May 2017

It’s that Islay time of year again. The Whisky Festival started last weekend of May and I’m going over again to do my annual dinner on the Thursday night. A menu full of challenges to match again this year and I’ll say more about it in my June blog.

A couple of things on tasting this month – the new Kilchoman expression and the latest Double Single bottling from Compass Box. A couple of samples from The Lost Distillery Co. have also turned up at the last minute but we’ll save those for next month too.

First, Double Single which is composed of one single grain (Girvan from re-charred bourbon barrels) and one single malt (Glen Elgin from re-charred bourbon hogsheads) in harmony. The Glen Elgin makes up some 78% of the vatting. With all that bourbon wood there should be plenty of vanilla and there is. It’s at 46% and there are only 5,838 bottles available globally so it will set you back about £150. On the nose there is plenty of coconut at first, then some vanilla, pear drops and pineapple. With water it is creamier with a touch of lemon meringue and apricots. The palate is silky and quite herbal and dry with some heather and honey and a waft of oak – and maybe a touch of salt from a grain whisky distilled near the sea.

The Kilchoman is 100% Islay, made from barley grown and malted at the distillery at a slightly lighter peating level compared to the rest of the range and is a vatting of fresh and refill ex Buffalo Trace Bourbon barrels filled in 2010 and bottled in 2017 50% abv. This 7th Edition, at seven years old, is their most mature expression of the range released to date but for me it’s still too young. The nose is smoky and peaty with sweaty sock – in common with many a peaty whisky and not necessarily a bad thing! It’s slightly medicinal but also malty. With water it’s softer and creamier with a slight scent of warm varnished wood floors. In the mouth it’s oily, smoky and quite peppery even with water and the smoke and malt persist in a very dry finish.

Glen Scotia Distillery in Campbeltown has released a 25 year old single malt. Previewed at the recent Campbeltown Whisky Festival it will be available in June at £250 for a 70cl bottle The whisky is bottled at 48.8% abv and is not chill-filtered. It was matured in US oak and then the liquid for bottling was married in first fill bourbon casks for 12 months prior to bottling. Michael Henry, Master Blender for Glen Scotia owner, The Loch Lomond Group, tells us, The signature nose has hints of vanilla oak, interwoven with subtle notes of sea spray and spicy aromatic fruits. On the palate, it boasts tangy orange and juicy red apples mixed with a caramel sweetness. Its finish is a long lingering taste of sea salt with a spicy note of ground ginger.” Sounds great but, as with pretty much any 25 year old single malt, it’s not one that most of us will get to taste. Go for it if you can, though.

Lastly, before I get back to you in June, I’m off to France for some whisky work. Last year I helped a French writer of graphic novels, Joel Alessandra, with a book about his wife’s late aunt who was my friend and former business partner, the whisky writer Helen Arthur. They were planning to do a book together before Helen passed away suddenly. Well, the book comes out in France in mid-June and I get to be there. It’s a semi-fictional account of his journey to Islay to find Helen’s ultimate whisky. I’ve seen the first proofs and it looks great. It’s going to be published only in French for now but there may be an edition in English later on. I’ll also be doing a tasting in the south of France at a second set of book launch events. A lot of travelling up and down and events to be at but I’m delighted to help out and I know I’m very fortunate to get to do these things and the book is a lovely tribute to my friend.

If you’re going on holiday overseas by plane from June, look out for the new Glenfiddich virtual reality whisky tasting experience called Glenfiddich Virtual Infinity. The experience allows travellers to discover, virtually, the flavours in each of Glenfiddich’s three Cask Collection whiskies and write their own 3D tasting notes in a virtual world. Smart idea to amuse and inform people with plenty of waiting time at airports. Maybe BA needed one at their check-in desks this last week!

Enjoy what I hope will be a warm and sunny June. See you next then.



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