New Wemyss, Waterford, Isle of Arran, Kilchoman, Oban & Highland Park; Jura Turns Greener; Alcohol Ad Ban Consultation Closes
This is more of a whisky news piece rather than blog this time. Also, Happy St. Patrick‘s Day to anyone Irish reading this today.
I‘ve had several media releases in recently and promises of a few samples but they haven‘t arrived yet (one isn‘t due out till May/June) though I can still tell you they‘ve been released.
I have news this week from Wemyss Malts on their new Single Cask Limited Releases from Highland and Speyside distilleries. The names from Wemyss are always fun and this time we have Bazaar Enchantment, Cashmere & Quietude and Violet Tapestry to name but three. Five of them are exclusively for the UK and three for EU only. I wondered how the choices were made as the info received doesn‘t tell us but I have asked the question and it seems those chosen for EU are lighter, softer and sweeter in profile and tend to go down well with their French consumers, especially when they’re at 46%. All of the UK offerings are 14 or 15 years old. Interestingly, both Bazaar Enchantment and The Kitchen Table are 14 year old Miltonduffs at 46% abv and both described as matured in „Barrel“ but with quite different tasting notes. I‘d love to try these two side by side. Miltonduff was a brand I worked on back in my Allied Distillers marketing days. We offered it then as a 12 year old and certainly not as a single cask expression. The others in the UK selection hail from Mannochmore, Inchgower and Auchroisk. Given how rarely I see any Mannochmore, I‘d maybe go for that one if I were buying.
The EU offerings are also 14 and 15 years old, originating from Royal Brackla, Glentauchers (another old Allied distillery that we never bottled as a single!) and Dufftown. Brackla would be my choice from amongst those.
Pricing for the UK bottlings is between £95 and £120 and, for the EU bottlings 96 euros – 114 euros. All plus shipping, of course. Pretty reasonable in my view given the limited quantities.
Kilchoman Loch Gorm 2023 is out now and a sample is promised for next week so I‘ll cover that again next time. I can remind you just now that it‘s matured entirely in oloroso sherry butts and we‘re told, „For the 2023 Edition Anthony and Robin selected a total of 22 casks, distilled for a minimum of 8 years“. Of those 22 casks 8 were from 2013, 6 from 2014 and 8 from 2015. It‘s bottled at 46% alc. vol. and peating level of 50ppm. I used Loch Gorm 2022 for a course at a dinner last year and it was great so am really looking forward to trying this one. Loch Gorm 2023 should be available from good whisky specialists now.
Lagg Distillery on Isle of Arran has announced the first of its core range single malt releases, Kilmory and Corriecravie. Kilmory, which is to be the flagship expression, isn‘t due out till end May/early June and, again, samples are promised when available so we‘ll have to wait a little longer for those. A reminder that Lagg Distillery produces Isle of Arran Distillers‘ peated whiskies in line with what used to be produced from the island‘s illicit stills long ago. Kilmory Edition is matured in 100% first fill bourbon wood and is offered at 46% alc. vol. for around £49.99. For additional colour round Kilmory‘s story, we‘re told that it‘s the name of the parish where Lagg village lies.
By contrast, Corriecravie starts off in bourbon wood before being racked into oloroso sherry hogsheads to rest for around 6 months. This one will be bottled at 55% alc. vol. (NCF/NAC). Info goes on, „Corriecravie is a small hamlet just to the north-west of the village of Lagg. It has beautiful sweeping views right along the southern coastline of the island…its undulating terrain was home to some of the illicit stills that produced the infamous ‘Arran water’ in the days of early distilling on the island. Just near the village there is the Torr a’ Chaisteil Dun – a fort from the later Iron Age about 2000 years ago, locally known ‘Castle Hill’.“Corriecravie will be a bit more expensive (higher strength, of course) at around £64.99.
Our friends at Waterford Distillery in Ireland have recently (1st March) announced the launch of Cuvée: Argot, a permanent addition to its single malt whisky range and accompanying Cuvée Concept.This is the distillery’s first permanent global bottling and comprises several of their Single Farm Origins. You can also find out more about Cuvée: Argot’s traceability from its TÉIREOIR code on the label.
Argot is pronounced “argo”, a French word whose original meaning is “the language used by a particular type or group of people : an often more or less secret vocabulary and idiom peculiar to a particular group” but it’s also the French for “slang”. I prefer the classic version. It’s available now worldwide at the price points of around €59.90, £54.99 and US$59.95 respectively. Always one to have a last word, Waterford’s founder, Mark Reynier tells us, “We are delighted to introduce the Cuvée: Argot as part of our continued quest to uncover whisky’s most natural flavours. At Waterford Distillery, our view is rather than a manufactured product, Waterford Whisky is an agricultural produce. It’s of the land; our reverence for its raw material, barley. And Argot is our introduction to that Waterford Whisky world. On the one hand we can express barley by letting Ireland’s farmlands do the talking via our Single Farm Origins; or as in this case, with ultimate creativity, we can bring these flavours, those barley ingredients together for ultimate harmony and complexity in the same way as Bordeaux Grand Vin and Champagne Grand Marques.” Nice wine analogy and not surprising given Mark’s background as well as his love for using ex-wine casks for whisky maturation.
Just this week, Diageo has announced the release of a new expression from Oban Distillery marking the involvement of the MacLean family at the distillery. It’s finished in Palo Cortado and Oloroso sherry casks and named Oban Young Teddy after Teddy MacLean, “who followed in his father’s footsteps when he joined the Oban Distillery family in 1985”. Nothing to do with bears, then.
