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Inbox / The Week's Whisky News (January 21, 2022)



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.  Here is the round-up of the news from this last week ...  ________  
Glendronach
The east Highland distillery of Glendronach has announced the release of its oldest ever single malt - the Glendronach 50 years old. The rare whisky was distilled in 1971 and has spent the last five decades maturing in either ex-Oloroso or ex-Pedro Ximenez sherry casks. These were then selected and married together by Dr. Rachel Barrie, the Master Blender of Glendronach, and married together for a short period in a single ex-Pedro Ximenez barrel. This has yielded just 198 bottles. Each is hand-numbered and presented in a leather case, and comes with an embossed leather booklet.
 The Glendronach 50 years old is bottled at its natural cask strength of 43.8% ABV and will be available through selected specialist and luxury retailers worldwide. Each bottle will cost £20,000/ $27,150 US. 

"At 50 years old, this Glendronach is exceptionally rich and seductive, with mellow layers of alluring complexity. It has been a privilege to be the final custodian of our oldest expression to date, which has been passed down through the generations."Dr. Rachel Barrie.


 Lochlea 
The independently owned Lowland distillery of Lochlea has revealed details of its inaugural single maltbottling - the Lochlea Single Malt First Release. They are launching it on Burns Night (January 25) in homage to the famous Scottish poet, who lived and worked at the Ayrshire farm where the distillery is located. Lochlea only uses barley grown on the farm for production of their single malt and began distilling in August 2018.

The Lochlea Single Malt First Release features whiskies matured in first-fill ex-bourbon and ex-Pedro Ximenez sherry casks. It is bottled at 46% ABV and is both non chill-filtered and of natural colour. The release is limited but exact numbers were not revealed in the press release. It will be available in the UK and ten export markets. A bottle will cost £50/ $68 US.
 
 Wemyss 
The independent whisky bottler of Wemyss Malts has announced a new limited edition blend to add to its range - the Smoky Shores. The new whisky has been created using a seelction of coastal single malts, some of which are peaty. It is designed to be a sibling of Peat Chimney, the peated blend in the Wemyss Malts core range. Smoky Shores is released in a decanter-style bottle and comes with a foiled carton.
 The Smoky Shores is bottled at 46% ABV and is both non chill-filtered and of natural colour. Numbers are limited to just 5,526 bottles and these will be available through selected specialist retailers in slected world markets, or via www.wemyssmalt.com. A bottle will cost £50/ $68 US.

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Knob Creek 15 Year Old Bourbon

Knob Creek 15 Year Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey 50% ABV $100 Website We would like to thank Beam Suntory & Multiply for sending us a sample to review. What the Distillery Says Knob Creek® Bourbon is excited to announce the return of its award-winning limited edition Knob Creek 15 Year Old. Originally released in …

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O.H. Ingram River Aged Straight Bourbon Whiskey

O.H. Ingram River Aged Straight Bourbon Whiskey 52.5% ABV $70 Website We would like to thank Brown Water Spirits LLC and The Strategy Group for sending us a sample to review. What the Distillery Says “At 105 proof, our wheated mashbill truly shines in this bourbon. The result is a sweet, bold profile with a …

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The Balblair 1983-2014

Tasting notes:
The nose of this dram opens with rosewater-soaked dates visited by Nepalese honey bees. It’s very high and refined, but raises a question: who are the sherpa bees on such an expedition? As the nose goes, it gets more subtle and more distinguished, but yet more intense. Imagine barium and chromium oil paints, but with distinctive berry notes, like cloudberry. This is the smell of a library from the perspective of an autodidact. It’s all refinement, spun flax mixed with silk, and beautiful endpapers.  

The mouth, however, is straight magic. We get liquefied pearls with equal measure of liquefied topaz. This is what bees would be doing if they got off Facebook and got busy pollinating stuff instead of spreading that disinformation about the blight. We also got a distinct note of dragon fruit. Or is it bread fruit?  Bread dragons eating dragon bread–and loving it so hard that flaming saliva drips down their scales.  

