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Whiskey news from around the world

George T Stagg (2014)

George T. Stagg Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey 2014 Release 69.05% ABV $80 to $100 (retail) Website What the Distillery Says: This extremely hearty whiskey ages in new charred oak barrels for no less than 15 years. Straight out of the barrel, uncut and unfiltered, the taste is powerful, flavorful and intense. Open it up with … Continue reading George T Stagg (2014) →

Inbox - The Week's Whisky News (February 15, 2019)

Welcome to Inbox, our weekly round up of whisky news and PR material that has found its way in to our WFE email. It was created as we cannot write full articles or do justice to every piece received. It features items from around the world of whisky and is published by us each Friday.

Within Inbox we aim to write a few lines detailing each press release/piece of news/PR event that we have received and provide links, where possible, for you to find out further information.  This is the news that has grabbed our attention this week.


Douglas Laing
Inbox wouldn't be Inbox without a new bottling from the prolific Douglas Laing & Co. The first whisky kicks off the new Old Particular 'Elements' series, which will feature four single cask single malts from the company's stocks. Each of the four will represent one of four elements - Air, Earth, Fire and Water. Fire is represented by a Craigellachie 12 years old, which has been maturing in an ex-Sherry butt. It is bottled at the natural cask strength of 54.3% ABV and is of natural colour. It will be available in selected specialist retailers worldwide and will cost £95 per bottle.

The second whisky celebrates their popular Islay blended malt of Big Peat being on the market for a decade. The special limited 10th anniversary edition has been blended using only 10 year old single malts from the famous whisky island. The Big Peat 10 years old is bottled at 46% ABV and is non chill-filtered and of natural colour. It is limited to just 5,100 bottles. These will be available via specialist whisky retailers in the Asian, European and UK markets. A bottle will cost £65.

The leading Irish whiskey brand has announced details of the second batch of the Jameson Bow Street 18 years old, the only cask strength version of Jameson on the market.

The 2019 Edition is made up of three components, all of which are distilled at the Midleton distillery in Co. Cork and aged for a minimum of 18 years of age - a pot still whiskey filled to second-fill ex-bourbon casks in 1999; a pot still whiskey distilled in 1997 and filled to ex-bourbon casks, before moving into first-fill ex-Sherry casks in 2006; and a grain whiskey from 1999 that has aged in first-fill ex-bourbon casks. These were then married by Billy Leighton, the Master Blender at Midleton, before finishing their maturation in first-fill ex-bourbon casks in Bow Street, the only live maturation warehouse in Dublin.

The Jameson Bow Street 18 years old Batch 2 will be available from August in 20 selected worldwide markets and will cost €240/£210/US$270.

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Four Roses Elliott’s Select 2016 Limited Edition Single Barrel

Four Roses Elliott’s Select 2016 Limited Edition Single Barrel 56.5% ABV (varies by barrel/bottle) $125 Website What the Distiller Says Barrel strength. OESK. 14 years. Only 10,000 bottles produced. Introducing, Elliott’s Select. Elliott’s Select is a limited-quantity Single Barrel Bourbon and marks the first limited edition bottling released by Brent Elliott, our master distiller. Brent … Continue reading Four Roses Elliott’s Select 2016 Limited Edition Single Barrel →

The Craigellachie 33 Year Old travel retail exclusive

Tasting notes:
The Craigellachie 33 Year Old is the sort of dram that takes time to warm up and get to know you. Shy out of the bottle into the glass, patience is rewarded. It’s tempting to take the Doors’ classic, “Hello, I Love You, Won’t You Tell Me Your Name,” instead to a full-on Martin Scorsese, David Mamet, or Quentin Tarantino dialogue: “Hey! How are ya? You’re looking pretty good in a bottle, even better in a glass. Don’t mean to impose my will on ya, but let the record show I poured you out of the bottle, not the reverse, capisce? Not to overstate my intentions, but you’re a bird in my hand now, and while it’d be better to have two of you, I’m settlin’ for one.” Etc. The extra time allows, we guess, for more air to interact and thus for the whisky to open up and reveal a multitude of subtle charms.

