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2015 SPECIAL RELEASES available now
As I see it… Ian P Bankier —
Illustration: Fran Waddell
J I should really resist starting this piece by saying Christmas seems to come around faster every year… but, I’ve done it again! Actually, it’s the best time of year at The Whisky Shop, because it’s the time when we can strut our stuff – so to speak. Our customers want to see us, take our advice and leave with something that they will confidently enjoy. And this is the time of year when our customers want something special. It is when we hear from them the most frequently asked question; what’s a really good whisky? Of course, the question can be answered in so many ways, but I would offer three simple principles. First, deluxe blends are as good, if not better, than single malts; second, age, as a rule, matters; and third, the top brands generally make the best quality whiskies. Let me expand on this. The world’s best and most recognised deluxe blends are Scotch blends and they are by far the most consumed style of whisky in the world. Any person claiming expertise in whisky who does not recognise this is living in a parallel universe. A deluxe blend will contain an extremely long list of the very best aged whiskies and some will be very old and rare. It will also contain a high proportion of single malt whiskies. The skill of the blender will be to produce an outstanding product – and that the Scotch whisky industry does with considerable aplomb. I would encourage anyone with an interest in whisky to explore the Johnnie Walker range. Next, the general rule applies that the older a whisky is the better it will be. It will be better, for the basic reason that it will have spent more time in the maturation process. Maturation, not only delivers to the whisky the unique characteristics of the barrel in which it rests, but there is a ‘cleansing’ process whereby the less palatable aspects of the spirit are removed. Although some very fine whiskies will contain no age statement, it doesn’t follow that they will not contain older whiskies. And finally, I have said this before, but it is worth repeating, to create great whisky you need
lots of time and oodles of money. It follows, therefore, that the distiller who has been in the game for generations and has invested in his product over that time has an advantage over those just starting out on the journey. Having
“ The world’s best and most recognised deluxe blends are Scotch blends and they are by far the most consumed style of whisky in the world. Any person claiming expertise in whisky who does not recognise this is living in a parallel universe. ” overcome the early obstacles of building a brand, the great majority of resources are directed towards refinements and improvements, all of which come out in the quality of the product. Although these are logical and easy to understand principles, it is not the whole story. Happily, for The Whisky Shop, there are multiple exceptions that apply. Starting with my proposition on deluxe blends, I have to point out that drinking a blend containing a goodly quantity of grain whisky is a very different drinking experience to a single malt. The blend will be relatively light and perfectly at ease with a long mixer. As we know, the single malt is a whole different sensory experience. It is intense, strong flavoured and meant to be savoured, not quaffed. In a way, I am comparing apples and pears, but I do make the point about the quality of blended 4
whisky, because of the number of customers who come with the preconception that blends are inferior. I can then go a step further and turn the whole proposition on its head. This year at The Whisky Shop we have discovered a truly exceptional brand called The Loch Fyne Living Cask. This is also a blend, but not as we know it. It is a blend of single malts that have all spent time in a cask that is never emptied – hence the concept that it is ‘living’. It is hand bottled in batches as and when different single malt whiskies are introduced to the barrel. The result, in my opinion, is a unique whisky drinking experience. On the subject of age, too much emphasis can be and often is put on this. Different whiskies perform differently and the best age to drink a whisky can be relatively young when it is fresh and ‘grassy’. Whisky that spends too much time in barrel can be dry and woody and not very good to drink. The American Bourbon industry, for example concentrates not at all on age and focuses on the quality of wood instead. The results are often spectacular. And finally, while it’s hard to argue against constant improvement and refinement, some would say that the big names in single malt whisky lack colour. They are almost too good, too consistent and unsurprising. Smaller distillers are able to be experimental with small batch releases. I cannot deny that there is truth in this, but I do want to face down another frequently cited prejudice, that the big names have nothing to offer. On the contrary, they are the backbone, the smaller distillers allow us to say vive la difference. (Have I mentioned that we are opening a branch of The Whisky Shop in Paris next spring?) So my simple principles are not so simple? Well, yes. But here’s an even simpler one. There are no bad whiskies out there. They are all good. Compliments of the season to you all! Ian P Bankier, Chairman, The Whisky Shop
WIN! Exclusive, limited edition bottlings: Bowmore Devil’s Cask Batch 3 and Laphroaig 32 Year Old
Once again, The Whisky Shop is giving all Whiskeria readers the chance to win a fantastic prize to bring in the new year. The lucky winner will receive a bottle of each of the Bowmore Devil’s Cask Batch 3 and the Laphroaig 32 Year Old. These are two highly limited and exclusive bottles of whisky. Simply answer this question correctly to be in with a chance of winning: Who founded Bowmore Distillery in 1779? Answers should be be emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org Please include your full name and answer. Terms & Conditions The winner will be selected from all entries received by 1 April 2016. The judge’s decision will be final. All normal competition rules apply. Entrants must be over 18 years old.
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The benriach Single MalT ScoTch WhiSky Established in 1898 and located in the ‘Heart of Speyside’, the BenRiach Distillery became independent in 2004. With access to an impressive inventory of maturing whiskies dating back as far as 1966, our range of expressions is varied both in terms of age and style, including ‘classic Speyside’, special ‘finishes’, heavily peated BenRiach and exclusive single cask vintage bottlings.
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Sherry Cask connoisseurs
WE ONLY PUT OUR NAME ON THE WORLD’S FINEST SHERRY CASKS.
The GlenDronach - Highland Single Malt Scotch Whisky Pioneers of sherry cask maturation since 1826 www.glendronachdistillery.co.uk
Nearly 70% of the flavour in whisky is derived from the cask it has been matured in. Wood’s important, which is why we adopt a ‘no compromise’ approach when choosing our world renowned Sherry casks to enrich our whisky.
Contributors Winter 2015/16 — Illustration: Fran Waddell
— Brian Wilson, formerly an MP, held several Government Ministerial posts during his political career. He lives on the Island of Lewis from where he pursues various business interests, notably in the energy sector. He also led the regeneration of the Harris Tweed industry and is currently Chairman of Harris Tweed Hebrides Ltd. His first love was writing and he continues to write books as well as opinion pieces for national newspapers.
— Claire Bell has written on travel for Time magazine, The Herald, The Times, The Guardian and Wanderlust. She lives in Glasgow where she runs The Old Barn Bookery, a book charity that helps build libraries in disadvantaged schools in her native South Africa. On her recent trip to Islay she fell in love with Laphroaig 18 Year Old, describing it as light and delicious compared to ‘the insanely smoky’ 10 Year Old.
Gavin D. Smith
— Gavin is one of the world’s most prolific and respected whisky writers, is regularly published in a range of top magazines and has written more than a dozen books on whisky, while co-authoring many more. He is currently preparing a new version of The Malt Whisky Companion.
— Charles has published ten Scotch whisky books to date, including the standard work on whisky brands, Scotch Whisky and the leading book on its subject, Malt Whisky, both of which were shortlisted for Glenfiddich Awards. He was script advisor for Ken Loach’s 2012 film The Angels Share and subsequently played the part of a whisky expert in the film. He says it’s his biggest career highlight to date.
Contents Winter 2015/16 â€”
16 My Craft Jack Daniel's Distillery, Tennessee 21 New Releases Winter 2015/16 42 My Whiskeria Whispering Bob Harris 54 Travel Scotland's West Coast 61 The Whisky Shop Section 76 Mixing It Up Salvatore Calabrese 80 Mixing It Up DreamBagsJaguarShoes 90 Distillery Tour Islay 200 96 Expert Tasting Glendronach & Aberfeldy 98 Digital Dramming
Seaweed Brian Wilson —
Whisky, golf, Harris Tweed… iconic Scottish products with global reputations but perhaps we could do with a few more? So let me nominate an extraordinary gift from nature in which our 10,250 miles of coastline is abundantly rich. It’s Scotland’s Seaweed!
J The many uses of seaweed make it one of the wonders of the world. Believe it or not, there’s a market for using it to make the rock-hard balls required in the fracking process. At the other end of the spectrum, Donald Trump has enthused over a seaweed-based cosmetics range produced in the Outer Hebrides. Seaweed is, quite literally, all around us. Scottish experience reflects that diversity of uses to which seaweed – a generic term covering hundreds of different species –has been put. These malodorous tangles helped to drive the Industrial Revolution and armed us with crucial technology in times of war. We eat and drink it even though, most of the time, we have no idea that we are doing so. Seaweed exerted a crucial influence over Scottish history and demography, with acute relevance down to the present day. Just as coal and steel shaped and scarred the central belt, seaweed was a key economic influence in the 19th century Highlands and Islands. While it brought temporary, relative prosperity, the consequences that flowed from “the kelp boom” were far from benign. An iodine-rich potash, made from an alkaline seaweed extract called kelp, was recognised to have many industrial applications, particularly in the manufacture of soap and glass. In Scotland, kelp production was first experimented with in the Firth of Forth in the 1720s. But the biggest reserves of raw material were along the rugged coastline of the north and west Highlands and Islands, so that was where the kelp boom developed. As industrial demand grew, the kelp industry spread like wildfire. Uist was its epicentre but it flourished in Orkney and all the way down the west coast. Landowners needed a supply of labour to cut the weed and work the kilns which reduced it to “a brittle many-coloured substance” ready for export to the burgeoning
factories of the industrial south. Population was concentrated close to shore, around the points of kelp production. Landholdings were sub-divided to accommodate the influx of labour and, because there was now a money income for the thousands employed in kelp, rents increased. But by the 1820s, the kelp industry was in decline. Taxes on rival imported products had been lifted and technology moved on. In the meantime, the big Highland landlords made vast fortunes from kelp – a style to which they became accustomed and were anxious to maintain. Their tenantry were now crowded into the coastal areas and agriculture had fallen by the wayside. Thus, the rise and fall of kelp predicated the gloomy history of eviction and emigration that followed. The pattern of huddled coastal settlements and empty interiors persists to the present day. Fast forward to the 1930s and the next significant attempt to turn Scotland’s seaweed resource into a commercial industry. This time, the chosen location was Bellochantuy on the Kintyre peninsula. As anyone who has passed that way en route to Campbeltown may recall, it is a village characterized by a distinctive odour – the smell of seaweed which, for a brief period, gave Bellochantuy the taste of industrial innovation. In 1934, a company called Cefoil, from Maidenhead, opened a factory at Bellochantuy with a view to turning alginate into a clear film. The project failed when a rival product - cellophane – appeared on the market. By then, however, war was looming and the Ministry of Supply had recognised seaweed’s potential military uses in products such as camouflage paint and artificial silk for parachutes. In 1940, a Government Commission decided to close Bellachantuy and create three new plants at Girvan in Ayrshire, Barcaldine and Kames, both in Argyll. After the war, Girvan and Barcaldine were
bought by a company called Alginate Industries Ltd, and formed to exploit the vast range of uses that continued to emerge. There was also a Scottish Seaweed Research Association based at Musselburgh. A new generation of mass-market consumer products needed to contain a stabilizer – from ice-cream and puddings to medical solutions and cosmetics. Alginates provided the answer. They also put the head on beer. For several decades, Alginate Industries gathered and dried seaweed in the Western Isles and shipped it to the two mainland factories for processing. But it was a high volume, low margin business which faced competition from China, Chile and Australia. After changing hands several times, the two factories closed within the past decade and the Scottish seaweed industry again appeared to have died with them. In one outpost, however, there was still belief in the potential for a viable business. Hebridean Seaweed was formed in 2006 with a base near Stornoway on the Isle of Lewis. The company operates the only unit in the UK which is drying seaweed on a commercial scale and they brought in cutting equipment attached to vessels which can access the nooks and crannies of the Hebridean coastline. Managing director Martin MacLeod says that they process six different types of seaweed. By far the biggest by volume is Ascophyllum Nodosum (knotted wrack) which is mainly turned into fertilizer for use in agriculture and horticulture. But the growth market with a much higher value is in the use of seaweed as a food supplement, to make products healthier in line with EU regulations by reducing salt content while increasing nutrients and minerals in the diet. “Seaweed has a very high iodine content and that is something the western diet is now recognised as deficient in”, says Martin. “There is definitely increased recognition of seaweed as a very efficient superfood which is nothing new in Asia where it has
always been thought of as a sea vegetable and an important part of the diet. Here, at best, it was looked on as something you fed to the animals. But that is changing”. A newly-opened whisky distillery on the Isle of Harris will also be producing gin and Hebridean Seaweed will be supplying Laminaria Sacharrina (sugar kelp) to help give it a distinctive Hebridean flavour. It is the first time seaweed has been used in gin and publicity for this innovation has led to a steady stream of inquiries from the drinks industry – “beers and ciders as well as gin”, says Martin. Is seaweed-flavoured whisky a step too far? Hebridean Seaweed has developed its own range of beauty products under the brand name Ishga (www.ishga.co.uk) and therein lies the Trump tale. Donald John Trump’s mother came from Lewis. (Islanders would say his Christian names are really Domhnall Iain, which gives a whole new perspective to ‘The Donald’!). He had never shown much interest in the Lewis connection but then he bought Turnberry Hotel, came across Ishga products in the spa and thought they were great – even before he noticed where they came from! The result was an invitation to Martin and his colleagues to meet Trump and now there are talks about rolling the Ishga range out to other hotels in his empire. Of course, Domhnall Iain’s current ambitions extend well beyond his hotels and golf courses. So who knows where the products made from humble Hebridean tangle will yet end up – at which point seaweed would certainly be claimed as an iconic Scottish product!
