Friday, October 28, 2011

Inbox > October 28, 2011

whisky for everyone inbox logoWelcome to Inbox - our weekly round up of whisky news and PR type material that has recently found its way in to our email inbox. It was created as we cannot write full articles or do justice to every piece that we receive. It features items from around the world of whisky and is published by us each Friday. Within Inbox we will write a few lines detailing each press release/piece of news/PR event that we have received and provide links, where possible, for you to find out further information if you want to. Here we go with the whisky news ... there's quite a bit this week!

Auchentoshan > Switch contest reaches finale
Martin stirs it up
A few weeks ago, we wrote in Inbox about an initiative being run by the Scottish Lowland distillery of Auchentoshan.  The Switch is a contest that sees a bartender from either side of the Atlantic swap countries to work in a top bar for one week.  We attended the UK final which was held in London earlier this week, which saw 18 top mixologists go head-to-head for the chance to work in the famous Apotheke bar in New York. The winner was Martin Ball from Corridor in Manchester, who created the Tight Corner Fizz using Auchentoshan Three Wood whisky and then had to present an Auchentoshan Master Class in the final.  The US winner was Charles Joly from The Drawing Room in Chicago. He will work at the legendary 69 Colebrooke Row in London for a week.

Ballantine's > Christmas Reserve 2011 launched

Christmas comes early
The popular blended Scotch whisky has announced the release a new product for Christmas.  The Ballantine's Christmas Reserve has been created by Ballantine's Master Blender Sandy Hyslop and has been designed to have a seasonal profile of dried fruits, cinnamon, spiced orange, pears and apples.  It will appear between now and Christmas in limited quantities and in limited markets including France, Spain, Taiwan and the UK. To support the the 2011 launch, Ballantine’s Brand Ambassador Fredrik Olsson has created a series of seasonal cocktails using the Christmas Reserve - the Golden Saffron Martini, the Spiced Hot Chocolate and Hot Christmas Punch - which we hope to have a go at making! Check out www.chivasbrothers.com for more info.

Bowmore > Tempest Batch No.3 released

A stormy dram?
The famous Islay distillery of Bowmore, which is the oldest on the island (founded 1779), has released Batch No.3 of its popular Tempest bottling.  The Tempest batches are released at cask strength and are matured for 10 years in ex-bourbon casks - 55.6% ABV and first filled casks respectively in this case.  Batch No.3 follows the two previous batches, which hauled in the prizes at various prestigious whisky awards and built up a cult following of fans.

Bowmore's Brand Manager Cara Laing comments, “We’ve released a small batch of Bowmore Tempest annually to great response. Every batch is slightly different but always reflects Bowmore’s raw spirit – it’s like tasting a dram straight out of a first fill bourbon cask in our famous No.1 Vaults." There are 11,000 bottles and they are available now worldwide with a suggested price of £50.

Buffalo Trace > Antique Collection 2011

The famous five
The popular Buffalo Trace distillery from Kentucky has announced that this year's Antique Collection will get a limited release in the UK, following the full release in the USA back in September.  The distillery makes numerous brands and they have been releasing some special editions of these on an annual basis since 2000. This year's highly anticipated bottlings are - Eagle Rare 17 years old, George T. Stagg 71.3% ABV, Sazerac 18 years old Rye, Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye and W. L. Weller Wheated Rye.  Previous bottlings have been highly awarded at various shows and also in past editions of Jim Murray's Whisky Bible.  The bourbons will be distributed in the UK by Hi-Spirits. For further info, check out this article on the must read www.bourbonblog.com.

Chivas > Employ Oscar winning director for project

The Chivas Regal blended Scotch has teamed up with Oscar winning director Joachim Back to produce two films about friendship.  The films, entitled Big Bear and Twinkle, centre around a group of four friends and follows them through the trials and tribulations of life. The films form part of Chivas Regal’s ongoing Live with Chivalry campaign which launched in 2008 and encourages men to aspire to not just to have more, but to be more. Film and Chivas Regal lovers can raise a glass to Big Bear or Twinkle and discover the full story online at www.chivas.com from 31 October 2011.  In the meantime, below is a short trailer ...



Drinkaware > New interactive video

The UK Drinkaware initiative, of which we are proud to be part, have released a new interactive video to help parents explain to their children about the effects of alcohol on their bodies and behaviour.  Drinkaware are an independent charity that aims to change the UK's drinking habits for the better by promoting responsible drinking of alcohol.  They do this by spreading knowledge and setting up initiatives to change the nation's drinking culture and help to reduce alcohol misuse. This new video, which you can take part with below, tackles the tricky subject of how to communicate with children and break down some of the 'myths' about alcohol by talking with them. Have a go and see where your conversation leads ... it's good fun and cleverly done, but with a serious message.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bowmore Great Outdoors whisky tasting & photography workshop

We were recently invited to a special evening at the London branch of The Whisky Shop to celebrate an event held by Bowmore single malt whisky to celebrate the launch of the National Geographic UK 2011 International Photography Contest. The competition asks budding photographers to enter their favourite photograph for the chance to be featured in a future issue of UK National Geographic magazine and to win a trip to the isle of Islay, the home of Bowmore.

The evening was hosted by Colin Prior, renowned landscape and travel photographer. The event was an inspiring mix of photography workshop and informal whisky tasting. Throughout the evening we tasted Bowmore 12 years old, 15 years old 'Darkest' and the 18 years old.

We were handed a glass of each expression of Bowmore single malt whisky which Colin tasted with us in a refreshingly informal manner. He then got serious and ran us through a number of collections of his work while the crowd supped on their drams. All throughout the presentation Colin was imparting valuable tips and tricks to make any novice photographer get that bit more out of any holiday photos. Colin provided us with an insight into his choice of subjects, a few tales of his adventures while trying to get the 'perfect shot' and more than our fair share of helpful photography tips. we thought the best way we could pass on the experience was to pass on a few of his easy but intelligent photography tips and tricks.

Colin's Tips and Tricks
- Consider the background of any image. A simple plain background will work best for many posed images, however when the location is the key to the image ensure that you include a few key carefully positioned items in the background. Never make the background too cluttered.
- When the subject of the image is a person, make sure that their eyes are sharply in focus, as you will always look at the sharpest part of the image.
- Morning and dusk are ideal times of the day to take landscapes as the soft warm light helps bring out depth in the image making the composition feel more three dimensional.
- Use points of reference for scale. An object of know size can help give a larger object real scale and drama.
- Understand your camera's ISO. This feature is on almost all cameras and can really help you exploit the light available to you. A low ISO will suit bright sunlight and avoid images being 'washed out' while a high ISO will stop low light images being 'murky' and dull.

Have a look at some of Colin's inspiring images at www.colinprior.co.uk.
To enter the competition visit the National Geographic website. Don't dawdle. Closing date Monday 31st October 2011.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Have just tried > Old Pulteney 21 years old

The news story of this week has seen Old Pulteney gain a major accolade for its 21 years old expression. It was named as World Whisky of the Year in the latest edition of the Jim Murray Whisky Bible. The 2012 edition is the 9th version of the book, in which whisky expert Jim Murray samples a staggering 1,500 new whiskies in an intense four month period each year.  The 21 years old topped this years list with a record equaling 97.5 out of 100.  Jim Murray has a strict set of criteria that he follows with each whisky he samples and whiskies have to be exceptional to get marks in the high 80s or early 90s.  In the nine years of the book, Old Pulteney is only the second Scottish distillery to land this prestigious accolade.

