Scallywag Winter 2021, Big Peat Christmas 2021 and Glen Moray Warehouse 1 1998 Barolo Finish on Taste; Not ANOTHER Islay Distillery!; Johnnie Walker Experience
The last couple of weeks saw a plethora of samples arrive with Scallywag Winter 2021, Big Peat Christmas 2021, both from Douglas Laing plus the three new Octomores and another from Bruichladdich that I‘m not allowed to talk about yet (launching November) as well as the long awaited samples of Port Charlotte Islay Barley 2013 and Bruichladdich Bere Barley 2011. As if those weren‘t enough a sample of the new Glen Moray Warehouse 1 collection in Barolo Finish appeared too. Now, that‘s far too many for one column so I‘ll cover them over two or three.
As you may recall from last time, I was doing a tour of a few of our whisky islands – and Campbeltown – during the last column upload. Plan was to interview the new Tobermory manager on Mull on 1 October and use it this month but the poor lass broke an elbow and was at home recuperating so we‘re hoping to do that by Zoom later this month to post end October or into November.
Let‘s get to some of the samples received recently. The first one I‘m covering is:
Scallywag Winter 2021 from Douglas Laing & Co. is at 53.1% abv straight out of the cask with no added colour, no chill-filtration and only 4,200 bottles have been produced for global release. This Scallywag is matured in a combination of oloroso and Pedro Ximenez sherry butts. Expected retail price from spirits specialists and online is about £50 (55 Euros). Just as a reminder it‘s their Speyside blended malt.
Appearance:Warm amber with orange highlights. Tears slow and very sticky down the glass.
Nose: Caramel; lime zest and orange oil (yes, I found both); dried fruits but still with a freshness on the nose. Barley sugar; oak; floral notes – a hint of jasmine; milk chocolate. With water we have a touch of wax; more barley sugar; cake spices; dried vine fruits and a wisp of marzipan.
Palate:Slightly viscous mouthfeel; sweet spices and ginger; dried fruits; oak. Not as overtly Christmas cake as some sherried whiskies I‘ve tasted but a fine Christmas or winter dram.
Finish: Long, spicy and fruity with sweet notes but a very dry final flourish.
There‘s no mention of age here but it‘s a mellow offering, well crafted and good, flavourful value at the price.
Whisky number two is Glen Moray Warehouse 1 1998 Barolo Finish. This is the second of three from this Warehouse 1 collection intended for 2021. It‘s at 52.9% abv and also not chill-filtered and with no added colour. Barolo can be a difficult, tannic wine for some but its casks can add subtle fruit and tannin nuances to maturing whisky.
Appearance: Light amber and caramelised orange. Coppery highlights. First tears are swift and then slower and stickier. Medium-wide spacing.
Nose: Soft oak; some vinous notes; dried fruits and sweet spices (mace, allspice); baked plums; new leather. With water, warm wooden polished floors; soft candy sweets; fruit and icing sugar; dried apricots; slight chocolate.
Palate: Spicy and a little peppery; oak; rich; mouth-drying; barley sweetness and the leather note comes through on the palate also.
Finish: Quite long and dry and a touch of bitter cherry but with a rearguard barley sweetness and slight leafy, vegetal note.
The maturation for this one started in former bourbon casks before a period of time in the Barolo casks. We‘re not told the time spent in each wood type. It‘s priced at £139.95 and is for UK exclusive sale – only 863 bottles. That‘s tiny. Sorry if you‘re outside the UK! A pity as it‘s a really enjoyable whisky. For a good 22 or 23 year old whisky such as this, that price is not at all bad.
This last week, I was able to see for myself the new Johnnie Walker Experience in Edinburgh and my thanks to the JW PR agency, The Story, for setting that up. I joined in a general tour which lasts about 90 minutes (there‘s a another tour type coming soon) and which includes several tastings but you can opt for a soft drink and/or a driver‘s pack to take home. It was fun to do the flavour profile quiz beforehand and, as someone who is involved with Scotch Whisky daily, I could have had several profiles, I think, but answered how I was feeling on the day. That profile comes in later when you get a wristband the colour of your profile and when you choose the cocktails you wish to try. It‘s a delight to see the brand highlighting the importance of whisky in mixed drinks and cocktails. Led by the irrepressible Paula – a super guide – we moved up and down the building, whisky novices, the uninitiated, aficionados and the more expert finding out more about the brand‘s founder and its development, hearing from its blenders how the whisky is created and what the main distilleries from each region bring to it. I did wonder if our two main live presenters had been or are drama students but I think not – just very well trained! The video/audio storytelling and the technology used to do so are really impressive. Plus those all important tasting samples which are rather generous. I wondered how much of what has been done was perhaps stimulated from Nick Morgan‘s preparatory work for his 2020 book, The Long Stride, about the Walker family and the brand. Maybe some, though I‘m told the impetus for it came from Ivan Menezes, the Diageo CEO.