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THE PHILOSOPHY OF THE MEN OF BRUICHLADDICH BRUICHLADDICH DISTILLERY ISLE OF ISLAY, SCOTLAND
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We might all be familiar with the ‘black label’ Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 – after all, it is the most popular whiskey in the world – but the mystery of the name and significance of the number 7 is one of those myths that everyone has their own version of… —
My Craft | Jack Daniel
Photography: Ed Rode | Illustration Kate Timney
Jack Daniel’s Distillery Location: Lynchburg, Moore County, Tennessee Founded: 1884 Owner: Brown-Forman Corporation (since 1956) Master Distiller: Jeff Arnett (since 2008) a Draws more than 250,000 visitors annually a Frank Sinatra was buried with a bottle of JD Old No7 in 1998 a
The preferred drink of M from James Bond, in the 1995 film Goldeneye, she helps herself to a bottle after stating she ‘prefers bourbon’ (despite Jack Daniel’s NOT being a bourbon!)
J Here is one of the more interesting anecdotes: Mr Jasper Newton (Jack) Daniel was encouraged by the good folk of Lynchburg to enter his whiskey into the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair which was held in St. Louis, Missouri, even though he didn’t think he had a chance. He sent seven barrels of whiskey up to St Louis on a train, and then put himself on a passenger train. When he arrived the barrels were nowhere to be found so, frustrated, he asked for another seven to be sent. He went on to win the gold medal for the finest whiskey in the world at the fair, and upon arriving back at the distillery in Lynchburg, medal in hand, he was shocked to discover the original 7 barrels that had gone missing back at the distillery. In recognition of this he named his flagship brand ‘old number 7’. Either that, or as another rumour goes, he had 7 mistresses, we will never know! Sadly, it all went wrong for Jack in 1906, when he reached his demise as a result of a combination of his own temper, and poor memory. Very early one morning he was trying to access the safe in his office in the dark. It was a huge iron structure, with an apparently particularly fiddly combination lock that he could not get open, either due to his dim lantern light or perhaps he could not recall the combination. He kicked the door in
frustration, causing huge damage to his big toe, which he subsequently never mentioned to anyone, so as not to cause embarrassment. He suffered in silence, as that toe went gangrenous and eventually was the cause of his death in 1911. His legacy lived on and now Lynchburg Tennessee is the home to the Jack Daniel’s Distillery, receiving 250,000 visitors annually. Interestingly, it is located in Moore County, which still operates as a dry county, meaning that the government forbids the sale of alcoholic beverages. The Whisky Shop has acquired 5 casks of Jack Daniels Single Barrel directly from Lynchburg Tennessee, limited to 1250 exclusive bottles. To understand the significance of these very special casks, we must delve into the history of Jack Daniel’s distilling techniques, which are still employed today and make this whiskey so unique and characterful. It all started at a Lynchburg limestone cave spring which remains the sole water source of all Jack Daniel’s whiskey- the limestone rock bed makes the water pure and iron-free, and is the same temperature all year round. In 1863, at only 13 years old, Jasper (Jack) Daniel bought the distillery for the grand sum of $25. He had learned how to distill from Reverend Dan Call, who taught him the traditional ‘our mash’ method of leaving a little of the mash from earlier brews in the storage vat to speed up 18
the fermentation of subsequent mixes. The sour mash is made from a combination of 80% local fresh Tennessee corn, 8% rye from Wisconsin and 12% malted barley sourced from Idaho and Montana. The grains are ground, mixed with water and heated to 220 degrees for around 30 minutes in copper column stills. The sour mash goes in at the bottom; steam is blasted up through the tubes, which condenses and is distilled as sprit, while all the deposit falls to the bottom. This is set aside and given to local farmers to feed to cattle - this ensures that there is minimum wastage; in fact, only 2% of the product goes to waste. The spirit is then charcoal filtered, or ‘mellowed’, which is what differentiates Jack Daniel’s from bourbon whiskey. Maple wood is burned on site to produce charcoal, which is ground down to reduce the surface area. This charcoal is put in huge white oak vats, and the 140 proof distilled spirit is taken straight from the stills and slowly dripped down and left to trickle through 10 feet of hard packed maple charcoal – this process is comparative to a water filter. It removes all the impurities and grainy bitter flavours, making a huge difference to the final taste of the whiskey. This process takes around 4-6 days and only at that stage is the spirit transferred into charred American white oak barrels, and placed in one of 87 barrelhouses through the county.
These are spread out so if there was a fire, they would not have all their barrels in one basket, so to speak, as each barrelhouse can hold up to 50,000 barrels. (Incidentally, Lynchburg is the only distillery in the USA with its own fire department in case the worst happens, and they are also proud to provide mutual aid for the rest of the county.) Once placed in the warehouse, the barrels are left undisturbed until the contents are judged and ready to bottle. Greater changes in temperature occur higher up in the warehouses, where maturation proceeds slightly faster. It is worth noting that these wooden barrelhouses are not heated artificially, and are seven or eight stories high, so there is a lot of variation in temperature. These casks of Single Barrel are stored on the top floors, therefore exposing them to more heat, causing greater expansion of the pores of the wood, allowing the whiskey to take on more of the wood barrels’ character. This does mean that they can lose as much as 30% to ‘angels’ share,’ however the resulting liquid is truly magnificent. The unique flavor of this whiskey is achieved by the higher than normal corn content in the sour mash, producing a sweeter spirit and less of the spicy rye flavours found in other American whiskies. 104 tasters and 24 master tasters check each and every cask, to
ensure that the quality, colour and taste of the liquid from each is spot on – this way, it can be guaranteed that every cask is unique and of the highest quality. The Whisky Shop have then tasted 15 casks and narrowed it down to just 5 Single Barrels, which have been bottled and are being released over the festive season. So what makes Jack Daniel’s single barrel special? Of each bottle of Jack Daniel’s, available in 164 countries, every drop comes from Lynchburg, Tennessee. To me, this embodies the very definition of ‘craft’ – from the grain to the water source, to the distillery workers and tasters – these are all local commodities. There is nothing artificial added, and certainly nothing artificial in the production methods. The same techniques that exist for distilling to this day were employed my Mr Jack Daniel himself, over 150 years ago.
EXCLUSIVE The Whisky Shop have acquired 5 casks of Jack Daniels Single Barrel directly from Lynchburg Tennessee, producing 1250 exclusive bottles, priced at £55 each. J whiskyshop.com
Enjoy Aberlour responsibly.
New Releases Winter 2015/16 â€”
Dalwhinnie Winter’s Gold SINGLE HIGHLAND MALT 43% VOL
Faintly waxy and musty/mossy to start with; opens to reveal sour fruits – green apples, unripe pears, gooseberries – on a light heathery base. A natural, moorland aroma which becomes more fragrant with a little water, and also more peppery, although the waxiness is still there. Smooth texture, sweet, mossy and peppery taste.
J DALWHINNIE Bob Christine, manager of Dalwhinnie Distillery when this whisky was made, once told me he could tell whether his malt had been distilled in the winter or the summer months… Dalwhinnie is a viscous, slightly waxy, whisky – largely on account of having worm tubs (more about these later) – and its viscosity increases when the worms are cold. He confirmed that in days gone by many distillery operators could do this, especially in a place like Dalwhinnie, where the mean temperatures are extreme: at just over 1,000 feet above sea-level, it is the highest and coldest distillery in Scotland. They were familiar with their new-make spirit on account of the custom of being ‘drammed’ with it twice a day, usually at midday and 6 p.m., when every member of the workforce was given a dram of ‘clearic’, at around 60%Vol. The dram was usually a gill [a quarter of a pint]. The tradition was gradually abandoned in the early 1980s. Michael Roy, the long-serving manager at Macduff Distillery explained to me: “One of the perks of a distillery employee was the issue of a daily dram, duty free - and actually illegal. It was felt, throughout the industry, that if the workforce was offered a dram, the temptation to steal whisky would be reduced, and since it was regarded as an acceptable inducement to remove the temptation to pilfer the product, it received the unofficial blessing of the Customs and Excise, who supervised the removal of the dram from the warehouse. Generally, throughout 22
the industry, the dram was of new make spirit or clearic.” The difference between spirits made in summer or winter is all to do with the temperature of the water in the worm tubs: the colder the water, the quicker the alcohol vapour will condense, the less contact it will have (as vapour) with copper, the heavier will be the spirit. Worm tubs are invariably located outside the still house, in the open air. You can see them steaming on cold days. During the 1960s and ‘70s most distilleries replaced their worms with shell-and-tube condensers, since they were cheaper to install and easier to maintain – I can think of only sixteen distilleries today which have worm tubs – and also because they produced a lighter, purer style of spirit, more popular with blenders. In 1986, the worm tubs at Dalwhinnie were replaced by condensers. The spirit lost all its personality, and at considerable expense the worm tubs were restored in 1995. The good old boys preferred spirit made during the winter months: the whisky in Dalwhinnie Winter’s Gold was all distilled between October and March, when “the cold copper intensifies our liquid and its rich deep character unfolds,” says the carton. “When the winter grows colder, our liquid becomes gentler and warmer”.
J GLENFARCLAS This must be one of the oddest names ever attached to a bottle of whisky, but all is explained in the carton: on the 8th of June 1865, John Grant bought the distillery for £511.19s.0d. The expression was released on 8th June this year to celebrate 150 years of Grant family ownership – six generations, all bearing the names John or George. A copy of the original bill of sale is included with each bottle along with a note from George S. Grant explaining the significance of the £511.19s.0d Family Reserve to the Grant family tradition. There had been a licensed distillery on Rechlerich Farm since 1836 – and an unlicensed enterprise here since 1897, or possibly earlier – and when the licensee died in 1865, his neighbour, John Grant, bought the site and the farm. John’s grandsons, John and George, rebuilt the distillery and formed a limited company to run it, and so it has been ever since. The family’s achievement should not be underestimated. The history of the Scotch whisky industry is characterized by booms and recessions – the recession post-1900 nearly ruined the Grants, since their business partner, Pattisons of Leith, went dramatically bust owing them a great deal of money. More than any other single event in the company’s history, this determined the Grants to remain independent. There was no shortage of suitors! Over the past century, several companies attempted to buy
Glenfarclas, but the family held true and pressed on through all the vicissitudes of economic and market changes in the whisky trade. No mean feat. Over the years they have witnessed the total transformation of distillery ownership across Scotland, with all but a handful being owned today by large international conglomerates. As well as marking their 150th anniversary on 8th June with the release of the £511.19s.Od Family Reserve, John and George Grant filled 10 sherry butts and 10 sherry hogsheads to lay down for the future generations of the family. George remarked: “The beauty of independence is that we have total control over the quality and character of our whisky, and with this control we can personally choose what we want the brand to represent”.
Glenfarclas £511.19s.0d Family Reserve SINGLE SPEYSIDE MALT 43% VOL
Mid amber. A mild nose-feel and a top note of muesli with dried sultanas, nuts and raisins on a base of creamy rice pudding. Sweet, tannic and spicy to taste at full strength. A drop of water thins and dries the aroma, introducing a baked apple note. The taste is now less sweet and dry, but very more-ish.
The £511.19s.0d Family Reserve itself is a non-chill filtered vatting of predominantly first fill sherry butts - Glenfarclas proudly continues to use ex-sherry casks, both Spanish and American oak, where the majority of the whisky industry now uses ex-bourbon casks. The company’s own tasting note is: “Sweet and rich sherry notes, like toffee syrup over a freshly toasted French baguette, the nose promises fresh fruit smothered in heather honey, ending almost like a sweet port. Then a dry yet sweet taste, a lovely balance of fruit, light nuttiness and milk chocolate develop, followed by a very palatable long and easy finish.”
SINGLE ISLAY MALT 47.4% VOL
SINGLE ISLAY MALT 46% VOL
Pale gold with green lights. Considerable nose prickle. A top note of carbolic and industrial detergent, Elastoplast and Germoline, giving way to salty sea scents. The latter are increased with water, which also introduces some light sulphur notes. Sweet and salty to taste, with good body and a long smoky finish and an earthy aftertaste with a trace of dark chocolate.
Warm gold. Fragrant smoke gradually reveals apricots in syrup, putty, dried herbs and canvas, later joined by pine and freshly laundry. Mild-mannered for Ardbeg, with a gentle texture and a lightly sweet, then unusually salty, taste. Mouth-cooling with some white pepper and a lingering smoky aftertaste. A little water enhances the sweetness, reduced the salt somewhat and introduces a hint of orange peel, with some bitter almonds in the smoky finish
J ardbeg perpetuum was launched at Ardbeg Distillery during the Islay Whisky Festival – the Feis Ile – in May 2015, to celebrate the distillery’s 200th Anniversary. An early edition was only available at the distillery shop; now the company has released 2,500 bottles through selected outlets, including The Whisky Shop. The press release reports breathlessly: “Ardbeg Perpetuum is inspired by the many styles, ideas and quirks of fate which have influenced Ardbeg over time; it combines different styles, flavours, dreams and trials. Connoisseurs will taste a never-ending, rich and enticing combination of classic Ardbeggian notes and incredibly creamy flavours.” I’m not sure exactly what they mean, although Ardbeg – in common with many other malt distilleries – has had to endure its own share of ‘the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’. Founded on a site which had been used by smugglers since at least the 1790s – “a sweet secluded spot close to the verge of the great Atlantic Ocean”, according to a 1912 newspaper – the first licensee was John MacDougall, a local farmer backed by a Glasgow whisky merchant and supported by the local laird, Walter Frederick Campbell. Business started well – by 1835 Ardbeg was the largest distillery on the island, with an output of 500 gallons a week [65,000 litres per annum] – but the middle years of the century were more testing and by 1857 the business was making heavy losses. But the make had a high reputation and commanded a premium price, and when blending took off in the 1870s the malt’s fortunes recovered… For a while… The general downturn in the whisky industry in 1900, followed by the increase in duty and the First World War, were compounded at Ardbeg by weak management and when the owner-manager died in 1928 he was virtually bankrupt. Until 1958, the distillery traded under the name of its founder’s son, Alexander MacDougall & Co. This company went into liquidation that year and a new company, Ardbeg Distillery Ltd., was formed, with the Distillers Company Ltd [now Diageo] and the massive Canadian distiller, Hiram Walker [owner of Ballantine’s], holding substantial numbers of shares. The entire output of Ardbeg went for blending – except for “one case (bottled) to be allowed to the three Hotels on the Island each year at Christmas” – until April 1972, when 1,200 gallons was bottled, aged 4 years. Small amounts were bottled in 1975, now aged 10 years, but filling orders for blending were decreasing and the following year Hiram Walker bought out the other shareholders.
