Buxton Does It Again, Kingsman, New Expressions & Tasting Notes
I’m all returned from France with huge purchases of wine. Just because I work tasting whisky doesn’t stop me liking wine – a lot – too. A gift of a bottle of Diurach’s Own (16y.o.) from Jura went down well at La Maison Leflaive though I haven’t heard yet if they’ve tasted it. Also went to Giraud Champagne, the house which had the collaboration with Richard Paterson on his 50th anniversary bottling of The Dalmore and there are some very interesting things going on there. I had a couple of good whisky conversations at both places too.
Anyway, what’s been happening in the intervening month since I last posted? Rather a lot but not room for it all here. I’d need a weekly space. Note to self – get your website updated.
First up, that man Ian Buxton has done it again. Written a book I wish I’d done, damn him – but he has way more anecdotes than I do. “Whiskies Galore – A Tour of Scotland‘s Island Distilleries” is a book about whisky islands and their distilleries, but not merely a travelogue. It delves into histories, myths and legends, ownerships, triumphs and failures all with great humour and wit (always a feature of Ian’s books), self-deprecation (and the occasional pat on the back!), pointed criticism, sadness, joy and plenty of warmth and affection. All this wrapped up in tales of travelling to the islands and touring them, boy and man, as tourist, whisky marketer, consultant and writer. Some of Ian’s views coincide with my own thoughts and utterances so maybe that’s just one reason I liked it! Kidding aside, it’s an utter treat of a read and a lovely way to while away some leisure time. Published by Birlinn, you can buy from them online or from a decent bookshop (or Amazon if you must). Add it to your Santa list or, better still, buy it now.
Next up, The new Kingsman movie “Kingsman: The Golden Circle” has a partnership with The Glendronach by way of a dedicated expression for the film to add to the exquisite men’s tailoring and stylish gadgets. It’s a 1991 vintage and a limited edition, for sale at around £550 a bottle. Ouch! Apparently, The Glendronach is the dram of choice for the film’s director, Matthew Vaughn. What can I say? The man has great taste – in whisky at least. I was lucky enough to be sent a little sample in a hollowed out Kingsman “book”. Tasting note further down the page.
Glenfiddich have continued their wood experimentation with the launch of Winter Storm, a 21 year old expression finished in icewine casks. For those who don’t know, icewine (or Eiswein as the Germans and Austrians have it, since they make it too) is made from grapes picked in winter when they have been encapsulated in ice. It concentrates the juice inside and makes the wine all the sweeter. The casks are French oak but come from the Canadian wine producer, Peller Estates near Niagara. We’re told that only the 21 year old whiskies could take the intensity of the ice wine effect from these casks. No sample, but I feel it’s one I do want to try as I’ve enjoyed a number of the Glenfiddich wood experiments.
Back in August, Loch Lomond Distillers released a Littlemill Private Cellar Edition 2017, some precious drops from the Littlemill Distillery which closed in 1994 and was destroyed by fire ten years later. There are 500 bottles of this 27 year old whisky at £2,250 per bottle. Double ouch!! I do think some of the pricing of rarities goes too far. It was made for drinking, not showing off so I hope it gets drunk rather than sitting in collectors’ displays.
Benriach (now owned by Brown-Forman) has released seven expressions, some peated, some not, from its Batch 14 selection, all chosen by Rachel Barrie, who also played a blinder on the Kingsman bottling. The whiskies come from first fill Oloroso sherry butts, port pipes, a first fill virgin oak cask, a first fill marsala hogshead and a Pedro Ximenez sherry puncheon. They are not chill-filtered, have no added colour and are all hand-numbered. Again, not enough space to cover them here so I’ll cover a couple of them next month.
Planning permission has been granted for yet another distillery. Soon all open land in Scotland will be bought up for new distilleries and we’ll be tripping over them. This one is on Speyside and called Cabrach. Plan is to start construction next year, open in 2019 and have mature whisky bottled in 2024. They intend to produce enough for 150,000 bottles per year “using the blueprint of an early 19th-century distillery and made with historical methods”. I’m not really sure what that means in this case (no computers?) so must find out. They are also trying to raise funds for this venture so if you want to get involved, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or see www.cabrachtrust.org for more information.
Of course, the long-awaited Raasay Distillery had its official opening this month too and Raasay is one of the islands featured in Ian Buxton’s book. I wish them all the best and look forward to the whisky in a few years’ time.
Lastly, in this section, the nice guys at Royal Mile Whiskies have launched their own whisky auction site with rates of commission to be paid by buyers and sellers pitched at very reasonable rates. Nothing from their retail side will form part of the auctions. For more info go to http://www.royalmilewhisky.auction if you want to buy or sell.
