Friday, June 29, 2012

Inbox - June 29, 2012

Inbox is our weekly round up of whisky news and PR material that has 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 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.  There is plenty of news to get through this week, so grab a dram and put your feet up ...
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Dewar's - Get experimental 
The popular blended Scotch brand of Dewar's have announced the creation of a bespoke blend.  The new limited edition is inspired by the innovative work of Tommy Dewar, the son of the brand's founder John Dewar Snr, who progressed the brand and built the company's London base Dewar House.  The Dewar House Experimental Batch 39 has been developed using a cask of regular Dewar's 12 years old, which has then been finished in an ex-sherry cask for the last five years.  Only 30 bottles will be initially produced.  Check out the short video below where Stephen Marshall, the Global Brand ambassador for Dewar's, explains about their new creation ...

video

Glen Garioch - Joins the jet set
The cult Highland distillery of Glen Garioch have teamed up with a major airline to celebrate the airline's continued success.  Air France KLM are one of the biggest airlines serving Scotland (five airports in total - Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, Glasgow & Inverness) and decided to celebrate their extended Scottish programme of 38 flights a day by selecting a single cask of whisky. Air France KLM staff visited the Glen Garioch distillery earlier this year and selected an ex-bourbon cask, which has been maturing since 1998. It was chosen for its sweet roasted almond notes mixed with intense dark chocolate and wood spice, finished with smooth and creamy hints of vanilla and coconut. Bottles of the single malt will be distributed to Air France KLM's staff, plus business and leisure customers.

Glenrothes - Makers make Vintage
Last year we reported on the second Glenrothes Vintage Makers competition, which offered the chance to take part in every aspect of the whisky making process at the Speyside distillery. The winners included four from Americans, one from Canada and one from Taiwan, and they have just returned from Scotland after laying to rest the 2012 Vintage of Glenrothes single malt whisky.

A balance of first-fill American ex-bourbon and Spanish ex-sherry casks, as well as refill casks from The Glenrothes, were filled with new make spirit from 2012. Bill Kiel from Wisconsin, one of the Glenrothes Vintage Makers commented, “the group decided that the 2012 Vintage should have a ‘conversational’ style about it. However, we cannot be certain of the flavor profile or the quantity that will be selected. What we can be sure of is that the maturity will be there, no matter what the age”.

Macallan (pt.1) - New UK range
The famous Speyside distillery of Macallan have unveiled details of a new range of whiskies which will initially be exclusive to the UK market later in the year - The 1824 Series.  The first three whiskies will be named Gold, Sienna and Ruby and will not carry any age statements.  All are 100% ex-sherry cask matured in the classic Macallan style.  Price points  and exact release dates are yet to be announced.

Ken Grier, the Director of Malts for the Edrington Group (Macallan's owners) comments, “The 1824 Series will introduce a new approach to The Macallan in the UK market for single malt drinkers to enjoy and underlines our ongoing commitment to leading innovation. The move represents a major step in the evolution of The Macallan and we are extremely excited to be introducing this into the UK market first.”

Please note - There are two heavy rumours circulating around the whisky world following the news. 1) the three new whiskies will be replacing the current 10, 12 and 15 years old expressions in the range, and 2) that the new direction will lead to the phasing out of the Fine Oak series in the core range.  If true, the debates are bound to rage with both Macallan and whisky fans around the world, and we will keep you up to date when we hear anything further on this.

Macallan (pt.2) - Pop art box
Also this week, Macallan have announced a special release to celebrate the 80th birthday of renowned British pop artist Sir Peter Blake.  The release comes in the form of a bespoke box named The Macallan and Sir Peter Blake celebrate eight decades.  It consists of an oak box, divided in to eight sections with each section marking a decade of Blake's life.

Each decade has a backdrop and artefact designed, inspired and chosen by Sir Peter Blake, plus a miniature of The Macallan distilled in that decade (1930 through to 2000’s).  The bottle labels are designed by Blake and there is also a small book of illustrations and text about his life. There are only 250 boxes for sale, with a small number available from the website www.themacallan.com and the rest allocated to key markets around the world. The guide price is £4,500 each.

Malt Mill - A rare discovery
The legendary whisky that is Malt Mill has put in an unexpected appearance that has got whisky lovers very excited. Malt Mill was made at a small distillery on the Lagavulin site on Islay from 1908 with production ceasing in 1962 and this bottle is from the last fill in June 1962.

It was discovered by current Lagavulin distillery manager Georgie Crawford after watching the new movie The Angel's Share, which has an imaginary cask of Malt Mill as a central part of the story line.  The bottle will be displayed in the Lagavulin visitor centre for all to see and the unveiling was attended by cast members of the movie and Lagavulin workers past and present, including Donnie MacKinnon - the worker who filled the bottle in 1962 (pictured, above).

Charles Maclean, one of the world’s leading whisky writers (who also appears in The Angel's Share movie) comments, “This bottle is priceless. Malt Mill is legendary, and is viewed by many as the holy grail.” Dr Nick Morgan, Head of Whisky Heritage at Diageo, adds, “In my twenty years as an historian and archivist, I’ve always wanted to see this unique bottle of Malt Mill go on display. We are thrilled to share this precious artefact with those who visit Lagavulin every year.