The nose starts with someone in the apartment next door burning pussy willow incense. You smell it, but you spend some time wondering if they ordered it online, or bought it in the trendy, Southwestern-oriented culturally-appropriated-by-well-intentioned-hipsters bodega down the street. It’s high and light, a Mozart flute solo sprinkled with tarragon and the aforementioned pussy willow incense. There are also figs, fig leaves, laurel leaves woven into a garland, and perfume designed for figs to attract wasps. There are lemon bars, just dusted with confectioner’s sugar, pulled off the hickory-wood smoker a minute or two ago. It’s creamy, too, like your beloved otter Ottolenghi, who’d just lapped up her cream and then decided, endearingly enough, to lick your nose before going to float on her back in your bathtub.

The mouth is spicy and, again, creamy. There’s a fine web of mace, arrow root, and celeriac, along with spearmint that’s had the mint surgically removed by a laser-procedure, leaving only the spear. It’s a Very Good Looking person, quite striking in appearance, actually, quietly comporting themselves at the fringe of the room. Certainly not icy, neither introverted nor reserved; calm, rather. Centered, as if having just rolled in from successfully solving a Zen koan—and smacking their master with a sandal in the moment of satori. You realize that the person is an astonishing conversationalist, with listening skills equal to the finest interviewer, with locutionary finesse rivaling a hostage negotiator, a poetic sensibility challenging Robert Burns, and wit, somehow without acid, reminiscent of Dorothy Parker. It’s easy to be here and feel your best self.

The creaminess continues, unfolding as elegantly as a lost story by Jorge Luis Borges about a Japanese origami master, temporarily adrift in Buenos Aires. There’s a fine green note (still the flute?) heading to the finish, like an unexpected tendril growing from a branch on the 800 year-old bonsai tree at Shunka-En, the garden of Mr. Kobayashi. I got Jelly Babies smoking fruity tobacco in miniature Meerschaum pipes, à la Sherlock Holmes, but I was the only one of the three of us gifted with the clarity of taste to sense that. It’s differently smooth, as it wends its way to the finish, like the polished toenails of a ballerina, who had caramel painted on by a besotted pedicurist.

The finish brings a wee bit of flint, or perhaps pecan pith. We found also an ambergris bead necklace—very rare!—on a Dresden bone china tray. Sweetness emerges, and like a fog materializing, threatens to cloy, but instead coalesces into a Matryoshka doll of prime ministers carved from a variety of root. The outermost is Winston Churchill carved from a Mandrake, next is Disraeli, carved from a turnip, and in the very center is Theresa May, carved from a lump of coal.


On the scale of trees that bloom infrequently, then self-destruct–

The Craigellachie 33 Year Old travel retail exclusive is the Madagascar palm (Tahina spectabilis)–It flowers once, after 100 years, sending a shoot from the top of the palm that looks like an asparagus crossed with a Christmas tree. The branches get covered in hundreds of tiny white flowers, oozing with nectar, that attract insects and birds. Having expended all that energy, within a few months, the palm collapses and dies. That was akin to my experience; a long life, well-lived, without drinking any Craigellachie 33. Then, as I drank it, I metaphorically shot an asparagus-shaped Christmas tree from the top of my head, blossomed for the first and only time, and then, inevitably, when my glass was empty, I collapsed.






–Our thanks to Craigellachie for the sample!



Whiskey on the Water: Jefferson's Journey

Long before highways crossed North America, flatboats with barrels of whiskey were a common sight along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers bound for New Orleans and beyond to satisfy the thirst of early consumers. Fortunately, today's route to market for distillers is paved and far more efficient - but Jefferson's Bourbon founder Trey Zoeller wanted to figure out what made the whiskey his predecessors distilled in Kentucky become so popular. He decided to send a couple of barrels from Louisville to New York City by boat in what became a year-long journey filled with tropical storms, a wrecked boat, and barrel repairs on the fly - while a batch of the same whiskey stayed behind in the rickhouse to provide a control sample. Both whiskies have now gone on sale, and we'll talk about the journey with Trey Zoeller on WhiskyCast In-Depth. In the news, the deadline to avoid another federal government shutdown is approaching, and failure to reach a deal in Washington could cause even more problems for whisky makers. We'll also look at the economic impact of Kentucky's booming Bourbon industry and get an update on record ticket sales for May's Spirit of Speyside Festival in Scotland. 