The finish would stay for days, if you gave it that long. Actually, it would be an ideal “prompter” for a two-day fasting regime (just don’t brush your teeth). There’s so much punch to this finish and it lasts so long, it’s basically an MMA submission hold that you don’t tap out of. You know, I don’t want to describe it: I want to become one with it. I want to transubstantiate it. I want it to transubstantiate me. Please?

 
 

Rating:
On the scale of religious orthodoxies I can get on board with–

The Balblair 1983 is assumption–Not to be confused with consumption (neither the disease nor the capitalist versions) and unrelated to making an ass out of you and me, this is something only Elijah ever pulled off. Going to heaven without dying! Now that’s a way to go. And the Balblair 1983 is darn close.

 
 




 
 

                                                                                      —Stephen

 
 




 
 

–Our thanks to Balblair for the sample!

 


 

Barrell Bourbon Batch 031

Barrell Bourbon Batch 031 55.6% ABV $90 Website We would like to thank Barrell Craft Spirits and Ro-Bro Marketing & PR for sending us a sample to review. What the Blender Says Barrell Bourbon Batch 031 is a blend of 6, 7, 10, 15 and 16-year-old barrels. The blend was built around the sweetness in …

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Inbox / The Week's Whisky News (January 14, 2022)



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 first Inbox of 2022 and we would like to say Happy New Year to all of our readers. We look forward to bringing you more whisky news, reviews and videos over the coming year. Here is the round-up of the news from over the festive period ... ________  
The Epicurean
The Lowland blended malt brand of The Epicurean has revealed the latest addition to its limited edition Wood Series range - The Epicurean White Port Finish. It marks the sixth release into the series by owners Douglas Laing & Co. As with all expressions of The Epicurean, this has been created using only single malts from the Lowlands of Scotland. Initial maturation was in American oak ex-bourbon barrels, before being transferred to a single ex-white Port cask for a finishing period of 12 months. This special cask was sourced from the Douro Valley in Portugal.  The Epicurean White Port Finish is bottled at 48% ABV and is both non chill-filtered and of natural colour. It will be available through selected specialist retailers in selected markets and cost £60/€72 per bottle. The exact number of bottles was not revealed in the press release.
 

"Our limited edition Wood Series, which seeks to compare and contrast a cross-section of fascinating finishes, lends itself to the versatile and vibrant profile of Lowland malts and the innovative and adventurous brand values of The Epicurean.”Jenny Rogerson / Head of Marketing at Douglas Laing & Co.



Yellowstone 
The American bourbon brand of Yellowstone has revealed six special bottle designs for its Select expression to celebrate its 150th anniversary. Yellowstone bourbon first appeared in 1872. The six designs each depict a famous scene or landmark from the Yellowstone National Park - the first designated national park in America. These include Grand Prismatic Spring, Lamar Valley, Lower Yellowstone Falls, Minerva Terrace, Old Faithful and Roosevelt Arch.
Yellowstone Select bourbon is produced at the Limestone Branch distillery in Lebanon, Kentucky. The Landmark Edition bottlings will be available in limited numbers across the USA and will retail for $40 each. The distillery is pledging $1.50 from each bottle sold to the NPCA, the National Parks Conservation Association, with a minimum gauranteed limit of $30,000.


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Stellum Black Rye

Stellum Black Rye Cask Strength Blend of Straight Rye Whiskies 57.13% ABV $100 Website We would like to thank Stellum Spirits and Ro-Bro Marketing & PR for sending us a sample to review. What the Blender Says Louisville, KY (December 7, 2021) – Earlier this year, Stellum™ Spirits launched its flagship Stellum™ Bourbon and Stellum™ …

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Stellum Black Bourbon

Stellum Black Bourbon Cask Strength Blend of Straight Bourbon Whiskies 54.61% ABV $100 Website We would like to thank Stellum Spirits and Ro-Bro Marketing & PR for sending us a sample to review. What the Blender Says Louisville, KY (December 7, 2021) – Earlier this year, Stellum™ Spirits launched its flagship Stellum™ Bourbon and Stellum™ …

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Springbank 12 yr Cask Strength Batch 21 (October 2020)

Springbank 12 yr Cask Strength Campbeltown Single Malt Scotch Whisky Batch 21 – October 2020 56.1% ABV $120-$130 Website What the Distillery Says DISCLAIMER: The following notes are what is listed as of December 2021, but refers to an older batch with a different mix of cask types. Shame that Springbank themselves don’t keep more …

