Whilst sipping a lovely Bladnoch over the festive break I was struck by just how much depth was cloaked in the spirit’s initially understated personality. This drew me to the much revisited topic of Whisky awards, and to considering which releases win them and ultimately, why? It seems quite difficult to find a Scotch that hasn’t attained gold before at least one set of “learned judges”, but more importantly, what of those awards that still hold merit amongst the sea of the somewhat dubious? The Malt Manic Awards, Cask Strength’s Best in Glass or Whisky Magazine’s annual awards are a few that maintain a level of trust, but just what is it that makes a winning malt?
It seems to me that one theme runs deep as you look back over the bottles that have found themselves graced with top honours. Big whisky, powerful either by way of sherry, peat, active oak or a distinctly forceful character tends to steal the show. Indeed The Malt Maniacs are well known for their penchant for old, heavily sherried releases and last year’s awards did nothing to shake that view as another (admittedly lovely) Glendronach stood out above the rest. In the Best in Glass awards it was a forceful dram from Balcones and in The Whisky Magazine’s round up it was the similarly bold Yamazaki 25 year old. “Delicate whiskies find themselves lost in the crowd, outshone by the whisky equivalent of attention-hungry exhibitionists.”
It’s the first review of 2013 (whoop etc) and as is customary here at the WhiskyMarketplace blog, that will do nicely as a excuse to feature a rather special dram from one of our favourite distilleries. Glenfarclas whiskies are perhaps best known and appreciated in the form of old, well-sherried bottlings and indeed, as a result of the distillery’s continued family ownership, for its enviable stock of such casks. This release, from what is now the oldest vintage left slumbering in their warehouses, was released last year and predictably caused quite a stir. With the likes of our good friend Serge Valentin involved in the selection of this cask, the liquid was sure to be excellent.
Glenfarclas is best known for its relative focus on “drinkers” Whisky and though admittedly the older vintages within the disillery’s Family Casks series are anything but cheap, comparatively speaking they are far from the dizzying prices we are coming to expect from the world of old, “ultra-premium collectors” malt. With that in mind, this release came as something of a departure, being bottled for Polish investment firm Wealth Solutions and presented in a rather fetching, beautifully crafted oak box. Happily, the Whisky was well distributed to interested parties so at least a number have been lucky enough to taste this, the oldest Glenfarclas yet bottled.
As the memory of cold turkey, sore heads and family arguments fade the new year kicks off and as the long nights slowly loosen their grip, we Whisky lovers have something else to look forward to. If the Christmas and New Year consumption simply wasn’t enough for you dear friends, then let us look to Burn’s Night! Scotland’s own foremost man of letters left a great legacy for both his homeland and indeed the world, therefore it seems only fitting that a night be dedicated to his memory and indeed that another of Scotland’s great exports plays its part.
With that in mind we felt it timely to offer a few suggestions for those of you feeling inclined towards staging a little Burn’s Night tasting of your own (and we thoroughly suggest you do). Below are some ideas to get you started; namely three complete flights of 5 whiskies starting at the affordable, easy-going end of the spectrum and proceeding on from there. Feel free to mix different costs together of course but try if you can to keep a good spread of flavour profiles and consider setting up your tasting blind (simply wrap up the bottles or have everything poured before your guests arrive), that should offer a few surprises!
Glenmorangie announces Ealanta, its fourth annual “Private Edition” release. A 19 year old single malt exclusively matured in virgin American Oak casks.
Given the nature of this maturation, it’s hardly surprising that the whisky is said to display notes of butterscotch, vanilla, toffee and indeed a characteristic note of menthol, often found when fresh oak is employed.
2013 is here and it’s time for January’s selection of recommended tipples to help wash away those post Christmas blues (with their deliciousness you understand). With the all but unavoidable over-indulgence of the festive season now behind us and the prospect of Burns Night on the horizon, it seemed wise to venture beyond Scotland this month and indeed to feature a few whiskies ideally placed to reinvigorate jaded palates.
The disparate producing regions of Ireland and Japan are our focus this month. The former offers up both a spritely single grain from the much lauded Cooley Distillery and an equally loved Pot Still Whiskey from Midleton’s range. On the other side of both the North Atlantic and Pacific oceans we find Suntory’s excellently balanced Hakushu Bourbon Barrel release, alongside the ever-popular and multi award winning Yamazaki 18 year old. Enjoy!