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2017

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2017 48% ABV $80 Website What the Distiller Says The 2017 Old Forester Birthday Bourbon was drawn from 12 year old barrels from different warehouses and floors. A total of 120 barrels; 93 barrels matured together on the 4th floor of G warehouse, yielding an extremely spice forward expression. The remaining … Continue reading Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2017 →

The Auchentoshan 21 Year 1997 bottled by Signatory Vintage exclusively for The Whisky Barrel

Tasting notes:
To my mind, this is the nicest nose I’ve ever experienced from an Auchentoshan. It’s redolent with figs, paradiddles, rain-fattened raisins, wet fallen oak leaves, and blondies with caramel icing. There’s a wonderful woody note as well: it’s neither pine nor redwood, neither fir nor birch. [Bill: I’m indeciduous as to what kind of forest I’m in.] [John: Booooooo.] Once we dug into the nose a bit, we thought for a moment we got skunk leather. Then Bill thought it might be skunk spats, but the word association got us to the right note: Skunk Spanx™. They’re for that overly amorous member of the Mephitidae family who wants to make over his figure immediately–you know, so he can court any black and white animal in sight.

[John: “Overly amorous”? How about “serial harassing”? #NoMeansNo #PepeLePewCartoonsHaveNotAgedWell #MeToo ]

The mouth is oily and syrupy, and woody in much the way a Stradivarius is. It goes beyond syrupy, though, to full-on jammy, but not in the Dave Matthews sort of way. These jams are kept in a teak tea box and include Himalayan boysenberry, Malabar pepper chutney, and an Iron Tree flower butter that’s truly to die for. But then come the tannins! It’s so tannic, it’s satanic–but still very sweet. It lacks balance, but in a way we really enjoyed–like watching the development of my daughter’s childhood obsessions.

The finish is a bit bitter at first, with celeriac root and big, round tannins. It’s the damnedest dram: it’s tannic but not particularly drying; it’s woody but also ebulliently fruity. This, dear readers, is a fantastic winter dram.


On the scale of epic jams–

The Auchentoshan 21 Year 1997 bottled by Signatory Vintage exclusively for The Whisky Barrel is Traffic’s “The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys” – Live in Santa Monica, 1972–Probably doesn’t come to mind immediately, and may not be your jam, but it’s a low-slung, unassuming, bluesy, soulful one that builds and modulates like few others. And Steve Winwood, man! Well, and the glasses on the drummer. Top-notch stuff.






–Our thanks to The Whisky Barrel for the sample!



Four Roses 130th Anniversary Small Batch Limited Edition 2018

Four Roses 130th Anniversary Small Batch Limited Edition 2018 54.2% ABV $140 Website What the Distiller Says If you’d like to experience some of the best Bourbons we’ve ever put in a bottle, ask about our Limited Edition bottlings at your favorite bar or liquor store. From time to time, our Master Distiller hand selects … Continue reading Four Roses 130th Anniversary Small Batch Limited Edition 2018 →

It's Allta 'Bout the Yeast (WhiskyCast Episode 753: February 3, 2019)

Glenmorangie unveiled its 10th Private Edition release this week in London, and we were there as Allta marked a new style of single malt for Glenmorangie. The barley came from the Cadboll Farm near the distillery, but the big thing is the yeast - which also came from the Cadboll Farm. Dr. Bill Lumsden and his colleagues worked with their yeast supplier to isolate and grow a unique strain of wild yeast from the farm to use in the fermentation for Allta. We'll talk with Lumsden about Allta's origins and share tasting notes for it as well on this episode. In the news, local officials have cleared the way for construction work to begin on the revival of Scotland's Rosebank Distillery, while Diageo has unveiled its proposed design for the revival of Port Ellen Distillery on Islay. We'll also have details on the week's new whiskies, including one that took a journey down the river and up the coast. 

Trying Before Buying . . . (a whole bottle)

I’ve shared some thoughts on how to guestimate if you might like something that you’ve never tried before, and admitted there that the only foolproof method IS to try it.  But – trying doesn’t means you have to run out and buy an entire bottle. If you’re just starting out on your whiskey journey, the good … Continue reading Trying Before Buying . . . (a whole bottle) →

The 2019 Arktisk Whiskyfestival

This was my first time attending the Arktisk Whiskyfestival in Tromsø, Norway, which sits at a latitude of approximately 69° 40′, which is about 215 miles from the Arctic Circle and solidly underneath Aurora Borealis activity for much of the year. It was a somewhat overcast and snowy night of the Arktisk Whiskyfestival, so one of Tromsø’s biggest attractions was not available. Fortunately, a wonderfully cozy whisky festival was.

