Strong Tea, A Brace of Aberfeldy, Special Releases 2019 & How Valuable is Your Collection?
I hope we’ve all survived Hallowe’en and the onslaught of Christmas isn’t too daunting. If you’re owning or working in a bar/hotel/restaurant or retail store then being busy at this time of year is a good thing – yes? I hope so and there are plenty of great new whisky expressions out there for you to try yourself as a consumer or sell to your customers. We have a number of those newbies this month.
First of all several snippets.
– First is that the world’s most valuable whisky collection is owned by a Vietnamese businessman, Mr Viet Nguyen Dinh Tuan. The collection was valued by Rare Whiskies 101 at over £10 million in potential auction prices. That’s some dedicated buying but a shame if it’s not being drunk and enjoyed. The collection comprises 535 bottles of Scotch and Japanese whisky including one of the world’s only complete Macallan Fine and Rare collections, including the 1926 “Fine and Rare”. Only 40 bottles of the Macallan 1926 were ever released. This collection houses three as well as one of only 12 bottles of the oldest Bowmore ever released and one of only 24 bottles of the 1919 vintage Springbank.
– The second snippet is that Aston Martin who make some of the loveliest cars are partnering with Bowmore on exclusive whiskies and experiences. Sounds good to me. Can Islay now be expected to be inundated with Aston Martins? Or will each Aston purchaser be given a bottle of Bowmore? Now that would be nice. Aston recently registered their name and logo to be associated with alcohol so maybe this is the first of a number of associations.
– Further, Macallan has opened another of its Macallan airport boutiques, this time in Taipei. They all look so lovely but there isn’t one at any airport I’ve passed through recently. I need to rethink my travel plans…
– An ex-colleague of mine, Christian Rosenberg in Germany, this year ran his 21st Interwhisky festival in Frankfurt so happy 21st birthday to Interwhisky and I wish him continued success.
– Diageo’s Clynelish Distillery has brought out a distillery exclusive – a limited-edition Clynelish Single Malt Whisky, available to purchase exclusively at the coastal distillery, one of our most northerly. “This unique release will retail at recommended retail price of £90 per 70cl, with just 6000 bottles available, bottled at 48% ABV.” There is no age statement.
– The Glendronach has just launched another peated version, The GlenDronach Traditionally Peated. They tried this several years ago under the previous owner. I wasn’t a fan of the last one (I think before Master Blender, Rachel Barrie, joined them) and haven’t yet managed to taste this new one. Rachel has crafted The GlenDronach Traditionally Peated from a marriage of Pedro Ximénez, oloroso sherry and port casks. “This rare peated expression is bottled at 48% ABV and as is the case for all The GlenDronach expressions, is non-chill filtered and absorbs colour naturally over time from the Spanish oak in which it resides.” It should be available to buy now from specialist retailers worldwide at around £51 or equivalent per bottle.
– Raasay Distillery is selling bespoke 30 litre casks of its very first expression of the Raasay Single Malt. Resting quietly in small casks fashioned from former Speyside whisky casks, these small casks are available to purchase on the distillery’s website and are priced from £999. We are told, “The smaller casks make the island’s first expression more accessible to whisky lovers across the world and having been made using wood from ex-Speyside casks, they have ensured that the flavour of the final whisky is finely balanced. The smaller casks will sit proudly alongside the 190 litre first-fill ex-American whiskey casks which are also available to purchase online at £5000.” One for the luxury gift buyer, methinks. While the whisky matures, cask owners can come and visit their cask, staying in Raasay Distillery’s accommodation at Borodale House. After the whisky is bottled, owners can also keep their empty cask as a memento.
– There’s a good video nestling out on the web from Waterford Irish whiskey distillery talking about terroir and the farmers they work with. Well worth a watch. Find it at https://youtu.be/0JlGv53rsGo. I’m not sure if that first zero is a number or a letter as I just clicked on the link sent which I have cut and pasted here so it should work.
Now, on to this month’s whisky tasting. I’ve been trying the Diageo Special Releases for 2019, a new Aberfeldy and just a few nights ago was at Glengoyne Distillery for the launch of this year’s Teapot Dram.
Glengoyne was chilly in the warehouse but we were soon warmed by Glengoyne Teapot Dram Batch 007. The James Bond version? No – it’s simply No. 7 in the series – and utterly brilliant. I thought 006 was really good last year and this, for me, is probably even better. It’s a beautiful deep amber colour and the nose is a first hit of walnuts and pecans, followed by gently melted soft, dark brown sugar, rich fruit cake, baked red apples and more including attar of roses and dark chocolate. The palate continues this theme. It’s all from first fill European oak sherry butts and hogsheads this time and bottled at 59.9% abv. Quite an alcohol hit and we tried it without water, in the company of Brand Ambassador Gordon Dundas and distillery manager, Robbie Hughes. The warehouse was chilly and the whisky even more so, so we had to cuddle it at first to warm it up a bit. Not usual for whisky but necessary this time! As Gordon said, after the first powerful sip, it maybe didn’t need water to be enjoyed. It was very, very good but, personally, I’d add a little water to let it release all of its goodness on nose and palate. There are some older whiskies in it this time, the oldest being 14 years old and the depth and maturity plus youthful exuberance are delightful. This is available at the distillery shop and on their online shop this time. Price is much higher than last year at £120/bottle instead of £90 but there are only about 3990 bottles (they are all limited editions) and it’s a purchase that would give so much sensory pleasure.
