Icons of Whisky Awards 2023; Cu Bocan from South America; New Fettercairn; Chivas Ultis XX; Deerness Cask Sales Open
Well, the promised couple of samples haven‘t turned up yet but I‘m assured the Bruichladdich will be on its way soon. Meantime, more newsy bits.
Last night saw the Icons of Whisky Awards ceremony in London. A key award of Master Distiller/Master Blender of the year went to Gregg Glass, Whyte & Mackay (see more from Gregg in the Fettercairn section below). He‘s doing some incredibly exciting things with the W&M portfolio and is the force behind their Scottish Oak Programme which I have covered before. Single Estate of the year – Lochlea Distillery (hoping to visit there soon) ; Brand Innovator of the Year – Waterford Distillery; Scotch Whisky Brand Ambassador of the year – Mark Thomson, William Grant & Sons (yet another BA award for Mark). Huge congratulations to all and so well deserved.
Just to remind you all (or inform those not familiar with it) this Highland Single Malt is distilled every winter at Tomatin Distillery in limited batches and made with lightly peated Scottish barley. They are very adept at trying more interesting cask types for maturation or finishing e.g. they were the first to use Japanese Shochu casks for maturation for a previous their Creation #2 release in 2019.
They say, „Andean oak, as its name suggests, comes from the Andes Mountains, and its altitude conditions between 3500-4000 metres make it a truly special and unique wood. It is found in cold tropical climates, areas with extreme humidity and wild forests, sustainably logged high in the Cordillera region. Cù Bòcan Creation #5 was distilled in December 2011 and initially matured in refill American oak hogsheads before being filled into Andean Oak casks in June 2021. A little over a year later the whisky was removed from cask.“
I wondered what led them to try this type of wood and Julia McKillop, Senior Brand Manager, told me, “Whilst we had heard of, and tasted, other dark spirits using Andean Oak, such as rum, we hadn’t heard of any whisky using this type of oak for maturation. The rum we tried was delicious so we knew we had to try it with Cù Bòcan.”
She also provided some info from Blender and Global Brand Ambassador, Scott Adamson:
“Quercus humboldtii [pic below by Alejandro Bayer Tamayo from https://tropical.theferns.info/image.php?id=Quercus+humboldtii] or Andean White Oak, sustainably logged in the Andean high cordillera region, is an excellent but so far little-known cask wood. In terms of its impact on colour, aroma, flavour and mouthfeel, it sits somewhere between American and French oak, whilst carrying its own unique attributes.
Andean Oak contains significantly less of the cis-oak lactone, commonly known as the whisky lactone, than American Oak. This compound is associated with the coconut aroma that can be found in American Oak matured whiskies. On the other hand, it contains fewer tannins than European oak varieties which contribute primarily towards astringency.
Interestingly, Andean Oak contains a markedly higher concentration of guaiacol, and iso-eugenol than more commonly used oak varieties. These compounds are responsible for adding notes of clove, allspice, smoke and tobacco to whisky.[I‘ll let you know about that after I‘ve tried some.]Cù Bòcan Creation #5 was distilled in December 2011 and initially matured in refill American oak hogsheads before being filled into 25 Andean Oak casks in June 2021. A little over a year later the whisky was removed from cask. Typically, we would consider one year to be quite a short finish, however the influence of the Andean Oak casks in that period was remarkable.“
Now, those of you who have done The Whisky Ambassador Advanced Course, for which I was pleased to provide info, will recognise the chemical terms. Julia has promised a sample so I‘m hoping that one arrives in time for next column.
Speaking of TWA Advanced Course, there‘s another one happening soon in Glasgow. If any of you are signed up for that you‘ll have a great time with distillery and maltings visits and more. Jo has done a great job creating the course format and I recommend it if you‘re serious about progressing your Scotch Whisky knowledge.