The Old Pulteney distillery, or simply Pulteney as the locals call it, is the most northerly mainland distillery in Scotland. Located in the Highland fishing town of Wick, it lies just 15 miles south of the UK's most northerly point of John O'Groats. Old Pulteney is currently owned by Inver House Distillers, which is part of the larger Thai group InBev, and has a production capacity of three million litres a year. The distillery was founded in 1826 by James Henderson and was named after Sir William Johnstone Pulteney, the herring industry's leading light of the day. It is one of the few distilleries to be named after a person.

Last year we were lucky enough to pay a visit to the distillery and for more information about Pulteney - click here to read our report. Their core range consists of a 12, 17, 21 and 30 years old. The brand has grown massively in the last three years and this has seen Old Pulteney climb into the top 20 for world sales of single malts. This 21 years old is bottled at 46% ABV and has the highest percentage of sherry cask maturation of any whisky in their core range - 30% has been matured in ex-fino sherry casks, with the other 70% matured in re-fill ex-bourbon casks. The recent new re-branded packaging is pictured above.

Our tasting notes
The award seems the perfect time to re-visit a sample that we have at home and construct some more detailed tasting notes than we have offered before.  So, here goes ...

The colour is golden amber and the nose is packed with lovely aromas - something nutty (think of almonds), vanilla, oatcakes, crisp red apples, dried fruits and caramel (the combination of the last two is reminiscent of toffee apples). Other aromas are less prominent and appear with increased time in the glass, especially hints of ripe banana and malty cereals.  On the palate, this is drier than expected and is packed with oak, cinnamon and nutmeg notes initially. It feels buttery and creamy in the mouth with pleasant toffee-like sweetness complimenting the wood spices of earlier.  The dried fruitiness from the nose is also present, with notes of sultana particularly evident, along with further elements of almonds, vanilla, burnt sugar and a hint of saltiness that cuts through the richness to give balance. The finish is again dry and delicious, if not slightly short, and becomes saltier as the flavours disappear.

What's the verdict?
This is a lovely whisky and one that deserves to be in the spotlight, although only the individual whisky drinker can judge whether it is the World Whisky of the Year for them.  Naturally to come to this conclusion, the whisky has to be to your taste and style.  What this exposure will do is bring not just the 21 years old, but the distillery and its single malt range to a far wider audience.  This can only be a good thing and it is deserved as Pulteney has long been an under-rated or overlooked distillery. If you get the chance to try it, then we highly recommend that you do.

We would like to take this opportunity to send our congratulations to Malcolm Waring, the Distillery Manager at Pulteney, and those people that we know at Inver House on this great award.  We raise a glass to you all.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

New releases > St. George's Chapter 11

St. George's is the first whisky distillery to be built and produce whisky in England for almost 200 years. The distillery is located in the heart of East Anglia, close to the town of Roudham in Norfolk (about 2 hours north east of London). The distillery is operated by The English Whisky Company, which was founded in 2005 by Andrew and James Nelstrop.

The construction of the new facilities began shortly afterwards and the first spirit came off the stills in November 2006. The St. George's spirit is made from locally grown Norfolk barley and is matured predominantly in ex-bourbon casks. The distillery has already won many plaudits for its innovation and quality of spirit and whisky produced to date, which are released as a series of Chapters.

Each Chapter signifies a different style of whisky or spirit.  Initially, the first releases were new make or part aged spirit, but now the range is expanding more as the whisky comes of age and reaches the three year minimum mark.  The amount of Chapters is only going to increase, especially given the experimentation with different casks that is happening at the distillery. We have listed a definition of what each Chapter is on a previous blog post - to read this click here.

These two whiskies are the first bottled as Chapter 11, which is made using heavily peated malted barley.  The regular version is bottled at an alcoholic strength of 46% ABV and costs £45, while the Cask Strength version is bottled at 59.7% ABV and costs £65.  Both are un-chillfiltered and were released in July of this year.  They can be purchased from The English Whisky Co. website or selected specialist whisky retailers.

Chapter 11 Heavily Peated - 46% ABV
The colour of this regular bottling is a pale lemon yellow and the nose is youthful and fresh, but full of interesting aromas.  There is initial vanilla and oat cake notes, with plenty of pungent peat which mixes grassy, earthy and mossy notes with iodine.  Other aromas develop with time - zesty lemon, red chilli and warm buttery toast (this last one is particularly pleasant). 

On the palate, this feels creamy and a bit soapy to begin with.  Fresh, tangy and acidic elements soon join in and these include notes of crisp green apple, lemon zest and vibrant chilli-like heat from the youthful spirit.  Underneath are vital, yet subtle, notes of vanilla, honey and oat biscuit.  These are all underpinned by robust mossy peat smoke.  The finish is of decent length and combines sweet honey and vegetal, leafy smokiness well.  This is a very interesting whisky and one that changes dramatically with time in the glass - it was almost unrecognisable after 15 minutes.  It grows on you, increasing with intensity and enjoyment.

Chapter 11 Heavily Peated - 59.7% ABV
This Cask Strength version has a pale lemon yellow colour and the nose is surprisingly light for a whisky of this strength.  However, it is vibrant, clean and fresh with plenty going on.  There is an initial whiff of surgical spirit which evolves in to a lovely vegetal peaty smokiness (think of wet leaves and moss).  There are also aromas of vanilla, lemon zest and olive oil.

The lightness of the nose lulls you in to a false sense of security, as the palate is feisty with plenty of initial hot spice (imagine red chillis and cracked pepper).  It quickly settles down with the saliva in the mouth and a  sweetness hits the tip of your tongue with a blast of gorgeous honey and oak.  Then come further vanilla, creamy coconut, tangy lemon and drying wood spices, reminiscent of cinnamon.  All of the time a warm dense peaty smoke burns away.  The finish is gloriously long with the smokiness, some dry wood spices and a hint of salt all combining well.  The taste of peat smoke can still be detected at least 10 minutes later.

What's the verdict?
Both of these whiskies are good but in different ways.  The regular 46% bottling develops dramatically in to a lovely dram given time and patience in the glass.  It combines creamy and tangy well and has numerous enjoyable characteristics.  The Cask Strength 59.7% bottling is more immediate, impactful and 'in your face' with plenty of feisty elements that settle down and mingle with time. 

Both whiskies are clearly youthful and some may shy away from them because of that.  However, these whiskies (as with most of the St. George's range) show what can be achieved in a relatively short time with quality workmanship and casking.  Long may it continue and we can't wait to see what the next Chapter will be ...

Monday, October 24, 2011

New releases > Diageo Special Releases 2011

Each Autumn sees the highly anticipated release of a selection of single malt whiskies from the portfolio of drinks giant Diageo, which owns 28 whisky distilleries in Scotland. For the Special Releases programme they have traditionally mixed limited edition expressions from some of their flagship distilleries with very rare and older whiskies from some of the lesser known parts of their estate. Some of these include whiskies from closed distilleries whose stocks have dwindled to almost critical levels. This year's selection of eight whiskies are mostly bottled at the natural cask strength and are non chill filtered.

We attended the launch of these products in London recently. Below is a round-up and details of each of the whiskies for the Special Releases 2011, with our tasting notes from the launch evening.

Brora 32 years old 
Single malts from this coastal north Highland distillery, which closed in 1983, are now very rare. This bottling consists of just 1,500 bottles and rumour has it that this may be one of the last ever releases that Diageo can bottle. It is their oldest ever bottling of Brora and this had been matured in a combination of re-fill ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks. The alcohol strength is 54.7% ABV and it will have a recommended retail price (RRP) of £300.

