New Whiskies, New Events, New Book
A lot of the world of work may be closed but new whisky launches go on. Till our CBHR sector gets going again and we can drink these new whiskies together, I shall content myself with trying the one new sample I have and exploring the joys already in my whisky storeroom. Some companies are having trouble getting samples out in the current virus crisis or it’s taking longer than normal.
First one this week is Glen Scotia 14 Year Old Tawny Port Finish. It was to be launched at the Campbeltown Whisky Festival but that had to be a virtual event and was held just before Feis Ile. Also, I had no room to feature it in the May column.
This peated 14 year old single malt has been matured in a combination of refill American oak hogshead casks, medium char American oak casks and first fill bourbon barrels, before being finished in first fill tawny port hogsheads. It is not chill-filtered and has been bottled at 52.8% ABV at natural colour – and what a pretty colour it is. It’s priced around £75, and available to buy online from specialist whisky outlets. There are 15,000 bottles in total available in a number of markets including Germany, the USA and Taiwan. The media release doesn’t mention but I assume that we in Scotland get some too!
I was interested in trying this one as I like other Glen Scotias, particularly their Glen Scotia Victoriana. This is another one that’s well worth trying. So:
Appearance: Bright, medium amber with slight pink tinge and orange highlights. Very attractive colour. Tears slow to form, quite clingy and reasonably wide spacing.
Nose: Peat not too evident at first. It’s subtle but Campbeltowns tend not to be as upfront with peat as Islays. Plenty of dark fruit on the nose as well as a mellow smokiness. Lovely sweet oak and vanilla notes. Soft candy sweets (Dolly Mixtures in the UK); slight barley sugar and pears. Touch of caramel sauce and some night-scented flower notes. Some sweet spices – like a jar of mixed spice – and honey.
With water – softer then more fruity and spice notes come through; soft wood notes and tablet. Peat is not upfront or dominant. Dash of sea air.
Palate: Smokiness is more to the fore; peppery and slightly oily as well as fruit + char and tar on the palate far more than on the nose. This one is a game of two halves! Not schizophrenic though. On the palate the spices are more like cloves. Richly roasted barley.
Finish: Quite long and smoky but not too drying. Some barley sweetness at the back plus oak and vanilla.
On 1st June Glen Moray launched the latest addition to its Curiosity Range of experimental limited editions: the Glen Moray Madeira Cask Project.
This one has been fully matured in ex-sweet Madeira hogsheads (there are drier styles) for 13 years and 10 months. Only seven casks were laid down in 2006. Sounds like they were left unattended and undisturbed until Dr. Kirstie McCallum, relatively new Head of Whisky Creation at Glen Moray, dipped into them and was wowed by what she found. The result is only 1468 bottles.
I’m awaiting a sample as there was a delay in sending it. Also, I’ve just interviewed Kirstie for my next column so will include my tasting note then.
Moving away from new expressions for a moment, Glenglassaugh is running an online chat between two talented brothers on 24th June at 8p.m. (BST) on Instagram. I didn’t know till the release came in that these two were brothers.
The first brother is Stewart Buchanan (left), the highly knowledgeable and approachable Global Brand Ambassador for the brand (and for sister brands The Glendronach and Benriach). The second is Gordon Buchanan, wildlife cameraman and filmmaker extraordinaire. If you’ve never seen any of his works I urge you to seek them out, especially the ones about bears, the black and polar varieties and the one featuring gorillas.
The brothers get together from their separate homes “to explore the connections between coast and cask“. They will be tasting a range of Glenglassaugh expressions and look at the links between whisky and nature. Terroir and climate maybe? The distillery is located by Sandend Bay on the Morayshire coast, a beautiful landscape with sandy beaches so sea air must be one influence. I do recall nearly getting blown over a cliff not far from there some years ago. We are told, “Both globetrotters by day, the Buchanan brothers will sit down to enjoy a rare dram together in their homes to share stories and explore their respective fields of expertise. The duo will encourage whisky lovers to unearth how landscape and nature carves out unique influences in different single malts”.
This is one I definitely want to be tuning into with one of my Glenglassaugh samples in hand. Make sure you have one beside you too to savour while you listen, learn and enjoy.
Another publication came to my attention some weeks back and I was waiting for it to pop into my inbox. It’s an updated wealth of whisky facts and info. The title in question comes from Pagoda Scotland Limited who publish a bible much used by whisky industry people, business and whisky scribes, The Scotch Whisky Industry Review, the creation of the recently late and much missed Alan Gray. They are also the folks behind the website www.scotchwhisky.net which I have dipped into from time to time.
Anyway, what they have now done is developed the ebook “The Essential Guide to Scotch Whisky” (2020 Edition). Original reason for the book was to collect in one useful reference source the answers to many questions they are asked via scotchwhisky.net. It’s available to purchase as a pdf download, double or single page format and there’s an epub format more for Apple and Nook users, though I believe there are some nips and tucks to be made to that version.