Also announced this last week is a new expression of Fettercairn from Whyte & Mackay. It‘s based in Aberdeenshire and this one is Fettercairn Distillery has announced the fifth and final instalment of their ‘Warehouse Collection’, This is also an experimental Limited Edition release taken from Warehouse 14 for the first time in this Collection. It‘s bottled at 51.2% (NCF/NAC) and comes from first and second fill ex-bourbon barrels and was initially an experiment from the team. It‘s been finished in a mix of stout, dark ale and pale ale beer barrels. In the release, info from Master Whisky Maker, Gregg Glass, says, „“With the release of Warehouse 14 we were looking to create another new expression of our house style, building on the influence of ex-bourbon casks, which work very well with our distinctive tropical notes, whilst exploring the unique influence of casks sourced from local craft beer producers. Each of our warehouses at Fettercairn has a sense of magic. It is a fantastic place to make whisky and with Warehouse 14, I think we have once again pushed the boundaries and offered a new perspective of what Fettercairn can be.“ Those of you who know it will already appreciate that Fettercairn does, indeed, have quite a tropical fruit note about it, some of that attributed to the unique cooling ring round their stills. We‘re told further, „The previous four releases in the Collection have been from Warehouse 2, but for this final release, Fettercairn has looked to a warehouse at the opposite side of the distillery. Warehouse 14 looks out on to the Cairngorms and is more exposed to the elements and changing seasons which has undoubtedly helped to shape this very special final release.“
This is the last in the Warehouse Collection series and, from tomorrow should be available at an RSP of £70 (UK price). There are also small quantities in selected overseas markets including Germany, Netherlands, Belgium and France.
I wrote some weeks ago about the new expression of Chivas Ultis – Chivas Ultis XX. True to their word, they did send me a sample. I‘ve had it a few weeks but have been gazing admiringly at the bottle inside the carton and didn‘t want to spoil it by opening the bottle! However, I promised my tasting note thoughts and here they are:
Apearance: Rich, glowing amber with copper highlights. Quite a fiery colour. Tears quite swift and close at first. The second wave tears are slower and wider apart.
Nose: Uncorking the bottle there are heady raisin and refined oak notes. In the glass – warm, fruity; orange marmalade; subtle vine fruits and garden fresh plum and raspberry. Honey and oak + vanilla and soft, subtle caramel.
With water it is softer and creamier at first then subtle oak and vanilla a bit more to the fore as is the caramel/toffee; honey again and a gentle dab of spice including a hint of ginger.
Palate: Medium mouth feel with some viscosity. Oak, honey, gentle spiciness and a touch of white pepper on first taste. Sweet, rich maltiness, apple/pear skins and a slight bitterness as from coffee or dark chocolate.
Finish: Long with a smooth, sweet maltiness and fruitiness but heathery and dry at the end.
I couldn’t, in a hurry, find my notes on the original Chivas Ultis bottling to compare but it’s not necessary here. I also read their tasting notes after doing mine and, while we agree on some things we don’t on others. As a couple of examples, they say raspberry jam. I say fresh rasps and plum. They say milk chocolate, I think it’s more like dark. Anyway, this is one to fox those naysayers who think/insist blends cannot be as good as single malts. Utter nonsense. This is rich, refined and well-integrated. Another triumph for Sandy Hyslop. Okay, he’s a former colleague and you might suspect bias but the praise is definitely due here. Just as a reminder, the Chivas Ultis expressions are to celebrate the previous Master Blenders for this brand, the five before Sandy who worked on it since its inception in 1909 until 2016. Back in mid-February, this wasn’t available in the UK and I’m not sure if it is yet. Keep your eyes peeled or search the web for stockists.
Just this week, Deerness Distillery (artist impression here), the newest one on Orkney, released its brochure for cask sales. They come in two sizes: a 200L first fill ex-bourbon cask for £4,750 (excl. VAT) or a 250L first fill ex-sherry hoggie for £5,000. Note that these prices are for under bond whisky and do not include bottling fees or duty either. There are other benefits in buying one of the inaugural 200 casks. You can find the brochure (all 17 pages of it) at:
Let me please urge again that these are for maturing to an age you like, then drinking and enjoying. Not for money-making investment purposes though doubtless some may use them that way. From the website and brochure, it looks like a lovely venture they have up there on Orkney and I wish them success.
So that‘s March over and I‘ll be back mid-April with more before I head off to Aberdeenshire for a stay at an excellent hotel up there.
Till then, happy dramming,