The colour is dark gold and the nose is initially reserved, but reveals more with time - there are aromas of honeycomb, vanilla, cereals, icing sugar, dried grasses, bonfire-like ash and a hint of mint.  On the palate, this whisky is oily, soft and mellow.  The honeycomb and vanilla sweetness from the nose is there but is joined by more fruit, especially dried fruit like raisins and candied lemon peel.  These are backed up by soft cereal notes and hints of sea salt and mint.  All the time a bonfire-like ashiness is burning away in the background.  The finish becomes drier than expected, with more smokiness prominent.  The addition of water releases a previously undetected floral note, which is reminiscent of honeysuckle, and makes it feel even creamier and softer than before.

Caol Ila 12 years old Unpeated
This Islay distillery is well known and regarded for it soft peaty single malts, but once a year they produce a small batch of unpeated whisky. Most of this is used within Diageo's range of popular blends but some of the best casks are kept for release. This is the sixth such release and has been matured in first-fill ex-bourbon casks, which has yielded just under 6,000 bottles. It has been bottled at an eye-watering 64% ABV and will have an RRP of £55.

The colour is a delicate lemon yellow and the nose is unexpectedly restrained for a whisky of such high ABV.  There are subtle notes of vanilla, honey, green apples and floral blossoms, with a hint of surgical spirit.  However, it lulls you in to a false sense of security - it wakes up on your palate and the high ABV hits it with a BANG.  The whisky feels light and tangy with plenty fighting for your attention.  There are notes of feisty cracked pepper, lemon zest, vanilla, burnt icing sugar, buttery oat cakes and surgical spirit.  The finish is clean, fresh and dry.  This whisky benefits from the addition of water, and can take quite a lot.  This takes away the surgical spirit aspect, giving a lovely creaminess and more delicacy.

Glenury Royal 40 years old
Whisky from this east Highland distillery are extremely rare and highly sought after. Glenury Royal closed in 1983 and has since been demolished. Recent releases have been scarce and this is one of the oldest ever expressions that Diageo have bottled from the remaining stocks. There are just 1,404 bottles, each of which is individually numbered, and it has been maturing in the same re-fill ex-bourbon casks since 1970. It has an RRP of £525.

This Glenury Royal was unfortunately not available for tasting at the launch event, due to the highly rare nature of the whisky.  This was a shame, as we have never tasted anything from this closed distillery and we plan to update these notes if we ever get the chance to try it.

Knockando 25 years old 
The 12 years old bottling from the small Speyside distillery of Knockando is one of Diageo's best sellers, but older expressions such as this one are much harder to come by. This has been maturing in first fill ex-sherry casks since 1985 and has been bottled at a slightly reduced strength of 43% ABV. There are fewer than 4,500 bottles in this limited release and each one carries an RRP of £135.

The colour is a dark amber and the nose is rich and intense.  There are aromas of butterscotch, toffee and raisins immediately, after which some further understated oak spices (especially cinnamon and nutmeg) come through.  There is something savoury in the background also, which is difficult to pinpoint. The palate is rich and oily, with that savoury note becoming more immediately prominent - maybe there is a whiff of peat smoke?  There are sugary fudge notes, which are supported by plenty of dark dried fruits such as raisins, figs and dates.  In addition, there are further background notes of cocoa, coffee grounds and baking spice. The long, warm finish begins sweetly before becoming pleasantly drier and almost like an Armagnac.

Lagavulin 12 years old
This Islay distillery is one of Diageo's flagship single malts and the popular 16 years old forms part of their iconic Classic Malts series. It is well loved for its peaty, smoky style of whisky and this one will be no different. This expression is bottled at the natural cask strength of 57.5% ABV and has become a regular feature in recent Special Releases programmes. It has been matured in re-fill ex-bourbon casks and will have an RRP of £63.

This whisky is pale gold in colour and the nose is fiery, intense and complex.  There is initial chilli spice and heavy peat, which is interlaced with iodine and damp moss aromas.  Underneath is further aromas of coal tar soap and some much needed sweetness in the form of vanilla and honey.  The palate is lightly oily and pleasantly salty with some initial chilli heat.  This subsides as the whisky mingles with the saliva in the mouth to give some creamy, buttery vanilla, honey and cereal notes.  The peatiness is always present but is now a combination of being sweet and earthy and a little bonfire-like and ashy.  There are also hints of mint and liquorice.  The finish is powerful, smoky and bittersweet.

Port Dundas 20 years old
Port Dundas is a grain distillery in Glasgow which closed a couple of years ago. Whiskies from this distillery are very rare, as most are used to produce Diageo's range of blends. This is a 100% single grain whisky and is the first ever such release to appear in the Special Releases. It has been bottled at 57.4% ABV and there are 1,920 bottles. The bottling has been made from just three casks - one new American oak, one new European oak and one re-fill ex-bourbon cask - and has an RRP of £135.

The colour is a deep amber brown and the nose is expressive and tempting.  First comes some aromas of bitter orange (this is reminiscent of marmalade), dark chocolate and old furniture polish.  These are joined by aromas of bitter sweet cereal grains, distinct wood spices (think of cinnamon bark and nutmeg) and burnt brown sugar.  On the palate this feels viscous, oily and a bit heavy, with plenty of robust notes present - vanilla, molasses, dark chocolate, coffee, burnt orange, bitter sweet cereals and drying wood spices.  The impact is impressive.  The finish is long and complex with the orange and spices most evident.  The addition of water softens the whisky and brings out further creamy oak and the coffee note in particular.  Very interesting to try this.

Port Ellen 32 years old
This is the 11th release in the series from this fabled Islay distillery, which closed in 1983. Port Ellen stocks are said to be running very low and this release contains just 2,988 individually numbered bottles. This is Diageo's oldest release of Port Ellen to date and has been maturing in re-fill ex-bourbon casks since 1978. It has been bottled at 53.9% ABV and has an RRP of £300. Previous releases in this series have seriously increased in value, some by over 150%, so this is one to watch.

Everyone, as ever, was excited by this Port Ellen.  The colour is golden yellow and the nose is very subtle, almost understated. There are delicate aromas of honey, freshly baked bread, vanilla, lemon zest, bonfire ash and a hint of surgical bandages.  With time, some leafy green vegetation aromas come through also.  On the palate, this feels oily and there is a very good mix of sweet and savoury notes.  Sweet - hints of tropical dried fruit, vanilla, honey and toffee.  Savoury - oat cake biscuits, bonfire ash, fresh green vegetation, hints of menthol, tangy lemon and sea salt.  The finish is long and very warming with a nutty feel that develops, along with the distinct honey, lemon zest and increasingly dry ashiness.  The addition of water softens everything with the green vegetal smokiness being allowed to come to the fore finally.

Rosebank 21 years old
This whisky is from another closed distillery, this time from the Lowlands of Scotland between Edinburgh and Glasgow. Rosebank was founded in 1798 and would be one of Scotland's oldest distilleries if it were still in operation. However, it closed in 1993 and despite almost constant rumours of it re-opening, it never has. This expression has been matured in a combination of re-fill ex-bourbon and ex-sherry casks, and there are 5,886. Remaining stocks are low, so the RRP of £160 seems like a bit of bargain.