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Review / Glasgow 1770 Cask Finishes


The Glasgow Distillery Co. have announced the release of three limited edition single malts - the 1770 Cask Finishes. The collection is designed to show off how the distillery's three spirit types mature in different casks. The classic unpeated spirit has been paired with ex-Ruby Port casks from Portugal and the peated with ex-Sauternes dessert wine barrels from France. The triple distilled has been finished in ex-Tokaji wine casks from Hungary. All are finished for a short period in each cask, are bottled at cask strength and are limited in number.

The Glasgow Distillery Co. began production in February 2015 and in doing so became the first distillery to produce single malt whisky in Glasgow in the modern era. The brand is named after the Dundashill distillery, which was Glasgow's first ever whisky distillery and was founded in 1770. The Glasgow Distillery Co. was founded by Mike Hayward, Liam Hughes and Ian McDougall, and is located in Hillington to the west of the city. 

The distillery has an annual capacity of 270,000 litres and initial reaction to the single malts has already led to an expansion being planned. The company has three expressions in their single malt core range - the 1770 Original, 1770 Peated and 1770 Triple Distilled. They also own Makar gin, which is produced at the distillery in a dedicated gin still, and the rare aged single malt label Prometheus.  

"Something that sets us apart from most other distilleries is that we make three very distinct styles of single malt whisky at the Glasgow Distillery - unpeated, peated and triple distilled. I am really proud to be able to offer these three releases as an insight into our innovation, experimentation and quality." Liam Hughes / Founder of the Glasgow Distillery. 

 

The 1770 Ruby Port Cask Finish is released at 56.2% ABV and has just 467 bottles available. The 1770 Peated Sauternes Cask Finish is 53.7% ABV and has 486 bottles, while the 1770 Triple Distilled Tokaji Cask Finish is 53% ABV and 380 bottles. All are non chill-filtered and of natural colour. At the time of writing the Port and Tokaji expressions were already sold out. The Sauternes bottling remains available via www.glasgowdistillery.com.

Our tasting notes

Glasgow 1770 Ruby Port Cask FinishThe colour is a deep reddish amber and the nose is rich and fruity. Dark dried fruit (think of raisins and sultanas especially) and caramel aromas rise from the glass first. They are joined by milk chocolate (or is it mocha?) along with hints of blackberry, cinnamon and vanilla essence. On the palate this whisky is big and bold. Initial notes of milk chocolate and caramel are quickly joined by juicy dark fruits (raisins and sultanas again, plus some cranberry, date and fig). Red apples and butterscotch are also evident, along with some golden syrup and increasingly influential spices (imagine cinnamon, clove and a hint of liquorice root). Background hints of strawberry jam and black treacle add to the depth. Later, the whisky turns more savoury with a drying woody character coming through alongside something vegetal and a little bitter.
Glasgow 1770 Peated Sauternes Cask FinishThe colour is golden yellow and the nose is earthy and smoky. Powerful peat aromas dominate with an ashy, ember-like character coming through. This develops into a more damp and mossy feel. Other aromas struggle to come through with honey, vanilla and icing sugar the ones to successfully do so.
On the palate this whisky is initially hot and peppery. As this subsides the peaty and smoky notes are the first to appear. These continue the ashy, ember-like feel found on the nose and evolves a hint of charcoal and damp earthiness. Malted cereals also come through along with notes of crisp green apple, sultanas and white chocolate. A pinch of cinnamon and icing sugar are also detected. However, it is again the peat smoke that dominates and this becomes slightly mineralic towards the finish. A final background floral note adds a nice twist and hints towards rose petals.
 
