Monday, July 23, 2012

New release - The Sirius Collection


The Sirius Collection is a new range of premium and old single cask whiskies.  The range is the brainchild of passionate whisky collector and investor Mahesh Patel, a man who has over 3,000 bottles of rare whisky in his private collection.  He has also launched and hosted the Universal Whisky Experience, one of the world's biggest super premium whisky shows, in Las Vegas earlier in the year.  Now Mahesh has launched his own whisky range, with which he aims to bring his passion for whisky to the luxury market.

There are four whiskies in the first release of The Sirius Collection - two single malts and two single grain whiskies.  All are over forty years of age, are from single casks and bottled at the natural cask strength.  Each has been hand selected by Mahesh and a small group of associates, from over 100 samples of rare whisky, with the focus on supreme quality.  Further bottlings are planned along similar lines, but these will only be released as and when the casks are ready.

The range is named Sirius after the brightest star in the night sky.  The name comes from the ancient Greek language and means 'glowing'.  It is often known as 'the dog star' and has been used as a navigation point of reference throughout human history.  Now, Mahesh is using the Sirius reference to plot his own journey through the world of whisky.  The four whiskies in the initial release of The Sirius Collection represents the best discoveries of his journey to date.

The packaging design has also been overseen by Mahesh and features striking tall bottles, cylindrical lacquered display boxes and velvet carrying bags.  The single malts are sold in black and the single grains are in white.  The Sirius Collection is exclusively for sale through The Whisky Shop, the UK's largest whisky retail chain. Details of the four whiskies can be found by visiting any of the chain's 21 stores or via the website www.whiskyshop.com.

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Carsebridge 1965
(41% ABV/ 63 bottles/ price £1,000)
The Carsebridge distillery was founded in the town of Alloa in 1799 and was initially built to produce single malt.  However in 1851 it was converted by the owners to a grain whisky distillery in order to help meet the demand for the booming blended whisky markets.  It remained in production until 1992.  It was then dismantled and whiskies from Carsebridge are now very rare. 

It is a rare treat to try a single grain whisky of this age and this one did not disappoint.  The ex-bourbon cask has given a rich golden yellow colour which is backed up with a wonderfully perfumed nose of coconut, vanilla, peaches, orange zest and plenty of woody spices (think of nutmeg, vanilla and cedarwood).  On the palate, this whisky is surprisingly fresh and uplifting.  The vanilla, spices and orange from the nose are present, and are complimented by notes of honey, caramel and hints of coffee and chocolate.  The finish is long and increasingly dry with the wood spices coming to the fore.
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Dalmore 1967
(64.3% ABV/ 89 bottles/ £3,500)
The Dalmore distillery is located in the north Highland town of Alness and was founded in 1839.  The current owners are Whyte & Mackay and they have pressed on with a significant promotional drive that has seen Dalmore become established as one of the world's premium Scotch single malts.  Old casks are extremely rare and notoriously carry a high retail price.

This single malt has spent the entirety of its life maturing in an ex-rum cask and this has given the whisky a dramatic dark amber, almost black, colour.  The nose is equally as expressive and full of dark aromas - think of molasses, treacle, dark chocolate, espresso coffee and a hint of menthol.  On the palate the richness continues as the sweet treacle-like notes mix with others such as tropical fruit, toasted nuts, bitter oranges, brown sugar and over ripe banana.  It remains surprisingly fresh somehow, which stops it from being too heavy and cloying.  The finish is long and sumptuous and full of the chocolate and coffee notes.
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Fettercairn 1966
(52.6% ABV/ 39 bottles/ £1,750)
Fettercairn was established in 1824 and is located in the east Highland town of Laurencekirk, which lies half way between Dundee and Aberdeen.  Like Dalmore, the distillery is currently owned by Whyte & Mackay.  The reputation of Fettercairn's single malts is growing, but most of the whisky maturing at the distillery remains destined for Whyte & Mackay's range of blends.

The rarest of The Sirius Collection bottlings has been matured in an ex-bourbon cask and this has given a dark golden amber hue.  The nose has a mix of fruity aromas (think of peach, mango and figs) and exotic spices (imagine cinnamon, nutmeg and all-spice).  On the palate the rich fruitiness continues with plenty of dark dried fruits - figs, prunes, dates and raisins especially.  There are also notes of roasted nuts, salted caramel and a hint of mint.  The exotic spices also continue and add a delicious drying quality to the lengthy and rich finish.  The sum of the parts is reminiscent of Christmas pudding or fruit cake.