The colour of this is a pale gold yellow and the nose is full of delicious, yet subtle aromas.  There are notes of honey, oaty cereals, candied lemon, golden syrup, green apple, soft flowers (like honeysuckle) and sherbet sweets.  The light palate is initially full of tangy lemon citrus notes (similar to "lemon cheesecake" - © Colin Dunn), before these give way to softer and more delicate ones - honey, vanilla, a pinch of baking spice, coconut, bittersweet cereal grains, soft oak and a hint of cocoa powder.  The finish is dry and delicate, with everything in glorious balance and no one element dominating or overpowering another.  It is exceptional as it is, but with water it is also very good - plenty of white oak, creamy coconut and floral notes come out.

What's the verdict?
Well, the verdict is that all of the whiskies in this year's Special Releases are good!  The diversity of distilleries is thought provoking, mixing well known ones with much rarer or closed ones, as is the inclusion of a single grain whisky.  So, which was our favourite of the night?  This is a tough question as the quality was so high ... 

Let's start with the younger whiskies - the Lagavulin was delicious and feisty, while the Caol Ila unpeated is an interesting experiment but one that we have never really enjoyed or been as good as expected.  The single grain Port Dundas was also interesting to try and was full of dark characteristics, as was the rare Knockando. The Port Ellen won many plaudits (and quite rightly so) amongst those in attendance at the tasting, but our two favourites were the Brora and the Rosebank.  Both were exceptional whiskies and were the two that we went back for a sneaky second helping of before we left (thanks Tom and Colin!).

Friday, October 21, 2011

Inbox > October 21, 2011

whisky for everyone inbox logoWelcome to Inbox - our weekly round up of whisky news and PR type material that has recently found its way in to our email inbox. It was created as we cannot write full articles or do justice to every piece that we receive. It features items from around the world of whisky and is published by us each Friday. Within Inbox we will write a few lines detailing each press release/piece of news/PR event that we have received and provide links, where possible, for you to find out further information if you want to. Here we go with this week's whisky news ...

Bowmore > Islay Taste Map launched
This Autumn, Bowmore - Islay's oldest single malt whisky dating back to 1779 - has collaborated with whisky writer Martine Nouet to create the Islay Taste Map. In a bold move to support the Islay category as a whole, the map is the ideal guide to the complex and varied characters of Islay’s eight distilleries - Ardbeg, Bowmore, Bruichladdich, Bunnahabhain, Caol Ila, Kilchoman, Lagavulin & Laphroaig. It has been launched as an educational tool for both the on-trade and off-trade, and will be available for consumers to access online from November. The map brings to life the elements Earth, Air, Fire and Water using colour-coordinated taste profiles to illustrate how each of the elements is reflected in the whiskies from each distillery. The map also explains the character profile and whisky tasting notes for expressions from each distillery. In development for over a year, the map has been created with Martine Nouet, an Islay resident.

Glen Garioch > New 25 years old vintage launched

The Aberdeenshire distillery has announced its latest small batch vintage expression, the Glen Garioch 1986 - the fifth special addition to the Glen Garioch single malt range. Just 3,000 bottles are to be released in Canada, France, Netherlands, the UK and the US. To celebrate the release Glen Garioch has linked up with Mellis Cheesemongers to partner the dram with a specially selected cheese which complements and enhances the flavour - Criffel, voted Best Scottish Cheese at the 2011 Cheese Awards. The Glen Garioch 1986 will retail at £125 from selected specialist retailers. John Mullen, the Glen Garioch Brand Manager says, “Our small batch casks are handpicked at the peak of their perfection and are selected to display the quality of liquid produced by our artisan Highland distillery. The 1986 adds new flavour and depth to our limited edition range. With a cask strength 54.6% ABV and non-chill filtration, it’s firmly aimed at the whisky connoisseur.”

Glengoyne > New visitor centre opens

The Glengoyne distillery, located near Loch Lomond in Scotland, is celebrating the launch of a brand new shop and visitor centre. Over £300,000 has been invested in the visitor facilities, with further renovations planned in 2012. This comes in addition to £200,00 spent on renovating the Manager’s House in 2007 and £2.5 million spent on operational upgrades to the distillery such as new warehousing and stills. The features inside the new shop include a tasting area and a ‘Pour Your Own Dram’ facility, where guests can fill and label their own bottles direct from an exclusive single cask, before declaring it in the Customs book. The cask currently available is an American oak first fill ex-bourbon hogshead from June 2000, cask number 1016, which is priced at £75.00.  Further info can found on www.glengoyne.com.

Glenrothes > Vintage Maker 2012 competition

Following the success of this year’s Whisky Maker competition, which attracted close to 10,000 entries, the Glenrothes has announced the launch of Vintage Maker 2012. There will be three separate competitions resulting in four winners each from the UK, the USA and from the rest of the world. The winners will be recruited to work as The Glenrothes Vintage Makers to create the Glenrothes Vintage 2012.

This will involve learning the art of making The Glenrothes and spending time working at each stage of the production process - this includes testing the purity of the water source, milling the malt, mashing, adding yeast to the washbacks and overseeing fermentation, distilling new make spirit in copper pot stills and making casks at the cooperage. The winners will also nose single malt from maturing casks to assess whether the contents are of the quality and maturity expected and will stay in Rothes House, a private home belonging to the family that owns The Glenrothes. The competition will run until 31 January 2012. For further information and to enter, go to www.theglenrothes.com/vintagemaker.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Whisky Lounge, Manchester - October 2011

The Whisky Lounge is a company that brings the world of whisky to the masses.  The company is founder by former Glenmorangie UK Brand Ambassador Eddie Ludlow and is multi faceted.  Eddie operates both corporate and consumer whisky tasting events, plus offers a consultation and training service for bars, companies and whisky brands.  Perhaps the most well known facet of the company to the wider audience are The Whisky Lounge Whisky Festivals - a series of shows that travel around the UK and that are aimed at attracting a new crowd to the genre of single malts and blended whiskies.

As Eddie puts it, "The Whisky Lounge is dedicated to the evangelism and enjoyment of whisky. Our aim is to preach the whisky word as far and wide as possible; making new friends, whilst giving people who are already converted a place to feel at home".

It was one of these shows that Eddie invited us to last weekend. The 2011 version of The Whisky Lounge's UK tour has taken in places such as Newcastle, Brighton, Liverpool and York to date, and last weekend was the turn of Manchester.  The event was held in the central location at the Lowry Hotel, which overlooks one of city's old canals.  Having only ever been to whisky shows in London, we were interested to see how the experience was going to be different, if at all.  The show was split in to two sections (11am-3pm and then 4pm-8pm) and after an early morning train journey from London, some retail therapy for Karen and some essential lunch, we headed for the show.

The line up of the festival mixed big whisky names such as Glenfiddich and Glenlivet with small, independent distilleries like Kilchoman and Arran, plus the independent bottling companies of Berry Bothers & Rudd and Gordon & MacPhail.  It also ran a series of 'master classes' throughout the day and these covered a variety of subjects, with the emphasis on the whisky beginner.

The show gave us a chance to chat with some of our best 'whisky friends' that we have met in the three years that we have been writing Whisky For Everyone - Eddie himself, Lukasz Dynowiak of the Edinburgh Whisky blog who was working on the Inver House stand, Ronnie Routledge from the Glenglassaugh distillery, Colin Dunn of Diageo, Chris Maybin of Compass Box and Michael Morris from Cooley.  We thank them all for their time, their continued support for what we are trying to do and for the drams given on the day!

However, the highlight had to be meeting up with Ian Chang, the Master Distiller at the Taiwanese distillery of Kavalan (pictured, left).  Ian has always been very supportive of us and of Whisky For Everyone since our first meeting with him about two years ago.  This includes allowing us to become the first whisky bloggers in the world to write about his products and sending us samples of his ground breaking new whiskies as they are released.

