From the Sunday Times to Ian Rankin
A couple of weeks ago, Josh Glancy, the Sunday Times Mag’s New York correspondent wrote a great column lamenting the evangelism and boredom-inducing droning of “craft” beer afficionados. I don’t know if it might still be available online but it’s worth a read. I see a lot of stuff online too and the holier than thou attitude about “craft” drinks is still irritating me. I’d like to stick a mitt up here and say I’ve tasted some pretty ropey “craft” spirits, though none of them from Scotland so far.
Also, in the online publication just-drinks.com, there’s been a piece this week on whether “craft” should change its name to “independent”. They’re actually generally single distillery small companies or ones which are small compared to the likes of Pernod Ricard, Diageo or Beam Suntory. Why does having a large drinks portfolio make you a bad guy to some people? Is it too much like an empire? Is Ian Macleod Distillers, Signatory or Benriach Distillers, as it was before its sale, a big producer or an independent one. Where is the line crossed? I understand and like the idea of something produced more locally and using local ingredients – where possible – but it doesn’t necessarily mean better. Local ingredients are not always possible whether you’re making gin, whisky or rum.
Speaking of Benriach Distillers, former owner Billy Walker has just bought Glenallachie Distillery from Pernod Ricard (Chivas) to form another new whisky company. He could sit on his achievements in the industry in a long career but has chosen to keep striving for more. It’s great news and a good result for another distillery.
I see the next stage of the minimum pricing for alcohol battle is rumbling on and we’re at the Supreme Court now. The SWA has made submissions as to what we should be doing to help over-consumption of alcohol and is arguing that a minimum pricing policy would harm hard-won international trade for Scotch Whisky which provides jobs in small communities and massive amounts of revenue for the country. The government’s counter argument seems to focus on problem drinking and health. Yes, we need to fix those problems but is the minimum pricing policy the way to do it? Personally, I’m far from convinced. Seems the judgment won’t be announced for another 3 – 6 months.
Highland Park have just announced their new version of 18 Year Old started shipping out to markets last month. It’s now batch produced and bottled and a sample will be coming in a few months to write a tasting note. They’ve been busy on other fronts too as the second expression in their 5 Keystones series comes out by end of this year. It’s called Highland Park Shiel after the wooden shovels used to turn the germinating barley on the malting floor. It’s limited to 1200 bottles and will sell for £75 per bottle exclusively to their Inner Circle which you can join online. No samples of that as it’s such a limited edition. Their own maltings usually supply 20% of the malted barley needed for Highland Park but for this expression they’ve used 100% own malt in the process so it has more intense peat smoke about it. One to try and taste if possible.
Beyond that the Dragon Legend (more Nordic influence?) comes to the UK and Europe early autumn and Magnus for the US market. No more info than that just yet. By the way, I was invited to attend one of HP Brand Ambassador Martin Markvardssen’s tastings in Edinburgh some weeks ago and it was amusing and hugely informative. If you get the chance to attend one of Martin’s sessions, do go.
That was followed up the same day by watching Ian Rankin – and others – being interviewed by Kirsty Wark as part of the Rebus Fest celebrating 30 years since the first Rebus book was published. A special Highland Park 10 YO was unveiled too – a soft, tasty dram.
We finish up this month with some tasting notes. I have a number of samples which have gathered in the last couple of months but ran out of room to cover them. There isn’t room for them all but we’ll do three of those I found most interesting when nosing them in their little sample bottles. I’ll try to do some of the others in August.
First up is one from Crucial Drinks’ Lost Distillery Company range. It’s Dalaruan, from the Classic Selection at 43% abv. This is their interpretation of what Dalaruan (Campbeltown) would have tasted like. Nice rich, old gold colour. On the nose there are barely sugars and golden syrup, fresh floral notes but also some citrus, dried fruit and peel. With water there is a touch more citrus with a hint of toffee and cream cheese; wisp of smoke. On the palate we have some oak and smoke; those dried fruits again; sweet hay, some residual dryness, and heathery bitterness but rear sweetness with a medium finish.
Second is the Scallywag 13 Year Old (46%) from Douglas Laing. It’s a limited edition Speyside Blended Malt and, older than the original Scallywag, it’s been matured in sherry butts. Nose and colour give that away as Douglas Laing don’t add colour to their whiskies. Nose -fruity adn juicy! A bit like the juice from tinned fruits as well as a touch of marzipan. There are soft light cake fruits and spices plus caramel. left a little while it gets quite raisiny and rich. With water it is still soft and elegant with more dried fruits and maraschino cherries. The palate is silky and unctuous with some oak and toast. It’s drier than expected from the nose but a rounded and highly appealing dram. Finish is medium- long, dry, fruity and almonds.
Last one for now is from Wemyss Malts and it’s their 1997 Clynelish bottled in 2016. They call it Coastal Orchard (46%) and, nosed from the bottle on opening it is really quite appley. Once in the glass it’s a bright, medium barley gold. As mentioned, it has apples on the nose with other fruit juices, some damp moss and woods, toffee/caramel;. With water it is softer, creamier, some pear drop notes and a dab of vanilla. Mainly sweetness but with a briny note too. The palate is very smooth and silky; a touch of wood and some light smoke, more robust than the previous two. There is some nuttiness – walnuts and almonds fresh out of the shell; heathery honeyed and drying. It’s quite a long, dry and honeyed finish. This was a rare one and limited edition of only 269 bottles for the US market. Such a pity for us here in the UK but it’s an important territory for Wemyss.
So, more tasting notes and whatever other happenings we can find next month. I’m off to Poland for a wedding. Should be quite a party but more vodka than whisky I suspect.