One Wee Beastie, Two Tasting Notes, Three Interviews, More Lockdown Events but No Partridge in a Pear Tree
A delay in posting this one as my desktop pc had a meltdown but I’ve been saved here at home by Superlawyer who is also my tech expert. Some snippets to start off with this month and more at the end after the tasting notes:
Ardbeg Wee Beastie (47.4% abv): Just came in to me this week, as an Ardbeg Committee member. This is the new 5 year old Ardbeg which is to become a permanent part of the range. Always a pleasure to hear about a new Ardbeg. You can find it now in Ardbeg Embassies (find on the Ardbeg website) in the UK and online at Ardbeg.com late in August. They say it’s intensely smoky and I have utterly no reason to doubt that! Will look forward to trying some in due course.
Isle of Arran Distillers – blended malt: Had to hold this one over from June as that column was already long. The company is using spirit from both of its Arran distilleries under the name Project North & South to create a blended malt. Hold your horses, though. It won’t be ready for a while yet. The distilleries were closed in March for COVID-19 safety reasons and opened again in May so they have vatted together the first run from each distillery, the unpeated Lochranza (north) and peated Lagg (south). The liquid has been filled into three different cask types – bourbon barrels, sherry hogsheads and sherry butts and the whisky will rest there, quietly maturing till their experts decide it is ready for all of us to enjoy. One to look forward to.
Tamdhu Tasting : Ian Macleod distillers brand ambassador, Gordon Dundas and Tamdhu manager, Sandy McIntyre are teaming up for an online event this Thursday 16th July at 7.30p.m. BST. It will be live streamed on Tamdhu’s YouTube channel when “a team of experts talk… through recent and upcoming drams”. There will be an opportunity to ask questions and the drams to be sampled are Dalbeallie III plus the Iain Whitecross Single Cask – the Assistant Distillery Manager’s debut single cask whisky. There will also be a mystery dram that will be revealed during the live session. Doubtless it will also be available to view after the live event. Find out via their Instagram page.
Waterford – After the success of its first commercial bottlings, which we are told very speedily from retailers across Europe, Waterford Distillery has brought forward four new whisky bottlings. I’ll say more about these in my next column end July as the samples just arrived today and this column is already busy. Amongst those I have been sent are Ballymorgan Edition 1.1 and Sheestown: Edition 1.1 plus two younger spirit samples.
Those nice people at Cask 88 were kind enough to interview me for their YouTube channel and it aired last night, 15th July. Find it at https://youtube.com/watch?v=QnHmnOMwZEo or put Cask 88 YouTube into your browser. It’s Episode 10. It’s an edited piece as there are two other interviewees in the programme and the full interview with me should be available via a separate link later this month. What did I find out about being interviewed via Zoom? 1) That it was lovely to chat to Sam both in the interview and making the arrangements beforehand. 2) If you have fair hair (with the obligatory lockdown dark roots!) and are recorded with sun in the background, your hair looks white. Yikes!
Anyway, they spoke to me as I used to handle marketing for a distillery from where they have bought and bottled a special cask. It’s a Laphroaig which they’ve called Cailleach Beira, “who is said to be the Mother of all other deities in Scottish folklore. She is the personification of Winter, ushering in the change of the seasons with her tidal mood, and washing her plaid shawl in the Corryvreckan whirlpool off the coast of Islay.” That’s a character I knew nothing of till now. This is the third in their series of single cask whisky bottlings inspired by the legends of Scottish folklore. It’s a 19 year old Laphroaig at 53.9% abv and priced at around £475 which makes me more grateful for the sample I received. The whisky was finished in a first fill barrique from Château Léoville-Las Cases, one of the top chateaux in Bordeaux. Only 258 bottles are available globally. As I say, they kindly sent me a sample to write my own tasting notes and think of any food pairing recommendations.
My notes are:
Appearance: Rich glowing amber with a pink tinge at the edges and orange highlights, rather like an orange wine (very trendy right now). Tears are very slow and sticky, clinging to the glass like fruit syrup. Quite viscous when water is added.