Tomatin - Visitor centre facelift
The Highland distillery of Tomatin have completed some upgrading work on its visitor centre in time for the Summer rush.  The £150,000 investment has seen the visitor centre extensively refurbished, improvements to the visitor tours (including more viewing of the production areas) and a new facility where visitors can bottle their own whisky from one of two selected casks.  The new facilities have already been awarded a 4* rating by VisitScotland and Tomatin are expecting figures to rise to over 20,000 visitors this year, for the first time.  Details of the visitor centre opening times and information about the tours can be found at www.tomatin.com.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

New release - Cutty Sark Storm

The legendary blended whisky brand of Cutty Sark have just launched a new expression in to their core range - the Cutty Sark Storm.  The new permanent fixture to the range will take its place in a slimmed down new range, which now includes the regular Cutty Sark, the Storm, plus two age statements - the 12 and 18 years old.  Out go the old Cutty Sark Black, the Blended Malt and the 15 years old.  This range will be supported by other limited releases, such as the recent Tam o'Shanter 25 years old.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Clan Speyburn & The Clan Cask

The Speyburn distillery have just launched a new members club for fans of its single malt brands - The Clan Speyburn.  The club has its own members area on the new Speyburn website and membership is free.  You can sign up via the same website ... oooh, and it's free to join! 

Benefits of membership include a welcome pack including a Clan Speyburn pin badge complete with the brand's salmon motif (- we just received our pack and it looks pretty good), a regular newsletter about all things Speyburn and special offers including exclusive Speyburn bottlings for Clan Speyburn members.

We were delighted to receive a sneak preview of the first such bottling in the post recently and have included our tasting notes below.  The Clan Cask was distilled in 1975 and is one of the oldest expressions of Speyburn ever released.  The whisky is from a single specially selected ex-Pedro Ximinez sherry cask.  It will be bottled at the natural cask strength of 55.8% ABV and will be available exclusively to members in the late Summer.  Details of the number of bottles and the price have yet to be released.

The Speyburn distillery is located in the town of Rothes, in the heart of the Speyside whisky region of Scotland.  It was founded in 1897 by two brothers, John and Edward Hopkin, and their cousin Edward Broughton.  The current annual production capacity is two million litres and the single malt range is small.  Speyburn whisky is particularly popular in the America market and is growing in others such as the UK and Europe.

The core range contains a 10 years old (pictured) and the youthful Bradan Orach (which translates as 'golden salmon' from Gaelic), and is starting to pick up a good collection of awards from whisky shows and competitions around the world.  Speyburn is one of the five Scottish distilleries owned by Inver House Distillers, who took control in 1991.  They are now part of the larger Thai Bev Group, which has other brands such as Chang Beer.

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Our tasting notes - The Clan Cask
The colour is a dark golden amber and the nose is rich and full of lovely aromas - burnt caramel, brown sugar, dark chocolate, coffee, golden syrup and plenty of dry wood spices (think especially of cinnamon and nutmeg).  Underneath are further developing notes of dark dried fruits - imagine prunes, figs, dates and raisins, plus a hint of dried orange peel.

On the palate, this feels rich, thick and spicy.  It coats the inside of the mouth wonderfully and there is an immediate battle between the sweeter notes and the spicier ones.  The sweeter notes include distinct notes of butterscotch and maple syrup, while the spicier notes counteract these and add a lovely dryness - think of the cinnamon and nutmeg again, plus hints of clove and sandalwood.  Depth and complexity is added with an array of further notes including orange oil (or possibly marmalade), burnt caramel, bitter chocolate and the dark dried fruits from the nose.  The prunes are particularly prominent towards the end.

The finish is long and particularly drying and spicy after a sugary hit to begin with.  The bitter chocolate and dark dried fruits combine with intense and gripping notes of cinnamon and nutmeg, along with some delicious spiced orange.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Grant's Stand Fast - Part 2

Earlier this week, I reported on my recent visit to the new Grant's Family Home and blending facility, which is located at the Speyside distillery of Glenfiddich.  I will not bore you with all of the details again - click here to read my full report of the day - but the premise was simple.  An old book belonging to the brand's owners William Grant & Sons was discovered and it contained the first ever recipe for the Grant's blend, named Stand Fast, which was written by William Grant himself.

The first entry was logged in the book on 11 June 1912 and 100 years later, the Grant's Master Blender (Brian Kinsman) and the Grant's Global Brand Ambassador (Ludo Ducrocq) were going to try and recreate that original blend as closely as possible, with the help of a select group of whisky bloggers and journalists.  I was one of that group and it was a fantastic day and experience.  The guys at Grant's have now put together a short film which charts the progress of the blending session and tells a bit of the background story.  Enjoy ...



In addition, Grant's also interviewed each of the participating group about our thoughts on the day and the recreation of the Grant's Stand Fast blend. Below is my interview where I talk briefly about my experiences of the blending processes, what I learnt and the day in general. Thanks to Liz Yeo from Grant's for allowing me to use these videos here.

- Matt

Friday, June 22, 2012

Inbox - June 22, 2012

Inbox is our weekly round up of whisky news and PR material that has 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 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.  Things seem a little quiet this week, but here are a couple of things that caught our eye ...

