Whisky for Women? New Glenmorangie, Barley’s Day in the Sun and More Tasting
Whisky for Women? New Glenmorangie, Barley’s Day in the Sun and More Tasting
Happy New Year!
Just getting under the wire to wish you the best before January ends. I hope it’s a great one for everybody. Some interesting news points this month and I comment on a couple of them here. Then some tasting notes for three whisky samples I’ve been sent. One is from Tweeddale as there wasn’t enough room in December’s piece, one from Douglas Laing & Co. and one from Highland Park.
First up we hear a story that Diageo intend trademarking the Jane Walker name and striding woman label to attach to a more “feminised” version of Johnnie Walker Black, possibly in time for International Women’s Day. I can’t find any definitive info and it’s not something they’re giving away much about as yet. One or two comments have pondered whether this is aimed specifically at women. I doubt it and hope it’s meant to appeal to all. Somehow I can’t see Diageo, which has several female master blenders, blenders and distillery managers, as well as a strong positive stance on gender equality at work, bringing out a “women’s whisky” and I’m sure there will be more to the story. More likely to celebrate female achievement but we’ll see in due course. As a marketer I always steered clear of a whisky specifically for women as patronising and misguided. I’ve met women who like “difficult” whiskies and men who don’t. One concession to gender I did make a number of years ago was not on the whisky itself but on an event. My colleagues and I set up a tasting event of our single malt whiskies with food at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, specifically for women working in the City of London. The attendees found it relaxing and enjoyed the whiskies with no City men telling them what to do, how to drink it etc. It was the 90’s so I would hope behaviours have moved on since then.
Let’s try some tasting notes now.
First up The Tweeddale Silent Character from Alasdair Day (I spelled his first name wrongly last time – sorry), a 27 year old single grain whisky from Cambus Distillery (silent since 1993) at 52% abv vatted from two ex-bourbon casks. Now, we know that grain doesn’t always have the complexity of malt but this is a pleasing and multi-faceted dram. Priced at £175 per bottle. and there are fewer than 600 of them.
Appearance – medium straw colour, white rim. Very slow glycerine-like tears after initial swiftness.
Nose – Pear drops initially, cut grass; a hint of citrus zest and some dried fruit sweetness and toffeed honey. Some candy notes – like Dolly Mixtures (long time since I had them but memories linger!). With water, it was slightly more savoury with a meaty note; a hint of sulphur and old wood plus vanilla. Some lavender and soft spices with other floral notes – maybe jasmine. Barley sugar. It gets bigger and sweeter on the nose as it sits a little longer. There’s also more citrus, grain sweetness and some hay. It does entice you to try it.
Palate – A touch oily at first but drying on the cheeks and tongue. Pepper and licorice but some of that is alcohol. Add more water to soften further. Notes of wood, cooked barley (not toasted) and soft spices.
Finish – Residual grain and wood sweetness and not too long in lingering. Quite dry at the end. I get more from nose than palate but it’s still enjoyable.
Second was Timorous Beastie 10 Year Old from Douglas Laing & Co at 46.8% abv and no added colour. All from Highland distilleries and around £34.99 per bottle. Now, some time ago I tried their 18 Year Old expression of this but haven’t yet found my notes to compare them. Doubtless archived somewhere before I changed pc. I’ve chosen it as the featured image this month as I just love the label.
Appearance – Medium straw / pale gold.
Nose – Cooking peas! It fades after a few minutes. Some fruitiness ,then cologne-like notes. Some soft, sweet spices and sponge cake. Gentle and subtle -timorous, even! With water softer and waxy and a bit like Edam cheese wax. Crushed cashew nuts; slightly sweaty and fermenting fruit; more grain sweetness develops along with coffee and orange oil.
Palate – Light – medium mouthfeel. Quite silky. Savoury spice and peppers. Then slight wood and cereal notes and red licorice “shoelaces”.
Finish – Short – medium and light finish. Not too deep – a warm weather dram that whispers rather than shouts. It kind of sidles up to you for a wee hug.
