Miniature Killer #1

Friday, January 01, 2016


This feature is dedicated to the miniatures we all have sitting around, gathering dust and slow evaporating. More than most, I have too many of these vessels sitting idle.

Some are gifts from relatives or friends whilst others are part of a job lot where I was just focused on a single miniature. And the remainder are samples I've been given that I just haven't managed to squeeze into a vertical or themed article on Whisky Rover. So you can expect a real mixed bag including those pictured above!

Glenmark Blended Finest Scotch Whisky
100% choice whiskies, 43% vol
bottled by Duncan, Gilbey & Matheson International

Colour: golden syrup

Nose: very sweet with butterscotch, caramel, vanilla, crispy batter, ground coffee and milk chocolate

Taste: well that's better than I expected. A decent proportion of malt in here I suspect. Well blended. Raisins, cinnamon, Highland toffee, more chocolate and more golden syrup. Ticks the boxes for a blend at this level. 

Overall: this company was based in London and were blenders and exporters with Glenmark being their only recorded whisky of note. There is a Zambian company today of the same name involved in producing spirits in general. The UK variant was dissolved in the 1970's. I don't know if there is any linkage but its a small world nowadays.

Glen Grant 1988 SMWS 9.90
Bottled 26 years old, 55.1% vol, outturn 583 bottles, refill ex-sherry butt

Colour: surprisingly pale like mass produced runny honey

Nose: an overpowering aroma of wet wood initially. Given time white chalk, icing sugar and coconut arrive with wine wine vinegar. More patience and sticking on an LP; pineapple and caramel finally arrive late to the party. Hopefully it tastes better than it smells...  

Taste: unfortunately it's not the case. Wishy washy? I generally love sherried Glen Grant's such as this one right here, but something has gone badly wrong here. More cereals than anything else with drop scones, jumbo oats and corn flakes. A very geriatric cask. 

Overall: this Scotch Malt Whisky Society bottling (in the UK at least) was one of the well priced releases exclusively available to members renewing their membership in 2015. I was given this sample by the Rosebank collector and now I realise why it was so cheap to members after subscribing again!

Royal Mile Whiskies 40 Year Old malt blend
a vatting of 3 sherry casks from Tamdhu, Macallan and Glenrothes
40% vol, edition of 337 bottles, no chill filtration

Colour: brandy snaps

Nose: rum and raisin fudge, dark chocolate, old ginger, Coca Cola with more cinnamon and glove. Treacle and a little Lapsang Souchong to finish.

Taste: some initial complexity with a liquidised Christmas cake. Walnuts and gingerbread cake provide a homely feel. Avoid water as the fragile limitations are exposed and most characteristics are lost even with a slight addition.

Overall: this whisky has been the source of much debate amongst friends. Why when faced with 3 such aged casks does this vatting seem a viable option? Perhaps the Macallan was understrength, however for me it's about what the final product delivers.

Its slightly weak at 40%, with at least 43% being an improvement. The information suggests its bottled at natural strength so we're really on the cusp here of what we can call whisky. Of course any strength increase (if possible) would have resulted in the bottle price going beyond £200. The price point has attracted great interest alongside the age statement. Upon tasting, I've had better whiskies for less so do yourself a favour and save a few quid. For once age isn't everything. 

Glenmorangie Port Wood Finish
43% vol, no longer available replaced by Quinta Ruban

Colour: pale gold

Nose: rolled tobacco, dried cranberries, strawberries, nutmeg, green olives, tinned peaches and black pepper. Pleasant enough but nothing captivating.

Taste: perfectly drinkable but you're left with a hybrid of a traditional Glenmorangie and port whisky. Neither really taking the lead with caramel, almonds, rose petals, ginger biscuits and cranberries once again. It all feels a little muted and stranded. I do like the luxurious texture and it's better than today's Quinta Ruban.

Overall: regulars will know I'm not a fan of cask acing which is often used with such short finishes. A whisky maturated in a port cask for its entire lifestyle after distillation and prior to bottling is a marvellous thing. Of course Glenmorangie were early innovators regarding cask finishes and this feels like an entry level malt, or showcase for cask finishing.

The Balvenie Warehouse No.24
61.7% vol, 1st fill sherry butt, distilled 2001, bottled by Linh 29/6/15

Colour: stewed Scottish breakfast blend tea

Nose: right up its cinnamon and oregano. Then cinder toffee, dark chocolate, an Oxo cube, flat Cola and wet leather. 

Taste: rum and raisin chocolate snacks, chestnuts, vanilla pod, a slight char and the soft, soothing flavour of leather after running your tongue down a leather strap.

