Sublime Glendronach, New Benriachs; New Jura & Fettercairn; New Octomores!; New Aberfeldy; New Ardbeg; New Glengoyne Packs; Dalmore Goes to Harrods
I’m giving first mention this time to the new (another “new”!) expression of The Glendronach Kingsman Edition to tie in with the upcoming film. As before, Master Blender, Rachel Barrie, has reached into the glorious cask stock at the distillery and come up with another expression to suit the prestige nature of brands associated with the film.
Those of you who may have read some of my writings before will know that I’m a pushover for a good (emphasise good) sherry matured whisky. Also that The Glendronach is very dear to me as a brand I used to manage.
Anyway, they were kind enough to send me a sample of The Glendronach Kingsman Edition, Distilled 1989. It’s bottled at 50.1% abv and only 3,052 bottles were produced from the 6 casks chosen to give up their precious liquid. The whisky was matured in oloroso casks and finished in Pedro Ximenez casks. Apparently, the inspiration for this expression is tied into the oldest bottle currently displayed at the distillery. It was one bottled in 1913 and three friends bought one each before the war, vowing to drink it when they all came home. Only one returned. Years later, as it had remained unopened, his family donated it to the distillery where it is shown to honour and remember fallen friends. A very poignant tale. It’s not a bottle or story I remember hearing about when I looked after it so I’m assuming it must have been in the years after that when it was returned. You never, know, though as things can get tucked into cupboards and rediscovered later!
Also in the pack was a special nosing glass and I tried some from both this and my trusty blender’s nosing glass to see if there was a difference. I have to say the presentation glass was great for nosing but not so easy for drinking. However, it definitely encourages sipping and that’s exactly what’s required here. What did I find in this liquid? I need to say: I’m. In. Heaven.
Appearance: Glowing chestnut and dark honey/caramel with coppery glints and a paler, old gold rim. Tears slow to form and really coat the glass.
Nose: From the bottle, sherry soaked raisins and saddle leather. Rich and fruity with warm, sweet spices. In the glass, rich and intoxicating. Christmas cake; warm, sun-dried raisins; toasted walnuts. Rich honey and leather bags (think Hermes!). Barley sugar and creamy treacle sauce. Some oak, but not much and a slight dab of vanilla. Sweet spiciness – mixed spice, mace, allspice and a little clove. Cedar wood cigar box. Earthy.
With water – initially dials up the earthiness of a warehouse floor; some added hints of ginger, honey and baked fruits. Still the persistent, sweet spiciness. From the empty glasses- earthen floors and treacle and cream caramel sauce. From the empty presentation glass, some candied orange zest and roasted pineapple.
Palate: Slightly unctuous and luscious. Tongue tingling and slightly peppery, swiftly giving way to a raft of walnut flavour and those warm, sweet spices again. Dark chocolate and raisins; coffee grounds; some oak tannin notes but no obvious vanilla. Treacly with rich, dark fruits.
Finish: Long, sweetly spicy then dry, heathery and earthy.
I know I’ve said this about a few other whiskies too but this really is one of those you could happily nose for hours before you even taste it. If the angels are getting a share of this they must be swooning. I’ve found before, with a really special whisky, that it makes me want to leap into a vat of it just to feel it on the skin. Weird, I know and a potential waste of a sublime liquid but I’ve found it a useful criterion to judge how highly I rate a whisky – or a fine wine! Cost for a bottle is £775 in the UK. Steep, you might say but, were the budget even available, for a single malt of this calibre, I reckon it’s one I’d buy and for drinking, not to show off that you can afford it.
From the same stable (Brown-Forman) come some new expressions of Benriach. Rachel Barrie and team have been in amongst the casks again at Benriach Distillery, to produce a new portfolio of single malts and new packaging. This forms the updated core range. The expressions are Original 10 and Smoky 10, Original 12 and Smoky 12 along with the older and rarer, 21, 25 and 30 year olds. Last time I tasted the 21 year old I was really impressed so high hopes here.