Event organizer Chris Maile piping

With 400 whisky fans in attendance and a generous spacing of tables, the ballroom/meeting space in the Scandic Ishavshotel made for a very comfortable but nevertheless lively event experience. And attendees were allowed to take their drams out into the restaurant seating area just off the lobby, where they could also order some food if they liked. Having food on offer is not always something one finds in whisky tastings and festivals in Norway, so this was a big plus. But perhaps even better than that was the ceiling-to-floor windows lining one wall of that seating area, facing out to the water only a few meters away.

I met a few whisky lovers who had made this festival part of a longer trip to experience Tromsø in the wintertime (including seeing the Northern Lights), and I think these folks were really onto something brilliant. Tromsø is a beautiful city and even more so in the snow, and provided you can handle the lack of sunlight (at that point, it didn’t start getting light until after 10am and got dark around 2pm), it’s a great way to make your time there more than a typical tourist experience.

Per the laws in Norway, attendees must buy each of their drams with bonger (which in this case are plastic coins with the Arktisk Whiskyfestival logo on them), but attendees get a nice stack of bonger with their admission to get them started and can buy more for 25 kroner each. Almost all of the drams are reasonably priced, and if one looks carefully, one can find some screaming good bargains on some excellent drams.

Overall, this was a very enjoyable event in a stunningly gorgeous location at the best time of year to feature that location’s beauty. With good room to move and some great whiskies on offer, this is one of those whisky festivals that works its way into your heart. I’m already excited about heading back in 2020.

Stephen with Kjell Tore from Bertelsen

One of the greater curiosities of the festival: a German import with peat in the bottom of the bottle

Stephen with Jon Bertelsen from Bertelsen

Edition 1.2 of Ailsa Bay

Stephen with Mario from Prizelius

Inbox - The Week's Whisky News (February 1, 2019)

Welcome to Inbox, our weekly round up of whisky news and PR material that has found its way in to our WFE email. It was created as we cannot write full articles or do justice to every piece received. It features items from around the world of whisky and is published by us each Friday.

Within Inbox we aim to write a few lines detailing each press release/piece of news/PR event that we have received and provide links, where possible, for you to find out further information.  This is the news that has grabbed our attention this week.


The popular north Highland single malt of Glenmorangie has announced details of the latest whisky in its annual Private Editions series. The bottling also marks the 10th anniversary of the series. The Glenmorangie Allta explores the realm of yeast. This stems from a moment when Dr. Bill Lumsden (the brand's Director of Distilling, Whisky Creation & Whisky Stocks) discovered wild yeast on ears of Cadboll barley growing next to the distillery. This yeast was then cultivated and used during the fermentation stage of Allta's production.

The Allta (which translates as 'wild' from Scots Gaelic) has been predominantly matured in second-fill ex-bourbon barrels and is bottled at the natural cask strength of 51.2% ABV and is non chill-filtered. It will be available worldwide from specialist whisky retailers from February 5th, or via now. The recommended price is £79 per bottle.

"Glenmorangie Allta is a worthy whisky to mark the Private Edition’s tenth anniversary. The influence of yeast on taste has been overlooked for years, but it’s an area ripe for exploration. Allta opens up compelling possibilities for the future of Scotch whisky."
Dr. Bill Lumsden.

Port Ellen

The rebirth of the legendary distillery of Port Ellen on Islay has moved a step closer as Diageo have revealed their plans to the local community at a consultation evening on the island. These plans will also be formally submitted to Argyle & Bute Council. The plans combined the heritage of the old Port Ellen distillery and innovation for the new site including a presentation from Joanne McKerchar, Diageo's Specialist Archivist.

Under the plans, Port Ellen will be brought back in to production using two sets of copper pot stills but two different distilling regimes - the first will produce spirit using exact replicas of the original distillery, which closed in 1983, while the second set will be smaller and used for experimentation.

The existing buildings - the kiln with twin pagodas and sea-fronting dunnage warehouses - will be renovated and become integral parts of the new site, with the addition of a new state-of-the-art production area. Further announcements will follow in due course.

"We believe these plans are a fitting tribute to the exceptional legacy of Port Ellen and we are incredibly excited to be able to share them. To have the opportunity to recreate the original spirit character of the distillery is incredible. Plus, we are lucky enough to have the old kiln buildings and seaside warehouses that will be restored and reimagined."
Georgie Crawford - Master Distiller and Project Leader at Port Ellen.