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Compass Box - They made it!
Last Friday (15 June) saw an extraordinary world record attempt by artisan whisky blenders Compass Box, in conjunction with The Whisky Shop chain.  The attempt involved Compass Box founder John Glaser, along with whisky writer Dominic Roskrow, hosting a whisky tasting in eight of The Whisky Shop's stores in a 24 hour period.

We can report that they achieved their goal, although they are still waiting to hear from The Guinness Book of Records to find out if it will be an official world record.  The trek from one end of the UK to the other started with a tasting at the Inverness store at 00.01 and finished at 23.30 in Brighton.  In the 683 miles in between, the highlights included a breakfast tasting of whisky, haggis and kippers in the Newcastle store and Compass Box cocktails in the London store during the England v Sweden match (interspersed with cheers from the pub opposite).  Well done to John, Dominic and The Whisky Shop team for completing their epic mission!

Glengoyne - 'Ideal' tastings
The single malt brand from the southern Highlands teamed up with Olly Smith, one of the UK's most charismatic wine and spirits experts, at the recent Ideal Home Show Scotland.  Glengoyne and Olly hosted a series of entertaining master classes at the show, with the aim of bringing the whisky brand to a wider audience.  In preparation, Olly was also shown around the Glengoyne distillery by manager Robbie Hughes.

Olly Smith commented, "The Glengoyne range has a vibrant fruity character with delightful purity in every sip, whether it’s light and refreshing or deep and rich. The casks impart complexity and depth as the whiskies gently develop with age. I loved visiting the intimate Glengoyne distillery and it was a great opportunity to share these brilliant drinks with visitors at The Ideal Home Show Scotland too.”

Laphroaig - Cáirdeas 2012 available
The famous Islay distillery have made a limited amount of their annual Cáirdeas whisky (an annual bottling for the Islay Festival) available for purchase to Friends of Laphroaig members.  The Friends of Laphroaig is a members club for fans of the Islay malt - you can sign up for free at www.laphroaig.com.  This year's release celebrates the 18th anniversary of the Friends of Laphroaig.

The 2012 version of Cáirdeas is created from a mix of different styles of Laphroaig - 50% is made up of whisky aged between 13 and 21 years of age, and the other 50% is whisky which has been specially maturing in quarter casks for seven years.  It has been bottled at 51.2% ABV and is available on a first come first served basis for £45 a bottle + postage.  Another cause for celebration for the Friends of Laphroaig is that the membership recently passed the 500,000 mark!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

New release - Ardbeg Day

The Ardbeg Day whisky is the cult distillery's contribution to Islay Festival, or Feis Isle as it is sometimes known.  Each year at the Festival each of the famous whisky island's eight distilleries, plus Jura across the water, release a special collectors bottling on their individual open days.  The Ardbeg open day is traditionally on the last Saturday of the Festival and this year was no different.  Therefore on Saturday 2 June the Ardbeg Day single malt was released.

The Ardbeg distillery produces some of the peatiest and smokiest whiskies in the world.  It is located on the south eastern coast of the famous Scottish whisky producing island of Islay, which is famous for producing the smoky, peaty style of whisky.  Ardbeg was founded in 1815 by John MacDougall, although records show a distillery operating on the site as far back as 1794. The current owners are drinks company Moet Hennessey, who took over in 1997.  The distillery is small with a capacity of just one million litres per year.  The range of single malt whiskies from Ardbeg has built up a cult following of whisky drinkers across the world.

The Ardbeg Day whisky is a limited edition of 12,000 bottles and is a marriage of two different styles of Ardbeg, which have been re-racked in ex-sherry casks for the last six months.  It has been bottled at 56.7% ABV and is priced at £65 a bottle. The special bottling follows the tradition of previous years having been released to the Ardbeg Committee members first.  It is also on sale in the network of Ardbeg Embassies (of which there are now over 100 worldwide).  If you haven't joined the Committee yet, then you can do for free by visiting www.ardbeg.com - you can also find out the location of your nearest Ardbeg Embassy on the same website.

Our tasting notes
The colour is a pale golden yellow and the nose is pungent and full of vibrancy.  There are plenty of honey and vanilla aromas, but the stand out feature is the heavy earthy peat smoke.  This tends towards coal tar soap and petrol fumes with extra time in the glass.  There are also hints of ginger biscuits, oat cakes, cinnamon, candied peel and raisins.

On the palate this feels clean and fresh, while initially being quite fiery and a little oily.  This oily feeling coats the mouth with heavy notes of robust malted cereals (think of oat cakes especially) and rich, thick earthy phenolic peat smoke (imagine damp moss).  This smoke becomes more reminiscent of hot tar as it develops, moving away from the earthiness.  It is only once these prominent notes begin to fade that other more subtle notes appear - honey, vanilla, dried apple, raisins, toasted nuts and hints of dark chocolate and bitter orange.  Further depth and complexity is added by some drier and spicy notes - think of earthy ginger root, cinnamon and oak.

The finish is very long with the slightly bitter smokiness hanging around the longest.  It is wonderfully dry, spicy (think of those wood spices again) and mouthwatering after some initial honey and vanilla sweetness fades.  There is also some chilli-like heat.

