Whilst having a bit of a clear-out, I came across a dusty bag of empty sample bottles, virtually all from a Drinks By The Dram order I made in February 2014. I subsequently soaked the labels off to reuse the bottles but thought I’d share what I was interested in at the time whilst highlighting what was available at what price and how I rated them.
Unsure how to use & reluctant to embrace the 100 point scale, I scored things differently back then and regularly offered an SWMS-style headline for most whiskies I tried. In alphabetical & categorical order:
- Arran 1996/2012 15yo Ob. Sherry cask #1968 [btl #124/263] 53.9% WB89.74
This first [Arran] sample turned out to be a cracker and I bought two bottles as a result. I scored it an A- [around 90 points], in 2014. I have since recently re-reviewed it [WLP91]. [£5.84 at the time, for 3cl]
- Balvenie 12yo Ob. Single Barrel First Fill Bourbon Cask #12742 47.8% WB86.89 ‘Wonderfully balanced Speysider’. I scored it a B+ [around 88-89]. [£4.68]
- Caol Ila ‘Unpeated Stitchell Reserve’  Ob. ‘Special Release’ 59.6% WB86.31 ‘Vigourous’. Scored a B . [£6.34]
- Caol Ila 1982 30yo SV Cask #6493 54.3% WB89.38 ‘A Treasure Hunt Dram’. I loved this, scoring it an A [well into the 90’s]. [£10.42]
- Caol Ila 18yo  Ob. 43% WB86.30 [WF]87 WM85 Ralfy88 WLP86 ‘Lacklustre’. I scored it a B-  in 2014. [£5.74]
This Caol Ila I’m just about to re-review. ‘Lacklustre’ [yet very decent], pretty much covers it five years on. However I also re-reviewed it in 2018  and in 2017 , so it or I, or both it & I fluctuate.
- Dailuaine 1997/2013 15yo MoM cask #15562 [282 bts] 55.7% WB88 ‘Limes and lemons’. This I scored a B [around 87] and likened it to my notes for Balblair’s 1983 vintage which was first released in 2013. [£4.81 or £60 for a bottle].
- Glen Garioch 1990 23yo SV cask #2762 49.9% WB86.47. Scored a C [around 82-83]. [£6.15]
- Glen Garioch 12yo  Ob. 48% I like Glen Garioch and scored this around 86-87. I must re-review this at some point. [£4.19]
- Glen Keith  TBWC Batch 1 51.2% WB86.95. Scored a C [around 82-83]. [£4.83]
- Lagavulin 16yo  Ob. 43% WB87.51 WM85’12. In 2014, Serge gave it 90. Last time I tried this was in 2017 [89 points]. In 2014 I had it around 87. [£4.71]
Five years ago you could get hold of a fair number of MoM samples from virtually all of the closed distilleries, including Port Ellen. Prices already appeared fairly crazy back then but I felt it was a now-or-never situation and shelled out. I’m pleased I did.
- Port Ellen 1982/2012 30yo DL Platinum 53.1% WB90.41. I scored it an A [around 91-92]. Even now, the price of £37.54 for a 3cl sample [at the time] seems high, but worth it for the experience.
Also in the empty samples bag were three more Port Ellen from whiskysample.nl, who’s prices were [and still are], far more reasonable and sample sizes larger. I really got to know Port Ellen around this time and really fell for its whisky. Brora samples were, even then, far rarer.
- Port Ellen 1982/2006 24yo Chieftan’s Choice Cask #1519 59.4% WB91.91 Scored around 88. [€20]
- Port Ellen 1982/2011 28yo Old Bothwell cask #2852 63.1% WB87.76 Also around 88 points. [€22]
- Port Ellen 1979/2005 25yo cask #DL1344 50% WB90.12 ‘Never-ending story’. This one scored well into the 90’s.
Around 2014, this was possibly my first contact with Tomatin and Tomintoul:
- Tomatin 18yo  Ob. 46% WB84.38 WF85 WM83 Bible ’15: 92.5. Around 87 points [£4.92]
- Tomatin 1990/2011 21yo DL OMC 50% WB85.75 ‘A long photo finish’ 85 points [£6.47]. A bottle is still available today at €109 [from laboutiqueduchemin].
- Tomintoul 14yo  Ob. 46% WB82.77. I scored this high at around 88 points [£4.27]
- Tomintoul 33yo  Ob. 43% WB86.45 ‘A feeling of calm and inner peace’ [£10.17]. Also around 88 points
There was a lot of noise in the press about this blended malt. I noted at the time:
- MacKinlay’s Shackleton Rare Old malt ‘The Discovery’ 47.3% WB85.27 [£7.81]. I scored it 87, commenting ‘The nose is a winner!’.
‘According to Richard Paterson, although they weren’t totally frozen, it took ten weeks to fully defrost the discovered bottles. After lengthy negotiations at government level, Richard received three bottles, flown direct from NZ to Scotland by a private jet owned by the Kingfisher beer company. Richard professes that the replication is almost identical to the original Mackinlay 15yo. Twenty eight single malts were used to create the Shackleton blend, including a Glen Mhor [not Glenmore] cask #907 that shared the same distillation year as the original bottles‘.
- Port Dundas 1990/2011 20yo Ob. Limited Release [1920 bts] 57.4% WB86.99 Scored 87 [£8.72]
I’d eagerly wanted to try this one for a while and ultimately, own a bottle. Colin Dunn raves about it even to this day. When the bottle price begun rising beyond £100 I gave it up. It’s now around £200+ on the secondary market. £8.72 for a 3cl sample [at the time] seemed high.
To another, much older grain sample that seemed very reasonably priced at £10.50.
- Girvan 1965 47yo Clan Denny [Cask DL9487] 48.2% WB86. The price may have looked great in comparison to the far younger Port Dundas, but I scored it under 80.
The last three samples in the bag were ‘world’ whiskies. The first one really divides opinion. I loved it back in 2014, but it’s been some time since I revisited it.
- Balcones Brimstone Corn whisky  Ob. 53% WB81.23 WF85. Scored around 88 points [£5.27].
- Balcones True Blue  Ob. 100 Proof 50% I scored this less than 80 points [£5.32]
- Discovery Road ‘Smile’ 7yo Ob. Dutch 100% Rye [Small batch] 46% WB0 MoM. Scored around 83-84. [£5.52]
And there we have it. All my early-work notes for these whiskies can be found via the WB links.
Next time, I’m bottle polishing an Islay trio!