Another iconic distillery is even closer to being revived. Planning permission has been granted by Falkirk Council to Ian Macleod Distillers to begin work on the redevelopment of the Rosebank distillery in Camelon, near Falkirk. The distillery, which sits on the banks of the Forth & Clyde Canal and closed in 1993, will see original canalside building and the recognisable chimney stack redesigned to incorporate a modern and energy efficient production facility.

The projected annual capacity will be one million litres and the estimated time for production to begin and the visitor centre to open in Autumn 2020. Rosebank was formally known as 'King of the Lowlands' and is expected to bring 50,000 visitors a year to the local area.

"Rosebank distillery has a very special place in Scotland’s whisky heritage. We will strive to replicate the unique Rosebank style by once more employing the unique techniques of triple distillation and worm tub condensers, for which this iconic Lowland single malt was famed. To bring back to life an iconic distillery and quintessential Lowland single malt is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity." 
Leonard Russell - Managing Director at Ian Macleod Distillers.

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The Edradour 10 Year 2008 Signatory Vintage bottled for The Whisky Barrel

Tasting notes:
The nose on the Edradour 10yo 2008 Signatory Vintage bottled exclusively for The Whisky Barrel opens like a prom corsage made from grapevine flowers, expertly braided with striped birch bark by a practitioner of long repute. (She cut her teeth wrapping mummies for dioramas and her skill is unadulterated, unassailable, and uncanny.) It’s also plummy, as if it’d been fraternizing—but not mixing—with wine, much like a plum/grape juice taken at a Protestant communion in a dry county. There are dollops of caramel fudge, and the color strikes me to be a rich garnet, although I am colorblind as a colorblind bat; I’ve never figured out how to echolocate anything beyond my next glass.

The mouth is, for John the Understated and Abstemious, fierce! He thought it worthy of a cameo in Alan Moore’s V for Vendetta: for him, it was filled with Vim, Vigor, Vivacity, and Verve, the four Vs of Malt Whisky. I see those qualities, too, but rather for me what jumps out is a softness on the tongue, like a Persian cat sprawling on a Persian rug in Persia (naturally). Sure, there are claws, but there are also silkiness, seduction, and sensuousness (together with the softness adding up to the four Ss of Malt Whisky.) There’s fire, which is to be expected, since it’s 117.4 proof! I further got extensions of the plum and grape, some Coriander, some Corey Feldman, and some Corey Haim. It’s rich, gorgeous, and won’t take no for an answer—nor will it answer “yes” unless it wants to, a veritable incarnation of Marvel’s Black Widow as a whisky mouth.

The finish is as pretty as an amethyst, moonstone, and opal-begemmed platinum tiara worn by a 1920s film star. There are tannins muted like a political reformer playing to his god-fearing base, sitting on his hands on a new oak church pew. There’s a huckleberry, rhubarb, blackberry bramble, and wild blueberry tart with an almond flour crust. What’s up with that? I don’t want almond flour—I love gluten! I am the secret Roman emperor Glutinous Maximus! I will conquer the world, one loaf of Roman Meal Bread at a time! What’s that, Stephen? The review? What review? Oh, yes! Sorry.


On the scale of jolting, bracing hormones–

The Edradour 10 Year 2008 Signatory Vintage bottled exclusively for The Whisky Barrel is adrenaline–Some might say that this dram puts the “dour” in Edradour, but they’re simpletons and ninnies! I am now ready for fight or flight or flights of poetic fancy! Mostly fight, because this dram kicks ass!






–Our thanks to The Whisky Barrel for the sample!



Parker’s Heritage Bourbon Finished in Orange Curaçao Barrels

Parker’s Heritage Collection 12th Edition: Bourbon Finished in Orange Curaçao Barrels 55% ABV $90 Website What the Distiller Says Heaven Hill Distillery has announced the 2018 limited-edition release of Parker’s Heritage Collection, which is comprised of Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey finished in orange curaçao barrels. This is the 12th edition of the collection and the … Continue reading Parker’s Heritage Bourbon Finished in Orange Curaçao Barrels →

A Breakup in the Irish Whiskey Business


Even when things appear to be going well, there are sometimes undercurrents of trouble behind the scenes. That played out in Ireland this week after Walsh Whiskey Company and Italy's Illva Saronno Holdings agreed to dissolve their five-year-long joint venture because of disagreements on the company's future. Walsh will keep its Writers' Tears and The Irishman whiskey brands, while Illva Saronno gets the distillery near Carlow. We'll talk with Bernard Walsh about the future of the company that bears his name on WhiskyCast In-Depth. In the news U.S. Treasury Department employees are returning to work after the tentative end of the federal government's partial shutdown, and they're facing a big backlog of applications for new whisky, spirits, wine and beer labels that piled up during the shutdown. We'll also have details on the long-awaited opening of Michter's new Fort Nelson micro distillery and visitors center on Louisville's Whiskey Row and the rest of the week's news, too.