Sometimes you get the chance to taste something really special. It might be an unexpected bottle pulled from a distant relatives dusty liquor cabinet, a sample that cost you more than a decent bottle or, as in this case, a wee dram received due to the generosity of a learned friend. Bowmore whiskies from the 1960s are of course one of whisky’s holy grails, the nature of the spirit with its mix of intensely exotic fruit and inescapable suggestions of the sea has become the stuff of legend, debate and feverish hoarding.
The little rarity featured here was however distilled in 1955, and by no means does that diminish the anticipation, quite the contrary in fact. This is from a very scarce bottle indeed; a run of 100, 37.5cl stone flagons bottled in 1974 to celebrate the opening of the distillery’s visitor centre. Happily, it seems these were distributed amongst the staff at the time, how many of them were left unopened beyond the celebrations though is anyone’s guess.
It’s time for a fireside dram methinks; this new non-age-statement release from the good ladies and gents at Glendronach distillery is aptly timed! In the wake of this year’s Malt Maniac’s award announcements, the distillery has once again swept a host of accolades including “Supreme Winner” in the ultra-premium category and several Gold Medals besides. Of course, the Maniacs are well known for their love of old sherried malts and indeed these lofty winners were all from the now legendary early 70′s stock.
You needn’t think that Glendronach is simply the preserve of the well-heeled, and indeed favourably connected given the scarcity of some single casks, whisky-fondler though. Both the Glendronach 18 year old ”Allardice” and the 8 year old “Octarine” and the took bronze and silver medals respectively, which is no mean feat in a competition where all samples are tasted blind and by a number of sometimes disparate palates. Here though we have the latest on-going introduction to the core range, let’s see if it has what it takes to take a place among next year’s medal winners.
Salutations of the season one and all, we have indeed entered the festive season and you can’t say were not good to you! After last month’s guide to selecting the ideal gifting bottle, we now have four more suggestions that should serve as great gifts or might equally sooth your brow as the big day approaches.
Whether you (or that special someone) fancy a nice bourbon with friends, an affordable Japanese rarity or a scotch that’s equally at home in the hip-flask as it is at the fire side, we have you covered. Equally there’s some great value to be found here, which is always a good thing when yuletide expenses start to take hold! Enjoy.
Aberlour is a name that will be familiar to most with even a passing interest in Whisky. The reliably accessible and unquestionably well made 10 year old is a staple of many supermarket shelves, and it’s certainly a safe bet when beginning ones travels through the world of whisky. For those that have become more deeply imbued with the joys of this venerable spirit it may be the cask strength, sherry matured bruiser of Aberlour a’bunadh that holds a firm spot on their list of “bang for the buck” drams. That being said, those old staples will have to wait for another day!
Enter the (quite) recently launched, enchantingly labelled “That Boutique-y Whisky Company” and their range of small batch, cask strength, non-age-statement Single Malts. Somewhat amazingly this series of releases has already featured names that you rarely see offered outside the single cask realm, and often for considerable prices. Port Ellen, Caperdonich and Ardbeg distillery have all been featured and subsequently sold out at a rate you may expect. Second and third batches are being rolled out -thankfully- alongside the on-going introduction of names both familiar, like this Aberlour, and more obscure; Benrinnes or Aultmore. In short, keep a watchful eye on what is an exciting and well-priced addition to the market!
Ahh Christmas. The festive cheer, the holly, the children singing, the tree…..the nerve-inducing gift hunting! Not the least stressful of times perhaps and when a loved one’s desire happens to be a bottle of Scotland’s nectar or Kentucky’s finest, it can be understandably hard to know where to start. It’s true, whisky is a vast and multifaceted subject but selecting an ideal tipple for the Whisky lover in your life needn’t be as confusing as first it appears. Indeed, we at WhiskyMarketplace have the answer!
Does your whisky lover’s cabinet contain five or less bottles, all of which you’ve spotted at your local supermarket or nearby bottle shop? Or does it conceal twenty plus bottles – some of them unopened and many with esoteric names & dates? If it’s the former, your whisky lover is probably someone who likes an occasional dram but has only reached geek level 1. If it’s the latter, they’re well on their way to full blown geek level 3!