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A New Checkers Private Barrel Co Whisky Called No. 39 Joins The Stable

Private Barrel Co Single Malt
You may remember me tasting the Private Barrel Co range from Checkers at the launch event they held last year. When in my local Checkers LiquorShop last week to stock up on my supply of the Private Barrel Co Mortlach 14yo (love it!), I spotted a new whisky in the range, called No. 39. So what exactly *is* No. 39 then?

Checkers are doing for their House of Fine Whisky selection what they’ve done for wines when they introduced the Odd Bins range which they tout as “famous wine brands at a fraction of the price”. Odd Bins works on the premise that Checkers source top class wines from well known wine estates/brands and then bottle them under a unique bin number, not revealing where the wine was sourced. By not revealing the original label, Checkers is able to sell the wine at a fraction of the cost.

And now that concept has been brought across to the Private Barrel Co range. The good news is that this won’t be replacing their named brand whiskies like the Mortlach, Benrinnes, Glenlossie and Glen Grant, but will instead be an addition to the range. Will there be future No. XX releases? I don’t see why not – if Checkers can source good quality whisky at the right price.

Let’s have a look at what’s on the bottle first before I share my own tasting notes…

Official Tasting Notes for No. 39

Front label - Private Barrel Co No. 39 Here’s a close-up view of the front label of my bottle of No. 39 Single Malt. Virtually identical to those found on the named brand whiskies in the rest of the range, with the obvious exception of the distillery name.

Name: No. 39 Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Age: 12 years

ABV: 43% alc./vol.

Size: 750ml

Bottle No: 1463 / 1600 (my bottle number)

Year Bottled: 2013

Cask Type: American Oak bourbon and refill casks

Aroma: A beautifully floral aroma is intertwined with hints of spice, fresh fruit and oak

Palate: Delicate floral taste with subtle spice and oak notes all enveloped with a mellow, vanilla sweetness

Finish: The finish is lingering sweet vanilla

My Tasting Notes for No. 39

Without Water

Colour: Golden autumn leaves

Nose: Lots of tropical fruits – banana and papaya, with an underlying honeyed sweetness and pine needles

Palate: Oak, peppery wood spice and some tobacco pushing through the syrupy vanilla, slightly malty. Fruits not as noticeable on the palate

Finish: Medium-length. Typical bourbon vanilla profile fades, with pepper lingering a while longer

With Water Added

Nose: Fruits and oak mellows, vanilla and custard come to the fore

Palate: Much sweeter, with the wood spice and oak tamed. Sweet barley and a touch of citrus

Finish: Luscious sweetness with some citrus and wood spice

Checkers No. 39 Single Malt In Glass

My Final Impressions

A very nice, easy drinking single malt. I prefer the fruity nose when water isn’t added, but a couple of drops are needed to smooth out the oak notes and make this a really pleasant dram.

I’ve tried to figure out what distillery this whisky is from and I would hazard a guess (blind tastings, which this essentially is, are notoriously hard) that we’re looking at something from The Balvenie, Dalwhinnie, Glenlivet or Glen Ord. Distilleries known for having a sweet / fruity / honeyed / floral / malty / spicy taste profile.

I guess we’ll never really know – I’ve tried asking the folks at Checkers and their lips are sealed – but I’m keen to hear what your thoughts are. Which distillery do you think this whisky is from?

A dram the colour of golden autumn leaves

Where can I buy No. 39 and how much will it cost?

I confirmed with the Checkers team that No. 39 should be available countrywide at their Checkers LiquorShop stores, but because there are only 1600, they’re bound to sell out relatively quickly.

As for cost, they’re running a promotion at the moment selling it at R229.99 a bottle. Yup, you read that right! A single malt selling for around R150 (or 40%) less than you’d pay for a Glenfiddich 12 year old! I don’t see how they can be making any money on this, but hey, I won’t complain at that price.

Hats off to Checkers for bringing us another really well-priced single malt that is a worthy addition to the Private Barrel Co. range.

So there you have it – an inexpensive, easy-drinking single malt that ticks a lot of the right boxes. Enjoy folks.


Disclosure: My review sample was provided by the folks at Checkers. That however, did not influence my tasting notes or review.


  1. Dieter Dieter
    June 4, 2014    

    I saw the No 39 but no info exist on Checkers website and I was reluctant to buy something unknown

    After reading your review I will definitely get me a bottle if they have stock , thx for the great review

    When you speak to the powers at Checkers again, they need to make it easier to find/access the Private Barrel range

    I went the 22 April 2014 and ordered a Private Barrel Glen Grant until today nothing (after several follow-ups)

    The shop could not even check which other store had stock, eventually a month later I contacted customer care via the website and found a bottle 40km away ,my local shop is 2km from me

    They making it too difficult to find stock

  2. Nick Nick
    June 14, 2014    

    Really enjoyed this one, thought it was excellent for the price.
    Did some digging and all sources seem to point to a brand named Spinnaker..?
    Have never heard of them, can’t find any specific info really other than that they may be a very obscure speyside distillery / bottler.

    In any case I hope to find another bottle!

  3. July 1, 2014    

    Good review Mr Hughes! Good value for money dram. Did the sampling at WLF in CPT and some great response. See you soon. JHB next.

  4. Seastian Seastian
    July 5, 2014    

    Great review. Just opened a bottle (nr.134) and am really enjoying it. Can’t help but be reminded of Glenfiddich somehow.

  5. Helga Helga
    July 18, 2014    

    I love this whisky. I did not realise that I might not be able to find the exact one in SA. I’ve been to my local Checkers, but they are sold out. Any ideas on what brand it is and where I can find a bottle?

  6. Mike Simpson Mike Simpson
    July 25, 2014    

    I was very disappointed with this – far too sweet for my taste. I followed my first tot of No.39 with a tot of bog-standard Famous Grouse and the Grouse was preferable. A very personal opinion of course, but I would not recommend No.39.

  7. Jeannette Jeannette
    August 30, 2014    

    Wish i grabbed a bottle for John when they were available. From what i hear they are all sold out. 🙁

    • Mark H Mark H
      August 31, 2014    

      Never fear Jeannette, I’m sure Checkers won’t take too long to release another batch, seeing how quickly the last one sold out.

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