In spite of spending over a million pounds on the distillery, Ardbeg was mothballed in 1979 for ten years, then closed again in 1996 and discreetly offered for sale. The successful bidder was Macdonald & Muir, owner of Glenmorangie, and it is owing to their commitment to the site and the brand, investment in it, wit and imagination, that has made it into a cult single malt. As well as creating an outstanding restaurant/ tea-room in one of the old kilns, the company established a ‘fan club’, ‘The Ardbeg Committee’ – so named as a wry comment about Islay, which, with a population of around 3,000 people, has more than 140 committees! – which now boasts 110,000 members in 130 countries. It’s purpose? “To celebrate the re-awakening of Ardbeg, ensure the doors of the distillery never close again, spread the word and dispense drams to those deprived of knowledge of this untamed spirit.” Hear! Hear! J ardbeg kildalton As we have seen with the Ardbeg Perpetuum, until relatively recently Ardbeg was primarily used for blending. As such, it and its smoky neighbours, Caol Ila, Lagavulin and Laphroaig, were very popular: a small amount of these pungent malts is massively influential upon the flavour of a blend, and in the wicked old days allowed blenders to increase the proportion of grain whisky in the mix… Until fashion changed in the 1890s, when consumers wanted less smoke and more ‘elegance’, ‘smoothness’ and ‘sweetness’. I was once told by a very senior (and elderly) Scottish judge that his father “would never have smoky Islay whiskies in the house”. “Why on earth not?” I replied. “Don’t get me wrong,” he said. “He would have them in the cellar, but never in the drawing room or dining room. Islay whisky was for drinking out of doors”. Just how widespread was such an attitude, I do not know. Nor have I come across any written reference to the idea, charming though it is. Indeed there is something elemental about the flavours of the ‘Big Smokies’ that suit them admirably to drinking out of doors – especially in inclement weather! One of the reasons for Allied Distillers – the successor to Hiram Walker – selling Ardbeg was that the company also owned Laphroaig Distillery, and decided that one smoky malt was enough. Being a blending company, however, in 1980 Allied had also produced some very lightly peated whisky for blending purposes. They 25
referred to this as ‘The Kildalton Experiment’, and the first expression of Ardbeg to be released by Glenmorangie when the took over in 1997 used a lot of this, vatted with some traditional Ardbeg and bottled at 17 years old. It was very popular. The name comes from the parish in which the distillery stands, and also from the Kildalton Cross six miles to the north, which is described by Historic Scotland as “a masterpiece of 8th century religious art” and acknowledged to be among the finest and most important Celtic High Crosses in Scotland. It stands 2.65 metres high, with a span of 1.32 metres, in the same place upon which it was erected over 1,200 years ago. The new Ardbeg Kildalton combines both heavily and lightly peated malts; it is un-chillfiltered and bottles are limited. It has been launched to raise funds for The Kildalton Project, a partnership between Ardbeg Distillery, The North Highland Initiative and South Islay Development, inspired by HRH Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay. The goal of the Project is to develop a community-run hub in Port Ellen as a centre for social activities, training and leaning, and also as an information point for visitors to the south of the island. Jackie Thomson, Chair of South Islay Development, and Visitor Centre Manager at Ardbeg Distillery commented: “We thank The North Highland Initiative and Ardbeg Distillery for helping us initiate The Kildalton Project; Islay is really ‘on the move’ and South Islay in particular is becoming a dynamic place to visit as a result of the projects we already have underway. A new Community Hub will be an important piece of the jigsaw in sustaining Port Ellen as a vibrant community.” For The Glenmorangie Company, which owns the distillery, Hamish Torrie, Director of Corporate Social Responsibility added: “The Kildalton Project is a great illustration of our long term commitment to playing our part in the community of Islay. We are delighted to have the support and encouragement of His Royal Highness and welcome the NHI team to Islay.” And the whisky? Dr Bill Lumsden, the company’s Director of Flavour Creation writes: ‘Ardbeg Kildalton is a rather curious whisky, created from an interesting cask selection. Sublime whiskies from two carefully selected years have been chosen for their juxtaposed, but complimentary styles. A blessed marriage of firm, smoky, but creamy Ardbeg from Bourbon barrels with rather racy, spicy whiskies from new and refill Sherry casks has given a harmonious union of bold, colourful flavours.”
The Dalmore 21 Year Old
The Dalmore 30 Year Old
21 YEAR OLD HIGHLAND SINGLE MALT 42% VOL
30 YEAR OLD HIGHLAND SINGLE MALT 45% VOL
Deep amber in colour, initially somewhat closed, then subtle scents of dry Xmas cake, complete with marzipan, icing sugar and waxed wrapper, begin to emerge. A smooth, rich texture, and a sweet, dry-fruity taste, with milk chocolate, baking spices and a trace of ginger. Drinks well straight.
Deep amber in colour with thick, slow moving legs; a subtle aroma, which takes time to emerge – blackcurrants, dates, cigar box, hardwood shavings. A viscous texture and a richly sweet start, becoming tannic, with dark chocolate, treacle and blackcurrant in the back and a long warming finish. Complex, reserved and mellow.
J DALMORE These two limited edition releases from the Dalmore Distillery are described by the distillery owner as “exemplary showpieces of The Dalmore house style, created by Master Distiller Richard Paterson”. Richard is a legend in the whisky trade and among the best-loved distillers and blenders in the business. Following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, he began work in a whisky company in Glasgow in 1966, aged seventeen, joining Whyte & Mackay as assistant blender in 1970 and rising to Master Blender in 1975. His experience and innate understanding of whisky – how it’s made, what influences its flavour, what happens during its maturation – is profound, and any of his creations – not least these two venerable expressions of The Dalmore – are worthy of close consideration. Many other master blenders would give their eye teeth to have access to the stock of long-aged whisky Richard has at the Dalmore Distillery, and over the past few years several of his vintage expressions have beaten all price records, including a 62 Years Old, composed of whiskies from 1868, 1878, 1926 and 1939 – yielding only 12 bottles - which sold privately for £32,000 in 2005 (a world record at the time; the purchaser immediately opened and shared the bottle with friends!) and The Dalmore Trinitas 64YO which, in October 2010, was the first bottle of Scotch whisky to sell for over £100,000. He says of his new creations: “From watching over the new make spirit as it slumbered in its casks, to selecting the perfect assemblage of fine aged stocks and indulgent woods to finesse our whisky in, both
The Dalmore 21 and The Dalmore 30 are whiskies that I have spent many years perfecting. The results are exceptional; the liquids are rich, complex, and synonymous with The Dalmore – they are truly magnificent.” The 21 Years Old has been matured in American white oak casks, then finished in carefully selected first-fill Matusalem oloroso sherry butts from the Gonzalez Byass bodega in Jerez de la Frontera. Only 8,000 bottles of this limited edition whisky will be available, of which only 1200 will remain in the UK. The Dalmore 30 is a combination of whisky matured in selected Matusalem oloroso butts with spirits matured in sweet Amoroso sherry butts, both from Gonzalez Byass. The edition is limited to only 888 bottles, all individually numbered, of which 110 only bottles will available in the UK. Here are Richard’s tasting notes for you to compare with mine! The Dalmore 21 Year Old: “With indulgent flavours of orange fondant, brandy snaps, fresh coffee, chocolate ganache and marmalade this 21 year old single malt is an outstanding example of The Dalmore house style.” The Dalmore 30Year Old: “The result is a decadent nose of cherries, raisins and apples, a palate of sweet mangoes, panna cotta, Columbian coffee and honeyed mulled wine and a robust finish of coconut blancmange, cracked black pepper and rich dates.”
Bowmore Devil’s Casks III 10 YEAR OLD SINGLE ISLAY MALT 56.7% VOL Deep amber with copper lights. Relatively closed, with considerable prickle to begin with; nose-drying and ashy, but with a hint of dried fruits behind this. Water opens it, but only slightly, revealing waxy baked-apple skins and a dusty desk drawer. At full strength the taste is sweet and spicy, very tannic (mouth-drying), with hessian and smoke in the long, warming finish. At reduced strength, it becomes sweeter, fuller and drier (pecan nuts), with a wisp of smoke in the finish.
J BOWMORE Following the success of Devil’s Casks I and II, Bowmore have now released No. III. Like its predecessors it is ‘small batch’, drawn exclusively from first-fill European oak [Quercus robur] ex-sherry casks from the top Spanish supplier, Miguel Martinez, at natural strength (in this case 56.7%Vol) and without chill-filtration. In short, all three expressions show-case Bowmore’s DNA in full measure - maritime, oily, lightly smoky – while the Spanish oak adds richness, dryness and spice, as one would imagine. Of the Devil’s Casks Rachel Barrie, Bowmore’s Master Blender, says: “The first edition of this expression was one of the most sought after whiskies of 2013. The second and third small batch releases will no doubt emulate that success thanks to their devilishly tasty dark side, in debt to the first-fill sherry casks they have been carefully mellowed in”. In my view, most malts benefit from the addition of a little water, and this is especially true of Batch III. Rachel Barrie explains: “Adding water has a different impact on each individual whisky depending upon its unique balance and composition, influenced to a large degree by wood type and age. A distinctive sherry cask influence has a significant effect on the flavour and textural changes that occur with water addition. At natural strength the molecules exist ‘in equilibrium’, giving a consistent and reproducible flavor profile. With a little water (approx. 10 drops to 20mls dram) –
the alcohol/water equilibrium is disrupted. Alcoholrich clusters burst, water-soluble components dissipate and water-insoluble components (in particular citrus oils) escape into the air, creating a change in sensory perception on nosing, often more fruity.” “With a little more water (1 part : 2 parts whisky) the liquid starts to fractionate, and water clusters start to form, releasing even more volatile oils and precipitating some larger water-insoluble molecules out as a visible ‘haze’. On tasting, the whisky may have a more creamy or waxy mouth-feel as the larger waterinsoluble clusters are sensed by the tongue.” At the top of Bowmore village’s main street is the famous ‘round church’, built this way ‘so the Devil cannot hide in the corner’, and this gives rise to the name of the Devil’s Casks… Legend has it that one day Auld Nick came to visit Bowmore, to make mischief. He was chased by the locals and sought refuge in the church, but finding there was no place to hide, fled down the hill and into the distillery, where the warehousemen were filling casks and loading them aboard the paddle-steamer, Maid of Islay. As soon as they heard what was up they closed the gates, locked the doors and searched the place thoroughly. But there was no sign of the Devil; he had escaped in a Bowmore cask, bound for the mainland!
Jack Daniel’s Sinatra Century TENNESSEE WHISKEY 50%VOL/100° U.S. PROOF
Very deep amber; old oak. A surprisingly closed and mild nose to start, then becomes spicy and fragrant – scented oils, almond blossom – until the alcohol closes it down again. No wonder that Frank liked to add a little water and let it rest! Having tamed it, the aroma presents natural turpentine and rose essence. A big, smooth, scented texture; a sweetish taste, and a long warming finish with ash in the after taste.
J JACK DANIELS Jack Daniel’s has long been popular with rock n’roll stars – one only has to think of Keith Richards – but the brand’s first and most famous fan was Frank Sinatra, and the company has now released “one of the most limited Tennessee whiskies we have ever released” in honour on Frank’s 100th birthday. Sinatra was introduced to ‘Jack’ by his good friend, the larger than life American comedian, actor and musician, Jackie Gleason (1916-1987) – co-star (with Paul Newman) in The Hustler and (with Burt Reynolds) in the Smokey and the Bandit films. The story goes that Jackie and Frank were sitting together at a bar in New York City in the late 1940s. Frank was forlorn – over a woman – and was sharing his troubles with Gleason. Frank informed his good friend that he was in need of a ‘serious’ drink. Turning to Sinatra, Gleason responded “Jack Daniel’s. That’s a good place to start.” When he had tasted it, Frank said “That’s the nectar of the Gods, baby”. The rest is history.
In 1967, Jack Daniel’s salesman Angelo Lucchesi heard that Frank Sinatra was at the Copacabana and couldn’t find any Jack Daniel’s – it was in much shorter supply back then. Without hesitation, Lucchesi saw to it that a supply of Jack was delivered to Frank immediately. Indebted, Sinatra called Angelo at home and said, “Paisano, you’re my kind of man. I love you forever.” This was the beginning of a 31-year friendship between Frank and Angelo where Frank would fondly refer to Lucchesi as “the Kid.” And it was Lucchesi himself who personally ensured that Frank Sinatra always had Jack Daniel’s with him no matter where he traveled. Frank was quite particular about how he drank his Jack. Only a traditional old-fashioned tumbler would do. In it he would place two rocks of ice, three fingers of Jack and a splash of water. He wouldn’t drink it immediately after it was poured, preferring to let the drink sit for a bit for the flavors to blend. He also loved to hold his drink with his right hand, often cupping the glass from below, with a cocktail napkin, preferably a linen one. Jack Daniel’s Sinatra Century is made in the style he would have enjoyed during the 1950s and ‘60s. The key is the use of what they term ‘Sinatra barrels’, with deep grooves on the inside of the heavily charred staves which increases the exposure of the maturing liquid to oak and thus to oak extractives: deeper colour, spicy character, smooth vanilla caramel and a subtle smokiness. It is also bottled at slightly higher strength (100° U.S. Proof or 50%ABV), numbered and presented in a midnight blue lacquered case, with a hardbound tribute book and “a replica of Frank’s tie clip that contains a digital, never-before-released complete concert recording of Frank at his best, onstage at The Sands Hotel and Casino in 1966”. Irresistible! As JD’s Master distiller, Jeff Arnett, says: “The drink is as bold and colourful Frank himself.”
