Highland Park and more

Well, the day after this is completed, I’m off to Copenhagen on a Highland Park trip to see presentations about a new Highland Park expression, Valkyrie and more. They’re doing it over there to celebrate the Viking heritage of Orkney where the distillery is situated. I’ll be doing a separate article on that as soon as I come back.

Also on Highland Park, they have launched a Rebus 30 edition, though the whisky is 10 years old, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Rebus’ creation by Ian Rankin. It’s a 10,000 bottle release for just a few of the Rebus fans out there. This one is just £30 a bottle BUT available only to those members of the Highland Park Inner Circle via the brand’s website. If you’re keen you have only a another few days to register to qualify for purchasing one. A few bottles will also be auctioned throughout the year. There is to be a Rebus Fest  at the end of June in Edinburgh and there will be a chance to taste this and some other HP expressions in master classes on 30 June and 1 at The Waldorf Astoria Caledonian Hotel.

Early in the month came news that Craigellachie 31 Years Old had won World’s Best Single Malt at the World Whiskies Awards 2017 presented by Whisky Magazine. So many congratulations to them too. I tasted through several ages of Craigellachie when they first came out as a collection alongside other Dewar’s malts though this one wasn’t amongst them. The Craigellachie 17 Year Old from that collection is still one of my favourites.

Diageo has been busy too. Acclaimed British designer Tom Dixon OBE has created The Johnnie Walker Blue Label Capsule Series, previewed at Milan Design Week earlier this month. Inspired by the rarity, craft and heritage of the luxury Scotch Whisky, the exclusive Johnnie Walker Blue Label Capsule Series by Tom Dixon encompasses a bespoke bottle design, ice bucket, coaster and bottle cap. We are told, “The copper accents in the Limited Edition Design are characteristic of Dixon’s contemporary designs and are also a deliberate nod to the art of whisky-making, the copper theme evoking the pot stills used during whisky distillation.” It’s certainly different and I really like it. This Limited Edition series will be available to purchase from October 2017 in selected markets across Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa and will have will have an RRP from GBP £180.

In less happy news, Diageo is to shed around 100 jobs from its bottling plants in Fife and Glasgow over Brexit concerns and a bit of a row brewing with the GMB union over this though it’s not clear yet how this affects Scotch Whisky bottling. My own bet is that it’s unlikely to change Scotch bottling location but other spirit types may be relocated. I guess we wait and see.

Not a lot on tasting this month though I do have a sample of Benriach Peated Cask Strength Batch 1 at 56% abv. It’s a pretty barley gold colour with brassy highlights and tears that go from initially swift to slower and more clinging in the glass.

Nose: Rich, smoky, peaty, smoked mackerel; some rich fruit notes and candle wax with vanilla touches. With water, there’s more vanilla, rich fruit and waxiness but less smoke and peat.

Palate: A slightly unctuous mouthfeel; very smoky with peat and tar; astringent; heathery, woody herbs; some dried fruits and warm spices like cinnamon and ginger.

Finish: long, smoky, peaty, dry but with sweet spice notes.

Other news wise, we have a Queen’s Award for International Enterprise given to the lovely people at Glencairn Crystal who make the thistle-shaped Glencairn whisky glass that so many have seen and used. They’ve been having a great business year and more to come so huge congratulations to them. I’m told there will be an event for them to attend to receive this in due course.

Next up, Kilchoman is launching its 7th edition of Kilchoman 100% Islay made with barley all grown on the island and bottled there too. It’s a vatting of fresh and refill bourbon barrels from Buffalo Trace, filled in 2010 and bottled very recently. A sample is awaited so more next month, I hope. Launch date is 1st May.

Not quite whisky but next door – Wemyss, producers of Kingsbarns Single Malt and blenders of many good things are repatriating the production of their Darnley’s Gin from London to the Kingsbarns site in a new distillery beside the whisky one. Good news for more jobs and tourism, I hope.

Benromach have released another vintage version – a single cask expression, Benromach 1975, matured in a refill American hogshead and bottled at a strength of 49.9% abv. It’s in a decanter style bottle with copper coloured neck and shoulder portraying the stills and is presented in a wooden box with accompanying book which relates Benromach’s history, including some fascinating stories about the craftsman who have tended to the spirit over the decades. Only 162  bottles have been produced for the entire world and UK retail price will be around £1,250. Therefore no sample. It looks beautiful but is outside my current budgets.

Lastly William Grant & Sons has bought the US craft distilling company Tuthilltown Spirits. They had already bought their Hudson’s brand some years ago. Speaking of William Grant’s I was at a drinks trade event on 20th April and got to taste the Glenfiddich IPA Finish and Glenfiddich Project XX. Both are to be launched very soon. I enjoyed both of them but was particularly taken by the IPA Finish and would recommend trying both to all whisky fans. Their  existing Glenfiddich 21 Year Old Rum Cask Finish was very flavoursome too!

I’d better stop here for April. Back soon with the Highland Park Valkyrie Report.



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