4th December, 2013
Long time, no blog but I’ve been busy elsewhere, not least teaching whisky to some of the lovely bar, restaurant and shop staff at The Gleneagles Hotel in November. Only a few days later I was there again as a guest of Diageo for the Scottish launch of their Special Releases 2013. For those of you who aren’t familiar with these, they are (usually) older or from closed distilleries and, therefore, rarer single malts and Diageo choose certain ones from good casks each year to put out in this range. Usually at cask strength, they are very limited editions. They’re never cheap, but are they good?
Yes! I always have a favourite amongst them but this year saw me shortlisting four or five that I found particularly enticing. This year’s range comprises : Brora 35 Year Old, Caol Ila, Cardhu 21 Year Old, Convalmore 36 Year Old, Lagavulin 12 Year Old, Lagavulin 37 Year Old, Oban 21 Year Old, Port Ellen 34 Year Old, Singleton of Dufftown 28 Year Old, and Talisker 1985.
This year’s Caol Ila is an unpeated one again and I found it more interesting than the previous ones. Not sure why, it just was. It’s called Stitchell Reserve this year, not simply after the current manager but the four generations of Stitchells before Billy who have crafted this lovely malt. A fine tribute to the family. No age statement but it doesn’t matter – it’s simply good. It’s quite perfumed with hints of lychee and vanilla on the nose and honeyed, sweet and slightly nutty on the palate.
The real surprise for me, never having tasted it before was the Convalmore, though others out there may have tried the 28 year old released in 2005. What a treasure this bottling is. It tastes glorious, though at a UK retail price of around £600 per bottle I’m unlikely to be getting any from Santa and neither is my brother (currently on disaster relief work in the Philippines), as my bank balance wouldn’t take it. A gorgeous amber colour, I found it redolent of warm spices, ginger sponge, dried stone fruits, some oak and smoke and so much more. A long finish with a touch of salt and cereal notes. Layers of flavour - and the nose is lovely too. This was my favourite from the whole range and a definite rarity as Convalmore, in Dufftown, is now closed.
Of the two Lagavulins I preferred the 37 Year Old but maybe I just have expensive tastes. However, after the Convalmore, my other preferences were Brora, Port Ellen and Oban in no particular order. And I always find it hard to resist a Talisker. There were whiskies here that would make you want to take off your clothes and roll in a vat of them - but what a waste that would be.
Check your nearest specialist liquor store for these wonderful whiskies, check the bank balance and treat yourself to whatever you can afford.