Glenfiddich ‘The Original’ SINGLE SPEYSIDE MALT 40% VOL
Pale gold. Mid nose-feel and a modest cereal-based aroma (vanilla sponge, custard cream biscuits) with a lightly fruity top note (unripe melon?). A sweet, fresh taste, drying towards the end, with a fruity aftertaste. A trifle of water continues the sponge aroma (maybe now smeared with strawberry jam and whipped cream?). The taste is less sweet, the finish quite short.
J GLENFIDDICH At the end of last year, Brain Kinsman, William Grant & Sons talented Master Blender, re-created the malt “which changed the whisky world forever” in 1963. That year Charles Grant Gordon and his brother Sandy persuaded the Board of their family company to promote Glenfiddich as a single malt in overseas markets. It had been available previously in very limited quantities in the UK but the momentous decision to distribute and promote it in Continental Europe and the USA dates from 1963. This was the first time in history that a single malt whisky was actively promoted. Initially, sales were slow – in 1963 total overseas sales amounted to 1,841 cases. But by 1967 they had reached 10,286 cases. Part of this success was attributed to making use of the recently enfranchised duty-free shops in airports. Glenfiddich was eagerly bought by English holiday-makers, who then sought it out at home, for at the same time as the brand was prospering in export markets, UK sales were also rising fast, so that total Glenfiddich sales (domestic plus international) rose from 11,422 cases in 1963 to 52,087 in 1970. By 1979 this had increased 860% to 447,868 cases! Other whisky companies were initially sceptical. The success of the Scotch whisky industry was based on blends; who on earth would drink single malts? Boards of directors noted with growing interest Glenfiddich’s success, buy did nothing for at least a decade, giving Grant’s a massive ‘first mover advantage’ – which they have retained ever since. Paul Kendal, William Grant’s archivist, explained to me:
“Glenfiddich had sold in small quantities abroad long before the 1960s. Figures are hard to get but there are certainly records going back to 1904 showing the sale of cases of Glenfiddich in Canada, just two years after we first started bottling the malt. However, these sales were never that large since export markets, as well as the bulk of the domestic market, were dominated by blends. Those few customers abroad buying malt pre1960s represented a tiny ‘connoisseur’ segment of the market – many, I assume, were ‘diaspora’ Scots from northern Scotland. Consequently, Grants did little to market Glenfiddich outside of Scotland and abroad before the 1960s.” “In light of this, the company’s decision to invest so much in selling and promoting Glenfiddich through the UK and abroad truly represents a striking, even brave (for their were no guarantees that it would succeed), break with tradition; and even if other distillers may have been selling limited quantities of single malt outside of Scotland at much the same time, it truly was Glenfiddich that created the single malt category.” Brian Kinsman said of The Original: “Glenfiddich has an unrivalled collection of rare and aged single malts from which we can draw on to create innovative whiskies. Using this collection we were able to replicate the original Glenfiddich Straight Malt. Glenfiddich The Original is a true taste of history. It’s an honour to unveil this exclusive whisky which is light and fruity with hints of sherry spice from the European oak sherry butts that were predominantly used in the 1960s.” It was introduced in the U.S. at the end of last year but until now has not been available in Europe.
‘Speyside’ Finest Caol Ila
23 YEAR OLD SINGLE SPEYSIDE MALT 48.5% VOL
47 YEAR OLD SINGLE ISLAY MALT 58.1% VOL
30 YEAR OLD SINGLE ISLAY MALT 52.5% VOL
25 YEAR OLD SINGLE SPEYSIDE MALT 44.8% VOL
Polished chestnut, with thick viscosity. A mild nose-feel and a deeply complex aroma. The first impression was of a ladies soft leather evening handbag, with powder compact and fruit Polo sweets. Later traces of dried figs, tablet and nougat. A pleasant mouth-feel, with a mildly sweet start, then a hint of Friar’s Balsam (cold remedy), drying to burnt sugar and a long gently spicy finish. I did not add water.
Deep amber, with copper lights and good beading. A mellow nose-feel with hessian, nuts and dried fruits to the fore, backed by faint maritime notes, bath salts and aromatherapy oil. Warm and comfortable. The taste starts sweet, infused with lavender, and dries considerably in the slightly smoky finish, with a warming, even spicy, aftertaste.
Pale gold; from an American oak refill cask. A faded aroma which nevertheless has clear Caol Ila identity – light carbolic, smoked cheese, etc., combined with dried pears, hard toffee, hessian and oak shavings – all very unassuming. Lightly tannic, the taste is sweet and salty, finishing faintly medicinal/smoky. Venerable, but it wears it age lightly.
Mid gold. I guess this is from an American oak refill cask, and the whisky’s scented fruitiness would support this. A mild nose; Poire William (pear liqueur), fresh apple peel, faded ladies’ perfume, a trace of sandalwood. The taste is sweet and perfumed – ‘elegant’ comes to mind, even ‘exquisite’ – with a long warming finish. It does not require water.
J HUNTER LAING Hunter Laing’s website describes their Old & Rare range as simply “the rarest and most remarkable single malts available today… So remarkable that they deserve a little extra recognition”. Each expression is bottled from a single cask – so is by definition a limited edition at natural/cask strength and without tinting or chill-filtration. All are presented in distinctive squat bottles and in wooden boxes. Since the series was launched it has included some magnificent whiskies, all of which are today sought by collectors. Hunter Laing & Co. Ltd. was incorporated in 2013, following the break-up of the longestablished family company, Douglas Laing & Co, which was founded in 1948 by the eponymous Frederick Douglas Laing (FDL). It is headed by his son, Stewart Hunter Laing and his sons, Scott and Andrew. Stewart has spent almost fifty years in the Scotch whisky industry – first as a blender, and latterly as a bottler of fine single cask malts. He began his career as an apprentice at Bruichladdich Distillery on Islay before joining his father in the family business. As well as blending and cask selection, Stewart’s main job was representing the company’s brands around the world – in these days mainly blends, some of which were best-sellers in Douglas Laing’s main markets of Asia and South America. In order to create those whiskies, FDL purchased and laid down many hundreds of
casks from distilleries all over Scotland – some of which have long since closed. These casks form the core of Hunter Laing’s extensive stock: in September 2014, the company bought a 35,000 sq.ft. warehouse in South Lanarkshire to accommodate 15,000 casks, in addition to the 2,000 casks they hold in their Carron Bond nearby. Until then, Stewart told me, their casks were stored in eighty-seven different locations! Such an extensive stock of long-aged whiskies allows Stewart and his sons to be highly selective in the casks they choose to be bottled under their super deluxe Old & Rare series. All four of these new releases from Hunter Laing are exceptional and I can confidently commend them to you. I suggest you enjoy them straight, without reduction – or ‘qualifying’ them with water, as they used to say. Over the years the series has featured several bottlings of The Macallan at a range of ages between 20 and 33. This is a beautifully perfumed example. So far as I can ascertain Caol Ila has never appeared as an Old & Rare, although there have been bottlings of other Islay malts under this label – Port Ellen 33 Year Old and Laphroaig 21 and 22 Year Old, for example. I have never encountered a Caol Ila as old as 30 years. Bowmore made an appearance as a 21 Year Old some time ago, and now appears as a 23 Year Old, an up-market representative of the ‘perfumed’ style of Bowmore known by its devotees as ‘FWP’. And as for the un-named 47 Year Old Speyside’s 33
Finest… You will have to guess. The distillery never allows its name to appear on independent bottlings, over which it has no control. This is a magnificent whisky and, if I have guessed correctly, comes from a highly distinguished and well-known distillery whose product benefits more than most from very long maturation. The pleasure of tasting such malts is exquisite, but it is tinged with pathos in the knowledge that, once consumed, the experience can never be repeated. Sic transit gloria mundi!
The Loch Fyne Liqueur
The Loch Fyne Living Cask
SCOTCH WHISKY LIQUEUR 40% VOL
BATCH 2 BLENDED MALT 43.6% VOL
Pale amber in colour, with good viscosity. The aroma has a fresh top-note of tangerine peel, gradually deepening to orange, on a milk chocolate base. A smooth texture and a sweet taste which avoids being cloying; fresh orange still present and light chocolate in the finish.
Predominantly European oak on the nose: malty fruit loaf, a hint of baking spice, rich and slightly tannic. A smooth texture and a sweet caramel taste. A little water introduces a suggestion of swimming baths; the taste remains sweet, but there is now a slightly phenolic (medicinal) finish.
J LOCH FYNE The Loch Fyne Liqueur was launched by Loch Fyne Whiskies in Inveraray in June 2004. Its creator, Richard Joynson, wrote in the launch pamphlet: “The Loch Fyne Liqueur is relaxing and satisfying. Less sweet than other liqueurs, it has a warming aroma of deluxe Scotch whisky, spicy orange cake and a tiny whiff of log fires… Created for whisky lovers seeking a sophisticated and complex alternative, it is superb on its own – even for those less enthusiastic about whisky – but it also mixes like no other.” All true! It went down very well with Loch Fyne’s regular customers, on line and in-shop, immediately becoming their ‘sticky’ of choice, served over ice as a digestif – and the fact that it was not as sticky as many other stickies (Drambuie, Glayva, etc.) broadened its appeal. It also makes a delicious Highland Coffee, topped with whipped cream. Loch Fyne Whiskies is now under new ownership, but the Liqueur is being re-launched with the famous Loch Fyne Blend as its base spirit and the shop’s workshop on the shores of Inveraray as its brand home. It is a remarkably versatile spirit. Sporting chaps like myself enjoy it from our flasks between drives while out shooting on cold days, sometimes as a Whisky Mac (with a dash of Green Ginger Liqueur) or as a Rusty Nail (mixed with other whiskies). Indeed, after much experimentation Richard himself invented
a couple of ‘perfect serves’: the Busty Nail (mixed with Laphroaig – “what a finish”, says Richard) or a Lusty Nail (mixed 50:50 with a good blend, such as The Loch Fyne Blend, if you want to reduce the sweetness further). Joe Fattorini wrote in his Wine Choice column: “I challenge anybody – whisky drinker or not – to say they don’t like this. It struck me as spicy and warming rather than sickly sweet, with cocoa, orange peel and cake flavours all finished with a dry, smoky, rural character. Buy it now and you’ll be set for winter… The most exciting Christmas drink this year”. Graham Holter, editor of Off License News, said: “Imagine there’s a fire at the Terry’s Chocolate Orange factory, a few miles in the distance. That’s what the liqueur smells like: sweet, rich and a little smoky. Smooth and fruity on the tongue and a very acceptable Christmas present.” You get the picture! Champion mixologist Neil Berrie recommends it as a long drink with tonic - I would substitute Canadian Dry Ginger for tonic - and went on to invent The Loch Fyne Cooler – 35ml of Kahlua coffee liqueur and 50ml Loch Fyne Liqueur; shake together and pour over block ice in an Old Fashioned glass, having rubbed the rim with orange zest – and the Loch Fyne Affinity. The latter is a perfect ‘winter’s afternoon restorative’: In a cocktail shaker, mix 50ml Loch Fyne Liqueur, 25ml Port, 25Ml Dry Sherry, 2 drops 35
Angostura Bitters. Shake with lots of ice, double strain, serve either straight up in a Martini glass or on the rocks. Garnish with a twist of orange peel. J STOP PRESS … The Loch Fyne Living Cask Batch 2 is now available. As devotees know, the Living Cask is continually topped up, so each batch contains liquid from the previous batch, its flavour subtly adjusting by the addition of new malts.
Caol Ila Highland Caledonian 1974 1997
25 YEAR OLD SPEYSIDE 50.9% VOL
25 YEAR OLD HIGHLAND 47.5% VOL
17 YEAR OLD ISLAY 55% VOL
40 YEAR OLD SINGLE GRAIN 49.9% VOL
Buttery gold. Fermented honey (i.e. mead) and fresh Virginia tobacco, then baked apple and ` strawberry jam, with soft vanilla sponge and custard. Water flattens the nose somewhat and introduces a suggestion of linseed oil, even cricket bats. At natural strength, the mouth-feel is surprisingly mild, the taste sweet, with light acidity. At reduced strength, the acidity increases and the overall effect becomes drier. A medium length, warming finish, leaving an aftertaste of heather honey. Easy to drink, even at full strength
Full gold. Somewhat closed and faintly waxy to start with. Gradually opens to reveal green apples, unripe pears, gooseberries on a light heathery base. A natural, moorland aroma which becomes more fragrant with a little water, and also more peppery, although the waxiness is still there. Curious. The texture is remarkably smooth and creamy, the flavour mild – with light sweetness drying out in the back of the palate, and an unusual ‘perfumed’ taste in the middle. Becomes slightly sweeter and distinctly spicy at reduced strength.
Bright gold (sunlight). Opens with a zesty nose (orange, mandarin), gradually becoming sweeter (hard toffee), lightly smoky and faintly medicinal, with traces of sphagnum moss. A dash of water subdues the aromas without altering them. At natural strength it starts sweet, then becomes distinctly salty, with a warming, lightly smoky finish. At reduced strength the taste is more pronounced: not so sweet, still salty, but also chalky, and now peppery across the tongue and in the finish, with a lingering aftertaste of mouth-cooling Szechuan pepper.
