Octomore and more

First up, just before I went running off to Dubai (special occasion), Bruichladdich launched Octomore OBA Concept in late February.

What is that? It’s an expression exclusive to the Bruichladdich online shop and won’t be available till April. Only 3,000 x 50cl bottles. This is a new Octomore proposition from Head Distiller, Adam Hannett, who took over from James McEwan and he seems to be doing a great job so far. For more on this one see their website. I’m quite keen to get hold of some of this one myself.

Glenmorangie has launched Pride 1974 (52% abv), following on from Pride 1981 and Pride 1978 released in 2011 and 2014 respectively. On 30th October 1974 the spirit was filled a combination of ex-bourbon casks and ex-Oloroso sherry butts then left to mature until Dr Bill Lumsden, Glenmorangie’s Director of Distilling and Whisky Creation, deemed the whisky had reached its peak. He says, “The result is an exquisite blend of deep, rich, salty and spicy aromas – aged balsamic vinegar, salted caramel toffee and oranges, leading to tastes of baked apples, toffee, oranges and brown sugar.” Only 503 crystal decanters will be available at a price of around £7,200 each. It will be released in May. Not much time to save up. A musical piece was also specially commissioned for this launch from Aaron Diehl, who is associated with Steinway, piano craftsmen and it was premiered in New York a little earlier this month. I rather like the juxtaposition of whisky and art in any form, be it music, photography, graphic design, paintings or sculpture.

A little while ago I received news of a new travel retail range  of four whiskies from Loch Lomond Distillers and some samples arrived a bit later. A little set of three – 12 Year Old (46%) and Inchmurrin 12 Year Old Madeira Cask (46%) plus a sample of their existing Original was sent too. I have dutifully tasted all three and started calling them the jaffa cake range as the amber colour reminds me of the orangey bit in the middle or, indeed, Irn Bru. I won’t go into three sets of tasting notes here but found all three to be palatable whiskies and was pleasantly surprised by the Original.

Although no age statement it was mellow, balanced with some dried light fruits and lemon peel on the nose with cream, malted barley, oak and moss. On the palate were sweet notes, almonds, vanilla, malt and light fruit again, maybe even the softest touch of smoke or char. Just proves that it’s not so much the age but the skill of the blender. By nose alone it was hard to choose a preference but I think the 12 Year Old just edged it.

Another sample to arrive was one of a new set from Douglas Laing – Old Particular Consortium of Cards No.1 – Laphroaig 18 Year Old at 50% abv, no added colour and no chill-filtration. Only 665 bottles and all from a refill but.  Ideally I would have compared this with Laphroaig’s own 18 Year Old bottling but wasn’t able to do that. However, from memory, I think the Laphroaig own bottling had rather more going for it though that’s a bit unfair, maybe as this one is a single cask expression and Laphroaig’s own will be from a number of casks. I found this Douglas Laing one less multi-dimensional on the finish than others I was tasting for this month’s blog. Nothing wrong with it per se. Good nose of sweaty socks; smoke; richly malted barley; peat; some char notes; creamy with maltiness and a slight touch of fruit but I felt the palate was less complex than I hoped for. Another three in this series will appear throughout 2017.

The last two I tasted for this month were the two latest offerings from Laphroaig. Both are travel retail exclusives. There’s Four Oak at 40% abv and The 1815 Legacy Edition at 48%. Four Oak has no age statement but, again, it’s all in what the champagne people would call the assemblage. Four Oak because it is crafted from ex-bourbon barrels, quarter casks, virgin US oak casks and European oak hogsheads.

It’s maybe a paler colour than usual for Laphroaig but still golden. It also tastes a little more gentle than some but still has medicinal and iodine notes; richly toasted barley; resins; char, vanilla, peat and smoke and salt. On the nose there are lacquer, lots of maltiness, cream cheese, some peat and smoke, a dab of coconut, white pepper and a bit of sweet spice.

The 1815 is a richer animal, darker in colour and full of peat fire and smokiness. Add to that aromas of smoked fish, rich dried fruits – raisins, sultanas, apricots, honeycomb candy (like Crunchie), char and oak vanilla and maybe some pink peppercorn. If left alone for a while more ground almonds and fruit emerge. On the palate there’s less fruit than on the nose but still some caramelised stone fruits in there (apricots), smoked mackerel, peated barley and salt. It has a very long smoky and tar finish. My favourite for this month.

On 10th March, Tomatin launched a limited-edition single malt series, Five Virtues, which draws its inspiration from nature’s elements – Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water (wood being added to the classic four, there) – and comes packaged in cartons adorned with contemporary Scottish art, created by Eva Ullrich. Each expression has a limited run of 6,000 bottles and has been crafted with inspiration from each element. These include heavily charred oak, Bourbon barrels and, unusually for Tomatin, peated malt. We are told, “Wood has been aged in French, American and Hungarian oak casks, while Fire is matured in heavily charred oak, simulating fresh vanilla flavours. Earth exhibits rich and intense peaty flavours as a consequence of maturing in peat-dried malted barley casks and Metal is expressed by the distillery’s 12 beautiful copper stills. Completing the series, Water is distinguished by its naturally pure soft water from the Alt-na-Frith burn, which is drawn year round but employs a winter-distilled spirit to enrich the final flavour.” Sadly no samples but they are limited editions. Probably an intriguing range to try as Tomatin is a flavoursome malt.

Tamdhu has just announced the launch of a 50 Year Old bottling, the oldest ever from the distillery to mark its 120th anniversary. Matured in a first fill European oak sherry butt for five decades, just 100 bottles of Tamdhu 50 Year Old will be made available globally. This single cask release will retail at £16,000 per bottle. The abbreviated tasting notes say, “Tamdhu 50 has forest fruits, elegant oak and orange depths on the nose.

On the palate, cloves, liquorice, espresso and baked apples are revealed, with a lingering finish of cocoa, ginger, walnuts and maple syrup.” This rare whisky is presented in a decanter created by a team of traditional British craftsmen and women including glass designer Katy Holford, crystal experts Royal Brierley, and the silversmiths at renowned luxury jewellers and silversmiths, Hamilton & Inches in Edinburgh.

Lastly, Ardbeg has announced that this year’s bottling for the Islay Festival of Malt & Music, or Feis Ile,  is Kelpie (46% abv; no chill-filtration). This one is unusual in spending some time in virgin Black Sea oak casks, grown and seasoned in the Adyghe Republic (interesting – google it), which leads down to the Black Sea coast . These casks impart incredibly deep flavours, we are informed. The whisky was then married with Ardbeg matured in ex-bourbon barrels.

On Ardbeg Day (3rd June) at the Festival this year, enthusiasts will be invited to join underwater-themed events which reflect the whisky’s namesake – the kelpie, a legendary water spirit said to lurk in the Atlantic Ocean off Islay’s shores. First release is for Ardbeg Committee members only but in due course it will be available in selected outlets at about £98 per bottle. I’ll be on Islay myself again for some of the Feis this year, so hope to try some of this.

Happy dramming and back to you again in April.





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