It’s that time of the month again; we at WM towers have been attending to the “challenging” task of selecting a few favourite bottlings that we feel worthy of your consideration. It seems that the shifting seasons may be beginning to move our tastes away from the the more delicate, summery end of the flavour spectrum and back towards the rich and autumnal. This is hardly unusual of course and “playing to your palate” is rarely a bad idea.
This time around the common themes of sherry and peat feature across the board, with a group split between a pair of densely peaty old favourites from Islay, a recent, very well received BenRiach and another favourite from the ever-enlightening Amrut distillery of Bangalore. Regardless of seeming similarities in style this is a highly eclectic set of bottles, each with its own distinctive take on a theme, just as whisky should be. Enjoy
An excellent trip to Balblair distillery a few weeks ago left me with every intension to talk about the new vintages we were fortunate enough to taste. However, such are the complexities of whisky, the visit served as a catalyst for a more contemplativemeander through the broader themes of whisky, marketing and people. Back to the reviews today though, and being as it’s both rather affordable and starting to reach retailers’ shelves, the 2002 is an ideal place to start these new releases. Incidentally, it seems all future vintages from the distillery will be bottled un-chill filtered, without artificial colour and at a minimum of 46% abv. Certainly something everyone here at Whisky Marketplace and the vast majority of whisky lovers will be pleased to hear.
The last “entry level” Balblair was, unsurprisingly, the Balblair 2001 – you can see Pierre waxing lyrical about that one on the first episode of the rather lovely WMTV whisky podcast – a vintage that seemed to go down very well in most quarters, offering a light, fresh and rather naked example of the distilleries characteristically fragrant make. At the distillery we had the opportunity to taste a 2002 cask sample, cut to bottling strength, as an early example of the general profile for this new release. Even following some very high quality drams it managed to impress; time to find out if the final vatting carries forward the charm of that sample.
It’s fast approaching, the dram-tastic weekend (6th-7th October 2012) of excess that is the TWE Whisky Show is almost upon us. Happily we at Whisky Marketplace have a pair of tickets for the Sunday to bestow upon a lucky reader of this here blog. The show is unquestionably a highlight of the whisky calendar, offering attendees the rare opportunity to taste some of the world’s most exclusive and exceptionally delicious drams, all in the atmospheric surroundings of the Borough Market adjacent, Vinopolis.
Of late, these ’77 Glenturret whiskies have been a highlight in the outturn of a great many independent bottlers. The Whisky Agency, Malts of Scotland, Maltbarn, Master of Malt and a number of others have all taken turns in sharing casks from this esoteric distillery, and without exception these have been high quality, good value releases. In many ways this veritable flood has really put Glenturret on the map as a slightly unusual yet very charming whisky, deserving of much more attention than it generally enjoys.
This particular bottling comes from the rather reliable Berry’s Own Selection range. Doug McIvor, Berry Bros and Rudd’s Spirits Manager, is responsible for the company’s own label whiskies and reportedly holds this particular Glenturret in high regard. Doug is not a man known for disingenuous enthusiasm which makes this praise, and bottling, of particular interest. It’s worth mentioning that the distillery is home to The Famous Grouse Experience, a notable tourist attraction that regularly sees yearly visitor figures in excess of 100,000 and lends Glenturrent a measure of more widespread notoriety.
A new Ardbeg whisky always gets the whisky world swinging back and forth between equal measures of excitement, cynicism, anticipation and confliction. There can be no doubt that this small distillery on the south-east coast of Islay has produced more than its fair share of world-beating drams. It is largely this fact that has solidified the Ardbeg reputation, making it one of the most loved, and hyped, of all Scottish distilleries. Old bottlings and young single casks change hands for obscene sums, while any truly limited or unusual releases are feverishly horded for future drinking or speculation.
In recent times Ardbeg has been characterised by a string of non-age-statement bottlings, often featuring some of the Glenmorangie Company’s typically modern wood experimentations. Most have garnered high praise from many commentators, but there are still some that would wish to see more transparent “natural” bottlings (Ardbeg Airigh Nam Beist… ah how I miss it) finding their way from the salt sprayed warehouses of Islay. This new release makes obvious reference to the most recent Ardbegian marketing experiment which saw a few vials of new make find their way beyond our atmosphere. It is a vintage bottling this time around though, and with the inclusion of some Marsala matured stock.
Balmenach distillery currently resides in the portfolio of Inverhouse, but unlike Old Pulteney, Balblair and Speyburn it is yet to receive the levels of re-branding and subsequent revival that these now more prominent names have been subject to. Indeed, it seems that such lavish treatment remains some way off for Balmench, and like many of Scotlands oft-overlooked distilleries its output will be largely destined for the blending vat.
You may not have encountered Maltbarn before, but this new bottler out of Germany (under the stewardship of former Malt Maniac Martin Diekmann) has already issued a few very nice casks. This relatively new bottling is one half of the company’s second pair of releases and was accompanied by one of the many high quality ’77 Glenturrent whiskies we have been seeing recently. A distiller you rarely encounter and a new bottler, quickly growing in stature. This should be interesting.