Glasgow 1770 Triple Distilled Tokaji Cask FinishThe colour is pale golden yellow and the nose is fresh, vibrant and zesty. Sweet aromas of honey, vanilla and white chocolate dominate alongside a distinct whiff of lemon and grapefruit zest. Underneath are further aromas of green apple, sultana and developing baking spice.
On the palate this whisky continues with the fresh and vibrant nature. Vanilla toffee, brown sugar and heather honey notes hit first and are followed by lemon cheesecake, custard powder and bitter grapefruit peel. The intriguing mix is followed by some white chocolate and cocoa, along with crisp green apples and boiled peardrop sweets. Later on, a distinct fresh oak characteristic develops as do warming baking spices. The combination adds a little dryness to proceedings and this continues through to the finish. Cinnamon, clove and hints of all-spice and mace come through.
What's the verdict?The Cask Finishes are an interesting collection from the Glasgow distillery. It shows the versatility of the spirits that they are producing there and pushes them in three different directions through the choice of cask type and finish.  What is our favourite? Well, that is easy - the Triple Distilled Tokaji Cask Finish. Ex-Tokaji casks can be a little hit or miss from experience but this one nails it. The combination of delicate and fruity triple distilled spirit and the sweet wine cask is superb and easily the most balanced.  The Ruby Port Cask Finish is nice and rich, although becomes too savoury towards the end. The Peated Sauternes Cask Finish sees the peat smoke dominate, almost to the detriment of everything else, and is a little fiery. That said, we like the experimentation and look forward to what 2022 holds for them.

Springbank 15 Year Old

Springbank 15 Year Old Campbeltown Single Malt Scotch Whisky 46% ABV $135-$150 Website What the Distillery Says Like a storm gathering off the Kintyre coast, our 15-year-old Springbank is dark and ominous, yet delicious. Best enjoyed after dinner or with your favourite cigar, this is a true classic. Nose: Demerara sugar, dark chocolate, Christmas cake, …

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Our Top 10 Whiskies of 2021



This is always one of our favourite posts to write each year. The Top 10 is something we first began way back in 2009 and within it we celebrate the finest new whisky releases of that calendar year. Our first selection crowned Benromach 10 years old as our Whisky of the Year. We decided some time ago to no longer give a top prize. Instead, each of the ten whiskies that we have chosen is a winner in its own right and for differing reasons.

As the world continued to do battle with the Covid-19 pandemic, the whisky world seemed to respond with some excellent releases. The adversity and uncertainty acted as inspiration for some of the companies to bottle some of their best whiskies of recent times. It has been difficult to select just ten to be honest.

As with all Top 10 selections, the choices are subjective. Everyone will pick a different set of whiskies to feature and that is what makes the industry so interesting and diverse. What would you pick as your favourite of 2021? Let us know in the comments please - we would love to hear. Click on each heading to read our full review with thoughts and tasting notes.

________


Our Top 10 Whiskies of 2021


Aber Falls 2021 BottlingThis one may surprise a few as the Aber Falls distillery in north Wales has slipped under the radar somewhat. However, they pulled off a major coup in appointing Dr. Kirstie McCallum as Master Blender this year. Her years of expertise within the Scotch industry has led to a couple of fabulous releases, with this 2021 Bottling being the best. This whisky forms the beginning of a core range and is a marriage of three year old whiskies matured in ex-bourbon, ex-Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez sherry, plus virgin oak casks. The brand should also be congratulated on pricing this under £30. So often new distilleries put their early whiskies out as expensive prices so few get to taste them. Hats off to Aber Falls for doing the opposite.  
Ardbeg 8 years old : For DiscussionA fabulous offering from the Islay distillery of Ardbeg. This year was a busy one with a number of limited edition releases coming out. This single malt eclipsed them all though and would be seriously close to obtaining our Whisky of the Year crown if we had one. Dr. Bill Lumsden, the Director of Distilling & Whisky Creation at Ardbeg, put this whisky our to get people talking and comparing whisky. It was only available to members of the Ardbeg Committee and for a short time, and we were delighted to secure a bottle before it sold out. This is classic Ardbeg. Peaty, powerful, sweet, earthy, ashy and cask strength. Delicious.


Benriach Malting Season (First Edition)The innovative Speyside distillery of Benriach has always been a little underrated in our view. So much goes on there - three styles of single malt come off the stills which are combined with a plethora of barrels from different origins around the world. Now, we can add their own floor malting into the mix. This is a rare product as they are one of only two distilleries in Speyside, and seven in Scotland, to malt some of their own barley. This has been distilled and matured separately from their other spirits and finally released for the first time. The result is delicious and has been matured in ex-bourbon and virgin American oak casks.