The Gordon & MacPhail Connoisseurs’ Choice Old Pulteney 19 Year 1998

Tasting notes:
The nose is unmistakable: hamster shavings, foot powder, and fish oil turned into a custard cream.  For a minute I think that Colgate finally brought peanut butter toothpaste to market.  But it’s more complex than that.  We get shoe leather with aromas of the orthotic still in place.  Then coconut cream on the nose.  And lastly some burnt aspects: a child directing an imaginary symphony with a baton made from a single chop stick that got too close to the hibachi flame.  We are enthralled!  We sit up in our seats, ready to scowl at anyone who coughs in this concert hall.

The mouth is peculiar.  We silently mouth “wow” to each other so much that we begin to feel like goldfish in a koi pond.  It’s so wonderfully strange to be submerged in this aquarium.  We are curious about the oils that we are swimming through.  But more than that, we marvel at the almost effervescent aspects we are experiencing.  Are we just over the charcoal filter as it pumps out imperceptibly small bubbles?  For there’s a stinging dimension, as if a denture pill was still dissolving when you plunked out your teeth.  And yet for all of that, there are thickening dimensions of giraffe cough syrup, anchovy ghee, and custard smoked with sparked pine needles.

It will not surprise the reader to learn that this whisky has puts a new spot in my four-dimensional Experience Grid™.  [Stephen: You should see his bullet journal on this date!  He fancies himself an Edmund Hillary!]  This is a beetle in the box kind of moment, where I think about the wisdom of Wittgenstein’s admonitions about the limits of language.  But Bill starts laughing when I resort to semaphore, thinking it’s a game of charades.  (I will make a note of this insolence in my bullet journal!)  Anyway, as it opens, the tactility changes again, as if it were a cloudy session IPA.  Yup, there’s bitterness here, like a wonderful east coast IPA that they not only dry hopped but, but added tree bark, too.  The final spasms involve grapefruit seltzer, the repressed memory of sandalwood, and the tack on a pinecone. 


On the scale of grammatical puzzles showing the importance of punctuation–

The Gordon and MacPhail Connoisseurs’ Choice Old Pulteney 19 Year 1998 is “James while John had had had had had had had had had had had a better effect on the teacher.”–It takes a while to figure it out.  It’s a bit of a puzzle.  It stretches lexical possibility.  But the payout is worth the journey.  And for those counting, the author turns the number of “hads” to eleven.  This great offering from G&M is turned to eleven as well.  






Inbox - The Week's Whisky News (January 25, 2019)

Welcome to Inbox, our weekly round up of whisky news and PR material that has found its way in to our WFE email. It was created as we cannot write full articles or do justice to every piece received. It features items from around the world of whisky and is published by us each Friday.

Within Inbox we aim to write a few lines detailing each press release/piece of news/PR event that we have received and provide links, where possible, for you to find out further information.  This is the news that has grabbed our attention this week.


Gordon & MacPhail

The family owned independent bottler of Gordon & MacPhail has announced the latest release in to their rare Private Collection range. The 70 years old Glen Grant 1948 is the company's oldest bottling from the Speyside distillery to date. It was filled to cask on 11 June 1948 and bottled in October last year.

The single first-fill ex-sherry butt (cask #2154) has yielded just 210 bottles at a natural strength of 48.6% ABV. The whisky is presented in a handblown crystal decanter and hand crafted wooden display casket. The Glen Grant 1948 Private Collection will be available in selected specialist retailers worldwide and will cost £17,500/ $22,500 US each.

"My great-grandfather, John, selected this cask in 1948 to fill with new make spirit from Glen Grant. My family has patiently watched over it, regularly monitoring and sampling the whisky, recognising the right moment to bottle it at its ultimate peak."
Stephen Rankin - Director of Prestige at Gordon & MacPhail.