Deep gold. Juicy Fruits on the nose – both chews (Starburst), and fresh fruits (peach, ripe melon, zesty orange peel). Appetising nose and mouth-watering. A base of vanilla sponge, and a suggestion of planed oak, increasing with water. At natural strength, the taste is predominantly acidic; diluted, the texture becomes softer and the taste less acidic, with pencil boxes, allspice and a trace of white chocolate. Clean, fresh and fruity, with pleasant oaky characteristics.
J DIAGEO SPECIAL RELEASES Diageo began to release limited amounts of malt whisky from selected distilleries under the ‘Special Releases’ banner in 2001 – often from closed distilleries. Although expensive, they have always been reasonably priced compared with many other exclusive and limited bottlings from both brand owners and independents. Bear in mind that the company has around eight million casks maturing at any one time and has been husbanding – the term they use is ‘ring fencing’ – their older malt whisky stocks against the demands from their blenders, particularly Johnnie Walker, for old and rare malt fillings. Frankly, they have the largest number of casks to choose from, and the largest number of distilleries – some of them long closed. The ‘Special Releases’ reputation for quality, combined with their rarity, has pleased both consumers and collectors. All previous releases now achieve far higher prices at auction than their release price – some massively so! The company’s engagement with single malts began in 1988 with the release of the famous ‘Classic Malts Selection’, chosen from six distilleries to represent not only the best from each distillery, but the regional differences in style from one to the other: Glenkinchie (representing the Lowland style), Dalwhinnie (Highland), Cragganmore (Speyside), Oban (West Highland), Talisker (Island) and Lagavulin (Islay). This was
a game-changer in the history of malt whisky, and opened up the whole sector. As interest in malts grew, they followed it with the ‘Rare Malts’ series between 1995 and 2005 which allowed collectors, connoisseurs and enthusiasts to enjoy and experience remaining older stocks, and/or unusual expressions from unusual (and often closed) distilleries. The criteria of cask selection here, where the whisky was bottled at natural strength, with no colour adjustment and at natural/ cask strength was to showcase each distillery’s character rather then the influence of maturation – no matter how beneficial. Demand for such whiskies continued to grow and the ‘Special Releases’ series was born in 2001, with the company releasing around nine whiskies each year, all limited, all rare, usually old and all very carefully chosen by Maureen Robinson and her team. Of this year’s selection, Dr. Nicholas Morgan, Diageo’s ‘Head of Whisky Outreach’ writes: “Year on year I am astounded by the depth of flavours that are woven into these truly precious whiskies. This year is a special one: we have a real variety of whiskies from distilleries which have been un-earthed by our talented Master Blenders, such as The Cally. Once again, the Special Releases range has surpassed expectations and we’re thrilled to share the collection with whisky experts everywhere.” The Cally is a 40 Year Old single grain from the 37
Caledonian Distillery in Edinburgh, which closed in 1988. It joins a 32 Year Old Port Ellen (closed 1987 – the 15th Special Release of this highly collectable malt), a 37YO Brora (closed 1983, the oldest Brora to be bottled in this series) and a 25 Year Old Pittyvaich (closed 1993). Of the distilleries which remain in production, there is the tenth edition of the popular 17 Year Old un-peated Caol Ila, a magnificent 25 Year Old Dalwhinnie, a 34 Year Old Dailuaine, (another) popular full-strength 12 Year Old Lagavulin and the second expression of the Clynelish Select Reserve (limited edition, no age statement but with a minimum cask age of 15 years). They are all splendid malts and they will all appreciate in value as well as rewarding appreciation!
12 YEAR OLD ISLAY 56.6% VOL
35 YEAR OLD SPEYSIDE 56% VOL
Sauvignan blanc. Light carbolic (Coal Tar soap), backed by maritime scents – iodine, sweet seaweed, tide-mark detritus. Dentists’ mouthwash after a spell and gradually some distant smoke. Water reduces the aroma and introduces a scent of wet sheep, recently dipped, or public swimming baths. An oily mouthfeel and a surprisingly sweet taste, with salt in the middle and a powerfully smoky finish. With water, all tastes – sweetness, saltiness, smokiness – increase substantially. A robust expression of Lagavulin.
Deep gold (Golden Syrup). A rich, oily nose, with light meaty base-notes (a pan or ‘brick’ used for roasting chicken, seasoned with dried rosemary and stuffed with apple); after a while dry chicken drumsticks and a hint of Fino sherry. Dry overall. At natural strength it has a smooth, lightly oily, texture; centre palate; dry overall, with some spice in the aftertaste. Water introduces a trace of cooling clove to the medium-length finish and increases the spicy aftertaste.
Port Ellen 1983
Clynelish Select Reserve
32 YEAR OLD ISLAY 53.1% VOL
HIGHLAND 56.1% VOL
Deep amber, indicating some sherrywood in the cask mix. A profoundly fruity nose (dried fruits macerated in liquor; developing a rich toffee note after a while), on a flinty base, which gradually becomes more beach-like (hot sand, salt air, seaweed), then smoky wood ash. Becomes more toffee-like with water. The taste is Mouth drying and tannic, reminiscent of hemp ropes and canvas tents, with ash in the back. Drinks very well at natural strength. A spicy-herbal complex in mid palate – including cloves and baking spice – and a cooling finish. Gun-oil and candlewax in the aftertaste. Deeply complex. An outstanding example.
Full gold. A surprisingly rich aroma for Clynelish, with the expected candlewax as a base for Eve’s Pudding sprinkled with sage and crushed bog-myrtle, and after a while damp peat and sphagnum moss. Dilution increases the scented wax note. Waxy then hot at natural strength; calms down with water. Well balanced, with no taste predominating. Medium length finish and moreish.
“Music is supposed to make us feel good and bind people together.” Bob Harris OBE — still whispering after all these years… —
My Whiskeria | Bob Harris
Photography: Brian Sweeney Lighting: Jonni Assistant: Julia Bernatovich Stylist: Stephanie Crain
My Whiskeria | Bob Harris
J bob harris obe, aka ‘ whispering bob ’, has had a career spanning almost 50 years, in the heart of the music spotlight, taking him from presenting ‘The Old Grey Whistle Test’ in the 1970s to being awarded an OBE in 2011. He has found himself in and out of favour at the BBC, falling victim to Matthew Bannister’s ‘Dinosaur Cull’ at Radio 1 in 1993, and now presenting two of the most popular weekly shows on BBC Radio 2. Aside from his broadcasting career in the UK, Bob Harris has been embraced by the American country music scene in Nashville which is certainly no mean feat for a self-confessed ‘middle-class English hippie.’ Away from the spotlight, he has battled cancer, faced bankruptcy and has eight children from three marriages. Whiskeria caught up with Bob over lunch at The Blues Kitchen in Shoreditch, East London to talk about his changing perspective of the music industry and the experiences that have encouraged him to add to his already successful autobiography, Still Whispering After All These Years. “Music is supposed to make us feel good and bind people together.” Simply, music has been the driving force behind Bob Harris from an early age – despite
his father encouraging him into a career in the Northampton police force when he was a highschool drop out in his late teens. His passion and drive and love of music in the early 60s took him and his prized record collection to London to pursue his dreams. “The house I moved into in Hampstead Hill Gardens was packed full of students, all listening to albums, and there was me with my old singles I felt so uncool! Impulsively, I sold them - I was broke and needed rent money. It took three or four weeks for what I had done to sink in, as there were a lot of old rock n roll 45’s in particular that I should never have parted with.” And he has been searching to rediscover them in 2nd hand record shops ever since, “I’m still finding them, but to be honest my singles collection is pretty complete now.” And yes, this does include a copy of his favourite record of all time, signed by the legend himself, Mr Benny King. Harris began broadcasting ‘Sounds of the 70s’ at BBC Radio 1 in 1970 and quickly gained a reputation for his familiar soft husky voice and stand out enthusiasm for the records he was playing, He was asked to present ‘The Old Grey Whistle Test’ in 1972 – it was a purple patch for
the radio star, a role which propelled him into the spotlight, as the figurehead of one of the most successful TV shows of the time. The Old Grey Whistle Test attracted some of the biggest music stars in showbiz, all of which were interviewed by Harris. “Meeting John Lennon was an incredible experience, and still has the wow-factor. Also in a full-circle aspect, because later in her life and in recent years, Cynthia Lennon became a great friend of our family, and it was in her place in Majorca last year where I completed the writing of my book.” Interestingly, the budget for the first The Old Grey Whistle Test series was just £500 per show – so when Harris told John Lennon that the former Beatles star was to receive a £15 appearance fee, Lennon asked for £15 worth of chocolate Olivers, because he couldn’t get them in America. Harris also met former US President Carter, who was wearing a Whistle Test badge and apparently shared his love for Bob Dylan. “I met Jimmy Carter just a few months before becoming president at the Macon Picnic in Georgia 1976 - the media spotlight on him was so bright. He only gave one interview that day and we got it – he just wanted to say hello to Britain.” In the mid-70s, the music industry began to change, as a wave of punk music swept
through the UK, leaving Harris washed up, and his popularity began to nosedive. The Old Grey Whistle Test was made exclusively an album show by the BBC, as Top Of The Pops featured the singles releases. Artists had to have released an album to appear on the show, which proved to be problematic. This hostility reached a climax in 1977 in an infamous incident when Harris and his friend were attacked by Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols, for never playing their music on the show. Ironically, not only did this lead to the Sex Pistols losing their record deal with A&M records after just one week, but the BBC took all their records off the air. Harris explains that this was more than just a bar brawl, and his friend George Nicolson ended up with 14 stitches in his head from a broken bottle… “When I discovered him I thought he might be dead. It was horrific. And I never came face to face with Sid Vicious again after that.” This was not a standalone incident, with Harris also having been spat at in the street, and generally criticised in the media.
“When punk music kicked off in 1975, there were new bands coming through who weren’t interested in putting out albums. It was all about that two-minute burst of energy in a single record, which, to be truthful, the music industry really needed at that time. Crucially, we weren’t able to reflect this emerging new wave when it arrived, and of course the hostility built up towards us because we weren’t featuring them. As the front man of the show, I became the focus for the anger that they felt - we weren’t inclusive and embracing them.” Harris explains the reasoning behind this change in the industry, and elaborates on why there was this sudden change of heart. He describes the 60s as being very musically democratic. Popular artists in 1965 included The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, The Supremes and Otis Reading, who all featured in the charts at the same time. “People bought the records they liked without being elitist about whether it was cool to buy a certain single or not. Ten years on, music had opened up into two very distinct divisions, cool and uncool. From my point of view, this elitism and musical snobbery is very unwelcome, but now I’m pleased to see this has disappeared again.” For a man of 70 years old, it is very apparent upon meeting Harris how incredibly current he is – he is even active on social media, and is always searching to find emerging musical talent to support. “I’m a bit of a novelty at Radio 2 because they can’t believe this old chap is on Twitter – but I love it and I embrace it.” We discuss at length the emergence of online music, making the album-buying generation just a distant memory. There would certainly be a big question mark over the relevance of an album show like The Old Grey Whistle Test if it were to come back to our screens today. But Harris sees it differently, and in principle seeks the positives that have come about from this shift…
Bob Harris OBE aka “Whispering Bob” Born: 11th April 1946, in Northampton, England. Current role: Company director of WBBC
My Whiskeria | Bob Harris
Whispering Bob Broadcasting Company Awards: 2011 Americana Music Association of America Trailblazer Award, 2011 MOJO medal, 2011 OBE for services to broadcasting, 2011 UK Heritage Award.
a Co-founder of Time Out Magazine in 1968 a Host of the BBC TV show The Old Grey
a Broadcasts on BBC Radio 2 twice weekly,
featuring mainly American rock, country and
Still Whispering After All These Years is available to buy and download at all major retailers. Listen to Bob on BBC Radio 2:
- Bob Harris Country, 7pm every Thursday - Bob Harris Sunday at 3am every Sunday
Follow Bob on Twitter: @WhisperingBob | @BHarrisCountry | @WBBCOfficial
Above: Bob and crew on the set of Old Grey Whistle Test
Harris credits Plant as being one of the most lyrically gifted musicians, and their friendship is heavily documented throughout his memoirs. “My youngest daughter is 18 and she is of the “He never leant back on Led Zeppelin – Robert was YouTube and ‘shuffle’ generation, but firstly it’s always so brave to push the boundaries, first of the portability of her music she loves so much. all through world music, then in Nashville. He is Secondly, the best thing about shuffle is that it is still as driven as ever to make exciting music as he completely democratic, and so genre divisions was 40 years ago. He wrote my foreword for the are beginning to break down - people are less book, and it couldn’t be more perfect - every word interested in whether a song is country, blues is so considered.” You may need a brush to sweep up all the or pop – if a young person likes it, they don’t He even recommends another artist that names that are dropped throughout Harris’ categorise it.” has written a song about Tennessee whiskey. It has been this interesting genre crossover book, but famous friends and Trailblazing aside, (See Spotify Playlist) His passion for music that has led Harris into some of his most Harris is a family man, crediting his wife and is infinite. interesting projects. He was instrumental in manager Trudie with organising more than just Although it feels like we have barely bringing together Robert Plant, lead singer his diary. Christmas in the Harris household is scratched the surface, it is clear that of Led Zeppelin, and bluegrass star Alison a busy affair: ‘Whispering Bob’ has not only has changed the Krauss. Their collaboration album, Raising Sand, “We almost always have a major gathering at face of the music industry as we know it today, released in 2007,went platinum the following our home in Oxfordshire, and I am certainly but has remained somewhat of a national year and won Album of the Year at the not cooking. I am politely asked to leave the treasure. His life has been extra-ordinary, Grammies in 2009. Harris and Plant became room – irritation factor is huge when I’m and far from straight forward, but Harris close friends, and their achievements were around the kitchen!” has landed where he deserves – on his feet. both recognised at the 2011 Americana Music And will he be enjoying a few drams this “I’ve been extraordinary lucky – I really do think Awards, when Plant won a lifetime achievement Christmas? that. There is always a time, and it certainly has award and Harris won the Trailblazer award. “Yes, most definitely a few drams over the festive happened to me, where the rug gets pulled from “Who would have dreamed that we would be season – The more mellow and rounded, the underneath you and you come crashing down, embraced by the Nashville community?! I never better – I love bourbon.” and it would be easy to walk away at that point. would have guessed in 1974, when Robert was the In the 1980s there were few people less cool than lead singer of biggest rock band in the world and me. Now I am ‘neo-cool’- I was cool, then I was I was just a hippy.” uncool and now apparently I’m cool again! I’m very lucky to still be here.”