The high alcohol level lends itself to adding some water.  With a small splash the whisky becomes creamier on the palate with the chilli heat and bitter smoke softening, and the vanilla in particular becoming more prominent.  The nose also changes in a very interesting way by exhibiting some yeasty/doughy and green apple aromas, along with a slightly floral perfume.

What's the verdict?
This is an intense single malt that is big, smoky and feisty.  Fans of this style of whisky will undoubtedly love it as it exhibits everything that you would expect from it.  The high ABV cask strength aspect exaggerates these aromas and flavours, making Ardbeg Day extremely expressive. 

Most will probably need a drop or two of water to be added, especially those new to cask strength or very peaty whiskies. A lovely honeyed sweetness compliments the spicy and smoky notes almost perfectly.  A fine effort from Ardbeg and more balanced than some of their other recent limited edition releases ... we have enjoyed our belated celebration of Ardbeg Day.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

New releases - Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve & Platinum Label


The world famous Johnnie Walker blended whisky range has just seen a big change in it's line up.  Two new expressions - the Gold Label Reserve and the Platinum Label - have appeared to replace the outgoing Green Label and Gold Label 18 years old respectively.  This change follows research in to consumer buying trends, which are seeing more people trade up to premium blended whiskies than ever before. The change has been overseen by Jim Beveridge, the Johnnie Walker Master Blender, who has created the two new whiskies so that there is now more natural progression through the range.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Grant's Stand Fast - A Recreation of History


It is not often that you get invited to be a part of a historic event so I didn't have to think twice before accepting the recent chance to go up to the Glenfiddich distillery in Dufftown, the whisky capital of the Speyside region.  The invite came from Ludo Ducrocq, the Global Brand Ambassador for the Grant's whisky brand, and what was being offered sounded amazing on paper - the chance to help Brian Kinsman, the Grant's Master Blender, put together a modern day recreation of the first ever version of Grant's blended whisky named Stand Fast.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Inbox - June 15, 2012

Inbox is our weekly round up of whisky news and PR material that has 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 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.  Things seem to be warming up in PR-land following the Queen's Diamond Jubilee long weekend here in the UK, and this week includes a couple of bits of news for all of you keen photographers out there ...
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Famous Grouse - Win a cask
The Famous Grouse Experience, which is housed at the Highland distillery of Glenturret, has announced the latest competition to help celebrate the 10th anniversary of visitor centre's opening - a once in a lifetime chance to win a cask of Glenturret whisky worth £7,000.  Visitors taking a tour at the Famous Grouse Experience in Creiff will each be given a scratch card offering various prizes, including one for the grand prize of the winning cask.

The cask will be filled with Glenturret single malt and matured for 10 years  Scratch cards will be given to anyone taking the tour that is both over 18 years of age and a UK resident.  The closing date is 31 December this year.  For further information on the Famous Grouse Experience, the tours and the competition terms and conditions - visit www.thefamousgrouse.com.

Jura - Photo competition No.1
The Jura single malt whisky brand has teamed up with leading camera maufacturer Olympus to launch an online photography competition with the aim to find images from across the world that capture the theme of ‘community spirit’.

Three amateur photographers will win a trip to the island of Jura, which is famed for its small, close-knit community and united by the island they love and the warmth of its people. Each of the three winners and their partners will enjoy a week’s stay in the exclusive Jura Lodge and a VIP tour of the Jura distillery and island. The winners will also receive an Olympus PEN E-PL3 camera (pictured and worth £370) and a photography workshop from photographer David Nightingale.

To enter, applicants must upload a photo via the special page on the Jura website that captures 'community spirit' with a description in 50 words or less. There will be one winner from North America, one from the UK and one from the rest of the world. The competition closes on Friday 3 August.

Macallan - Photo comp No.2
Following the recent launch of the third part in their Masters of Photography series, the famous Speyside whisky brand of Macallan have announced a consumer photo competition.  This year's work is produced by world renowned portrait photographer Annie Leibovitz and the subject of consumers entries is to be portraits conveying 'The Last Word'.  The competition can be entered via the special website www.themastersofphotography.com.

Once submitted, each portrait will be live on the website and can be voted for by viewers.  Last year's competition pulled in 7,000 entries and this year sees the brand embracing social media for the first time with photos being used on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.  Each week, the most popular portrait will be 'The Last Word of the Week' and be Macallan's Facebook profile picture for that week.  There are also to be monthly prizes and the overall winner will receive a photographic VIP trip to the Macallan distillery in Speyside.  The closing date is 5pm GMT on 23 October.

Tomatin - New release announced
The Highland distillery of Tomatin have announced a new limited edition whisky. The whisky is released at 15 years of age and will be available shortly in specialist whisky retailers worldwide. The majority of the maturation was in ex-bourbon casks, before being transferred to ex-Tempranillo red wine casks for the final three years. It has been bottled at a strength of 52% ABV and there are just 3,150 bottles in the release. The recommended price is £49.99.