At Benriach, you may recall they practice “classic” and peated distillations as well as triple distillation now and again. The accompanying notes say, “The new packaging takes inspiration from the first Benriach Single Malt released over two decades ago, with the portfolio’s colour palette inspired by Speyside’s natural environment in which the distillery sits.”
Benriach is always a gloriously fruity malt whether peated or not so expect to find those notes throughout the range. As well as the usual bourbon and sherry wood maturations, notes have been played with rum, marsala and virgin oak casks to great creative effect. I’ve tasted a few before at the distillery. Samples are requested and awaited so we’ll hope they arrive. The new range goes global from this month but on a gradual basis.
Although Benriach would take limited visits by appointment only on certain days before now, its first actual visitor centre should, we hope, be shown off later this year. Whether it is actually open is a matter for the coronavirus (and weather) gods but it’s a super distillery to go and see. I’ve been twice and my only gripe is the long drive up from Glasgow as I’m usually going up and back in the same day! Worth it, though.
Octomore is back! The highly sought after, mega-peaty Octomore from Bruichladdich Distillery returns from 1st October with the Octomore 11 series, three at 5 years old and one at 10 years old. I’ve been asked if I want samples so more on those next time if the samples arrive by then. For now, I’ll simply advise that 77 casks have been married, largely first and second fill bourbon and Tennessee whiskey wood from several sources and some virgin oak. As ever, all have high phenol levels, the 10 year old at 208ppm. Good grief! It’s always a challenge yet always a pleasure to try these so I hope to add in the other info I have been sent later this month in a fuller piece. By the way, all the pics were very dark and moody, like this one, so you might get a better view when it hits the specialist shops or appears on the website.
From another source, Whyte & Mackay have launched Jura Red Wine Cask Finish. Lovely stuff but I’ll cover the tasting note next time as the main focus here is The Glendronach Kingsman Edition 1989 and the Jura deserves its own space.
As well as this new Jura expression, W&M have also released a super premium Fettercairn at 46 years old. We all know this great tasting whisky is available at a number of ages from 12 upwards.(the oldest I have tried is a 50 year old). Matured for most of its 46 year life in American white oak ex-Bourbon barrels, we’re told “This single malt went on to spend four years in 40-years-old Tawny Port Pipes.” It’s bottled at 42.5% abv with no added colour and no chill filtration. The official tasting notes (no samples as very rare and expensive) say, “Fettercairn 46 Years Old is naturally cherry wood in colour with a nose of over-ripe bananas, toasted bread, citrus fruit and plum, giving way to raisin, bitter chocolate, fig and spice. The palate is defined by spiced pear, coffee, caramelised orange and liquorice.; leading to black cherries and treacle with a finish of plum, demerara sugar and chocolate.” I could easily sip and savour that one were it not for the price. Only 55 bottles have initially been released, to selected global specialist retailers in the UK, Europe and Asia at an eye-watering £8,500 per bottle. Makes a 29 year old Glendronach look a bargain but you do have to look at the extra costs of ageing, maturation losses and amount of the liquid actually available but remember that word “initially”. Infers there may be a little bit more to come.
Yet more from W&M. For the first time, The Dalmore Highland Single Malt has just released worldwide two extremely rare limited editions, normally Distillery Exclusives, in partnership with Harrods. Bad news is the limited number of bottles available – only 100 bottles of the 2003 Vintage and 450 of the 2006 Vintage are for sale. Both are at cask strength, with natural colour and no chill-filtration.
The official notes say, “A sweet richness is to be discovered in both Vintages, due to the finishing in magnificent Premier Grand Cru Bordeaux wine barriques for the 2003 Vintage, and the finest Marsala Casks for the 2006 Vintage. From the enticing aromas to the delicious toffee and coffee finishes, these whiskies speak to all the senses and are an exceptional gift from The Dalmore distillery.” The 2003 is £1500/bottle and the 2006, £200/bottle.