Nose: Smoky and rich but the smoke doesn’t slap you in the face. This is 19 years old, after all and some of the harder edges have mellowed out, tempered by salt sea air and wood char. I spent a long while nosing this whisky. There are definite notes of dried stone fruits plus sultanas/raisins and darker berries – a waft of blackcurrant sauce. Some oak and creamy vanilla with walnut notes and spices both sweet and savoury – ginger and mace for me. Juicy yet earthy and enticing. Cedar wood boxes (not surprising given its finishing cask), muted iodine and overall, a note of richly roasted barley.
With water, more rich barley and the smoke is less overt but deeper and richer too; also more fruit, ready salted crisps and a herbaceous touch. Very mellow and, as with many Islays, a slightly sweaty wool sock. That’s not a bad thing!
Palate: Immediately drying and tongue-tingling. Smoky with rich, toasted – but sweet – cereal notes, charred oak, a little tar and some salt or brine. Lightly charred food cooked in a bonfire or barbecue; smoky bacon and fresh walnut. It’s fruitier on the nose than on the palate and oh, so sippable. Definitely a whisky to try shortly after pouring then keep coming back to it every 15 minutes or so for an hour or two.
Finish: Long, smoky, richly toasted barley and oak char persisting – bonfire smoke catching the throat. A touch of walnut.
This was available to Cask 88 subscribers a little in advance and is available now via the Cask88 website and from WhiskyFoundation.com for worldwide delivery and in person from Cask 88 Sales Managers globally.
I was asked by Cask 88 if I could think of any food recommendation for this and off the top of my head I came up with venison or lamb. It also depends on the sauce and accompaniment. After actually tasting it, I’m thinking venison with a red wine (cab sauv and/or merlot) sauce and maybe enriched with a tiny bit of dark chocolate (see below). Aubergine purée or aubergine “caviar” alongside that would also work but not smoked aubergine. Let the whisky supply that bit. Lamb in the right form would work too. I also tried a couple of blue cheeses, Devon Blue and Stichelton and the Stichelton worked better for me, maybe down to the creamier flavour. My last experiment was with a square of dark chocolate. Loved it. It made the whisky fruitier, definitely not flat – as happens to some whiskies with chocolate – and there was a hint of freshly shelled nuts. If you buy a bottle make that last combination your late night treat.
The second sample I have to cover this month is the latest expression of The Epicurean from Douglas Laing and Co. It’s The Epicurean Edinburgh Edition which I wrote about here mid-June but the tasting sample hadn’t arrived. It has and was well appreciated as I hope you can see from this tasting note:
Appearance: Very pale straw with lemon juice glints. Tears quite clingy and slow on second wave.
Nose: Fresh, with zesty citrus notes and a bit sherbety. Softly floral – the merest rose note. With water, some soft marshmallow. Glimmers of apple and lemon pudding. A little damp oak like stepping into a bonded warehouse. Slight peach notes also and sultana starts to come through. White pepper, fresh wood shavings and a little more sultana as it’s left to sit in the glass.
Palate: Slightly unctuous which I didn’t expect. Medium mouth feel. Some oak, baked apple/pear fruit, green peppers, leafy and even a little licorice.
Finish: Fairly long and dry with both white and green pepper and herbaceous notes.
The company did point out the suitability of this expression for mixing or in cocktails and having now tried it I can say that it would be an excellent choice. I’m thinking some Lejay-Lagoute Green Apple liqueur and some ginger, ice and a sprig of mint. A good whisky to play with and be adventurous in your trials.
Some of the team at Whyte & Mackay (Glasgow) have begun a virtual adventure which has them cover enough miles to travel around the world and more. They’re doing this by means of walking, running, rowing or cycling a combined total of almost 29,000 miles over eight weeks till 26th August to raise money for nominated charities. Funds raised by this Whyte & Mackay Cares project will go towards charities nominated by the team. Target is £50,000 for charity in the communities where their colleagues, partners and consumers live. Colleagues from 12 countries from Canada to Hong Kong are participating. They came up with the idea “to stay connected and support others during lockdown”. A super initiative which deserves success. I’ll try and let you know if they reach the target.
