Isn’t it rewarding to be seen as a human being than a mere number and opportunity to make a profit?

There’s something to be said for good customer service and supporting local. 2020 has underlined this to many of us, although when I venture up to the local crazy golf site – don’t fear I’m not about to take up another interest – for a bite to eat from the local food trucks on-site, I drive pass KFC and Starbucks. The cars spill out onto the road, queuing for another slice or cup of corporate fare. Yet, just a few more turns and you’ll be faced by a spectrum of local businesses, offering tastier, healthier and better-priced cuisine. These trucks also use local sources for their ingredients as well, which completes the circle of goodness.

Standing in line, waiting for my latest hit of haggis, I often wonder what brought the owners to this point. The shove from the corporate world, the ending of furlough or the realisation that this is the moment to seize? There’s been an explosion in trucks, fast food, eating outlets etc. Propelled by the nightmare that we’re all recently endured. Many of us are finding solace in the bottom of a recyclable food container, or for some, a bottle of whisky.

I’m fortunate to have whisky shops in my vicinity that are independent and rely on offering good choice with knowledge and service. Current restrictions mean that I cannot venture over the glorious bridges to Edinburgh and the shining light of Cadenhead’s. That is a loss, but I can rely upon staples such as Luvians and today’s destination in Abbey Whisky, to provide my whisky fix.

We’ve followed Abbey Whisky for some time now and have been impressed by the general standard of their exclusives. Today, we’re checking out their latest offerings from the unique prospect of a bourbon cask matured Tamdhu, to a mysterious 20 year old from a Highland distillery and your staple sherried Glenallachie; a common feature on many shop menus today. Here’s hoping this cask offers something different and generally, Mike does pick well. Rounding off our tour of their wares is a single cask Daftmill, now sadly sold out and potentially like so many set to appear at auction. All these folk chasing the new Ardbeg 25 year at £710, I wonder if that’s really to open and enjoy or pure speculation? The release isn’t a single cask and Ardbeg are being as vague as ever on details. All we know is that more batches will follow, so expect a stampede to sell first. Whisky sadly isn’t about whisky anymore and that’s a sad state of affairs to me.

Abbey Whisky Anon. Batch 4 – Jason’s review

This is a 20 year old whisky, from Clynelish, bottled at 52.5% with 144 bottles produced. This retails for £165.

Colour: lemonade.

On the nose: creamy vanilla, white pepper and lemon. Coarse in places and somewhat interesting, royal icing, camphor and some woody elements. A floral heather and orange. A dash of water reveals tablet, old newspapers and lime.

In the mouth: juicy pears, apples and it is quite pleasant. Waxy on the finish, of course. Clementines, olives and a gentle and refined vibe. Water does bring benefits with honey, tree sap, orange, fudge, wine gums and citrus.

Score: 7/10

Abbey Whisky Anon. Batch 4 – Mark’s review

Colour: pale gold.

On the nose: Oof, now that’s some lovely funkiness to begin with. Yeasty, husky, quite voluptuous in cereal realm. Tangerines, hay barns, very rural and agricultural, and I mean that in a good way.

In the mouth: more cereal notes, but really very rounded, very pleasing. Whereas below the Daftmill feels a blunt spirit – some prefer that sort of thing – this spirit is good indeed; nicely textured, chewy, bit of finesse. Carries the huskiness, malted milk biscuits, milk chocolate, floral honey and vanilla. A Springtime whisky. Lots to like about this – a lot of character. I’d agree with Jason’s thoughts above.

Abbey Whisky Daftmill – Jason’s review

This unsurprisingly has sold out, but I had heard in advance just how good this cask pick was meant to be.

Colour: gold.

On the nose: a classic Daftmill nose with the soft meadow fruits all singing in harmony with the cask. Vanilla marshmallows, lime zest, apple strudel and a sprinkling of cinnamon. Creamy, some yeast and polystyrene but its the vibrant and freshly scraped vanilla that lures you in.

In the mouth: again, classic Daftmill. All those fruits are present with the backbone of vanilla and caramel. Sappiness, liquorice, grapefruit and nougat. Zesty in places and some lemon cheesecake. I should have added water but I was enjoying it too much, as it seems just right.

Score: 9/10

 

Abbey Whisky Daftmill – Mark’s Review

Colour: old gold.

On the nose: quite an abrasive solvent note at first – nail polish remover, there still after water; hints at something off within the distillate (which is something I’ve experienced before with Daftmill). That mellows and allows for some quite pleasing fruits to manifest, but very gentle and green, warm lemonade, lime marmalade, pears in syrup.

In the mouth: much better than the nose, but still has that slightly off note in the distillate that I can’t quite escape. Simple vanilla, soured fruits; hints of industrial notes that put me in mood of Springbanks, but not quite as rounded. Barley sugar, peaches, green tea and tobacco with pleasing finish of cloves.

