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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.