We cannot thank him enough for this and were delighted when he extended a personal invite to us to attend his Kavalan 'master class' at the show.  Within the 'master class' the group sampled four expressions of Kavalan and were taken through the production processes, casking strategy and key differences between his whisky and Scotch.  Ian's presentation, which was designed to introduce the brand to beginners, was also filled with numerous interesting facts.  Our favourite one was that Kavalan gets one million visitors a year - this is 10 times as many as the most popular Scottish distillery (Glenfiddich)!

Kavalan whiskies have won many plaudits in its short life time and is currently only available in China, Taiwan and selected south east Asian cities.  But plans are afoot to distribute the brand in the UK and selected European markets, hence this first ever appearance at a European whisky festival.  We were also delighted to meet and speak at length to Ian's assistant Joanie Tseng and Dr. Jim Swan, the consultant who has helped Kavalan with their whisky production and selection of casks.

Overall, the show was very well organised and we enjoyed our time very much.  Nearly 1,000 people came through the doors - the first 11am-3pm session seemed especially chilled out and the opportunity to speak at length with those on the stands was better than during the second session, which seemed much busier but still maintained a more relaxed feel than most London whisky shows.  Our hats go off to Eddie and his team who pulled off a successful event and must have introduced many new whisky brands to the festival goers.  Everyone we saw or spoke had enjoyed it greatly.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Have just tried > Balblair 1978 Vintage

This old single malt whisky is from the Balblair distillery in the north Highlands of Scotland.  It was added to their core range of Vintage whiskies in late 2009, when it replaced the award winning 1975 Vintage, and was released as a 3,000 bottle limited edition. The Balblair core range is released as vintages, rather than the more common age statement in numbers of years.  Distillery Manager John MacDonald explains, "our whisky tells us when it's ready, not the other way round. Each vintage is hand picked from a selection of our finest casks, once its optimum maturation point is reached". The core range normally includes four Vintages, with a couple of others released exclusively for the Duty Free/travel retail market.

Balblair is located in the picturesque village of Edderton, near to the town of Tain. It lies close to the shores of the Dornoch Firth, one of Scotland’s largest estuaries, with the mountains of the Highlands rising behind it and the North Highland Inverness-Thurso railway track running next to it. The distillery is one of Scotland's oldest, having been founded by John Ross in 1790, although the current buildings were constructed in 1893. One cool story is that direct descendants of John Ross are currently working at the distillery and they feel this provides an important heritage link to its past. Balblair is currently owned by Inver House Distillers, which is a subsidiary of the larger Thai Beverages group, and they have owned it since 1996. The current annual production capacity is 1.3 million litres.

Our tasting notes
The colour is golden yellow with an amber tint. The nose is an interesting combination of rich, deep aromas - there are dried fruits (raisins, sultanas and dates), toffee and spicy cinnamon bark - and lighter fresher ones - imagine green apples, cereal grains, fresh grass and a hint of gooseberry. The overall mix gives a very pleasant scent. On the palate, a similar thing happens - it is rich but with lighter elements coming through, which makes the whisky very complex. It also has a slightly oily texture in the mouth. The key notes detected are vanilla, coconut, honey, fresh green apples and pears, almonds, plenty of delicate drying oak spices, plus hints of pepper and tropical fruits (especially mango, banana and pineapple). The dry wood spices (especially some cinnamon) seem to increase with time and carry through to a decently long finish - this begins sweetly with pleasant vanilla and tropical fruit before distinct cereal grains come through.

What's the verdict?
This Balblair 1978 Vintage is a delightful whisky, although one which is hard to define.  It seems to begin with plenty of richness on both the nose and palate, but then reveals numerous light, delicate and subtle characteristics.  This demonstrates sympathetic and balanced casking during maturation.  The other pleasant surprise is the freshness of this whisky given its age of 30 years.  It combines this freshness (which is so often missing in old whiskies) with a depth and complexity which makes this a dram to savour.  A bottle should cost around £150 from specialist whisky retailers.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Inbox > October 14, 2011

whisky for everyone inbox logoWelcome to Inbox - our weekly round up of whisky news and PR type material that has recently found its way in to our email inbox. It was created as we cannot write full articles or do justice to every piece that we receive. It features items from around the world of whisky and is published by us each Friday. Within Inbox we will write a few lines detailing each press release/piece of news/PR event that we have received and provide links, where possible, for you to find out further information if you want to. Here we go with this week's whisky news ...

Benriach & Glendronach > Announce two exclusives
Vote for Pedro
The independent Benriach Distillery Company, who own both the Benriach and Glendronach distilleries, have announced two UK exclusive bottlings.  Both are from a single Pedro Ximinez sherry cask, with one from each distillery, and both were distilled in 1995, before being bottled in August of this year.  The Benriach version was distilled in May 1995 and the cask has given 695 bottles (all hand numbered) at a natural cask strength of 58.3% ABV.  The Glendronach was distilled in November 1995 and there are 725 bottles at the natural cask strength of 56.2% ABV.  Both bottlings are available now from selected UK specialist whisky retailers and should both cost around the £60 mark.

Dalmore > Partnered with Lutwyche shoes
A nose of leather, autumnal leaves & gravel
The luxury tailor Lutwyche has teamed up with the Highland single malt of Dalmore to produce a gift pack with a difference.  They have produced their first pair of shoes under the Lutwyche name and are packaging it with a bottle of Dalmore whisky.  The shoes are hand made in the traditional way from deerskin and feature the Dalmore stag logo, plus will be personalised with each customers name.  They are presented with a bottle of Dalmore's King Alexander III, which is worth £150 on its own.  Each package will cost £550 each and will be available at Lutwyche's store in Clifford Street, London from the 27 October.  The offer will only be available for one month.  Further info can be found at www.lutwyche.co.uk.

Glenmorangie > Visitor Centre re-opens
Inside the new visitor centre
The famous Glenmorangie distillery in the north Highlands is re-opening its revamped Visitor Centre this weekend (15 & 16 October). To celebrate they are holding special 'family friendly' activities over the two days.  The new centre includes a new exhibition space which plots the history of the distillery (pictured, left) and a 'dramming room' where visitors can sample whiskies from the Glenmorangie range. It is hoped that the revamp will help add to the current 25,000 people a year that visit. The Distillery Manager at Glenmorangie, Andy MacDonald, says "The completion of our new visitor centre is very exciting for us. It provides visitors with a unique insight into the Glenmorangie whisky making process and makes the distillery at Tain a must-see attraction."

New releases > Arran 12 years old Cask Strength

This whisky is the newest single malt release from the award winning Arran distillery.  The 12 years old Cask Strength is planned to be released in batches at regular intervals and this will compliment the regular core range from the distillery.  This is the first batch and it was released at the end of September.  The first batch consists of 12,000 bottles and is released at a strength of 54.1% ABV.  The whisky has been made using first-fill and second-fill ex-sherry casks, each of which was specially selected by Arran's Master Distiller James MacTaggart.  It can be found in specialist whisky retailers and should cost £45-50 a bottle.