Archive Photography: above Dexo Hoffman / REX Shutterstock left Alan Messer / REX Shutterstock
My Whiskeria | Bob Harris
Spotify Playlist | Bob Harris Song
Whiskey in the Jar
Shades of a Blue Orphanage
Wine, Women and Whiskey
Rhythm & Booze
Under The Apple Tree
Thorn in my Heart
Whiskey and You
Let It Go
One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer
George Thorogood and the Destroyers
Brad Paisley & Alison Krauss
Mud on the Tires
Have A Drink On Me
Back In Black
SKILFULLY CRAFTED. ENJOY RESPONSIBLY. Glenfiddich速 Single Malt Scotch Whisky is a registered trademark of William Grant & Sons Ltd
RAISED IN SCOTLAND
ROUSED BY THE CARIBBEAN Glenfiddich 21 Year Old Rum Cask Finish After patiently raising our whisky for 21 years, we add a sublime finishing touch. By finishing our malt whisky in Caribbean rum casks, we rouse our exceptional Scotch whisky with extra rich, sweet and exotic flavours.
Glenglassaugh Distillery, standing on the Moray Firth Coast at the edge of Sandend Bay, is a distillery which lay silent and forgotten for over two decades. Its heritage stretches back to 1875 and the distinctive fruity character of its whisky is loved by all who discover it. After being mothballed for over 20 years, production was restarted in 2008. The first whisky from this refurbished distillery is now available to single malt Scotch whisky lovers everywhere.
Peated Malts of Distinction brings together an unrivalled collection of peated malts for every palate, from the lightly peated flavour of The Ardmore to the heavy peat smoke of Laphroaig. Each single malt boasts its own unique, distinctive and smoky flavour.
Travel | Scotlandâ€™s WestCoast
How do you like your winter nights? Hot? Private? Cool or Cosy? Whiskeria travel writer Claire Bell meanders up Scotland’s west coast to discover some of the best boltholes to bed down during the dark months… — Words: Claire Bell | Illustration: Kate Timney
Scotland’s coastline Miles of coastline: 6,160 Offshore Islands: 790
a Scotland has over 790 offshore islands –
most of which are found in one of four main groups:
Shetland, Orkney, and the Inner and Outer Hebrides.
a The most extreme points of the West coast mainland
are Corrachadh Mòr, Ardnamurchan and Lochaber.
a Loch Fyne is a major sea loch, which extends for
40 miles (65km)
a The biggest fish that has been caught there was
a Black Mouthed Dogfish weighing 2lb 13oz by
J. H Anderson in 1977.
1 J HOT: Portavadie Marina Scotland’s serenity is normally served on the rocks, with a shiver. It is not unusual to find yourself on the edge of Loch Fyne, drenched from head to foot, mesmerized as a weak yellow sun breaks out from behind pale grey clouds, briefly transforming the gunmetal grey water into an iridescent silver. What is unusual is to feel Mediterranean-hot while this happens. Well, that was until Scotland’s largest outdoor, heated infinity pool opened at Portavadie marina. For over thirty years, Portavadie, on the southeast corner of Loch Fyne, was a scar on the Argyll landscape. The site had been part-developed in the 1970s to become a dry dock for oil exploration rigs, but the project came to nothing. In 2008, the Bulloch family, then owners of Loch Lomond distillery, poured their whisky money into creating a new legacy for Scotland, turning the scar into a yachting marina complete with restaurant, familyfriendly cottages and luxury holiday apartments. This summer they completed their vision with the opening of a £10 million spa, built almost entirely of glass, Dunoon stone, and a turf roof. “It’s all about bringing the outside in, connecting you with nature in a way that you’ve not experienced before,” explains events co-ordinator Stuart Ellis. This is not an exaggeration. The Argyll wilderness takes on a whole different pallor as you bask in one of the glass-walled saunas or the thermal bath with its uninterrupted views across
to the isle of Arran and the Kintrye peninsula. Normally in Scotland, as my mind unwinds my body stays knotted, tensed against gusting winds and the dreaded midge. Relaxing in the infinity pool, a glass of cold prosecco in hand, I finally understand what Paul McCartney was getting at when he professed his desire to always be here, oh Mull of Kintrye. Gone are the days when Scotland was paradise for the hardy. This is the new Caledonia, Scandinavian-style. Winter doubles from £85/night in the lodge, including continental breakfast and access to the leisure facilities. The outdoor pool aims to be open all winter. www.portavadie.com J PRIVATE: Isle of Eriska Hotel The rumbling of the wooden and iron bridge, as you cross a brief stretch of water at the mouth of Loch Creran to the Isle of Eriska, is the last noise you will hear for a while. Just north of Oban, with views across to the forests of Appin and the mountains of Morvern, this small, privately-owned island has been owned and run by the same family as a secluded sanctuary hotel for the past 40 years. It is a bit like staying at your wealthy uncle’s Scottish Baronial home, complete with 9-hole golf course and a spa. Whatever the weather a fire burns in the entrance hall, dogs are welcome in all the bedrooms (kennels are provided for when you are at dinner) and a rickety old tree swing 56
overlooks the croquet and putting lawns. The food however is far from home cooking. In 2014, the hotel was awarded its first Michelin star and this September, Paul Leonard, the former sous-chef under Andrew Fairlie at Gleneagles took over the kitchen. His 8-course tasting menu is a cornucopia of west coast flavours, including courgette, fennel, turnip and ruby chard grown in the hotel garden, and wild herbs foraged from the forest and coastline. Our tasting menu included potatoes cooked in seaweed. There is more seaweed to be enjoyed in the spa where Ishga products are used for the massage and facial treatments. These uniquely Scottish oils and balms, made from seaweed harvested by hand on the Hebridean island of Lewis have anti-inflammatory, anti-bacterial and detoxifying properties. Then, once you’re sufficiently detoxed, retire to the book-lined bar for a leisurely retox. The whisky collection is limited – just 37 single malts – but duty manager Keith McGregor is the hotel’s self-appointed whisky aficionado and loves to share his passion for the water of life with guests. For an even greater selection of whiskies, stop on your way at the new whisky snug in the public bar at the Taynault Hotel ten minutes outside Oban. Owner John McNulty had already built up a collection of over 100 malts and is planning to acquire many more signature whiskies over this winter. Already notable in his
1. Reflections on Loch Creran with the Eriska Bridge 2. Portavadie Luxury Apartments – Upstairs Living Room 3. Skeabost Hotel exterior 4. Skeabost Hotel lounge 5. Folded rocks on Isle of Eriska 6. Eriska Hotel at Christmas 7. Portavadie Marina 8. Outdoor decking, Eriska 9. Marina Restaurant, Portavadie
collection is the Highland Park Odin and the full Glenfiddich range. Isle of Eriska winter doubles from £370 including breakfast & dinner. Closed Sundays and Mondays in winter. www.eriska-hotel.co.uk
J COOL: Skeabost Hotel In a sheltered inlet at the head of Loch Snizort, five miles north of Portree, is Skeabost, one of the isle of Skye’s most loved buildings. Throughout the eighties and nineties, this decorative, former Victorian hunting lodge was the place on Skye to celebrate a special occasion and many an islander has treasured memories including the most recent co-owners Jen and Matthew, who were married here in 1999. After the building fell into disrepair during the last decade, the new owners are on a mission to restore its legendary reputation, and are off to a great start with the introduction of contemporary décor ( just the right amount of tweed and tartan), the roll-top baths (not in all rooms), a first-class menu (the lobster bisque is exceptional) and the relaxed, welcoming attitude of the young, friendly staff. There are more exciting plans in the pipeline including turning the building’s watchtower into a bespoke whisky tasting room, building a loch-side spa, and introducing kennels for dogs. This is not a stuffy, silver-service place, but rather somewhere where you feel comfortable enough to kick off your shoes, and curl up with a good book in front of the fire – or enjoy a game of billiards at the table in the hotel’s old chapel or a round of golf at
the 9-hole golf course. Think a weekend at Kate Moss’s country house. During the winter months, there is very little to actually do on Skye so pack plenty of books, but if you are looking to add to that end-of-the-world kind of feeling, make sure you take a walk to the Caribbean-like white Coral Sands, on the shores of Loch Dunvegan. This is the perfect winter stroll – short, not strenuous, with sufficient ‘wow’ moments to make you glad you left the couch. Winter doubles from £80 per person per night, including breakfast. www.skeabosthotel.com J COSY: Plockton Hotel There is such a thing as love at first sight. I know this, because I felt it the first time I saw my husband - and the first time I saw Plockton. I had lived in Scotland for eleven years – brought north by love – but despite this country’s obvious beauty, nowhere had taken my breath away before. Tucked around a bay in Loch Carron, sheltered from wild westerly Atlantic winds, Plockton gazes east towards forested mountains and a fey island peppered with Scots pine that would send Hollywood producers into raptures of delight. From a wooden bench along the water’s edge, I watched as two gulls swirled overhead, a white wooden boat chugged by (Callum’s Sula Mhor offers hour-long trips around the bay to see the seals from April to October) and a two-carriage train, on its way from Kyle of Lochalsh to Inverness skimmed the shoreline, 57
adding the rhythmic clicking of iron to the soft calls of birds. It was a scene so peaceful, so otherworldly, I felt I had been teleported to the South Seas. In truth, I had heard about Plockton long before I arrived. Palm trees grow there, people told me. It’s a place where you can sit in the same place all day and just stare, someone said. It’s a friendly place that keeps to itself because it wants to protect the magic. It is all true. There are plenty of places to stay, but I chose the Plockton Hotel for its unrivalled views across the bay to Heron Island, and its traditional hospitality – it’s a bit like staying at your Highland mum’s house. The rooms are cheerful and cosy and the public rooms have the requisite tartan carpets and cosy fires. The menu, served in the pub, the snug or the quiet hotel dining room, is first-class Highland fare (they are former winners of Scotland dining pub of the year) including pan-fried herring in oatmeal, collops of Highland venison, freshly landed Plockton Prawns – caught off Applecross Bay by Alan Fahy, the same fisherman who has personally supplied the hotel for the last 25 years – and a delicious Talisker whisky pate. “You can’t really taste the whisky,” assures David the waiter. “But it’s a bit like the bass in an orchestra - you don’t notice it until its not there.” Winter doubles from £70 per person per night, including dinner and breakfast. Closed first fortnight in January. www.plocktonhotel.co.uk
Japanese Whisky 2015 has seen Japanese whisky become even more popular than we thought possible. The sold-out Yamazaki Sherry Cask 2013 caused some controversy at the end of 2014 when it was named Jim Murray’s Whisky of the Year in his 2015 Whisky Bible. Since then, Japanese whisky has become increasingly in demand and with the launch of several new expressions this year, we don’t expect the trend to change in 2016!
Hibiki Japanese Harmony
Yamazaki Distiller’s Reserve
– 43% VOL | 70CL £54
– 43% VOL | 70CL £45
What is it? A new blend from Suntory that brings to life the harmony of Japanese nature and craftsmanship. It combines whisky from Suntory’s two malt whisky distilleries, Yamazaki and Hakushu, and grain whisky from their Chita distillery. A blend of more than 10 malt and grain whiskies to create a harmony of flavours and aromas.
What is it? This Yamazaki includes traditional Yamazaki malts stores in Japanese oak (Mizunara) casks and revolutionary malts stored in wine casks. This is Japan’s premier single malt and has a delicate and elegant taste that makes a superbly drinkable whisky with layers of complex aromas.
What’s it like? Delicate, with light vanilla to start with, developing to a complex floral flavour with fresh oaky notes. Dry and lightly sweet, then chilli pepper taste at full strength, mellowing with a little water, leaving a charred, oaky aftertaste.
What’s it like? The strawberry like fragrance hidden in the soft aroma is brought about by the malt whisky aged in wine casks. The sweet sparkling smooth feeling comes from the malt whisky aged in the Mizunara casks.
Hakushu Distiller’s Reserve –
Taketsuru Pure Malt –
43% VOL | 70CL £65
– 43% VOL | 70CL £55
What is it? From Suntory’s mountain distillery, nestled deep in the forests of Mt. Kaikomagatake, Hakushu is a herbal and gently smoky single malt. Straight from the untouched forests, mountains and pure waters of the Southern Japanese Alps, it is no wonder that Hakushu is a ‘green and fresh’ whisky.
What is it? The Taketsuru range is named after the founder of the Nikka Whisky Company, Masataka Taketsuru. The whiskies are a combination of single malts from Nikka’s two distilleries, Yoichi and Miyagikyo. This is the nonage statement bottling which comes predominantly from the Miyagikyo distillery.
What is it? Miyagikyo is a modern distillery which combines expertise and modernity in a constant search for finesse and elegance. It creates a wide variety of expressions, from intensely fruity to some of the richest Japanese whisky available. The single malts of this distillery all display an irresistible charm.
What’s it like? The high percentage of whisky from Miyagikyo gives this whisky a fresh, fruity character. This no-age statement bottling is a blend of malts aged ten years on average, aged in a mixture of different types of oak casks. The sherry cask influence gives this whisky a rich, mature aroma and smooth, fruity flavour.