North British 1962
(44.5% ABV/ 138 bottles/ £1,200)
North British is a single grain distillery which is the last remaining distillery within the Edinburgh city boundaries.  It was established in 1887 and remains in production today.  Its grain whisky is highly sought after by the blending companies and is a key ingredient in such famous brands as Chivas Regal, Cutty Sark, Famous Grouse and J&B Rare.  The distillery is joint owned by drinks giant Diageo and the Edrington Group.

The colour is a golden yellow and the nose is surprisingly light and refreshing, especially when considering that this is bottled at 50 years of age.  There are pleasant sweet aromas - think of butterscotch, vanilla and caramel - that compete with delicate wood spices (imagine cinnamon, nutmeg and clove).  On the palate this is again fresh but grips your taste buds hard and packs plenty of notes in.  The prominent ones are the butterscotch, vanilla and spice from the nose, plus dried green fruits (pear and apple especially) and spiced bitter orange.  The finish is long - the delicate sweetness combines with the wood spices to provide a wonderful dryness.

What's the verdict?
The Sirius Collection is a set of high quality whiskies.  As you can see, they come at an equally high price - if you want a set then the cost works out at £7,500, although The Whisky Shop are doing an initial price for the full set of £6,500.  The whiskies are all surprisingly fresh, especially when considering the considerable age of each one. 

We rarely sample whiskies of this age and when we have, we have been left disappointed on occasions as the whiskies have been obliterated by the influence from the maturation cask.  This leaves you feeling whether they are worth the significant cost.  The Sirius Collection allows the whiskies to shine through and each has obviously been the subject of sympathetic casking for its maturation.  What was our favourite?  The two single grains were the stars of the show for us and are superb whiskies.  Well done to Mahesh.

Note - Everytime we review an expensive whisky or set of expensive whiskies, we get comments from people saying something along the lines of "this is ridiculous, how can you call yourselves Whisky For 'Everyone'? These whiskies are so rare and expensive that no-one will ever try or be able to buy them".  Our reply is simple - we review all brands and price brackets of whisky, and the 'Everyone' tag should include the whisky connoisseurs, collectors and those with plenty of cash to splash.

5 comments:

Macdeffe said...

When has old grain whiskies become a rare treat ?. I reckon it's more common than not that these are 40+ years old. It's harder to find single cask grains out there younger than 20 than older than 40. Normal price for these are arounbd 100-150£, sometimes even less.

I know bloggers aren journalists but I really miss some reflections on the price of these, and the fact that this is really a tool of Whyte and Mackay

Steffen

Whisky For Everyone said...

Hi Steffen - it's good to hear from you and thanks for your informed comments. I would like to answer your points ...

1- The old grain whisky/ rare treat point refers to our own experience. We have not had much exposure to these but are aware that it is a growing market. Therefore by definition it is a 'rare treat' for us. We look forward to trying more.

2- You are right ... we are not journalists and have never pretended to be. We feel that it is not our place to judge whether something is too high or not. The prices are high, especially if you look at the individual prices against other similar independent bottled products. However if you take the Dalmore and compare it to the recent Constellation Collection, where the releases from the mid 1960s are all £15-20k, then that then seems like a bargain ...

3- Is it a tool for W&M? Quite possibly. However, having spoken to Mahesh at the launch last week I do not believe this to be the case. Yes, W&M seem to have helped him somewhere along the line but his individual passion to bring good single cask whiskies to the market is evident and seems to be the driving force behind this.

Thanks again for your excellent comments - regards, Matt @WFE

Whisky Critic said...

I think price is very much a matter of perception, budget, and lifestyle ... since it is so subjective in nature, it really is impossible to say whether something costs "too much" or not - just whether it costs too much for oneself or not.

Anonymous said...

.thanks for sharing

Anonymous said...

Great write-up.

Single grains are almost impossible to find in Australia, so it's good to see some discussion about them (most people over here don't even know they exist even though they've been drinking scotch whisky for years).

It's interesting though that the grain's had much less AVB then the malt's. I'd have expected them to be higher .. or do older grain whisky's lose AVB more in the barrel compared to malts ?