Notes

News, News, News

So much seems to have happened or been launched in the last month, immediately after I wrote the last blog so having to be rather selective this time. My trip to France was during a wonderful heatwave and I discovered some new whiskies whilst there but weather too hot to taste and not enough room in the car to bring any back. Maybe next time.

Anyway, I was sent samples of The Glendronach 14YO Virgin Oak and BenRiach 17YO Pedro Ximenez Sherry Wood Finish and 21 YO Tawny Port Finish as mentioned in last month’s column. All of these come from BenRiach Distillers sold earlier this year to US company Brown Forman. Another one I received was the Big Peat Christmas Edition 2016 from Douglas Laing & Co. So I recently spent a happy time tasting all four, starting with The Glendronach and ending with Big Peat. It has some youth about it but the peatiness would have overwhelmed the older whiskies.

I’ve rarely met a Glendronach I don’t like. I thought I’d miss the sherry aspect but didn’t really and it’s a very acceptable dram. At 46% vol. it has plenty of lusciousness on the nose and slightly less than I was expecting on the palate but an enjoyable and fairly complex one nonetheless.

Of the two Benriachs (both 46%), it’s hard to choose a preference as I did get a lot out of both. I think the Pedro Ximenez Finish just edged it for me. It’s a very silky dram that glides down easily with lots of succulent notes (creamy vanilla custard, damp earth, chocolate, stewed green apples and more) and tastes to pick up.

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A different beast entirely was Big Peat Christmas Limited Edition, using only Islay malts. As it has no added colour, it’s interesting to think how that might skew your perceptions of the taste and depth. If you’re a peat freak, you’ll love it. I like peatiness but I am choosy! This one features whiskies from all the current Islay distilleries plus some Port Ellen, from the long-closed distillery. It’s at 54.6% vol so does need water before you taste or it’ll burn the tongue. There’s plenty of smokiness, peat, toasted grain, smoked fish, sweaty sock and tar – a bit like the flavour that catches the throat when bitumen is being spread on roads. Don’t be put off – those are positives if you like peat!

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Compass Box have recently announced two new expressions, still poking a tongue out at some of the whisky labelling rules. No samples but I have media releases and pics as you see here. I just love the packaging these guys produce for their brands. Despite – or maybe because of – being a marketer by profession, I’m still a sucker for good, innovative, creative packaging and these two newbies are no exception. (Douglas Laing are also good at using less traditional label styles).

Anyway, the first is ‘Spice Tree Extravaganza ¬¬- a Blended Malt Scotch Whisky at 46% vol. released to celebrate the tenth anniversary of Compass Box being compelled to discontinue production of the original Spice Tree – due to a certain avant-garde approach to cask maturation that was deemed ‘untraditional’. There are 12,240 bottles available.

Their second offering is Three Year Old Deluxe, described as “precociously mature”. That’s because they say the only whisky the daft rules allow them to give details of is the youngest in the blend and it is a blended malt. Only 3,282 bottles of this one and it sounds delightful. There is a bit under 1% of the blend at 3 years old from a distillery near Brora (now let me guess!) which they have raised from spirit infancy in first-fill US oak, plus just over 90% of much older whisky from the same place and then 9% of peatier single malt from a certain place on Skye. They reckon the 3 year old whisky “imparts a lively vivacity to the blend”. I like to think of it as similar to Aussie wines where they add a dab of viognier to the shiraz to give it a bit of zip or Michel Roux telling Masterchef contestants that a dish needs some citrus to give it lift. More power to their creative arm.

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On that note, their whisky maker (or one of them), Gregg Glass is moving to Whyte & Mackay later this year to work alongside Richard Paterson as the succession plan there. However, Richard isn’t going away soon with a long world tour still to come.
In a very heartwarming story, Diageo’s Johnnie Walker brand is behind a new film, Ode to Lesvos, all about the islanders on that Greek island and their humanitarian response to nearly half a million refugees who landed on their island in 2015. It’s a production initiative that sees the brand working with a global network of storytellers – including writers, directors, photographers and filmmakers – to give everyday people a voice to tell inspiring stories of positivity and progress. The brand is also supporting Mercy Corps, a global organisation that helps people around the world survive and thrive after conflict, crisis and natural disaster.
In other news, the Scotch Whisky Association tells us Scotch Whisky sales were up 3.1% in the first six months of 2016 compared to 2015. Also, the organization has secured a registration for Scotch Whisky as a certified trademark in Taiwan which is an important market for our national drink. It was already a well regulated market but this makes life easier to protect Scotch, if necessary.
Lastly, a reminder to watch the Bruichladdich online tasting as mentioned in my last blog, on evening of 13th October on YouTube. I’m looking forward to it, even without the whiskies!

Back in October,
Caroline

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