What’s it like? Smooth and delicious, light yet intense, this no age statement Single Malt bottling is a fine whisky to enjoy before a meal, and a fine introduction for those new to Japanese whisky.
43% VOL | 70CL £45
What’s it like? A crisp and fresh whisky, with refreshing citrus fruit, cucumber and peppermint. A hint of smoke on the finish.
Mortlach Rare Old –
Mortlach 18 Year Old –
In 1823 Mortlach was the first licensed distillery to be built at Dufftown, now one of the epicentres of Speyside whisky distilling. The distillery’s success is down to its two most eminent owners, Scottish civil engineer George Cowie and his son Dr Alexander Cowie who used the knowledge gained in their professional fields to improve the distillery and the whisky it produced. Throughout the 1880s and 90s, Mortlach’s reputation soared and most of it was sold to the large blending houses, with very little left to be bottled as a single malt. The distillery was eventually sold to one of the distillery’s leading customers, John Walker & Sons, and to this day Mortlach remains at the heart of their well-known blends and is ranked Top Class by blenders worldwide.
What is it? The first available release in the Mortlach Single Malt range, this expression has been matured in a combination of bourbon and sherry casks and balances distillery character with cask influence to create a wonderfully tasty dram with a meaty character.
What is it? This 18 year old expression is matured in a combination of first-fill ex-sherry butts as well as refill European and American oak casks to produce a rich and rounded dram. The bottles for this range are designed to reflect Victorian engineering designs in a tribute to one of the key figures in Mortlach’s history, George Cowie, a civil engineer.
43.4% VOL | 50CL £57
What’s it like? A rich nose, with meaty notes in the foreground with fruits behind. At full strength the taste is sweet and fruity, with light char in the finish. A little water dries out the aroma and introduces caramelised apples with cinnamon, with light orange zest or oil. Smooth and spicy, sweet and soft to taste.
Mortlach 25 Year Old –
43.4% VOL | 50CL £600 What is it? The oldest expression in this range, the 25 year old is matured exclusively in refill American oak casks which impart a rich, amber colour whilst retaining the balance between the underlying character of the spirit (the “distillery character”), and the flavours imparted by the wood. What’s it like? Deep amber, with a delicious sweet top note only found in whiskies matured in American oak casks. Beneath it are tropical fruits and dark chocolate liqueurs as well as nutmeg. The taste is sweet, spicy and vibrant. With water the aroma becomes sweeter, with more toffee and cinnamon and a hint
43.4% VOL | 50CL £180
What’s it like? Richly scented, dried flowers and oil, with hard toffee, cocoa powder and cinnamon apple pie. Sweet and spicy to taste at natural strength, with an earthy finish. A dash of water increases the oily note, now becoming buttery and sweetly smoky. Sweet and lightly spicy, a balance of first-fill ex-sherry butts and refill American and European oaks casks.
Bulleit Frontier Whisky
– 40% VOL | 70CL £44
– 45% VOL | 70CL £52
In 1987, Thomas E. Bulleit, Jr., fulfilled a lifelong dream of reviving an old family bourbon recipe by starting the Bulleit Distilling Company. The bourbon is based on his great-great-grandfather’s, Augustus Bulleit, recipe, which the family have kept since Augustus’ mysterious disappearance in the 1830s. The original recipe contained a high percentage of rye, which is still present in the standard Bulleit Bourbon today.
What is it? Bulleit Bourbon is a Kentucky bourbon, distilled and aged for at least six years in small batches. Bulleit is made using an unusually high proportion of rye cereal in the mash (around 28%), which adds a delightful spicy character alongside the more typical “bourbon sweetness” from the corn.
What is it? High rye content has always been the signature of Tom Bulleit’s distinctive bourbon. Bulleit Rye is an award-winning, small batch, straight rye whiskey with a character of unparalleled spice and complexity. Released in 2011, it continues to enjoy recognition as one of the highest quality ryes available.
What’s it like? Gently spiced with sweet oak aromas. Smooth with tones of maple, oak and nutmeg. The finish is long and dry with a light toffee flavour. The rye content gives this bourbon a bold, spicy character with a smooth, clean finish.
What’s it like? Exceptionally smooth, with hints of vanilla, honey and spice. The finish is crisp and clean, with long, lingering flavours. A whisky with unparalleled spice and complexity.
Aberfeldy 12 Year Old –
Bowmore Laimrig 15 Year Old –
Shopping for the ideal gift? Look no further. In this section there is something for everyone. These are the brands that our customers like the best.
The Perthshire distillery of Aberfeldy produces elegant yet robust single malts which deserve to be much more widely celebrated, though the bulk of Aberfeldy’s output goes into the best-selling Dewar’s White Label blend. The 12-year-old has an attractive honeyed nose and on the palate it is full bodied, quite sweet, with malty notes. Overall it is very nicely balanced. The finish is long and complex, becoming progressively more spicy and drying.
This Whisky Shop exclusive bottling of Bowmore takes its name from the Gaelic for ‘pier,’ referring to the ancient stone pier that once served the distillery. It is presented at cask strength after sherry cask finishing and with the addition of a little water it opens up beautifully. The nose offers an instant aroma of coal tar soap, but the rich Oloroso sherry notes deliver an attractive counterbalance. On the palate it is full bodied, with a luxurious raisin and sherry taste, complemented by wood smoke. The finish is long and spicy and smoky.
Balvenie 17 Year Old –
The Deveron 12 Year Old –
Glenfiddich 18 Year Old –
Craigellachie 13 Year Old –
Like the popular 12 Year Old Balvenie DoubleWood, this 17 Year Old version was matured initially in ex-bourbon casks before a final few months of European Sherry cask ageing. The result is a quintessential Balvenie, with honey, malt, vanilla, and green apples on the nose. Smooth and extremely easy to drink, the palate majors in dried fruits, vanilla and spices. The finish is medium to long, with more honey and vanilla, plus aniseed and warming oak. This is an excellent example of why it pays to trade up from a 12 year old single malt.
The Deveron whisky, formally known as Glen Deveron, is from Macduff Distillery, located on the east bank of the River Deveron, in the Highlands of Scotland. This 12 year old single malt expression has been bottled at 40%abv. Mid amber in colour. A gentle, slightly waxy nose with a chalky background. Pleasant and undemanding. At full strength the taste is sweet throughout, with hints of butterscotch; water dries it out a bit and increases its texture.
This expression of the world’s best-selling single malt has been matured in a mix of ex-sherry casks and former bourbon barrels, which gives it greater complexity than its younger siblings. The nose offers raisins, sultanas, vanilla and a dusting of cinnamon over apple. Full-bodied and creamy in the mouth, with sherry, dried fruits and brittle toffee. The finish is lengthy, with toffee and ginger. This is a cracking dram!
The colour of Pinot Grigio white wine, from refill American oak casks. A youthful nose, with creamy rice pudding as a top note, acidic tropical fruitiness in the middle (lychees, mangosteins, even a fugitive trace of pineapple), and the most subtle hint of smoke at the back. The taste follows this: sweet, acidic, slightly smoky. More estery with water (warm vinyl), with a gentle mouthfeel and a sweetly acidic taste.
GlenDronach 12 Year Old –
Dalmore 12 Year Old –
Shopping for the ideal gift? Look no further. In this section there is something for everyone. These are the brands that our customers like the best.
This superb richly sherried single malt is matured for at least 12 years in a combination of the finest Spanish Pedro Ximenez and Oloroso sherry casks. The nose offers aromas of stewed fruits, rhubarb and bramble jam with some crushed hazel nut and brown sugar and a faint charcoal smokiness as it opens over time. Richly flavoured with rich sherry fruitiness to the fore, some Turkish Delight and aniseed add to its complexity. The finish is clean and balanced but rich and spicy – a classic warming dram.
Stylistically, The Dalmore is a muscular Highland single malt with plenty of evidence of sherry wood maturation in most expressions. The attractively perfumed nose of the 12-yearold offers sweet malt, thick cut orange marmalade, sherry and a hint of leather. It’s a brilliant drink, full-bodied, with sweetening sherry in the mouth, along with spice and balncing, delicate, citrus notes. The finish is as long as your arm, with spice, ginger, lingering Seville oranges and even a suggestion of vanilla. A Whisky Shop malt of the year.
BenRiach 10 Year Old –
Aberlour 12 Year Old –
Glenfarclas 10 Year Old –
Isle of Jura Superstition –
This BenRiach 10 Year Old marks a significant milestone – it is the first expression from the Benriach core range to be created predominantly from whiskies distilled at BenRiach since Billy Walker took over in 2004. Natural tawny amber in colour from a mix of American and European oak casks, it has a fruity top-note (fresh apple, with a hint of powdered ginger) with a vanilla sponge base; these aromas are well translated by the taste, which is sweet overall, with light acidity, referencing peaches and lemon zest; a creamy texture and a long, warming finish.
Aberlour uses a mix of ex-bourbon and former sherry casks for most of its maturation, with sherry usually playing a prominent part. The 12 Year Old is ‘double cask matured’ in this manner and Oloroso sherry is prominent on the sweet nose, along with honey, almonds and wood. Christmas spices, sherry, stewed apple, honey and almonds appear on the palate, while ginger features in the lengthy, drying finish, along with nutmeg.
This fabled Speysider comes in a wide range of ages, right up to 60, but the 10-year-old is a perennially popular example of the brand and its style. It exhibits a nose of rich Christmas cake, featuring sherry, raisins, nuts and spices. A background hint of smoke is also present. The palate is defined by quite dry sherry, with a developing and gradually sweetening full body. The finish is long, nutty, and comparatively dry. A family classic.
Jura’s iconic distillery does not traditionally produce peated whiskies. Superstition, however, comprises 13 per cent of heavily peated malt and this ingredient delivers a lightly peated result. Furthermore, components of the peated element have been aged for up to 21 years, the significance of that being that age will have softened the overall peat impact. The nose yields gentle peat aromas, a hint of sherry, toffee and honey, while on the smooth palate smoke, toffee and barley merge. The finish is medium in length, with a hint of salt and smoke. A very individual and attractive dram.
How to buy… for Christmas
Darren Leitch, National Retail Manager for The Whisky Shop offers a straightforward approach to buying for Christmas.
What’s your budget? It’s good to have an idea of what you want to spend, as this will direct focus in the right area. Budget is the obvious starting point and many customers mention this straight away. What to bear in mind that the costs of packaging a whisky and then the Customs Duty are both fixed amounts. After that, all the upside in the cost is in the quality of the liquid. So by pushing the price bar a little higher you will be rewarded instantly and I always advise customers to do that if they can.
the ideal budget —
Loch Fyne Blend
— 40% VOL | 50CL £24
A Scotch or Something Else? The great majority of whiskies in The Whisky Shop are Scotch, but that does not mean you have to buy Scotch. There is also a varied selection of American, Irish and Japanese whiskies available too. an american whiskey —
Bespoke or Brand?
Hudson’s Manhatton Rye
a great speyside
— 46% VOL | 35CL £40
Lots of customers who buy for Christmas are seeking something unusual and not readily available in multiple stores. This is entirely understandable and at The Whisky Shop we specialise in what you can’t necessarily find elsewhere. A lot of our range is exclusive to us and we have an impressive range of bespoke and hand crafted whiskies. Equally, customers who have particular brand that they follow are often seeking the latest expression, or an older vintage from that brand or distillery.
Balvenie 17 Year Old — 43% VOL | 70CL £93
Fruity Or Smoky?
an exlusive brand —
— 43% VOL | 70CL £84
Especially if you are buying a gift for someone else, it is really useful to know what their preference is. Whilst, very many whisky lovers are equally content with different styles, there are significant numbers, especially those who prefer light, fruity whiskies, who actively dislike the taste and aroma of peat and smoke. If it’s light and fruity, then you will be shopping in the Speyside, Highland or Lowland region of Scotland. If its Smoke, then your focus will be Islay in Scotland. and Islands in Scotland. There’s also the richer styles and for these you would seek out whisky matured in sherry or port casks.
the ultimate bespoke whisky —
Glenkeir Treasure Range (filled from cask) — 40% VOL | 50cl £45
Is Strength an Issue? At the Whisky Shop we sell a lot of single cask whiskies. Their appeal is that they are unique, being the product of only one cask and they can offer an expression from a famous distillery that has not been bottled before. Quite a number of these whiskies are bottled at a higher strength. The virtue of a single cask whisky is that the contents of the cask endure the minimum processing and so delivers to the drinker all its natural ingredients. But you do need to consider this factor and if buying for someone who is an occasional malt drinker, be sure to point it out. The whiskies bottled at a higher strength are not necessarily destined to be consumed at full strength but it allows the consumer to have more control by adding water, therefore an important upside to higher strength whiskies and it is that they can last a little bit longer!
the ideal accompaniment —
4x Glencairn Crystal Glasses — £99.99
a single cask to ponder —
Glendronach 2003 Vintage
my favourite miniature —
Bowmore 18 Year Old
— 53.3% VOL | 70CL £60
— 43% VOL | 5CL £14
one from islay —
Douglas of Drumlanrig Laphroaig 13 Year Old — 46% VOL | 70CL £85
What about a Gift Box? This year The Whisky Shop has introduced its own range of stunning gift boxes. You can see them in our Gift Guide. They make the perfect gift. 73
And Would You Like Something To Go With It? A bottle of whisky is a fine gift, but can also be accompanied with something else. The natural accompaniment is a couple of Glencairn whisky tasting glasses. These are the most popular item in The Whisky Shop and we sell thousands evey Christmas. You can also choose a hip flask, an ornamental Quaich a whisky book, drink stones to keep your whisky chilled or even a whisky based shower gel. But here’s another idea. Buy the whisky that fits your budget, and add to it a miniature of the one that perhaps is just outside your budget. Or a miniature of something else that you were considering at the time.