Graham Eunson, the Distillery Manager at Tomatin, explains, "The intensity of the wine casks is gently softened by the use of second fill ex-bourbons to achieve a perfect balance. The combination of flavours and aromas achieved by the use of these differing casks is fantastic. There’s always a sense of anticipation and excitement when you experience a potential new whisky for the first time and in this case, those emotions were well justified.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Inbox - June 8, 2012

Inbox is our weekly round up of whisky news and PR material that has 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 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.  With the Queen's Diamond Jubilee long weekend here in the UK last week, there is not much activity in PR-land since then.  Here goes with what we have ...
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Glendronach - On the road
The independently owned distillery and single malt brand of Glendronach have announced that they are going on a 'road trip' around Belgium.  It is the fourth year that they have staged such an event in what is one of their largest markets.

The Glendronach Van (pictured, above) is starting in the town of Zolder on 11 June and ending up in Beveren-Waas on 16 June. On tour will be the newly appointed Brand Ambassador Stuart Buchanan, who will be sampling the core range of Glendronach whiskies plus a specially selected single cask chosen by himself.  This whisky was distilled in 2002 and has been matured in an ex-Pedro Ximinez sherry cask (cask no. 2024, if you're in to that sort of information).  It has a strength of 55.5% ABV.  Consumers will have the opportunity to fill their own bottle from this cask during the tour.  Lucky Belgians, we say!

Whisky Round Table - June 2012
The latest sitting of the Whisky Round Table is now available for you to read.  The May edition is hosted by one of the remaining original members of the group - Peter Lemon, who runs the excellent blog The Casks.  Peter has set a question on the subject of distillery visits, and what makes a good or bad experience.  To read this month's debate - click here.

The Whisky Shop - New TV ad for Father's Day
The UK's largest whisky retail chain, The Whisky Shop, have launched a new version of their TV advert for the forthcoming Father's Day activity.  The advert shows two characteristics of each featured whisky being visually brought together.  It will air during the next 10 days in Scotland only.  For those of you not in Scotland, here is the advert ...

Thursday, June 7, 2012

New release - Yellow Spot

Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard have launched a new whiskey in their award winning Irish pot still range - the Yellow Spot 12 years old.  The whiskey is the elder sibling of the popular Green Spot and has been matured in a unique combination of ex-bourbon, ex-sherry and ex-Malaga fortified wine casks.  The launch is technically a re-launch, as the brand was previously released by Dublin wine merchants Mitchell & Son but has not been around since the late 1950s.

The whiskey gets its name from the coloured spots which were traditionally painted on the end of the maturation casks during storage by Mitchell & Son. This denoted the age of the casks, with other ages in the range having different coloured spots - traditionally this was a blue spot for seven years old, green for 10 years old, yellow for 12 years old and red for 15 years old. Previously, only the Green Spot had survived, albeit as a slightly younger expression of eight years old.

Mitchell & Son, who were founded in Dublin in 1805, have a special historical arrangement with Irish Distillers Pernod Ricard to produce both whiskeys.  The idea for the re-release of the Yellow Spot was said to have been formulated after an old bottle of it was spotted in a museum in Dublin. The new Yellow Spot 12 years old is bottled at 46% ABV and is available in the UK, Irish, European and American markets for £55/€65 each.  There are only 3,000 bottles in this first batch.  For further information about the Yellow Spot and the other whiskeys in the Irish pot still range - visit www.singlepotstill.com.

Our tasting notes
The colour is a rich golden yellow and the nose is punchy with an immediate impact.  A heady mix of aromas fight for your attention and combine superbly to give some very promising clues as to what can be expected from this whiskey. There is a distinct sweetness with plenty of vanilla, some honey and malty cereals.  These are countered by further aromas of dried grass and wood spices (think of freshly sawn oak and cinnamon).

On the palate, this is initially very spicy and gripping (imagine a combination of notes including bittersweet cereals, cinnamon, nutmeg and oak shavings), before it softens with time in the mouth and becomes a little creamier.  It feels almost oily and has notes of vanilla (plenty again), honey and milk chocolate.  Underneath is that dried grass, almost hay-like, note from the nose and a distinct citric tang - imagine lemon zest and bitter orange here.  With a splash of water, the palate settles and becomes even creamier.  The punchy wood spices are softened and the whiskey becomes more delicate, sweet and slightly floral in nature, with the honey and vanilla notes to the fore.

The finish is packed with wood spices and feels quite dry and mouth watering as a result.  This oaky, woody spiciness leaves a lasting impression and makes you want to take another sip.  With water, the finish becomes sweeter with the vanilla and honey notes prominent, but also seemingly much shorter.

What's the verdict?
This is a lovely new whiskey and an excellent example of the Irish pot still style.  It is challenging, in that it is very woody and spicy, but it combines these characteristics superbly with the sweet, rich notes.  The depth and complexity created by the aromas and flavours, leaves you wanting another sip once your glass is empty.  The overall experience is sublime.  As a result, the Yellow Spot is one of our favourite new releases of 2012 to date.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

New release - Bowmore Small Batch Reserve

The Small Batch Reserve is a new limited edition single malt release from the famous Islay distillery of Bowmore.  The whisky is a combination of first-fill and second-fill ex-bourbon casks, which have then been brought together for an extended marrying period to create further complexity. The Small Batch Reserve is also the first new whisky to be released under the stewardship of new Master Blender Rachel Barrie, who describes it as, "a perfect and harmonious version of Bowmore".