Now to the tasting notes:
Highland Park Magnus (40% abv)
This one is for North America only. The sample arrived the other day with a letter from Brand Director, Jason Craig and a promise that a sample of the other new one, Dragon Legend , will be sent in October, so another for next month already and Full Volume to follow sometime in the autumn too.
Magnus is to plug a gap for HP in the US where their 12 Year Old sells for over $50 and the brand needed to attract more of the 25 – 40 year old male and female brown spirit drinkers – who latched on to the explosion of new US whiskeys – and at a lower price point. It’s good to look at and the name is easily pronounced, with the back story that it’s the name of the Highland Park founder in the late 18th century, Magnus Eunson. The flavour profile of this is much the same as the 12 but contains more US oak-matured whisky for more sweetness and coconut notes and it sells for about $39. The casks are fresh and refill US oak sherry casks. Very easy to drink yet still complexity to appreciate.
Conclusion? Sweet and fruity with cherries and almonds, a hint of ginger, marshmallows, soft oak and vanilla on the nose. With water, more fruity, sherry sultana notes plus toffee; brioche and custard. On the palate it’s silky and slightly unctuous; a dab of smoke with sweet fruit and toasty grains, some oak and vanilla and a slight “green” note – sap maybe, but sweet. Definitely good value, though depending on where you’re reading this, you might have to travel a way to buy some.
The Glendronach Kingsman Edition (48.2% abv; 25 YO)
As mentioned above it’s linked to the new film and the year, 1991, represents the year the main character, Eggsy, was born.
A beautiful old gold and amber colour – all natural and no chill-filtration. Decided to nose this one from the bottle before pouring into the glass. Oh, joy! Then nosed in the glass. More delight. “Warm, reekin’, rich!” to borrow from Burns. Not in the least haggis-scented though. This one is all about rich vine and stone fruits, sherry notes, some pear drop, rich oak and good vanilla. A little sulphur but not strong. There’s also a faint cologne note a bit like oil of clary sage, some caramel and a touch of peach juice. With water, more sultana fruit cake and barley sugar. It’s rich and mellow.
The palate has rich fruit, cherries and marzipan, dark chocolate and fig, dark caramel, oak and vanilla. Silky but less luscious mouthfeel than expected. It’s a very elegant whisky. The finish is long and fruity with some herbal notes and quite mouth-drying at the end. Just lovely.
Diageo Special Releases
I was on holiday when these were first sent out so a bit of a delay. They were kind enough to send samples recently of the four I particularly wanted but only covering two here this time, for space:
Collectivum XXVIII (53.7% abv; no age statement)
It’s a blend and a fine one, as you’d expect from Diageo’s blending team.
Whiskies from Speyside, Islay, other islands, Lowland and Highland are included here. The cask types are refill American oak hogsheads, refill European oak butts, ex-bodega European oak (sherry) and first fill bourbon.
A lovely rich gold colour. The first note on nosing it was candy floss so plenty of caramel and barely sugar. Also very “perfumey” plus alcohol sweetness. With water, it is creamier with stone fruits – apricot and golden plum, soft toffee and lychees.
On the palate, rather grapey and sweet but not at all cloying; soft and creamy toffee notes as well as nuts and a good helping of saltiness.
The finish features salt and sweet with some nuts, oak and herb. Quite a dry and long finish. Liked this one a lot.
Convalmore 32 Year Old (Speyside; 48.2% abv; distilled 1984; closed distillery)
Cask type for the Convalmore is refill US oak hogsheads; a medium, soft gold colour.
I wanted to try this one as there was a 36 year old Convalmore in the 2013 Special Releases and it was the star of the show for me. Not that I have any to compare but I do have my notes from the event they held for scribblers and retailers in Scotland at the time. Also, it was from refill European oak casks so there are bound to be some differences.
First note out of sample bottle and glass – wine gums! Soft with citrus zest and oily notes; apples and damp oak woods. With water, more apple, vanilla and oak; some sweet cinnamon, nutmeg and mace notes; a slightly sweaty and yeasty wisp too.
On the palate it’s soft, clean and sweet with a touch of cream; barley grains and spices but savoury rather than sweeter ones on the palate. Finish is longish with apple and mouth-drying oak notes.
Did I like it? Yes. Did I like it as much as the previous one? I don’t think so from reading my notes but couldn’t say definitely at this distance in time. They share some qualities but also differ quite a bit, again if comparing my notes.
If there’s room next time, I’ll cover the Teaninich and Port Dundas Special Release bottlings.
If I can stretch the Burns analogy a bit further, not a sleekit, cowerin’, tim’rous beastie amongst any of these.
So there we are. That’s enough from me. In October I’m going to visit the new Clydeside Distillery and hope to tell you more about it later that month.
Meanwhile, keep tasting!