Arran is one of the youngest single malt whisky distilleries in Scotland. It was founded by an independent group called the Isle of Arran Distillers Limited in 1993 and production began in 1995, using as many traditional techniques as possible.  The first single malt whisky released in 1998. The distillery is located on the isle of Arran, which lies between the Campbeltown peninsula and the west Lowland coast, near to the village of Lochranza. It became the first legal distillery on the island since the 1840s. Arran is also one of Scotland's smaller distilleries, producing approximately 750,000 litres per year. The visitor centre is one of Scotland's most visited, despite its relatively remote location, due to the island being served by frequent ferries from the west coast and being within relatively easy reach of Glasgow.

Our tasting notes
The colour of this 12 years old Cask Strength is golden amber and the nose is lovely, with many promising aromas combining well.  These include an initial sumptuous mix of malted barley, vanilla, golden syrup and juicy sultanas.  They are accompanied by a whiff of alcohol vapour which catches in your nostrils.  This is not unpleasant and subsides as your senses become used to the strength.  Underneath are more subtle aromas of green apple, brown sugar and baking spice.  On the palate, this is initially big, intense and hot with the high alcohol prominent.  However, like the nose, this settles with time to reveal a decent mixture of characteristics.  There are plenty of the golden syrup and juicy sultanas, plus some very green pears (think of pear drop sweets), oat-like cereals, some tangy orange zest and a pinch of cinnamon.  When it has mixed with the saliva in your mouth, this whisky feels quite oily and creamy.  The finish is bittersweet with notes of burnt brown sugar and dry woody spices prominent.

The high alcohol strength and 'feel' of this whisky suggests the addition of some water.  A few drops sees the alcohol less evident on the nose, with more cereals and green apple aromas coming through.  The palate is softer with plenty of honey and vanilla backed up by dried fruit and some spiced orange zest.  Water definitely helps this whisky, but we recommend trying it without first and making your own mind up.

What's the verdict?
The nose of this whisky is very good and promises much on the palate.  The palate is good, but both ourselves and the person we tasted this with agreed that it was not quite as good as the fantastic nose suggested.  It is still a good whisky and one which benefits from a few drops of water.  Arran are continuing to release some very interesting single malt whiskies and to push boundaries - we look forward to whatever is next on the horizon.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Meeting Greg Davis - Maker's Mark Master Distiller

We were recently invited to a special meeting with Greg Davis, the Master Distiller of the famous Maker's Mark distillery in America (pictured, left).  The meeting was held at the JW Steakhouse on London's swanky Park Lane and took the form of a bourbon and steak dinner (a nightmare scenario for the vegetarian half of Whisky For Everyone!).  Greg is the youngest Master Distiller in the American bourbon industry and treated us to an enlightening evening. A short video that we recorded can be found below, where Greg offers an insight in to what gives Maker's Mark its distinctive character and flavour plus techniques used at the distillery to maintain quality.

Maker's Mark is one of the best known distilleries in America. It is the most southernly in the state of Kentucky and is located in Loretto, Marion County. Maker's Mark is large with a capacity of 8 million litres per year (this dwarfs most distilleries elsewhere in the world) and is one of the oldest in America, having been founded in 1805. The original name of Star Hill Farm Distillery was changed to Maker's Mark in the 1950s when new owner Bill Samuels decided to revamp the whole organisation. He changed the recipe and the combination of grains used as he wanted to create a premium bourbon rather than the economic ones that were flooding the market following the end of the Prohibition period. It is now one of the best selling American whiskies in the world.



Following a welcoming Maker's Mint Julep cocktail, the main part of the evening (apart from the huge dinner!) was one of the most interesting tastings that we have attended.  We were presented with four glasses which contained Maker's Mark whisky at different stages of its development (pictured, below) - new make spirit or 'white dog' as they call it in America, under matured, fully matured and over matured.  As Maker's Mark only release their regular bottling and the limited edition Maker's 46, this was an innovative way for us to taste a number of samples and see the difference that age gives the spirit. We have included our brief tasting notes for each sample below - all were presented at 45% ABV.


White Dog (far left)
This is marketed and sold as Star Hill Whisky and is only available at the distillery shop.  It is new make spirit that has come from the stills at 65% ABV, before being cut down to 45% ABV.  It has had no maturation. The spirit is clear and has a fresh, fruity nose with a buttery, dough-like background note.  On the palate, there is plenty of tangy, hot spice and it is incredibly fruity (think of crisp, green apple) and juicy.  This clashes with a mouth-coating, rich and creamy feel that is again buttery and a little yeasty.  The finish is hot, burning and spicy with plenty of oat-like cereal notes.

Under Matured (second left)
This is spirit that has been aged in casks for roughly two and a half years.  The colour is golden yellow and the nose is robust, very woody and packed with vanilla and wood spice.  The palate is uncomplicated and very oaky up front, with plenty of sweet vanilla, dry wood spice and fresh coconut.  A pleasant tangy citrus note comes through, as does a heavy yeast note.  The finish begins sweetly with a touch of honey and vanilla, before becoming very dry and woody.  The heavy yeasty note also lingers.

Fully Matured (second right)
This is the Maker's Mark which is released on to the market. The whisky is matured for an average of five and three quarter years, and is selected when the flavour profile is correct.  The colour is golden amber and the nose is rich and sweet with a lovely combination of vanilla, honey, coconut and spiced orange.  The palate is equally rich and sweet, feeling creamy with the aromas from the nose replicated and joined by dry wood spices, oak and further tangy orange zest.  The finish is sweet before leaving you with an oaky, drier freshness. Read our previous review of Maker's Mark with more expansive tasting notes by clicking here.

Over Matured (far right)
This whisky has been maturing for almost double the amount of time that the regular Maker's Mark does (about 11 years).  This makes it quite old for a bourbon, which normally come in under 10 years of age.  The colour is dark amber and the nose is full of vanilla and heavy oak spice (think of pencil shavings).  The palate is initially feisty with plenty of drying wood spices and chilli-like heat, before it softens to reveal lovely sweet, creamy vanilla, honey and zesty orange notes.  A late hit of burnt caramel leads in to a bittersweet finish that has notes of robust cereal and spiced zest.

As we sat after dinner and enjoyed a couple of very good Maker's Mark cocktails (Manhattans served either on ice as pictured or straight up), we reflected on the line up with a couple of others in the group. It was very interesting to try the same whisky, starting with its purest form and then seeing what Greg and Maker's Mark consider "too young", "just right" and "too old".  This was a new concept to us, but having thought about it this was essentially the same as trying a new make spirit followed by different ages of a single malt or blended whisky.  The White Dog and Under Matured were a little rough but it was good to see the signature characteristics of the initial spirit.  The regular Maker's Mark is lovely, if you prefer your bourbons on the richer and sweeter side.  The general consensus of ourselves (and the guests surrounding us) was that the Over Matured version was actually pretty good stuff, despite what Greg said about it!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Whisky Round Table > October 2011

The latest edition of The Whisky Round Table is now available for all to read. For those of you that may have just discovered us, The Whisky Round Table is the brainchild of Jason Johnston-Yellin - the author of the 'must read' whisky blog Guid Scotch Drink. His idea was to gather together 12 whisky bloggers from around the world and get them to discuss a whisky topic once a month. The hosting of The Round Table is passed around the 12 members, with each host setting the question for each month - the subjects have been wide and varied to date. Links to the previous editions of Whisky Round Table articles can be found by clicking here.

This month sees the turn of our fellow Londoners Joel and Neil, who write the excellent CaskStrength blog.  They have asked about which 'whisky myths' the Round Table members have experienced and how to get over these 'myths' so as to attract new followers to whisky. This has created very interesting responses from the members, so grab a dram and put your feet up - click here to read everyone's answers. We hope that you enjoy the debate and please feel free to add a comment at the bottom of Joel and Neil's posting.  Which 'whisky myths' have you experienced?