The Bowmore distillery is located on the shores of Loch Indaal on the well known whisky island of Islay, which lies off the west coast of Scotland. Bowmore was founded in 1779 by John Simpson, making it the oldest of the eight distilleries currently operating on the island (and one of the oldest of all in Scotland). The word Bowmore translates as 'sea rock' from Gaelic. It is currently owned by Morrison Bowmore, a subsidiary of the Japanese company Suntory, and has an annual production capacity of two million litres. Bowmore is one of the world's biggest selling single malt whisky brands in the smoky, peaty category.

Despite only being released in May, the Small Batch Reserve has already picked up its first award by bagging a 'Master', which is the highest accolade at The Spirit Business Scotch Whisky Masters 2012.  It is bottled at 40% ABV and is available now in selected specialist whisky retailers, with a recommended price of £32.99.

Our tasting notes
The colour is a light golden yellow and the nose has warm and soft aromas.  There is an initial heavy whiff of woody bonfire smoke that instantly indicates that this is a classic Islay whisky. This is followed by a lovely floral note which is reminiscent of a feminine perfume, plus  sweet notes of honey, vanilla, and marshmallow.  It is quite uplifting and vibrant with some papaya and a hint of liquorice developing with time in the glass.

On the palate this is fresh, light and surprisingly delicate.  It is initially very sugary with notes of icing sugar and marshmallow prominent. Then come some distinct malty cereal grains, that floral perfume note again and some vanilla and honey characteristics, which give a bit of depth to the flavour profile. Finally there is plenty of oaky, woody dryness coupled with soft, gentle bonfire smoke with a slightly acrid peaty/earthy edge.  Overall, the promise and interest of the nose seems to not quite be fulfilled.

For the finish the majority of the flavours, especially the sweeter ones, disappear before you know it.  However, it is the pleasant smoky character that hangs around and takes a little longer to fade.

What's the verdict?
This is not an overly complicated whisky, but there is nothing wrong with that and it is quite enjoyable.  It seems very delicate for an Islay whisky and those who like heavier smoky whiskies or the richer expressions of Bowmore's with some ex-sherry cask influence may be disappointed. The nose is quite expressive but the palate doesn't quite convey this and is slightly underwhelming, while the finish is on the short-ish side.

What it does offer is an alternative to these heavier Islay smoky whiskies and also good value for money - we may have found our smoky whisky for warm weather and its simplicity and freshness makes the Small Batch Reserve feel very Summery.  It is lovely over some ice, which backs this up.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Have just tried – Glen Moray 10 years old Chardonnay Cask and 8 years old Chenin Blanc Cask

Glen Moray 10 years old Chardonnay Cask and 8 years old Chenin Blanc Cask WhiskiesGlen Moray distillery is located in the Speyside region of Scotland, sitting on the outskirts of the town of Elgin on the banks of the River Lossie. The distillery started life as a brewery, founded in 1828, which was later converted to become the Glen Moray whisky distillery in 1897.

It is currently owned by French drinks company La Martiniquaise, who took control in 2008 after buying the distillery from Moet Hennessey. Whisky produced and matured at Glen Moray is used for a number of La Martiniquaise's own blended and vatted whiskies that are popular in France, namely Label 5 and Glen Turner, as well as an expanding range of single malts. The main market for Glen Moray single malts is the UK as one of the top 5 for total UK single malt sales in 2010.

For more information on Glen Moray, have a look at the blog post about our visits to the distillery in 2009 and in 2011.

Part of Glen Moray's expanding range includes some rather interesting experiments with maturation of their whisky in wine casks. Back in the late 90s, Ed Dodson, the distillery manager at that time, undertook a program of experiments using non-conventional casks to mature his spirit. The resulting flavour (of the now suitably matured whisky) has impressed the current distillery manager, Graham Coull, so much that he has chosen to bottle these whiskies as limited releases. Have a look at our tasting notes of previous examples of wine cask from Glen Moray - the 8 years old Red Wine Cask and the 13 years old Port Wood finished.

We have been lucky enough to get our hands on samples of two of the latest unique whiskies matured in different white wine casks. The first we shall look at is the 10 years old French Chardonnay Cask matured, the second is the 8 years old Chenin Blanc Cask. The Chardonnay Cask was released in July 2011 and the Chenin Blanc in April 2012.

Our tasting notes - 10 years old Chardonnay Cask 
This 40% ABV whisky is golden yellow with a sweet nose of white fruit (pears and apples), toffee, sultana grapes and buttery yeastiness mixed with some warm nutmeg-type spice which makes us think of biscuits. On the palate the sweetness comes through with velvety and creamy softness that coats your mouth. The fruitiness of apples, pears and grapes plus the sweetness of butterscotch and honey from the nose are also delivered upfront. The finish however turns drier and spicier with more woodiness and a touch of white pepper. This stops the whisky feeling to overly sweet, adds needed depth and complexity and lingers for long enough to leave your mouth watering.