Overall: the nose initially felt timid and shy. A bit like Linh who bottled this at the Balvenie distillery. Given a little time and the character comes to life and impresses. Surprisingly its not a sherry monster even from a 1st fill unlike another dram on this article. Perfectly drinkable at cask strength, refined and modest. I'd be happy to bottle this myself.

Bell's Old Scotch Whisky
Extra special, 40% vol, official bottling

Colour: golden wheat

Nose: very inoffensive this offering. Malted milk biscuits, caramel and some fudge. White pepper and wet cardboard.

Taste: lots of honey, almonds and vanilla. A little ginger and lemon sharpness. A lingering finish which is the best aspect but an amazingly dull experience. One for the tumbler or cocktail mixing dynamic.

Overall: I seem to have a couple of these Bell's miniatures from purchasing job lots. I believe this example is from the late 80's or early 90's. Some enthusiasts may moan about the Bell's decanters that litter auctions, but they play host to a tasty whisky - but do suffer from evaporation and seal issues as you can read here.

Dufftown Glenlivet Pure Malt Scotch Whisky
8 years old, bottled in the 1970's, 43% vol

Colour: a neutral tan

Nose: quite off-putting initially there's something here that doesn't smell right going through me like a pavement saw a slight wine-tea hybrid. Pressing on we have some orange pips, a little varnish, apricot jam and crushed walnuts. 

Taste: it has that old-school taste for sure with melted butterscotch, a hint of smoke and a higher strength would have been beneficial. More apricots, toasted bread and red berries.

Overall: this sample comes from the Jolly Toper himself as a wee Christmas gift prior to the festive tasting. A sizeable sample. This one certainly opened up the longer you left it in the glass. Interesting and very removed from the modern whiskies today.

Ledaig 2004
60.4% vol, 1st fill sherry butt, cask 900175, distilled 24/11/04
bottled 9/6/15 (10 years of age), outturn 439, bottled by Signatory

Colour: brushed copper

Nose: meaty notes with bacon and then burnt brown toast. Roasted coffee beans, used black tea leaves with a subtle freshness and a welcome round of black pepper rounded off by sugared cola cubes.

Taste: a little rubber but I'm fine with that. Dark chocolate, all spice, cloves and liquorice. A thick coating of black treacle and cinnamon rounds off a powerful dram.

Overall: Another sample gift from Linh's visit. I enjoyed this one perhaps not as much as the Balvenie which is a more refined boxer whereas this fella is a real bruiser. Not shy and takes no prisoners. The sherry cask has swamped any peat influence.

Dew of Ben Nevis 
bottled to commemorate 100 years of Mallaig Extension of the West Highland Railway
Blended Scotch whisky, 40% vol

Colour: a hint of ginger in here

Nose: quite refreshing initially with tangerines and some washing up liquid. Now that I've said that I cannot move on from the Fairy Liquid original note. Maybe trying to push through some chopped fennel but no, I've lost it. 

Taste: oh that's vile. For feck's sake! It is Fairy Washing up liquid. Whoever bottled this needs shot. So soapy yuck! I know the seal was intact and the fill level good so its a valid sample, unfortunately. Gross. The cheapest of the cheap and gives Jura a run for its money.

Overall: this is one of those vague made to order Scotches for an event. Jimmy in his shed could have bottled this for all we know. Dew of Ben Nevis is the most prominent aspect on the label so it could be from this distillery, as the name remains in use today. This was a series of at least 5 miniatures each with a different picture and would have been bottled circa 2001, as the line extension was completed in 1901. This bottling isn't a celebration of anything.

Benveg Fine old Scotch Whisky
43% vol, bottled by Signatory

Colour: E150

Nose: salted peanuts, crushed almonds and some vanilla extract. More damp wood and Tizer if you've not had that before its a fizzy soft drink here in Scotland so very sugary and with red berries.

Taste: not impressed really, again the fill level and seal were fine and this one had a cardboard tube. A soapy aspect that could be Edradour who were well know for this quality, or perfume to some. Whatever your poison it just dominate here so the kitchen sink it calling for the remnants.

Overall: well this one actually has a bottler on it so that's reassuring. Perhaps it is Edradour in disguise? This bottling was to celebrate the Ben Line who had several ships registered in Leith which is in Edinburgh. It is also available in a full-sized bottle with one online retailer claiming its from the 1970's. Now correct me but I'm sure Signatory didn't start until sometime in the late 1980's so that's a dubious age statement. Signatory in their early days actually worked out of an old bonded warehouse in Leith and there was an SS Ben Veg that sank in 1941 so there you go. Ultimately more interesting than the whisky itself.

At the end
We hit a bit of flat note there towards the end that's for sure. Hopefully you enjoyed this wee tour which helped clear some space on my shelf. Yet more samples await so I expect to do another miniature killer piece in 2016 and some of these whiskies do need murdered it seems!

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