The Whisky Round Table can also be followed on Twitter. Come and join us @WhiskyKnights for updates and news from the Round Table and its members.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Our visit to Cuba > Part 2

At the end of August and start of September, Whisky For Everyone went in to a three week hibernation.  This was our longest period of non-blogging since we began nearly three and a half years ago.  The reason was simple - we went on holiday!  Here, we have decided to share a few observations, experiences and photos from our time away.  Part 1 can be found by clicking here, but here we go with Part 2 ...

Something which you cannot help but notice as you travel around Cuba is evidence of the Revolution. Even though this happened in the late 1950s, it is like it happened last year.  You can't get away from it.  There are revolutionary slogans painted everywhere by the government as a constant reminder of it - even in the middle of nowhere there will have been a concrete slab erected and something painted on it.  Images of leader Fidel Castro and especially his right hand man Che Guevara are equally everywhere.  This can be seen in its most celebratory form in the massive Plaza de la Revolución in Havana, where the iconic Guevara adorns the side of an eight floor government building.
Che Guevara - Plaza de la Revolución, Havana
Our next port of call was the town of Trinidad on the southern coast.  This is a Spanish colonial town that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  It was built around the sugar cane industry and the neighbouring valley - the Valle de los Ingenios - was once the heart of the Cuban sugar industry.  The town is lovely and photogenic with a relaxed feel.  Here, unlike the rest of Cuba (with the exception of parts of Old Havana), you don't have to work at seeing the 'stunning colonial architecture' that the guide books shout about.  It is laid on a plate for you and the busloads of tourists that arrive everyday. Everywhere else in the country you have to visually peel back 30-40 years of decay and neglect to begin to see the charm.
The church in Trinidad
One highlight of the stay in Trinidad was a train journey into the Valle de los Ingenios.  The valley was once one of the main production areas for sugar cane in Cuba and was home to over 70 sugar mills. Then it fell on hard times, largely due to its location - the imposing Escambray mountains form a natural barrier with the rest of the island.  We took a ride on one of original sugar cane trains, which was a classic old steam locomotive pulling two rickety wooden carriages.  It was all very touristy but it got us out in to more stunning landscape, in a similar way to our horse riding in Viñales. The train was built in 1902 in Philadelphia and it chugged its way slowly through the valley to the small town of Iznaga.  Iznaga was formerly the site of the largest sugar cane plantation in Cuba and the town is dominated by the Torre Iznaga - a 45 metre high tower used for observing the slaves working in the fields.

Train 1590 at Iznaga station
We then moved to the north coast of the island and the tourist haven of Varadero.  This 'town' is a dreadful eyesore of a place with wall-to-wall all-inclusive hotels as far as the eye can see.  However, the reason it is there is because of its fantastic location - it sits on a spit of land which has the Caribbean's longest beach on one side and a lagoon on the other.  It was the one place that we didn't go for culture - we went for gratuitous beach, pool and sunbathing action.  The beach was idyllic, with snow white sand and azure blue sea that lived up to our vision of a Caribbean beach.  After a few days of all-you-can-drink Piña Coladas, we headed back to Havana for the last part of our trip.

This time we stayed in Old Havana, which is a part of the city that has been renovated to its former glory by the Castro Government.  Here you can see the colourful buildings, painted in yellow, green and blue, that you see in the guide books.  However, you don't have to walk far to see the 'real' Havana that the Government are less keen for tourists to see.  The people were friendly enough but the obvious poverty meant that, as before, they wanted to extract any pesos they could from you and weren't scared to use their creativity to do so ...

The Havana Club bar
Whilst in Havana one of the highlights was a visit to the Havana Club rum museum.  This is housed in one of the old company buildings, which sits in the bedraggled dock area of the city.  Here we were taken on a personal guided tour of the museum, having arrived just before a busload of Canadian tourists.  Our tour guide (Yeny) showed us various artifacts from early rum making and gave us a basic history of the sugar plantations, slavery and the birth of the Cuban rum industry.  Without doubt the best part was the explanation of how rum is made, which is something we were unfamiliar with.  Please watch our video below, where Yeny took us through the different stages of production.  It was interesting to find out how the process differs from that of making whisky.  We finished with a couple of shots of rum in the gorgeous wooden Havana Club bar.



So is Cuba the gorgeous time-warp of a place that the guide books portray? Yes, in places. In other places it is a rundown and poor, with the famous architecture and classic cars being patched up and shadows of their former selves.  The landscapes that we traveled through were stunning and idyllic in many locations, especially the serene Valle de Viñales. Are the people the 'friendliest in the world', as our book put it?  No - we met some lovely people especially outside of the main touristy spots, but in the touristy spots it felt that you were running the gauntlet on most occasions as you were constantly pestered and bombarded with questions in the street.  Will we go back again?  Probably not.  Did we enjoy our visit?  Mostly yes, sometimes no. Are we glad that we went?  Definitely yes.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Inbox > October 7, 2011

whisky for everyone inbox logoWelcome to Inbox - our weekly round up of whisky news and PR type material that has recently found its way in to our email inbox. It was created as we cannot write full articles or do justice to every piece that we receive. It features items from around the world of whisky and is published by us each Friday. Within Inbox we will write a few lines detailing each press release/piece of news/PR event that we have received and provide links, where possible, for you to find out further information if you want to. It's been a busy one this week, so here goes.

Chichibu > The First bottling
The first of many?
Japan’s youngest distillery has released its first single malt – The First. Chichibu started production in 2008 and was the first new distillery to be built in Japan since the 1970s. This three years old whisky follows on from occasional releases of new make spirit. The First is constructed from just 31 ex-bourbon casks, which have yielded 7,400 bottles at a cask strength of 61.8% ABV. These will be sold through selected specialist whisky retailers in Japan, the UK and France for £90/€115. The product was launched at Whisky Live, Paris a couple of weeks ago and will be launched in Japan on 10 October.

Dalmore > New visitor centre opens
The impressive tasting room
The iconic distillery in the north Highlands, which is owned by Whyte & Mackay, has opened its new visitor centre. The Dalmore Visitor Experience is a £1million investment that gives whisky fans a different type of distillery tour. It was opened by Distillery Manager Ian Mackay and Master Blender Richard Paterson. The Experience takes guests on a sensory journey - they can embrace the unique atmosphere, sounds and smells of Dalmore and will be able to smell the spirit, hear the sound of the grain being milled etc. There are numerous bespoke features and furniture, plus special lighting to change mood and atmosphere. Tours can be booked for 11am, 1pm and 3pm and can be made in advance online at www.thedalmore.com.

Glendronach > Add to core range 
Going for gold
The independently owned Aberdeenshire distillery of Glendronach has announced an addition to its award winning core range – a new 21 years old. Named ‘Parliament’, which refers to a parliament of rooks that have lived at the distillery for over 100 years (who knew that the collective name for a group of rooks was a parliament?), this single malt whisky is bottled at 48% ABV and has been matured in a combination of ex-Oloroso and ex-Pedro Ximinez sherry casks. It joins the 12, 15, 18 and 31 year olds in the core range. Sales Director Alistair Walker said, “The Parliament was released after listening to our customers, who identified the opportunity for a premium Glendronach positioned somewhere between our 18 year-old and our iconic 31-year old. It’s a major release for the distillery”.