This last month I’ve also tried the new Aberfeldy 15 Year Old expression. This one is finished in red wine casks from Bordeaux’s Pomerol appellation and is at a fairly standard 43% abv. Primary maturation was 15 years in a combination of Bourbon re-fill and re-char casks then the spent a second maturation period of around 4-5 months in the Pomerol casks. Thanks to the wine casks it’s a rich orangey gold colour with copper highlights – a lovely glow to it.
Nose: Warm and a bit waxy like a warm, polished wood floor – it’s an aroma I find particularly in Aberfeldy. Soft oak and fruit notes including plum and spices from the cask too. With water there’s a very slight hint of struck match and more of the dried fruits and honey.
Palate: An unusual spritzy feeling on the tongue at first. Balanced oak and sweet notes of demerara sugar/ golden syrup and honey with warm, sweet spices, toasted barley and a slight oak char.
Finish: Medium – long finish, sweet then dry; lingering, rounded and warming.
I’d definitely have more of this one and at £55 it’s a good buy but available only in Belgium, Germany, France, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Sweden and the UK. It was launched in Bermuda as that’s where owner HQ is. Now, a whisky writer trip there would be good… At the other end of the price spectrum, Aberfeldy have also recently released a 40 Year Old which is available exclusively at the distillery and their online shop at – wait for it – £2,500 a bottle. The whisky has matured in three separate oak casks since 1978 and will be released in three single cask editions, giving collectors a chance to own each one. Approximately 400 bottles will be available in total, and can go to the distillery to fill your own bottle by hand in the warehouse. Or they will fill it and send it to you. For overseas delivery you need to contact them for details. The first cask produced about 160 bottles and is at 50.1% abv.
Last this month but most definitely not least are the 2019 Special Releases from Diageo. It’s called the “Rare by Nature” collection and all bottles have beautiful packaging reflecting the flora and fauna in their area. Prices range from around £85 (the Cragganmore 12 Year Old) to £1500 (Mortlach 26 Year Old). Certainly another interesting range this year and I had a fascinating couple of sessions trying them but I didn’t find one that really leapt out at me as a favourite this time. I had high hopes for the 26 Year Old Mortlach (53.3% abv; first fill PX and oloroso seasoned casks) as it’s a whisky I’ve enjoyed at other ages before but it didn’t sing on the tongue as much as I expected it to. The nose is glorious but, for me, the palate didn’t quite match up. Too much wood note. Maybe I should have left it longer on both occasions I’ve tried it. There is a little left so I will try again.
The two most peaty offerings this year are a Lagavulin 12 Year Old (56.5% abv; refill US oak casks) and, a surprise, Cragganmore 12 Year Old (58.4% abv). I deliberately didn’t read the media release beforehand as I like to do my notes unaffected by what is in them. At first I thought someone had put the wrong label on the bottle but, no, this is an experiment they tried in 2006 and have released now for people to try as an unusual offering. I did like it and the peaty notes didn’t kick in till after the malt, marshmallow, fruit juice and jasmine had floated by. Also a flash of water chestnut just after the tin has been opened. Then there are fruitier notes and spices as the antiseptic, smoke and woolly sock notes also wash in. I got less on the palate but it was good to try and will interest many. I enjoy peated whiskies at all levels but I think I can say I prefer older Cragganmore without the rich smoke found here. The Lagavulin is a peaty and smoky little beast as you’d expect with some vegetal notes (water fresh peas are cooked in for a start) and a bit of salt. Long smoky and tarry finish with plain salted crisps (chips for those of a US persuasion). If you like Lagavulin, you should like this one.
The Cardhu 14 Year Old (55% abv; with the extra 2 years in amontillado sherry-seasoned hogsheads) was also enjoyable. Plenty of warm, sweet spices, dab of lychee, baked brown sugar and earthiness on the nose then the same spices on the palate as well as pear and vanilla. Nice one. The Singleton of Glen Ord 18 Year Old (55%; freshly charred US oak hogshead) is a very pleasant find with honey and warm butter notes, soft oak, light blossom with maybe some citrus zest and then a beguiling fruitiness all wrapped up in warm honey. Pittyvaich 29 Year Old (51.4% abv; further matured in PX and oloroso seasoned casks) is from a distillery now closed. It’s not particularly sherried and very fresh and fruity for a 29 year old whisky. It’s not dominated by oak. Some yeastiness, fire and wax also on the nose then unripe hazelnut and candied pear. Despite the nose the palate is much less fruity with hotter spices and some pear. I thought this faded a bit more quickly than others.
The Talisker 15 Year Old (57.3%abv; freshly charred US oak hogsheads) contains all the usual signature Talisker notes as well as a bit of ferment via some brioche plus custard slice (a Scottish cake of flaky pastry with thick set vanilla custard in the middle and icing on top) and even a hint of peach. Tasty palate to this one too. The last one to cover is the Dalwhinnie 30 Year Old (54.2% abv; refill hogsheads and butts). A lovely nose of wood shavings and toasted oak just like a good white Burgundy with rich basked apple; sultana and apricot; cooked / candied lemons and some vanilla. I loved this nose but, as with the Mortlach, it didn’t deliver – for me – on the palate with sweet and dry notes, herbs and vanilla. Of them all, I think the Cardhu, Singleton and the Talisker are the ones I would return to. However, there is something for all palates in this year’s selection.
So that’s us for November. If all goes to plan, December will be an interview with the owner of another smaller whisky company with a look at some of their brands.
Till then, happy dramming.