The building has had a glamorous fit-out, appropriate to the world‘s leading Scotch Whisky brand with a great selection of artefacts and pictures released by the Diageo archivists to illustrate the tale. Indeed, out on the higher landings, you can look right down the height of the building to see more pictures. Not for those bothered by heights. I finished my visit by going up to the top floor bar/restaurant (right now you need to pre-book, I think) for a coffee and a look at the view from the terrace. The terrace wall is quite high so no danger there and even some outside seating for brighter days. That bit reminded me somewhat of the rooftop bar at Martell in Cognac – but with poorer weather! Still, we do get some lovely days from spring to autumn. The ground floor shop is gorgeous with rows of JW bottles and other branded goods for sale as well as a chance to fill your own bottle of a JW seasonal blend – you get a discount if you‘ve done the tour. The shop also has a Rare & Exceptional section which features the company‘s rarer and more expensive blends and malts with friendly and knowledgeable staff to help you.
I read recently that a Proposal of Application Notice has been submitted for another distillery on Islay. It was submitted mid-August and has a 12 week consultation period. My first thought was, „Good grief, not another one!“. I reckoned the last thing Islay needed was yet another distillery. Given that Sukhinder Singh is about to start building his approved distillery in Port Ellen and Diageo is rebuilding its own distillery there, I thought they might be the last. This latest application is for a site out Port Charlotte way. The plans are interesting and ambitious from what‘s on the website but I still have doubts as to how necessary it is for the island. It‘s supposed to be fully carbon-neutral, powered by renewable energy sources and built to fit into the surrounding landscape. There‘s the added carrot of jobs and apprenticeships which other distilleries are already covering, I feel. If it‘s meant to bring in new people to Islay where will they live? I have had comments from a few Islay residents who feel this new one shouldn‘t be allowed as the roads to the location are not big enough to sustain the vehicles needed while building it, nor to service it afterwards if permission is granted, though the plans do stipulate an upgrading of existing highway and creation of another one, plus new woodland. I haven‘t yet had time to canvas any more views from Islay residents. Will yet another road cause more harm than good? I wonder how that will affect the road going through Port Charlotte. It‘s not a big road with no room for enlarging and this would increase traffic. I‘ll watch this one with interest. Islay will soon be nothing but distilleries and car parks!
On a more positive note, there‘s a charity auction being held on 3rd December, set up jointly by Sotheby‘s and The Distillers‘ Charity (Worshipful Company of Distillers). Over 40 lots of super-rare and exclusive whiskies and experiences are there for bidding on. Some of them real pieces of liquid history but you need deep pockets with the cheapest lot starting at £1500 right up to an estimate of £350,000 – £500,000 for the most expensive. It‘s all for the good cause of helping disadvantaged young people in Scotland and is called “The Distillers One of One”. Find out more on https://www.sothebys.com/en/digital-catalogues/the-distillers-one-of-one . A list of all the lots is available on request.
Let’s finish with some fine Islay produce. The third and final whisky for this time is Big Peat Christmas 2021. 52.8% abv, not chill-filtered and with no added colour
Appearance: Pale straw/lemon juice; white highlights. Tears sticky and slow but quite close together.
Nose: Plenty of peat reek; cooked barley sweetness;some light nuttiness, antiseptic; sea air; touch of wood and vanilla; slight vegetal notes. With water, softer smoke and tarmac; sea water; sweaty wool sock and cooling embers/ashes.
Palate: Medium mouthfeel; barley sweetness; smoke; toasted oak;some astringency and a bit of salt.
Finish: Long, smoky; toasted wood; dry but with residual barley sweetness.
The Big Peats have a lot of fans out there and I think this one won‘t disappoint either. It‘s available now in specialist stores. UK price is around £46 – £50.
Looks like next time will be a Bruichladdich Octomore – and more – taste fest. In the meantime, happy dramming.