 

Brora Timeless Original 38 years old
One of the undoubted highlights of 2021 was the reopening of the Brora distillery in the north Highlands. To celebrate, owners Diageo put out a rare set of three vintage whiskies - the Brora Triptych. The trio were all distilled in the pre-closure days of the 1970s and early 1980s from the final remaining casks. The Brora Triptych is formed of the Timeless Original 38 years old, Age of Peat 43 years old and Elusive Legacy 48 years old - the oldest ever official release of Brora by Diageo. All are exquisite but our favourite was actually the youngest, which was distilled in 1982 and matured in American oak re-fill ex-bourbon casks. An absolute stunner.

 

Lagavulin 13 years old Feis Ile EditionThis limited edition was released for the Feis Ile festival that happens on Islay each year. Again, this year's events were largely virtual due to ongoing pandemic but that did not stop most of the distilleries releasing a special bottling or two. This cask strength offering from Lagavulin is superb and bottled at 13 years of age. Initial maturation was in American oak re-fill ex-bourbon casks before being transferred to highly charred ex-Port barrels by Pierrick Guilaume, the Distillery Manager at Lagavulin. The result is a fabulous mix of classic Islay peat smoke, rich juicy sweet fruits and biscuity cereals.


Linkwood 1981 Prima & UltimaAs mentioned later on, this year's line-up in Diageo's Prima & Ultima collection was pretty stellar. The limited edition whiskies, which are said to be either the first or last of their kind from each distillery, all have some serious age and cost to them. This Linkwood was the winner for us and was distilled in 1981, then bottled at 39 years of age. It had an initial maturation in ex-bourbon barrels before a super long secondary maturation in ex-Pedro Ximenez sherry casks. The sweet dessert sherry shows a profound influence that manifests itself in plenty of chocolate, Christmas spice and dried fruit notes. So luxurious, velvety and rich. How older whiskies should be.

 

Mackmyra BjörksavThe Swedish distillery of Mackmyra have long been ahead of the curve in the 'new world' whisky scene. Their seasonal limited editions, one released each Spring and one each Autumn, have built up a cult following and this year saw one of the best. Björksav translates as 'birch sap' from Swedish and features ex-birch sap wine cask matured whiskies in the final product. Other cask types include ex-bourbon, ex-Oloroso sherry, virgin Swedish oak and even some ex-raspberry wine barrels. These were married together skillfully by Angela D'Orazio, the Master Blender for Mackmyra, and the resulting whisky is delectable and sweet with a wonderful mouth feel and flavour. An absolute 'must try'.

 

Redbreast 10 years oldAnother limited edition, this time from Redbreast. The Irish single pot still brand had another strong year that also included the release of the excellent Pedro Ximenez Edition in the Autumn. This 10 years old expression was bottled to celebrate the 30 year anniversary since Irish Distillers brought Redbreast back from whisky oblivion. It was only available to members of The Birdhouse, the brand's fan club. In classic Redbreast style the whiskey features only ex-Oloroso sherry cask matured spirit, all aged between 10 and 15 years. Cool touches include the retro packaging that harked back to the final days of Redbreast in the 1950s and 1960s. What a cracker.

 

Starward Left-FieldThe Melbourne-based distillery of Starward has gone from strength to strength and is leading Australian whisky into new territory. This UK exclusive saw a marriage of three different red wine barrels sourced from the Barossa and Yarra Valley regions - ex-Cabernet Sauvignon, ex-Pinot Noir and ex-Shiraz. Left-Field is absolutely delicious and is great sipped neat or over ice. However, it really comes to life when mixed in a classic whisky cocktail. Try using it in a Manhattan, Old Fashioned or Sazerac and tell us that we are wrong ... PS / it's a good price too and something of a revelation. 

 

TOAD Red Red RyeAnother revelation, this time in the form of this fifth rye whisky release from The Oxford Artisan Distillery (TOAD for short). Red Red Rye was released to celebrate the English distillery's fourth anniversary and made using heritage strains of rye grain that had previously been lost to agriculture. This was harvested in Autumn 2017 and married with a smaller percentage of heritage wheat and barley. The spirit was then aged in an innovative combination of ex-bourbon, then ex-sherry and finally ex-Port casks. This is big, bold and super-charged with flavour and character. a great addition to our Top 10.