Our tasting notes - 8 years old Chenin Blanc Cask
Available for around £60 only from the distillery shop. This limited release of 260 bottles has a hearty ABV of 60.7%. It is a rich auburn colour with a very feisty nose of that is obviously high ABV. Without water the nose shows spicy, pine/eucalypt oak, sweetness of caramel and citrus oil. With water the spiced apple and cinnamon caramel notes (reminiscent of mulled cider) show through. As for the palate, without water the high ABV hits with alcohol astringency on the palate and is quite overwhelming. The flavours that come through are of caramel, sultanas and honey, and remind us of glaced fruits. With a dash of water it remains the feisty edge but apple and grapefruit notes start to combine with the richer and sweeter fruits. With a hearty splash of water the spiciness pulls back and the whisky takes on a softer creamier feel with apple notes showing through to match with sweet toffee and vanilla oak notes (sweet Madeira wine). Throughout this whisky has a viscous and mouth-coating feel. Without water the finish is dominated by the heat of the alcohol but when water is added the finish is quite sweet and pleasant.

What's the verdict?
While both whiskies are matured in white wine casks, the remarkably different ABV strengths out of the bottle (the Chenin Blanc cask is 50% stronger in the bottle than the Chardonnay cask) lead to the two having characters that are really hard to compare. Adding after adding quite a splash of water to Chenin Blanc cask that you start to compare the two whiskies.

The Chardonnay cask delivers an tasting experience closer to what we expected from a wine cask whisky, while the Chenin Blanc cask reminds more of a sweet wine rather than a whisky. Of the two, for us the Chardonnay cask was the easier drinking of the two and we found that we would happily sit and enjoy a dram of this over a quiet and relaxed evening. The Chenin Blanc cask challenged our concept of what a whisky could offer and for us that made for an exciting experience. We have heard people say that wine finished whiskies are all the same and in this we have a whisky to prove them very wrong. It is good to see Glen Moray releasing these 'innovative and experimental' casks so that we can try, without restrictive expense, the effect that maturation (as well as finishing) in a wine cask provides.

The Chardonnay cask is available for around £25 from selected specialist retailers as well as the distillery shop. The Chenin Blanc cask is available for around £60 only the distillery shop. You will need to get in touch with the shop via phone or the distillery website to purchase either bottling.

Experience a tutored tasting of the 10 years old Chardonnay Cask with Graham Coull at the product launch held in the distillery's visitor centre.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Have just tried – English Whisky Company Diamond Jubilee Whisky

The English Whisky Company Diamond Jubilee Commemorative Bottling
To celebrate the UK's Royal long weekend we decided to try a whisky that certainly marks the event.

This English Whisky Company bottling is to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II which celebrates 60 years of her reign. This small batch production whisky is produced from a combination of bourbon cask and red wine cask matured whisky. It is bottled at 46% ABV in a decanter style bottle as a limited edition with 3300 bottles produced and only 1140 bottles available for sale in the UK. To order a bottle (at a cost of £59.99 each plus postage), go to www.englishwhisky.co.uk or check with a British specialist whisky retailer.

St. George's Distillery is operated by The English Whisky Company, which was founded in 2005 by Andrew and James Nelstrop. It was 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 first spirit came off the stills in November 2006 and was overseen by legendary (and retired) whisky maker Iain Henderson, who had previously managed the famous Laphroaig distillery on the island of Islay, amongst others. The role of Distillery Manager now falls to David Fitt, an ex-brewer from Greene King, who was trained by Iain before he retired again.

St. George's spirit is made, where possible, from locally grown Norfolk barley, and the entire process, from milling to bottling, occurs on site. The distillery has already won many plaudits for its innovation and quality.

Our tasting notes
This whisky is a vibrant golden hue that comes from the mixture of casks (no colouring is added) which is a shade that was described at a recent whisky tasting event as a 'classic' whisky colour.

On the nose the first impression is sweet notes of butterscotch, golden syrup and sultanas. This is not over powering, as it is matched by fresh notes of green grass and tangy apples, with woody warming spiciness of cinnamon and nutmeg. With water the whisky shows more pronounced floral notes of rose and honeysuckle with green apple freshness, but certainly doesn't lose the sweetness or spiciness.

On the palate the strength is noticeable and the whisky is less sugary sweet than expected, despite there being definite toffee and sultana characters. The red wine shows here in way of darker red apples and prunes along with plenty of warming spices and oily nuts such as almonds. The finish is short and dry with spiciness and mouth watering tannins. There are lots of wood spices and a touch of red chilli pepper. With water the palate has extra creaminess but maintains sweet notes of toffee and apples. The spiciness is pushed to the back but remains on the finish. All in all we think that this whisky has extra desirable characters when tasted at the higher ABV strength so we are pleased that the decision was taken to bottle at 46% and allow drinkers to add to water to their own taste.

What's the verdict?
This commemorative bottling is a whisky created to be collectable yet remarkably approachable. It is at a price, rarity and strength that make it a good purchase for the occasional whisky drinker who wants something to remember the event by that is more desirable than a collectable teapot. Having said that we don't think that serious whisky collectors would be disappointed either. It is not overly complex but certainly offers fabulous value for money.

This is a remarkably affordable bottling to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, especially when compared to many other less rare 'limited' celebratory releases. While we expect that many people will be buying the bottle to collect we thoroughly suggest that you don’t just leave it on the shelf but do give it a try.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Inbox - June 1, 2012

Inbox is our weekly round up of whisky news and PR material that has 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 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.  There is a right old mixed bag of news this week, so here goes ...

