour notes come through in the finish with some honey sweetness on the tongue. The linger isn’t overly long.

Conclusion

Well crafted, interesting and fresh, this expression definitely merits a return.

I did like the 17 better, as it’s as rich in aromas and flavors and has a better finish (and has a good VFM), but the 23 is really good whisky. Whisky that was priced so far out of its class, that made it completely irrelevant as anything other than a curiosity, which is a shame, because it’s really, really drinkable.

I can also tell you that this pricing fiasco has taken all the fun out of waiting for The Deveron, Aultmore and Royal Brackla, due out in 2015. One can only hope that in setting the prices for the rest of  “Last Great Malts” Einstein’s words about sanity and madness will be observed. In his words, insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Dec 032014
 

Age does not denote quality in whisky. Don’t take this as a statement of support of NAS, as I’m pretty vocal about my opposition to the practice. Not because it’s necessarily bad whisky, but because the consumer has a right to know all there is to know about the whisky he buys. Young whisky can be great, but tell us about it. If you need proof, just look at Kilchoman who successfully sell three to five year old whisky for £70 a bottle.

Photo Credit: www.britainfromabove.org.uk

Photo Credit: www.britainfromabove.org.uk

In our case, the 19 year old Craigellachie is a step back from the 17 and is a close relation of the 13 retaining the sour and vegetal notes. While not surprising, given the distillery character, I’d expect more from an expression priced at €120.

Craigellachie 19 Year Old (46% ABV, NCF, NC)

Appearance: Gold with thin legs and lots of residue droplets.

Nose: Somewhat sour at first, the warm honey and vanilla are found right under the sourness. Retaining the sour nose, there are floral notes and a baking lemon meringue. There is a vegetal note of crushed leaves.

Palate: Citrus spice and open meadows with a sour note throughout.

Linger: The sourness is long on the sides of the tongue, where the center has a sweet spice and artificial sweetener notes.

Conclusion

Pretty similar to the 13, which can be had for less than half the price, this expression is superfluous in the range. It’s a step back from the 17 and not in the direction of the 23.