Glenglassaugh > First cask comes of age
Cask no.1
The Glenglassaugh distillery, which sits on the north east Highland coast, has announced the first single malt bottling of whisky made by the new ownership. Previous releases have been from stock inherited from the former owners. The distillery had been closed for over 20 years before Glenglassaugh was restored and re-opened by an independent group. The first distillation took place on 16 December 2008 and the whisky will be bottled on 16 December 2011, when the spirit reaches the minimum legal age for single malt. Cask 1 is an ex-sherry cask and the whisky will retail for £90 a bottle. They expect around 650 bottles from the cask and these will be bottled at the natural cask strength. To pre-order a bottle or get more information, contact first.bottling@glenglassaugh.com.

Jameson > Celebrate London Film Festival
Jameson + BFI = cool
The world’s best selling Irish whisky have teamed up with the BFI (British Film Institute) to celebrate the 55th London Film Festival. Part of the collaboration is the opening of a pop-up 1920s speakeasy style bar for the duration of the festival, which runs from 12-27 October. The Jameson Apartment will offer film and whiskey enthusiasts the chance to sample some classic Jameson cocktails made by a selection of leading bartenders from the London scene, plus Jameson’s specialist mixologist Ed McAvoy. The Apartment will be open from 5.30pm until ‘late’ every night and further information can be found by visiting www.jamesoncultfilmclub.com.

The Whisky Lounge > Manchester Whisky Festival
One of the biggest whisky festivals in the UK, outside of London, is taking place on Saturday 15 October. The Whisky Lounge’s Manchester Whisky Festival takes place at The Lowry Hotel in the heart of the city’s rejuvenated canal side area and features an impressive list of exhibitors, including a first European whisky show appearance for Kavalan Taiwanese single malt. The event takes place over two sessions (11am-3pm and 4pm-8pm) and there are over 200 whiskies on show, plus a series of consumer master classes. Whisky Lounge founder Eddie Ludlow commented, “One of our commitments is to bring new followers to the ‘flock’ and show them that whisky is not just about lairds, tartan and stags. It’s about the moment and learning how to enjoy it – there is something for everyone at our show”. Tickets can be purchased via www.thewhiskylounge.com.

Suntory > A cocktail for every season
The Hakushu Ritto
The Japanese whisky company of Suntory have created a series of cocktails to celebrate the change of season. Brand Ambassador Zoran Peric has produced a cocktail for each of the 24 Japanese seasons and has launched the Hakushu Ritto in the UK, where we are turning autumnal and the nights are drawing in. The Ritto is made with 50ml of Hakushu 12 year old whisky, 75ml of hot green tea, a teaspoon of honey, a pinch of powdered ginger and a squeeze of lemon juice - pour the Hakushu and green tea into a mug, add the honey, ginger and lemon juice and stir until the honey is dissolved, then add the ginger slice and serve. Sounds great for a cold, damp Autumn evening.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Laphroaig Live > Watch it NOW

To watch the full Laphroaig Live 2011 broadcast - CLICK HERE

This year's Laphroaig Live event took place on the 6th of October in Sydney, Australia. The event was first held by the iconic Islay distillery in 2007 and the idea is to engage whisky fans around the world by holding a live tasting online. This year's show, the first to be held in the southern hemisphere, will incorporated Laphroaig whisky tasting, food and music.

Laphroaig is currently the third biggest selling single malt in Australia and the live broadcast was hosted by Aussie TV presenter Simon Reeve who was joined by Laphroaig Distillery Manager John Campbell, Laphroaig's Master Blender Robert Hicks and Lin Johnston, the great great great granddaughter of the distillery's founder Alexander Johnston who started Laphroaig in 1815. The whiskies to be sampled and discussed are Quarter Cask and Triple Wood, plus a special 10 year old which was bottled in the 1960s.

If you missed the original broadcast, you can now watch the show whenever is convenient by clicking on the link above and going to our special page on the Whisky For Everyone website via the link above. So pour a dram of Laphroaig, sit back and enjoy ...

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Our visit to Cuba > Part 1

At the end of August and start of September, Whisky For Everyone went in to a three week hibernation.  This was our longest period of non-blogging since we began nearly three and a half years ago.  The reason was simple - we went on holiday!  Here, we have decided to share a few observations, experiences and photos from our time away.

We had decided to go to Cuba - a country portrayed as being in a 1960s time-warp and living the socialist ideal where everyone is equal.  Part of our fascination was to see this country before Fidel Castro dies.  It is believed that once he goes, then Cuba may change for ever.  So is it all cigars, mojitos and classic American cars as the holiday brochures and guide books would lead you to believe?  We were about to find out ...
A taxi in Havana
After our nine hour flight from London, we arrived in Havana - the largest city in the Caribbean.  It's hot.  Not English Summer hot (15°C when we left!) but a balmy 35°C with 85% humidity.  We are to stay in the iconic Hotel Nacional, which was once frequented by Winston Churchill and Ernest Hemingway.  This immense building has just celebrated its 80th anniversary and sits overlooking the famous eight mile long Malecón and the sea.  The place looks impressive but has a distinct air of faded grandeur about it.

You do not have to spend long in Havana before you meet some of the 'friendly locals' that the guide books tell you about.  This 'friendliness' manifests itself in the form of numerous ways to part you with your capitalist cash!  We lost count of how many times we were asked if we wanted a taxi or a guided tour of the city on a rickshaw-bike thing or to buy cigars?  This turned out to be true for virtually the entire trip, not just Havana.  Everyone seems to own a taxi, bike or know someone who works in a cigar factory!

The Partagas cigar factory
Cuba is famous for its cigars and tobacco growing, so despite not being cigar aficionados or big smokers we decided to visit a cigar making factory while in Havana.  Having said that, we have enjoyed the occasional cigar with a good dram of whisky!  The factory in question was Partagas, which is housed in a gorgeous Spanish colonial building in the heart of the city.  Here we had a guided tour which showed us the production process and the chance to see the torcedores, the highly skilled craftsmen and women who hand roll the cigars, at work (torcedoras for the ladies!). It was as hot as hell in there and fascinating to see.  For further information on cigar production - check out our post on Cigars & Whisky.

After a few days exploring Havana, we moved to the small farming town of Viñales in the western Pinar del Rio province.  This is where some of the best tobacco in the world is grown.  To get there, we boarded a surprisingly modern bus (by far the most modern vehicle we had seen to date) and traveled along the national AutoPista - the worst, most brain-jangling major highway in the world.  It's a shocker.  It's a road so bad that Cubans don't actually use it.  All we saw were tourist buses, tourist hire cars and the occasional horse.  The road was built in the 1980s with Soviet cash (which then ran out, so it remains half completed!) and clearly hasn't been maintained since then.

Valle de Viñales
The pace in Viñales was very different to Havana.  The surrounding landscape and valley - the Valle de Viñales - is gorgeous and is dominated by the majestic and distinctively shaped mountains, called mogotes.  Locals grow a multitude of crops in the fertile valley soil, including tobacco, pineapples, rice and sweetcorn. One day, we went on horse riding trek into the valley.  This was the only form of transport that can get deep into the valley and the scenery was stunning and tranquil.  The highlight was visiting a tobacco warehouse where they receive leaves from the farmers, sort them and ferment them for up to four years, before sending them to factories such as the Partagas one in Havana.

Click the video clip below to see some of the sights and sounds of this warehouse. Later, we had a meeting with a tobacco farmer and smoked a cigar with him, which he hand rolled for us using leaves from his plantation.  Sadly we couldn't see any plants, as we were between growing seasons.



Our journey around Cuba will continue in Part 2 shortly.