The last one for this month is Highland Park The Dark – 52.9% abv and natural colour from casks. This is a 17 year old single malt matured in European oak sherry seasoned casks.
Appearance – Rich, enticing amber gold. A golden syrup colour.
Nose – A touch of sulphur and barely sugar; a dab of vanilla; some sharpness to the nose – lime zest? Warm wood then gingery spice and dried fruits – warm aromatics. Quite rich and a hint of toffee behind the sulphur notes. With water, more heathery, nuts and citrus oil. Complex and layered. Left to sit more sulphur and some peat smoke emerge. Aroma of a baking cake- warm, dried stone and vine fruits; treacle tart with pecan nuts. Cigar box notes.
Palate – A strange cooling sensation in the mouth initially. Then some peat and smoke – more than you might expect from the nose; astringent and zesty ; wood char yet fruity and heathery dryness at the same time. Damp oak notes plus some maltiness and golden syrup. Not any of the usual honey I’d expect in Highland Park – more plant like.
Finish – Long with sweet and dry touches, heathery, drying finish with some smoky tinges. A brooding number.
Companion expression, The Light, is to be released in late spring so I’ve kept some of this one to compare the two when the time comes. The serpent dragon on The Dark’s packaging is inspired by Viking tales and there are more Viking references elsewhere on the pack. It has a run of 28,000 bottles and will retail for around £190 per bottle. That’s not exactly a limited edition, in my view, but compared to their main expressions, it’s not huge.
So, three very different drams but each worth a try. I was more taken with the single grain than I expected to be and would happily try it again. As intended, the Highland Park would brighten up and warm my autumn and winter and the Timorous Beastie 10 would suit other seasons just fine.
There’s been some writing recently (notably the excellent Dave Broom on scotchwhisky.com) about barley and principally how different strains might produce different flavours/character. Well, why shouldn’t they, in the same way that different grape types produce different flavours and characters? Soil may also have a bearing here as well as other parts of the whisky process so there are many possible tunes to be played which can add a lot to range extensions of single malts. I wrote a chapter on barley for the good people of The Whisky Ambassador a year or so back and if you do one of their courses in future you might find out more. I did talk to the Scotch Whisky Research Institute about it at the time and they certainly felt more research needed to be done. Barley strains and terroir are being looked at in places other than Scotland (Bruichladdich are keen exponents here) and I reckon there is lot of fascinating stuff to explore.
The Scotch Whisky Association is doing its bit for the environment and urging all of its members to stop using plastic straws. Some of the larger companies had already announced they would do so. The SWA has also lost another couple of good people recently. Long term SWA man David Williamson went in the autumn and, more recently, Rosemary Gallagher who handled communications matters. Since they parted company with previous senior communications and government affairs man, Campbell Evans, a few years ago I really wonder what’s going on there since one ex-diplomat and now another were given the Chief Exec’s post. It’s a great loss of expertise and knowledge.
In this morning’s news come details about a new Glenmorangie expression – Glenmorangie Spios, the ninth in its Private Edition series and fully matured in US ex-rye whiskey casks. Strength is 46% abv and there’s neither chill-filtration nor age statement. It follows whisky creator Dr. Bill Lumsden’s interest in rye whiskey character. He tells the media,” I have always loved American rye whiskey’s spicy character, and I believed our smooth house style would perfectly complement the nuances of ex-rye casks. The result is Glenmorangie Spìos – a full-bodied, savoury single malt which brings to mind American rye whiskey’s golden age. Its fresh, herbal nose hints at cherry, clove and scents of green grass. The rye’s spice bursts on to the palate, as toffee, clove and cinnamon mingle with buttery vanilla, before a sweet and lingering finish – a single malt whisky which is unmistakeably Glenmorangie, yet exquisitely different.” It’s available from today at around £79 a bottle.
I was shown a tweet last night with a pic of Irish Peat Wine. What? I thought it might be some new brand name for an Irish whiskey but apparently it’s German red wine infused with Irish peat. Initial reaction is yuck but I shouldn’t knock it till I’ve tried it. If anyone out there has, please let me know your thoughts.
Till end of February, happy tasting.