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Chivas Brothers - Expansion plans
Scotland's second largest whisky producer, Chivas Brothers, have announced expansion plans to increase their distillation capacity and production facilities.  The £40 million plans are being implemented to meet the increasing demand for Scotch whisky worldwide, especially in emerging markets such as Asia and South America.

The first part of the work is to increase the distillation capacity and includes expanding the current facilities at four of the Chivas Bros distilleries - Glenallachie, Glentauchers, Longmorn and Tormore.  It also involves the re-opening of the Glen Keith distillery, which has been mothballed since 2000.  This will see a 25% increase in capacity by 2013.  The second facet to the plan is to open a new bottling plant (pictured, above), which will be ready later this Summer. This will have an emphasis on the hand bottling of premium and super-premium blends such as Chivas Regal 25 years old, Royal Salute and Ballantine's special editions, plus the rare and single cask bottlings of Glenlivet.


Compass Box - World record attempt with The Whisky Shop
Award winning whisky blenders Compass Box are joining forces with The Whisky Shop, the UK's largest whisky retail chain, to try and break the world record for the amount of whisky tastings in different locations hosted by the same group of people.  The attempt will see the team visit eight of the chain's twenty stores.

Compass Box's founder John Glaser will join The Whisky Shop’s team, including whisky writer Dominic Roskrow on this tour.  They will begin at 00.01 on the morning of Friday 15 June with a tasting at The Whisky Shop in Inverness and hope to finish in Brighton with a grand finale at 23.30.  In the 23 and a half hours in between, the team will host tastings (each covering a different subject) in The Whisky Shop's stores in Edinburgh, Newcastle, York, Birmingham, Oxford and London.

Tickets for each event are £5 with all proceeds going to the Red Cross.  To book tickets, please contact the store in the city that you wish to attend via the store directory page on www.whiskyshop.com.  You can also follow the progress of the tour via @CompassBox or @TheWhiskyShop, or on the Facebook pages of both companies.


Dalmore - New packaging
The increasingly popular Highland single malt brand of Dalmore has released a set of new packaging for its core range.  The change has been implemented to reinforce Dalmore's luxury credentials, plus to give the bottle and packaging more prominence on retailers shelves. All bottles across the range, incorporating the 12, 15 and 18 year olds, Cigar Malt Reserve and King Alexander III, will now feature a solid silver stag logo and the packaging features a new colour scheme, contemporary lines, new labels and increased brand communication.  The aim is to bring the packaging and design of the core range closer to that of the brand's premium releases, such as the Astrum 40 years old.

Chris Watt, the Dalmore's Head of Brand says, “Our distillery has been producing exceptional single malts since 1839 and we have some of the rarest aged whisky stocks in the world. Our malts exude quality, craftsmanship and liquid excellence and we feel that the new packaging introduction brings our image proudly in line with that.”


Isle of Skye - New packaging also!
Ian MacLeod Distillers, the owners of the Isle of Skye blended whisky brand, have also announced a new set of packaging for their products.  The new look will cover the core range of whiskies - the eight and 12 years old age statements.  The colour scheme has been chosen to reflect the landscape of the island of Skye, primarily the Red and Black Hills of the island's Cuillin Mountains.  The label also gives more prominence to the age statement of the whisky and increased tasting notes.

Iain Weir, the Director of Marketing for Ian Macleod Distillers says, “We wanted the new brand design to create an authentic representation of Isle of Skye’s core values – the values that are embedded in its age statement and island heritage. The new packaging will also ensure better shelf-standout and reinforce its position as a premium quality, award-winning blended Scotch whisky." Further information can be found at www.isleofskyewhisky.com.


Lagavulin - Time for jazz
The iconic Islay distillery of Lagavulin has announced that it is to sponsor the island's jazz festival again later in the year.  This will be the third year that the brand has sponsored the event, which takes place on the 14, 15 and 16 September.  Artists already booked for the Lagavulin Islay Jazz Festival include the Neil Cowley Trio, the Colin Steele Quintet, Konrad Wiszniewski with Pascal Schumacher, and Scottish guitarist Graeme Stephen. Further details, highlights of last years festival and ticket booking for this year will be available shortly on the Islay Jazz festival website.


Macallan - Diamond Jubilee bottling
The famous Macallan distillery has continued with its tradition of honouring Royal occasions by announcing a special limited edition Diamond Jubilee single malt release.  The whisky is bottled at 52% ABV (to commemorate 1952, the year of the Queen's accension to the throne) and there are just 2,012 bottles.  Bottles is available now for £350 from the Macallan visitor centre, selected luxury retailers and via the shop at www.macallan.com (UK customers only).

The Diamond Jubilee Edition is presented in a bespoke purple package, which has been designed by art director David Holmes.  It includes a ceramic brooch showing a retro design of the Queen's head, which was designed by Arnold Machin, which was later used on postage stamps by the Royal Mail. Ken Grier, Director of Malts at the Edrington Group comments, “Our Whisky Maker, Bob Dalgarno has put together a superb single malt which carries the character and nobility of the occasion it commemorates, whilst David Holmes has given us a truly inspiring way to use this iconic image”.