I remain unconvinced about the underlying qualities of Daftmill spirit from those I’ve tasted, but as ever with Mike at Abbey Whisky, a decent cask selection. I don’t do scores, but – on flavour alone – I can’t recommend this one. Not that, I suspect, this will be purchased for flavour – such is the industry today.

 

 

Abbey Whisky Glenallachie 2008 – Jason’s review

This 12 year old is matured in a PX Puncheon (#667), bottled at 56.9% with an outturn of 687 bottles. This is still available for £90.

Colour: cinder toffee.

On the nose: woody at first, then chocolate, raspberry and cherrywood. Blackberries, peppercorns with dried fruit and basil leaf. Bashed mint, jammy, new crayons, honey and walnuts. Water unlocks orange peel.

In the mouth: chocolate raisins, cherrywood, cherry menthol and ultimately not as detailed – lets try water. Now we have lemon, some bitterness, crisp apples and figs. Still not many layers, but more enjoyable.

Score: 7/10

 

Abbey Whisky Glenallachie 2008 – Mark’s review

Colour: burnt umber – quite ridiculous.

On the nose: plummy, damson chutney, muscovado sugar, straying into balsamic vinegar territory. Looks like it too. Hints of pine needles, and a pleasing toasted nuttiness. Dates, sultanas but it’s all quite tightly bound together. A splash of water dims the effect.

In the mouth: that curious pine note comes through as mint, and with an interesting cherry note – I see Jason has identified the exact same cherry menthol note, but it rather made me think of a mouthwash at first! Not in a derogatory way. Only a slight woodiness beginning to show (chosen at the right time), with slightly tart damson chutney, bitter chocolate, coffee and brazil nuts. Not quite the sweet sherry bomb one might expect, and it’s all the better for it. Good fun.

 

Abbey Whisky Tamdhu 2008 – Jason’s review

This 12 year old is matured in a ex-bourbon hogshead, bottled at 62.2% with an outturn of 126 bottles. This is available for £62.50.

Colour: olive oil.

On the nose: wine gums, fresh wood and a squeeze of lime. Pink lady apple, orange and an old fashioned lemonade. So, refreshing, then caramel, almonds and a splash of water unlocks grapefruit.

In the mouth: sweety and sugary, quite spirit-driven with pinewood, lime, a sandy aspect and vanilla. Water unlocks toffee and citrus elements.

Score: 6/10

Abbey Whisky Tamdhu 2008 – Mark’s review

Colour: pale straw.

On the nose:  citrus, lots of lemonade notes, kiwi fruits, quite light and very fresh. Some light olive oil, dried hops, grassy with some green apples. Quite simple, if honest, but pleasing.

In the mouth: a nice rounded spirit, but I’m not getting a huge influence from oak. Fizzy sweets, lime cordial, elderflower, with some baked apples, cinnamon notes. Creamy rice pudding with a touch of blackcurrant tartness. For me, the weakest of the bunch, but still certainly a bit of fun for the price.

Jason’s Conclusions

Let’s tackle this in order starting with the mysterious Anon. A whisky that isn’t immediate or full of bravado as you might expect. I feel this one would warrant a question mark if I was considering purchasing it. Part of me believes the cask has gone a little too far in places. A mysterious whisky in terms of origin, name and also it seems, personality. So, quite apt overall and one for more experienced palates.

That Daftmill, I’ve been fortunate to have had a few. Leading Mark to suggest I’m an unofficial brand ambassador for Fife’s greatest distilling exponent. Sadly, that’s far from the case and there have been a few bumps in the road for those able to try more than one expression. This is the best single cask that I’ve experienced from the distillery. A sublime pick. And as much as I loved the Taiwan single cask release; this Abbey Whisky pick is a step above.

I’m not a huge fan of Glenallachie and the what I’ve dubbed, Walker-taint, their house style as it were with the use of sherry casks to add a flourish and boost sales with darkly coloured bottlings. So, on paper, I wasn’t looking forward to this one as they can be harsh and disappointing. And single cask releases are like bunnies in mating season. However, all things said, this one is much better than expected. I don’t think Glenallachie is at a point where a 12 year old can command £90, but you have other distilleries bottling 3 year old whiskies for the same price or thereabouts. It is a mad world and despite this, if you love Glenallchie and PX, this one is for you.

The Tamdhu gives us a taste of the distillery without the sherry influence. The cask has a leisurely influence here. There’s still a strong spirit character and a release from this distillery that you don’t see too much of nowadays. All round, I think it is a good deal and a new experience for some out there.

In summary, another strong selection of exclusive casks from Mike at Abbey Whisky and well worth your consideration.