 

Close but no cigar ...There were numerous whiskies that could easily have made our final Top 10 selection. For one reason or another they did not quite make it, but are very worthy of a mention. Click on the links to read our thoughts and tasting notes on each.
 The 2021 set of Diageo Special Releases was particularly strong this year and accompanied by stunning artwork and packaging created by illustrator Ken Taylor. The standout whisky for us was the Royal Lochnagar 16 years old The Spring Stallion. Likewise for Diageo's Prima & Ultima with the Talisker 1979 41 years old another particular highlight. Three more very old whiskies made a huge impression - the rare Ardbeg 25 years old, The Singleton of Glen Ord 39 years old and the Glenglassaugh 50 years old. The Speyside distillery of Glenallachie had another strong year with their Wood Finish Series particularly impressive. Glenmorangie in the north Highlands were busy with three notable excellent releases - X by Glenmorangie, the Lighthouse 12 years old and A Tale of Winter.
Craft and artisan distilleries also had a strong year with a number of them releasing their first ever bottlings. Highlights included the Cotswolds Bourbon Cask and Pineau des Charentes Cask from the English distillery's Hearts & Crafts range, the Nc'nean Organic Batch 2 and the Torabhaig Allt Gleann.


The Midleton Very Rare Vintage Release 2021

Tasting notes:
The nose on the Midleton Very Rare Vintage Release 2021 opens gently with peachy, lemony, foaming soap in the bathroom—excuse me, lavatory—of a 1-star Michelin gastropub devoted to gastropods. There’s also apricot oil, the essence of peach pit: A depth of fruit, plumbed by our nasal receptor submarine. Okay, that metaphor breaks down like a rusty Yugo, but you get the idea. There’s a lot of fruit here! We also found Egyptian shellac made from figs, pomegranates, and mashed-up scarab paste. Finally, if ever there is a “finally,” a pink rose, pinned to a lapel, metamorphosing into a tangerine blossom; the nasal equivalent of a CGI effect.

The mouth is sweet, light, and fresh. Fabric-softening dryer sheets made from fallen angel wings (before they fall). It’s puckery enough that the titillating tannins roll my tongue, yet elfin enough that the honeyed mango evanesces like water skittering into vapor upon contact with a hot skillet. There is, before the mad dash to the finish, an almondesque bitterness that emerges along the sides of the tongue before finding fruition at the back of my mouth.

The finish is long, bringing the caramels, syrupy sweet pomelos, papayas, and kiwis. (No, John! Not New Zealander Kiwis! Kiwis from New Zealand! Can you please listen with your eyes?) A dab of anise, or, more comprehensively, mandoline-thin pineapple slices sautéed with fennel bits in ghee and simple syrup. It’s bright, effervescent as a litter of kittens playing together in an empty bathtub, and mysteriously hot for its 40% abv.

 
 

Rating:
On the scale of things that are internet-old, but never get old–

The Midleton Very Rare Vintage Release 2021 is Ariana Grande licking a doughnut–The Midleton is arresting, like the shock of seeing Grande, but not arrested (also like Grande). The Midleton is sweeter than doughnuts, fruitier than her loco behavior, and simultaneously timeless, yet in our time.

 
 




 
 

                                                                                      —Bill

 
 




 
 

Lagavulin Offerman Edition 2 Guinness Cask Finish

Lagavulin Offerman Edition 2 Guinness Cask Finish 11 Year Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky 46% ABV $80-$100 Website What the Bottle Says “I have travelled the world and sampled many attempts at pleasing nectars, but it is solely this distillation on Islay; a tiny, charismatic Scottish isle, that has claimed my palate, Yea, and my …

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Lagavulin Offerman Edition Aged 11 Years

Lagavulin Offerman Edition Aged 11 Years Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky 46% ABV $100 Website What the Bottle Says “I have travelled the world and sampled many attempts at pleasing nectars, but it is solely this distillation on Islay; a tiny, charismatic Scottish isle, that has claimed my palate, Yea, and my heart into the …

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Review / The Singleton of Glen Ord 39 years old



This new whisky is the second bottling in the rare super premium Epicurean Odyssey series from The Singleton range of single malts. The Singleton of Glen Ord 39 years old follows an inaugural release that was bottled at 38 years of age and has been created by Maureen Robinson, the Master of Malt for The Singleton. For this series she has taken inspiration from her travels around the wine growing regions of southern Europe. 