Young Teddy MacLean is now retired but said, ‘This bottling is incredibly special to me and my family…Over the years we’ve talked and debated the various elements and influences that deliver that unmistakable character of Oban, talking late into the night about how different sherry casks influence our whisky to create something we’ve never tasted before… This is a gift to our distillery fans, from our family to theirs.’ The info continues, „The character of this unique limited-edition bottling reflects the relaxed and quiet charm and approachability of the man who inspired it.” Now that’s really quite touching. Some might be cynical at large companies using links to team members to create new expressions but I rather like it when they bother to recognise individuals who have contributed a lot to their company’s success and quality. Old Teddy worked at Oban from 1953 – 1990 and Young Teddy from 1985 till his retirement. Old Teddy’s grandson (not called Teddy) has been part of the team since 2017.
You’ll be able to buy Oban Young Teddy only from the distillery from Monday 20th March 2023. Only 4,542 bottles are available. Price is £195 per 70cl bottle (plus shipping, presumably) and it’s bottled at 50.8% alc.vol. There may or may not be a sample available. I‘m crossing fingers.
End of last week, Jura Distillery announced it is to become „the first building in the country to trial an innovative self-repairing limewash as part of the whisky maker’s commitment to sustainability within the industry. The new coating, developed by the University of Hertfordshire and leaders in bio-based construction, UK Hempcrete, aims to reduce the carbon footprint of the island whisky makers. The new solution increases a building surface’s absorption of CO2 and this project will be the prototype for a potential solution in building conservation, which could help many businesses in their commitment to a zero-carbon approach.“ I have to say it could maybe help homeowners too. I certainly have some walls which might benefit from this treatment.
I‘ll just carry on quoting the release here as it explains things better than me chopping and changing bits from it, „Currently, wind-driven rain on the island weathers the distillery, which prompts annual repainting to protect the building. As well as disrupting production and tourism, which is a core part of the island economy, it also increases carbon emissions through the transportation of materials to the island and the fulfilment of the maintenance works. This new, more-robust surfacing is self-repairing, which is expected to reduce how often the repairs are needed, therefore reducing the annual carbon emissions from the distillery.
The initiative forms part of ‘The Green Print’, the roadmap to net zero created by the wider Whyte and Mackay whisky house.The project has received funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, as part of the Design Exchange Partnership Programme. The trial will aim to establish whether this is a sustainable solution for the building industry long term.“ I applaud Jura‘s/ W&M‘s willingness to participate in such an interesting trial and look forward to hearing more.
Now, this one isn’t so newsworthy as it came out in February and info got to me late but I had to show how beautiful it is. Orkney’s Highland Park launched its oldest ever single malt bottling at 54 years old. Only 225 bottles were created by Highland Park Master Whisky Maker, Gordon Motion and the number of bottles matches the age of the distillery. It’s available in only a couple of places in the UK at Berry Bros. & Rudd and The Whisky Shop (where prospective customers could register interest). It will set you back an eye-watering £39,000 but I’d bet a lot have already been sold. I did ask about any overseas allocation from this small bottling but didn’t get a response on that though I understand there will be some in the USA this summer and some duty free allocation. I’d expect a few more countries might get some.
We were told, “Originally laid down in 1968, four refill butts and six refill hogsheads were combined in February 2008 and refilled into first fill European sherry butts, where the whisky continued to mature. The final 14 years of maturation (since 2008) in ex-sherry casks has imparted an additional deep, rich, natural colour and wonderful intensity to the whisky which was bottled at 54 years of age.”
I haven’t been able to taste the liquid but had to show you the stunning packaging which “consists of a bespoke embossed bottle containing the 54 Year Old whisky, a beautiful presentation box crafted from the finest Scottish oak wood, and an invitation for the buyer to attend a once-in-a-lifetime experience in Orkney. Designed by award-winning craftsperson and designer, John Galvin, the box is sculpted to represent the cliffs of Yesnaby in Orkney. Each piece of wood was hand-blasted, and every box is unique with variations in colour. Revealing the glass inside, Michael Rudak, Senior Designer, Stoelzle Flaconnage, created the stunning bottle housing this rare, limited edition 54 Year Old liquid.Every detail of the bottle has been considered, for example, the conical ‘push’ at the base is a nod to the mash tuns at the distillery. The textural design was inspired by the old red sandstone at the Yesnaby Cliffs and by the idea of that surge of molten lava erupting from the seabed, slowing down as it formed Orkney’s islands.” John Galvin has designed some beautiful wood packaging for Highland Park before and this could be the loveliest yet, so tactile, a work of art, as is the lovely bottle. Not sure “bottle” is quite enough of a description!
Lastly, the deadline for submissions to the Scottish Government‘s consultation on the banning of alcohol ads and promotions passed on 9th March. I hope all those of you to whom this is relevant got your comments in. I did, though, have the feeling they may have already made up their minds and it wasn‘t really a consultation at all but, as a new leader is to be elected, it may all be delayed or abandoned anyway. I hope the latter but we‘ll find out in due course.
Well people, this turned out to be a longer column than first intended so I‘ll stop here and look forward to being back with you end of this month maybe with some notes on a few of the whiskies mentioned above. I‘m also hoping to do a visit to the Lochlea Distillery in Ayrshire before too much longer.
Till next time, happy dramming.