 

Mark’s (Quick) Conclusions

Caveats galore, we like Mike and Abbey Whisky and what we have here is another diverse cask selection, something that every drinker will find interesting. And that’s the hard thing to achieve today: so many single casks are on the market as it’s a very simple way for a brand to give something for everyone – although selling a little too much of themselves in the process?  Anyway, there’s an awful lot of single casks about, so it’s hard to show something truly interesting. That’s what Mike always, always, seems to do: find the interesting ones. You might not always agree it’s a belter (for me, the Daftmill, but that’s because my tastes don’t quite suit the spirit from those I’ve tried) but you’ll be glad you tried them.

So in short, an awful lot to enjoy here.

Images and samples kindly provided by Abbey Whisky. We also have some commission links above if you wish to support Malt.

CategoriesSingle Malt
  1. Avatar
    The Ian says:

    Always fascinating to see vastly different tasting notes for the same whisky – especially in the case of the Daftmill portion of the review (a whisky I most likely will never have the fortune to taste, but it’s fun living vicariously through reviews.)

    Keep at it!

    -The Ian

    1. Jason
      Jason says:

      Hi Ian

      Thanks, yeah a shame about the rarity of Daftmill which seems to know no end, or for many new releases nowadays. It is damn good and it’s a shame that it’ll be the domain of the rich and collectors now. Mike of Abbey did try his best with the ballot system etc. It’s not a £500 whisky (or whatever it is fetching now) and even Francis at the distillery would likely tell you that!

      Cheers, Jason.

  2. Avatar
    bifter says:

    Thanks for reviewing these, I was curious about the Anon and the Tamdhu. Unfortunately I wasn’t successful in the Daftmill ballot. Whether or not ballots are fairer (and, although I’ve had mixed fortunes, I think they probably are on the whole) they take all the stress out of things!

    Regarding the secondary market, I guess you’ll be familiar with Rare Whiskies 101 annual reviews? They highlight that by some measures whisky, as an asset, has outperformed Brent crude, gold, the FTSE 100 and even Diageo shares. I guess it’s the way of the world that this kind of opportunity attracts attention and speculation, those who ‘know the price of everything and the value of nothing’.

    We’ve seen this trend before with everything from gig/sports tickets to debentures and even the recent Playstation 5 launch, where some people were able to accrue huge stashes of games consoles to sell at twice the RRP. My nephew is quite keen on trainers and it seems a similar situation has arisen in the secondary market for sneakers:

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-49283059

    It may be simplistic to blame those who are taking advantage though. In whisky, the secondary market is fickle. You need to be knowledgeable to make money, which pre-supposes most actually enjoy whisky. Some may be doing it on an industrial scale purely for an income but others may simply be investing to be able to drink whiskies they couldn’t otherwise afford.

    I think producers have been quick to attend to a perceived demand for limited releases/special editions and to drive up prices to swipe some of the secondary market value for themselves. Even distributors have even been caught with their pants down, such are the temptations on offer. And international demand has been driven by aggressive marketing campaigns in new markets. Let’s be honest, if Diageo, for example, are happy to close a 200 year old bottling plant for marginal efficiencies and offshore profits to low tax jurisdictions such as the Netherlands, it’s fair to deduce that they only make the product in Scotland because it’s the law and they have no interest in their low-end home market, which long ago became saturated. Is it cynical to imagine that producers see gain in creating/manipulating new markets and high RoI in the premium sector, cosy relationships with social media promoters/’reviewers’, etc?

    I agree it’s not an ideal state of affairs but it’s difficult to know who to blame or what the answers are. And whisky can’t be viewed in isolation, this affects many premium sectors today.

    1. Jason
      Jason says:

      Hi Bifter

      Good comment as always, and yes this behaviour has become apparent across a variety of consumer items.

      Whisky does seem the fashionable exponent right now. Assisted by all those wonderful online guides and companies looking to help you build a portfolio.

      I believe we have varying degrees of experience when it comes to the secondary market. People chase the names. That’s their mistake, as the whisky is key and I sometimes see modern-day bottles which are very inferior compared to old whiskies, selling for much more.

      You also see bottles at an auction where you do wonder why it was purchased to sell-on. Some lots just don’t make sense. There is a segment where it has become their second income and they must live online. Last week’s Springbanks being a good example.

      You’re correct in those cosy relationships with reviewers etc. Something you see all the time. The drama of an influencer not invited to the latest tasting or online launch is hilarious. These paid for campaigns on IG, at least they are now being more visible (progress at last) and as such, I just move on. I’ve knocked them back in the past and will continue to do so. There’s no point reading what they are saying because they’ve been bought. Not our gig, but I do appreciate those that do want to work with Malt because they appreciate it has a value others cannot offer.

      Cheers, Jason.

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