The whisky has undergone a lengthy 27 year period of secondary maturation, which is the longest ever for any Singleton bottling. After 12 years Robinson split a pocket of stock from the Glen Ord distillery between a number of European oak casks. These had previously held either Oloroso or Pedro Ximenez sherry, Port or red wine. Then 27 years later she has married the whiskies back together for a short finishing period in ex-Bordeaux red wine casks from France. 

The Glen Ord distillery is located in Muir of Ord, a small town in the north Highlands on the western edge of the Black Isle. It was founded in 1838 by Thomas Mackenzie and was originally known as Glen Oran. The name was changed to Glen Ord in 1923. The current owners are Diageo. They split the single malt produced there between The Singleton range and use within their extensive number of blended Scotch whiskies. The current production capacity is six million litres per year. This has doubled in the last decade following an major expansion.

The Singleton of Glen Ord 39 years old is bottled at 46.2% ABV and is restricted to just 1,695 bottles. It is available through specialist whisky, spirits and luxury retailers in selected global markets, and via www.malts.com. Each bottle will cost £2,295/ $2,680 US.

Our tasting notes

The colour is deep golden amber and the nose is highly fragrant and expressive. Aromas of spiced Christmas cake and toasted almonds lead the way. These are closely followed by dried fruits (think of raisins, orange and Cognac-soaked sultanas), toffee, caramel and increasingly warming spices and gingerbread.

On the palate this whisky has a rich and viscous feel, and is equally as expressive as on the nose. Initial notes of dried fruit (especially plump Cognac-soaked sultanas and candied orange) and crumbly muscovado sugar lead the way. They are joined by a spicy and woody savoury quality. Toasted spices (imagine cinnamon bark, mace and clove in particular, along with hints of star anise and juniper) and tannic oak are prominent and continue to develop nicely. Underneath are further notes of vanilla custard, apple strudel and a suggestion of treacle tart. A pinch of cocoa powder and hints of milk chocolate and preserved lemon round things off.

The finish is long, warming and luxurious. A pinch of all-spice and ginger accentuates the deliciuosly fruity and sweet notes. As these characteristics fade it is the woody, spicy and savoury notes that begin to dominate. This gives an increasing dryness along with a distinct dusty earthy feel.

What's the verdict?

Even within our lines of work and as 'whisky influencers' we do not get to sample and review whiskies of this age very often. This latest old Singleton is exquisite and is so multi-layered in its flavour profile. To have the foresight and skill to 'finish' a whisky for nearly three decades is also extraordinary. 

This is fabulous, but clearly not a whisky for everyone given the rarity and price. That said, it is a whisky for someone and we hope that they choose to drink it rather than display it on a shelf or flip it on an auction sight. It deserves to be tasted and shared.


Booker’s 2021-04 “Noe Strangers Batch”

Booker’s “Noe Strangers Batch” 2021-04 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey 6 Years, 6 Months, 12 Days 62.75% ABV $90 Website We would like to thank Beam Suntory and Multiply for sending us a sample to review. What the Distillery Says: The final release in the Booker’s® Bourbon 2021 Collection is Booker’s Batch 2021-04 ‘Noe Strangers Batch.’ …

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Chicken Cock Cotton Club Canadian Rye Whiskey

Chicken Cock Cotton Club Canadian Rye Whiskey Aged 20 Years 50% ABV $500 Website We would like to thank Grain & Barrel Spirits and Ro-Bro Marketing & PR for sending us a sample to review. What the Producer Says BARDSTOWN, Ky. (Dec 6, 2021) – Grain & Barrel Spirits’ (“G&B”) has released a limited-edition Chicken …

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The post Chicken Cock Cotton Club Canadian Rye Whiskey first appeared on Whisk(e)y Apostle: Proselytizing the way of the malt.