Smoky tomatoes! – This one came in to me a little late for mid-June. Hannah Fisher, whom I first encountered as one of the Beam Suntory marketing team, set up her own company a few years ago – The Start-Up Drinks Lab. Their most recent launch is Tongue in Peat, the world’s first peat-smoked tomato juice. Brilliant idea! It uses Islay peat and “fresh, seasonal tomatoes”. This is a batch product of no more than 5,000 bottles a time. Hannah tells us, “After lots of experiments at home to find the right length of smoke time and the best region of peat to use, we finally landed on the recipe for Tongue in Peat that delivered the smoky, flavoursome punch we were looking for. Each batch tastes slightly different as we only use tomatoes which are in season so we label each of our batches to help our drinkers spot the subtle variations per batch”. Therefore no sample but it can be found in the UK directly from Tongueinpeat.com as well as Paisley Drinks Company and Craft56.co.uk. It was designed to make the ultimate Bloody Mary and for those who like smoky foods. However, I reckon there’s a Whisky Mary or other cocktail to be made here though a whisky and tomato combo whether in cocktails or with food, needs careful whisky choices.
Diageo has launched a new series known as Prima & Ultima – first and last, so called as it features single malts which are the first and last of their type from eight of their famous distilleries. All have been selected by Master Blender for Diageo, Dr. Jim Beveridge OBE. They have a few master blenders but Jim is the capo di tutti. All these whiskies come from a small selection of casks and all are at cask strength with no added colour and no chill-filtration.
If you want the collection, the catch is the price. There are only 238 sets on offer of this first release in the series and the prospective cost is £22,000. Next week, on 22nd July, you can register your interest to purchase via www.exceptionalwhisky.com . One set will be auctioned at Sotheby’s online between 26 August and 2 September to raise funds for WaterAid.
No room this time to list all the attributes of each whisky but the distilleries involved are Caol Ila, Clynelish, Cragganmore, Lagavulin, Mortlach, Port Ellen, Singleton of Dufftown and Talisker, not one of them younger than 25 years old. Age isn’t everything but the quality and rarity is important and long-aged whisky always costs more due to storage costs and losses during maturation. Sadly, no samples (hardly surprising) but I’d be particularly interested in the Mortlach and the Cragganmore. I am rather wondering if we’ll see a Special Releases collection this year. That normally comes out round about September/October but what can follow this? I guess we’ll find out.
Almost the last word for this column goes to The Macallan. Edrington has brought out two new editions of the Double Cask range – a 15 and and 18 year old to complement the 12 year old from last year. This collection uses both US and European oak casks seasoned with sherry. I’ve heard Master Whisky Maker, Kirsteen Campbell, express a liking for the effect of US oak seasoned with sherry and its delicious vanilla and honey notes. The European oak is from Spain and France while the US wood is from Ohio, Missouri and Kentucky. All the wood is gathered together in Spain where coopers fashion casks to be filled with sherry. After an appropriate time they are shipped to the Macallan distillery on Speyside for filling with new-make spirit.
No samples of these two either – a hiccup with databases. You can find their official tasting notes online. Price is around £100 for the 15 and £250 for the 18 from whisky specialists.
Very last word is from Bruichladdich who have an Instagram Live event on Thursday 16th July at 7p.m. BST where Production Director, Allan Logan, is interviewed about the distillery’s plans for on-site maltings [so glad to see another distillery doing this] and alternative energies – this presumably as part of their B Corp accreditation. Hopefully this one, too, will be available afterwards for those who can’t watch on the night. Check their Instagram page. sion will be
So that’s it for the first half of July. Every time I have intentions for a shorter column and every time there’s more stuff to mention. I’ll see you all end of this month with my Waterford tasting notes and other bits and pieces. Enjoy your summer drams.