Both Distillery Exclusive releases will be available to purchase online via Harrods.com and in-store from today, Monday 14th September, until stocks last. If you want to know more, go to www.thedalmore.com.
Dewar’s have recently brought out a new 18 Year Old Aberfeldy expression (Volume: 70cl, Abv: 43%) which has been finished for 4 – 5 months in first fill Pauillac casks from Bordeaux, following main maturation in a combination of refill casks. Those of you who know your Bordeaux wines will know of Pauillac as an area housing a number of top Bordeaux wine properties and the wines can be rich and full with substance and vigour.
We’re told, “Malt Master, Stephanie MacLeod, carefully monitored maturation and flavour development in the casks until the desired flavour profile had been achieved. Pauillac is a robust wine, so the goal was to use this cask type to complement and elevate the signature character of Aberfeldy, not mask it. To celebrate the release of the new whisky, Stephanie and Dewar’s Aberfeldy Distillery Brand Ambassador Gary Ross, will be hosting a virtual tasting on 24th September at 7pm. To get the login details please join our mailing list here: https://www.dewars.com/gl/en/aberfeldydistillery/sign-e-newsletter/.” I’d say that would definitely be one to attend.The whisky is £95 per bottle (definite bargain) and available exclusively from the distillery.
I’ve rather run out of room here but, in other news, there is Glengoyne Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky last week launched a brand-new look and feel across its range. The “overhaul” (ugly word) also sees The Glengoyne Collection move to 100% recyclable and largely locally sourced packaging with no plastic or magnets. Now that’s a nice move on the packaging front though I don’t know how much of it was locally sourced before now. The new identity, featuring an updated illustration of its goose emblem and packaging emerges this month across the collection, as well as special releases such as Legacy Series: Chapter Two and Cask Strength Batch No. 008, which both launch globally this month. Older expressions will be unveiled later this year. I always look forward to Glengoyne launches as its a whisky that appeals to my sherry taste buds.
Another Caroline’s palate favourite is Ardbeg ( my tastes are broad…) and the new Batch 2 of the 19 year old Traigh Bhan series is now on sale in the UK. Official notes say, “In Ardbeg Traigh Bhan 19 Years Old Batch 2, faint waves of sweet wood smoke and tart crème fraîche lap gently over bold notes of savoury fennel, celeriac and roasted tea leaves. A splash of water releases a gust of fresh seaspray, followed by irresistible aromas of leather, eucalyptus oil and pine. Ripples turn to torrents as the true nature of this dram emerges. An intensely salty mouthfeel shifts like the tides into herbal notes. Swells of aniseed pass over the palate, before rich fudge, birch tar and peat smoke crash down wildly. Eventually, savoury and smoke collide in a sharp, intense and satisfyingly long finish.” To see Dr. Bill Lumsden discussing and comparing this with Batch 1, go to https://www.ardbeg.com/en-gb/traighbhan. There’s more info on the website too.
Lastly for this column, the ISC competition awards were announced recently with Whyte & Mackay winning 53 gold medals primarily for its single malts (examples pictured here) with several winning double gold. W&M’s Global Marketing Director, Steven Pearson commented, “We’re delighted, but not surprised, as it speaks to the diversity and quality of our portfolio and the superb credentials of our whisky making team, Richard Paterson and Gregg Glass. We’re lucky enough to be able to work with them everyday and it’s testament to the craft and magic they bring that Whyte & Mackay has been so richly rewarded.” Chivas was close behind on 50 medals. Something for the young guns to aim for in the decades to come. These major competitions are going to get even more interesting as the newer distilleries build up more mature stocks. As we know, age on its own doesn’t necessarily confer quality but it’s what you do with the whisky at its various ages that matters and it’s easier to play more interesting tunes when you have a wider range of stocks.
There was more news this time but I’ve gone on long enough. See you later in the month with more.