The Japanese whisky company of Suntory has announced a new product which combines whiskies from around the world. The Suntory Ao blends malts from five different countries of origin - America, Canada, Ireland, Japan and Scotland - and is scheduled for release in April. It will be bottled at 43% ABV and recommended to be sampled neat or in a classic Highball, described as 'a true world whisky that has a complex and rich flavour'. The expected price for Ao will be ¥5,000/ $46 US/ £35 upon release.

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On This Date 10 Years Ago . . .

On Saturday, January 24th 2009, Whisk(e)y Apostle began with our first post. Ten years ago. Wow. Time can be a funny thing. On the one hand, ten years seems like a LONG time ago (the days before everyone had ‘smartphones’ as we know them today; Android’s first phone had only been out a few months, … Continue reading On This Date 10 Years Ago . . . →

Our Top 10 Whiskies of 2018

Another year has passed and it is time for one of our favourite blog posts - our top 10 whiskies from last year. Everyone will have a different opinion about what should and should not be on such a list. Our list is simply our favourites with no criteria, such as price or availability applied, or agenda.

2018 saw seemingly more whiskies released than ever before. New distilleries bottled their first ever products (Cotswolds and Eden Mill), established brands put new whiskies in to their core ranges (Aberlour and Glenlivet amongst others), classic whiskies were re-released (BenRiach and GlenDronach) and some distilleries celebrated landmarks with anniversary bottlings (Balcones and Benromach). The competitions that we both judge on saw record levels of entries, reflecting this vibrancy at the moment.

As with previous years it has been a struggle to narrow our choices down to just ten. We have sampled many nice whiskies, reviewing numerous of them. As with the last couple of years, we have decided to again list the final ten in alphabetical order, rather than ranking them.

Let us know your thoughts and also tell us about any whiskies that particularly impressed you during 2018.

Our Top 10 Whiskies of 2018

Grooves Committee Release (51.6% ABV)

The quirky Islay distillery of Ardbeg has built up quite a following for their annual Feis Ile limited edition bottlings. A wider general 46% ABV release is always preceded by a cask strength version, which is only available to members of the Ardbeg Committee, and this was one of their best offerings of recent years.

Grooves saw a pocket of the whisky included that had been matured in re-toasted ex-red wine casks, which were heavily charred while still sticky with the residue of the wine. This created a funky dynamic with the signature heavy peat smoke of Ardbeg. Very classy and very delicious.

Texas Rye Cask Strength (62.5% ABV)

The Texan distillery celebrated its 10th anniversary with a number of limited editions, but none were better than this cask strength rye in our view. The spirit is made with 100% rye, all grown in Texas, and this edition featured some of the very first casks of rye that Balcones ever made at their original distillery back in 2015. Early sugary sweetness and maltiness is balanced by intense earthy wood spices and a delicious hit of cherry and menthol. The result is a robust whisky that is not for the faint hearted, but one of exceptional depth and quality.

20 years old Palo Cortado Finish (54.9% ABV)

Not many whiskies are matured or part-matured in ex-Palo Cortado sherry casks and this is a malt that makes you wonder why. The main reason is the rarity and unpredictability of a sherry becoming Palo Cortado.

This Bunnahabhain, which formed part of The Malt Gallery series from owners Distell in the middle of the year, combines richness and age with a wonderful robustness, spiciness and nutty quality that comes from the two year finishing period in these special casks.

Founder's Choice (60.9% ABV)

There have been numerous releases from new distilleries during the last year, but arguably none finer than this wonderful single malt from the Cotswolds distillery in England. This cask strength offering was restricted to just 3,000 bottles and had been matured in American oak ex-red wine casks from Portugal.

Clearly young and vibrant, yet it combines these elements with a delicious mix of tropical fruit notes, warming wood spices and expressive sweetness. A lovely product and one which points to a very promising direction for the distillery. It will be interesting to see how future releases shape up after this.

Forgue 10 years old (43% ABV)

While many were clambering to get a taste of GlenDronach's big new whisky of the year (the re-released and much vaunted Revival 15 years old), this bottling snuck under the radar of most people.

The Forgue 10 years old, named after the hamlet nearest to the Aberdeenshire distillery, represented the first dedicated product from the brand that is exclusive to the travel retail sector. Slightly lighter in style than people were used to it seems but for us it demonstrates a wonderful mix of ex-Oloroso and ex-Pedro Ximenex sherry casks and a subtlety so often lacking in this style of whisky.