I’ve had a good look through it and it’s just packed with an array of usefulness and all clearly expressed. There may be a few things I’d challenge (primarily on certain dates) but am prepared to be proven wrong. Debate is part of the fun. Chapters are:
Chapter 1: The Top 100 Essential Scotch Whisky Facts – Scotch Whisky ‘must have’ knowledge
Chapter 2: The History of Scotch Whisky Timeline –Key events in the development of Scotch Whisky
Chapter 3: How Scotch Whisky is Made – The Manufacturing Process – A combination of art, craft, science and nature
Chapter 4: How to Drink Scotch Whisky – An insider’s guide to Scotch Whisky ‘Nosing & Tasting’
Chapter 5: How to Plan a Scotch Whisky Tasting Session – Methods, materials and recommendations
Chapter 6: Scotch Whisky Distilleries – Individual distillery information
Again, it’s a book that would complement your studies with The Whisky Ambassador courses, not replace them. For example, the Maturation section is very light on detail. The book is particularly helpful to new whisky enthusiasts and to the slightly more experienced amongst you. It’s one of those books you like to read all the way though at first then go back to for reference, much the same as the last book I reviewed in this column though in a quite different presentation and writing styles. Some of the content is different from the US book and some is similar e.g. setting up a tasting and tasting flight recommendations. As with the other book, I might change some of the whiskies chosen but, again, that’s partly what these things are for – to try them and then create your own versions. The listings of all the distilleries are comprehensive and informative and so useful for anyone wanting to visit a distillery occasionally under their own steam who isn’t in the market for any of the tailor-made longer tours on offer (like mine!). Find it by copying and pasting into your browser: https://www.scotchwhisky.net/swr/ . The book is not expensive at £6.95 (US$8.95) and definitely worth buying.
Whyte & Mackay have been busy again, this time on the Fettercairn front with the launch of Fettercairn 16 Year Old. It fills one gap between the 12 and 28 year olds so I had thought space for maybe an 18 and/or a 20 there too, but it seems the next one will be a 22 year old. There are more new expressions to come from the distillery this year so plenty to look forward to. A sample was to be forthcoming if one were available during the lockdown. Nothing so far so I’m going to have to wait a bit longer to nose and taste this one. I certainly enjoyed the initial expressions brought out a couple of years ago when the company decided to shine a brighter light on this oft overlooked distillery. It has an attractive visitor centre plus a most interesting distillation feature and is set amongst some of our finest agricultural countryside south of Aberdeen.
Fettercairn 16 comes in at 46.6% abv. We’re told it has been distilled using chocolate malted barley and matured in first -fill bourbon wood then finished in sherry and port casks for another two years. I don’t yet know if it was only chocolate malted barley used or whether that formed only part of the distillation. If I can get my hands on some, I’ll do a tasting note another time and compare those notes with those I took at the initial range launch.
For those in the UK, this Fettercairn is available in June through The Whisky Shop only and after that in other whisky specialists. Expect the price to be around £69 per bottle.
Waterford Distillery in Ireland had to abandon its special open/launch day due to the coronavirus pandemic but they have managed to release a number of expressions in spite of it. Using 100% Irish barley, its new Single Farm Origin series is a range of “..limited edition natural whiskies that explore Irish terroir one farm, once place, at a time. They are expressions of precision and rarity, showcasing barley flavours derived from individual Irish farms and harvests“.
The first two are Bannow Island: Edition 1.1, distilled from barley grown by Ed Harpur on the extreme southern coast of Co. Wexford and Ballykilcavan: Edition 1.1 – distilled from barley grown by David Walsh-Kemmis west of the Barrow in Co. Laois in the heart of barley-growing country where his fields are sheltered by ancient woodland.
These two had a bottling run of around 8,000 bottles each and are in specialist stores and online retailers this month in major European markets, along with Taiwan, China, Japan and parts of Canada. Different bottlings will be released to the US and other overseas territories in due course, whilst Single Farm Origin: Ratheadon: Edition 1.1 will be available at the distillery and online. Price for these is anything from 70 – 79 euros or equivalent, dependent on where you live.
They promised to try and send samples but they were working flat out to get the bottlings and distribution done with a much reduced team at the distillery during these difficult times. Therefore still awaited. Fingers crossed!
Mark Reynier, founder of Waterford and The Man in Charge, holds a typically (for him) strong opinion that barley is the source of everything about whiskies/whiskeys and that others have been telling it wrong for many years. Others may disagree with him but exploring the flavours and development of his whiskeys as time goes on will be interesting. Others, most obviously his old Islay home, Bruichladdich, are pursuing barley studies. Also some US distillers and there is other scientific interest in barley strains and land so it’s certainly an area to watch.
Last this time, but most definitely not least, are two new expressions from Douglas Laing & Co. First is the debonair gent The Epicurean Edinburgh Edition which comprises only 600 bottles. You can buy it from specialist Whisky retailers this month with a price around £49.99. This one came about via a collaboration between the company and some top Edinburgh bartenders. They held a “blend off” where the bar professionals married together various samples of Single Cask Single Malt Whiskies from the Lowlands “with the aim of creating a perfectly balanced end product with depth and character…A blind tasting by Douglas Laing’s Chairman, Fred Laing, saw Lindsay Blair of 56 North crowned the winner“. I’ve been in 56 North a few times and it’s a great bar – much more known for its vast gin range but they also have many whiskies.
Cara Laing, Director of Whisky, comments: “We’d recommend enjoying it straight-up or long with ginger ale or apple juice to further enhance those tangy, slightly spicy sweet flavours.”
The second offering from Douglas Laing is Big Peat 8 Year Old “A846 EDITION” for Feis Ile 2020. Now, we all know Feis didn’t happen as usual this year but it doesn’t stop the creation of whiskies that would normally debut there. This one is 46% abv and no chill-filtration or added colour. If you wonder about the number, the A846 is the main road that runs through much of Islay and one you need to walk/run/drive on to get to many of the distilleries. Driven it many a time myself.
This one is measured in cases rather than bottles and there are 500 cases available worldwide. It went into retailers from 8th June and price will be around £45. I have a couple of other Big Peats with which to compare the new one. However, samples of both of these were also affected by the lack of personnel to handle such things at present so we’ll wait and see if they arrive.
That’s it for the first half of June. I’ll be back later in the month with my Twitter-style interview with Dr. Kirstie McCallum and the tasting note on the latest Glen Moray expression. Till then, do join in that Glenglassaugh discussion on Instagram and enjoy your whiskies.