Barrell Craft Spirits Gray Label Whiskey 2nd Release

Barrell Craft Spirits Gray Label Whiskey 2nd Release, 24 Yrs Canadian Whiskey Finished in Oloroso Sherry and XO Armagnac Casks 60.82% ABV $250 Website We would like to thank Barrell Craft Spirits and Ro-Bro Marketing & PR for sending us a sample to review. What the Blender Says Matured for 24 years Distilled in Canada …

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The post Barrell Craft Spirits Gray Label Whiskey 2nd Release first appeared on Whisk(e)y Apostle: Proselytizing the way of the malt.

An Impostor Abroad: Stephen visits Ben Nevis Distillery

Once one of the biggest distillery complexes in Scotland when the Nevis distillery was built nearby to serve the same brand, Ben Nevis has a history filled with colorful characters some of whom were also certainly Name of the Day winners: ‘Long John” MacDonald, his son Donald (missed being a hamburger chain clown by this much–and instead found himself thrust into redundancy–and this is perhaps why he went by Peter), and the innovative and appropriately self-interested Mr. Hobbs (ok, not the same spelling, but close enough for this bit). But it’s the last twist in the distillery’s history–the fact that Japanese whisky producer Nikka bought it in 1989–that is the most interesting to us whisky geeks. One of the industry’s worst-kept secrets is that Nikka from the Barrel (along with other expressions, like Taketsuru Pure Malt) up until recently contained significant amounts of Ben Nevis spirit.

The massive stainless steel mash tun is 22 feet in diameter

The mash tun at work

Slow fermentation is part of what justifies having a monstrously large mash tun, while having only four stills (though to be fair, they are not small stills). Stainless steel in the mash tun and most of the washbacks gives fewer opportunities for other materials to soften or clean up the spirit.

Slow distillation gives the spirit a bit more time with the copper than it would have had otherwise in relatively squat, fat stills with flat lyne arms. The slow fermentation and slow distillation yield a fruity, but meaty spirit that aged well–and to my mind comes off and satisfyingly dirty (read that as multi-faceted and oily rather than light and unidimensional) when it’s younger.

Thanks to Innes, who is in charge of tours at Ben Nevis and is excellent at his job, we were able to see something I had not seen before on any of my many distillery tours in the past: the inside of a steam-fired still. I did my best getting photos of the inside from the outside, but in them one can see both the canisters at the bottom holding the steam coils and the spray cleaning system situated above it all within the still.

One knowledgeable whisky person I know referred to Ben Nevis as “the ugliest distillery.” I don’t think that’s fair, especially once one stands in the presence of those stills, when they’ve been freshly glazed. But it is an industrial facility that was not designed to be a visitor attraction nor is it something that looks like a place where elves used to bake cookies (like Strathisla). Walking out to the warehouses on the grounds of the distillery reinforces this idea.

The constant cloud cover and the aluminum mine sluices in the background certainly don’t help, either, especially when the highest mountain in the United Kingdom, at the base of which the distillery sits, is typically obscured. There is grandeur here, but the weather and the landscape conspires to make sure you don’t experience it as such very often.

But go back inside, and the visitors’ centre is cozy and welcoming, with an impressive bar and a space with a strong café game going on the other side of the room, which is important for drivers and those visiting the distillery first thing in the morning, as we did.

Of course, the bottom line is the whisky, and the blends (Nevis Dew) are well worth your time. But the single malt range, recently rebranded, is a fruity, complex one that rewards some careful attention and time. The Coire Leis surprised me with its vibrancy (and its value-for-the-money). The one I bought that day, however, was the Ben Nevis Traditional. Peated, full-bodied, and wonderfully balanced, that one is my favorite–a singular dram that feels like it’s from another era.

Innes tells me they have some planned renovations on the visitors’ centre, which, for my money, didn’t really warrant it, but it will interesting to see what they do. It will be even more interesting to see what Nikka does with Ben Nevis now that the big Japanese producers are working under rules that keep them from using Scotch spirit and calling it Japanese whisky. I am looking forward to having more Ben Nevis on the market in the future–one way or the other.