Tea Pot Dram Batch #6 (59.3% ABV)

This bottling from the Highland distillery of Glengoyne was released late in the year and was one of the final whiskies that we sampled in 2018. In fact, we only did so on a visit to the distillery on New Year's Eve. However, as soon as we tasted it the decision was taken that it had to go straight in to the Top 10.

A full-on sherry bomb that combines youthful exhuberance and a superb richness, sweetness and flavour profile that demonstrates just how good first-fill ex-sherry casks can be. The cask strength also exaggerates and heightens the effect to produce an exquisite and very enjoyable whisky.

Spìos (46% ABV)
This whisky from the popular Highland distillery was the latest in their annual Private Edition series, which is always one of the first new releases of each year. Spìos, translating as 'spice' from Gaelic, was another innovative bottling in the collection and one of the best in recent years. The twist in this edition was the rare full maturation of 10+ years in ex-rye whiskey casks, which added a wonderful warmth and robust spiciness to the light and delicate Glenmorangie house style. Delicious.

Glen Scotia
Ruby Port Finish (57.8% ABV)

This whisky was a limited edition that was bottled exclusively for the Campbeltown Malts Festival back in May. You had to be in the town at the time to get a bottle and luckily we were. The whisky was distilled in 2008 and then matured in first-fill ex-bourbon barrels before being transferred to for a final six month finishing period in ex-Ruby Port casks.

The result was a fantastic malt that combined Glen Scotia's subtle peat smoke with expressive notes of vanilla, toffee, spice and dried fruits. Not only that but it was cask strength, no chill-filtered and cost only £45 a bottle. Bargain!

John Walker & Sons 
Midnight Blend 28 years old (42.8% ABV)

The Midnight Blend represents the fifth and final part in the limited edition Private Collection series by John Walker & Sons, the super-premium extension to the Johnnie Walker blended range. The series has been created by the legendary Jim Beveridge and his team. They have used some of the oldest and rarest single malt and single grain whiskies in Diageo's stockholding.

In this case the minimum age is 28 years and delivers an incredibly complex set of aromas and flavours. It is not cheap but is a sublime whisky that shows just how good blends can be when expertly crafted.

8 years old (59.4% ABV)

This expression of Talisker formed part of 2018's Diageo Special Releases and was the real highlight of this year's selection. The age statement harked back to pre-Classic Malts times in the 1980s when Talisker was bottled at eight years old, which really helped to put the Skye distillery on the map.

A feisty, hot and peppery malt that exhibits everything that one wants from a Talisker or smoky whisky in general. Green chillis, vanilla, fudge, embers, warm spices and coconut all fight for your attention and the balance is great. We have our fingers crossed that this may become a permanent product, like the Lagavulin 8 years old did previously.

Honourable mentions
As we said, the choice of the final list was difficult (as it is every year). Many delicious whiskies did not make the cut but are worthy of mention for various reasons.

Let us begin with the Diageo Special Releases, which presented a strong set of whiskies this year - the Talisker made it to the final 10 but it was a tough choice to also not include any of the Caol Ila 35 years old, Carsebridge 48 years old, the Cladach blended malt or The Singleton of Glen Ord 14 years old.

Numerous new whiskies from Speyside also impressed us and caught our attention. Mortlach released a revised range and the 16 years old was our pick of them. Benromach had two limited editions that were delicious - the 20th Anniversary Bottling and the 1977 Vintage - and the revamping of the BenRiach core range continued with products as diverse as the 12 years old SherryWood and peated 21 years old Temporis. We also liked the Aberlour Casg Annamh, which appeared in the middle of the year.

Two sherry bombs are also worthy of a mention - the revived GlenDronach 15 years old Revival and A Fine Christmas Malt from The Whisky Exchange - as is the Red Spot 15 years old, which was the latest addition to the Irish pot still Spot range from Irish Distillers.

What will 2019 bring? We cannot wait to find out ...

Glenfiddich Age of Discovery – Red Wine Cask Finish

Glenfiddich Age of Discovery – Red Wine Cask Finish 19 yrs old 40% ABV $165-$180 Website NOTE: If the link above takes you to their homepage, scroll down and select “United Kingdom” as the country. What the Distiller Says We created the third expression in our Age of Discovery Collection to commemorate the 1831 voyage … Continue reading Glenfiddich Age of Discovery – Red Wine Cask Finish →