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Enjoy Aberlour responsibly.
Mixing It Up
Mixing it Up | Playboy Club, Mayfair
— Salvatore Calabrese, head bartender at The Playboy Club in Mayfair, and maker of the world’s most expensive cocktail, rustles up some Christmas Cocktails for you…
Mixing It Up —
Old Fashioned – Classic Ingredients Spirit: Other: Flavour: Garnish:
Whisky or Bourbon Sugar Syrup Bitters, Orange Peel Cocktail Cherry
a Salvatore suggests: Try a mix of Haig and 10% Talisker
Try a Douglas Fir garnish
Hot Toddy – Classic Ingredients
Mixing it Up | Playboy Club, Mayfair
Spirit: Other: Flavour: Garnish:
When I was asked to write an article on Christmas whisky cocktails, my first thought was: what type of whisky? Most whisky fans will receive at least one bottle as a gift this year, but now gift-givers have a choice between whiskies from as far afield as Austria, India, New Zealand, Tasmania, Wales, England, California (yes, a single malt) and Croatia, even before you consider the established Scotch, Irish, Canadian and Japanese drams, let alone the American whiskey market. And then there’s unaged (non age statement) and flavoured expressions. Each has its own terroir, production and maturation techniques, and of course, unique aromatic and taste profiles. This makes for very different spirits on their own, before we even get talking about cocktails.
That choice might be overwhelming to the average buyer, but to a cocktail bartender it’s an opportunity for creativity and to bring new drinkers into the whisky fold. On my latest cocktail menu at my bar at Playboy Club, London, we mix Talisker 12 year old with Haig Club, combining the renowned old smoky whisky with Mr Beckham’s young single grain whisky (and following a trend set by the Penicillin cocktail, see below.) Whether or not you agree with such homemade blends - maybe you think it’s undoing the distiller’s hard work - it’s clear that the old rules for whisky drinking no longer apply. In fact, perhaps we are the generation making up the new world whisky rules! That said, do I think the world needs 78
Blended Scotch/Irish Sugar and Hot Water Cloves and Honey Slice of Lemon
Salvatore suggests: Experiment with other whiskies Try brandy Try hot tea instead of water
everyone conceiving new whisky cocktails? Actually, I’d prefer that home bartenders - and professionals(!) - learned to walk before they run and got to know the classic whisky cocktails that are already out there. There are so many good drinks that all whisky fans should understand, appreciate and be able to make. So perhaps use your Christmas whisky gifts to experiment with the way the flavour of the drink changes accordingly. When you’ve mastered this, it’ll stand you in great stead to begin to make your own concoctions! Start with a Whisky Sour, try it with a blended Scotch, then a peaty malt. Why not try your hand at a Penicillin, which combines both, substituting the sugar for honey syrup and bringing extra Christmas spice in the shape of fresh root ginger juice. If you need warming up,
Manhattan – Classic Ingredients Spirit: Other: Flavour: Garnish:
Rye/Canadian Whisky Red Vermouth Bitters Cocktail Cherry
a Salvatore suggests: Try Scotch or Japanese
Experiment with vermouths Introduce clove or cinnamon flavours
Champagne Cocktail – Classic Ingredients Spirit: Other: Flavour: Garnish:
Cognac Champagne Sugar, Bitters Orange Slice
a Salvatore suggests: Try it with a whisky Garnish it with cranberry
go for a Hot Scotch Toddy with a Scotch, try it again with a different country’s malt, then try it once more with hot tea instead of water. Christmas cocktail party? Start with a rye-based Manhattan, swap it for a bourbon, a Scotch (meet the Rob Roy), maybe a Japanese whisky next. Play with the balance of vermouths too, adjust the ratio of ingredients, get hold of some Christmas bitters (you can buy them, or plump for clove or cinnamon flavours) and suddenly, it’s got holiday appeal! You’ve probably had a Champagne Cocktail at some point, made with cognac. But did you try it with a whisky? Did you know you could? Garnish it with cranberry and you’ve got a Christmas lunch apéritif! By the same token, experiment with the Old Fashioned, (bourbon, rye, Welsh or Californian)
and garnish with a sprig of Douglas Fir and it’s a walk in the Scottish Highlands on Christmas morning. I could go on, and I frequently do! The point I’m making is that there are so many variables that you probably don’t fully appreciate yet. And along the way, you can learn that the core ingredients are often the same - different drinks are related to each other and each whisky shines in its own particular way. A quick adaptation and you’ve given a classic cocktail a Christmas twist. My final piece of seasonal advice is to have a good-sized batch of cocktail ready for guests. For something cold, I make a Christmas shrub. This combines your choice of whisky with a porter (dark beer), lemon and orange juice, and Demerara sugar, making it up to two weeks in 79
advance, continually infusing. For something warming, I love a whiskybased Tom & Jerry - invented for Christmas in the 1920s and typically based on rum and brandy, but in my house you’ll find it on the stove combining Scotch with cognac, beaten eggs, hot milk, cream and nutmeg. Give me a mug of this, a woolly jumper and some mistletoe and I’m in Christmas heaven. We’ve barely scratched the surface here. There are so many whisky cocktail recipes out there and they’re just the thing to widen the appeal of whisky beyond the usual Christmas expectations of a neat serve in front of the fire, as nice as that is. Now, you have even more reason to look forward to those bottle-shaped parcels under the tree! Merry Christmas!
Venturing further back into East London, we pitch up at Bar/Gallery space DreamBagsJaguarShoes, and sister bar Old Shoreditch Station and sample some unique seasonal cocktails, created by resident mixologist Brad… — Mixing it Up | DreamBags Jaguar Shoes
Photography: Christina Kernohan Assistant: Alex Craddock
Old Shoreditch Station / DreamBagsJaguarShoes Location: Kingsland Road, London E2 8AA Founded: 2001 Mixologist: Brad a Part of the ‘JaguarShoes Collective’ which includes acclaimed bar and exhibition space DreamBagsJaguarShoes, cafe bar The Old Shoreditch Station, British folklore inspired pub Hand of Glory, pub and live music venue The Victoria, publication PosterPaper, boutique record label BigDirtyEngine and fashion store JSC Store. a
The unusual name of the founding business is derived from the two 1980’s bag and shoe wholesaler signs that hang on the buildings original shop front.
JaguarShoes Eggnog 35ml Jura 16 15ml Advocaat 1 whole egg Cinnamon gomme Nutmeg a Put all the ingredients into a Boston shaker, dry shake (without ice), then wet shake,single strain into a clear glass tea cup, then garnish with nutmeg.
Dalwhinnie Frozen Fashion 40ml Bruichladdich Islay Barley 20ml Perique Tobacco Liqueur 5ml Laphroig 2 dashes of whisky barrel bitters a Put all the ingredients into a mixing glass with ice, then stir until correct dilution, and serve into a snifter glass.
Kingsland Boulevardie 25ml Dalmore 25ml Campari 25ml Cherry Heering Liqueur 10ml Sweet Vermouth Orange Twist to garnish a Put all the ingredients into a mixing glass with ice, then stir until correct dilution, and serve into a chilled gimlet glass.
The First Word 22ml Botanist Gin 22ml Yellow Chartreuse 22ml Maraschino Liqueur 22ml Fresh Lime Juice a Put all the ingredients into a mixing glass with ice, then stir until correct dilution, and serve into a chilled martini glass.
Haig Clubman 50ml Haig Club 35ml sparkling apple soda 6 dashes ginger bitters. a Built over hand-cracked ice in either a highball or tumbler, garnished with a long slice of root ginger
Hunter S. 40ml Bruichladdich 20ml Perique Tobacco Liqueur 5ml Laphroig 2 dashes of whisky barrel bitters a Put all the ingredients into a mixing glass with ice, then stir until correct dilution, and serve into a snifter glass.
J & G GRANT, GLENFARCLAS DISTILLERY, BALLINDALLOCH, BANFFSHIRE, SCOTLAND AB37 9BD TEL +44 (0)1807 500257 INFO@GLENFARCLAS.CO.UK WWW.GLENFARCLAS.CO.UK Glenfarclas encourages responsible drinking.
Islay 200 —
J The southern shore of the ‘whisky island’ of Islay is home to three of its most iconic distilleries, namely Ardbeg, Lagavulin and Laphroaig. If you travel to Islay by CalMac ferry, before docking in Port Ellen you slowly pass the trio, often referred to as the ‘Kildalton’ distilleries because they are located in the Kildalton parish. They stand out from their green and brown island backdrop – white-washed, with their names painted in bold black. Remarkably, all three distilleries were first licensed within a year of each other, and while Ardbeg and Laphroaig commemorated their bi-centenaries in 2015, Lagavulin is the relative newcomer, celebrating its 200th birthday in 2016. The three distilleries are located within two miles of each other, along the narrow road that follows the coastline north-east from the village of Port
Lagavulin Distillery is about to join Ardbeg and Laphroig in the 200 club when it celebrates it’s birthday next year. Gavin Smith looks at all three. 90
Ellen. They are relatively isolated even today, so it is easy to imagine how attractive this remote stretch of coastline was for illicit distillers during the 18th and 19th centuries, with its supplies of local barley, peat and clear burn water. In 1777, it was reported by the Reverend John McLeish of Kilchoman Parish that, “We have not an excise officer on the whole island. The quantity therefore, of whisky made here is very great and the evil that follows drinking to excess of this liquor, is very visible on the island”. The first exciseman did not arrive on Islay until 1797, and distillery chronicler Alfred Barnard, writing in the mid1880s, stated that “Up to the year 1821, smuggling was a lucrative trade in Islay, and large families were supported by it.” Not surprisingly then, illicit distilling lies behind the legal establishment of at least two of
the current Kildalton distilleries. Writing about Ardbeg, Alfred Barnard noted that “it was established in the year 1815, but long previous to that date it was a noted haunt of smugglers,” while he explained that “Lagavulin is said to be one of the oldest distilleries in Islay, the business to a certain extent having been founded in 1742. At that period it consisted of ten small and separate smuggling bothys [sic] for the manufacture of ‘moonlight,’ which, when working presented anything but a true picture of ‘still life.’ These were all subsequently absorbed into one establishment, the whole work not making more than a few thousand gallons per annum… Early in the century the buildings were converted into a legal Distillery…” Ardbeg was first licensed to John MacDougall & Co, while John Johnston was responsible for the institution of legal distilling at Lagavulin, and 91
Laphroaig was established by Alexander and Donald Johnston. It is interesting to note that after many vicissitudes and changes of ownership, even these three distilleries on the shores of a Hebridean island are now owned by multi-national companies. Ardbeg belongs to The Glenmorangie Company, which in turn is part of the French-based luxury goods group LVMH (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy), while Laphroaig is in the ownership of Beam Suntory Inc, a subsidiary of the Japanese distilling giant Suntory Suntory Holdings Ltd. Lagavulin is in the hands of the world’s largest distiller, Diageo plc. While each of the three distilleries produces its own unique style of single malt, they do share certain characteristics in common. According to www.islayinfo.com, “The southern distilleries –
Ardbeg, Laphroaig, and Lagavulin… are the most powerful, producing medium-bodied whiskies, saturated with peat-smoke, brine and iodine. Not only do these distilleries use heavily peated malt (54 ppm at Ardbeg, 40 ppm at Laphroaig), they use the island’s peaty water for every stage of production.” When writing of Islay single malts collectively, RJS McDowall in his seminal 1967 book The Whisky Distilleries of Scotland declared them to be “…powerful and for strong men…” but he surely had the trio of Kildalton Islays particularly in mind. All three distilleries offer a warm welcome to visitors, and with their close proximity to each other it is possible to embrace their hospitality and explore their similarities and differences in one single day. J laphroaig Closest to Port Ellen is Laphroaig, which produces the world’s bestselling Islay single malt. Here, visitors are offered a wide range of tour options, including the Hunter’s Hike – named after Ian Hunter, the last family member to be involved in the business, who died in 1954. During the Hike, participants enjoy a dram at the distillery water source, cut peat and then return to the distillery to tend the barley on the traditional malting floors. These four malting floors are one of the features that make Laphroaig a special place to visit, and they provide around 15 per cent of the distillery’s total malt requirements. When it comes to actual distillation, Laphroaig
can turn out up to 3.3 million litres of spirit per annum (mla) and is equipped with three wash stills and four spirit stills, with the fifth still being added in 1967 to increase capacity. The spirit distillation boasts the longest foreshots run of any Scottish distillery, a practice designed to eliminate the sweet esters that flow early from the spirit still and which are not part of the Laphroaig character profile. That profile is showcased in a range of single malts that includes 10 year old expressions in both 40%abv and cask strength formats, along with Quarter Cask (where ageing is accelerated by the use of 80 litre casks), Triple Wood (matured in ex-Bourbon casks, quarter casks and Oloroso sherry casks), and an 18-year-old and a 25 year old. 2014 saw the addition of a non-age-statement version matured in five different casks types, and named Laphroaig Select. To celebrate its 200th anniversary, the distillery launched an exclusive 15 year old expression, expression and an ultra-rare 32-yearold bottling, and broadcast the ninth annual ‘Laphroaig Live’ on the web from the distillery in September. Five former distillery managers joined the present incumbent John Campbell to sample some rare Laphroaig expressions. The whisky’s devoted following among fans is nurtured by the Friends of Laphroaig organisation, which celebrated its 21st birthday in 2015 with a special bottling of 21 year old single 92
malt. The Friends now number almost 700,000, and represent some 190 countries! J lagavulin The middle Kildalton distillery, situated just over a mile east of Laphroaig and a mile from Ardbeg is Lagavulin, which is Diageo’s showpiece Islay malt, with demand sometimes outstripping supply. For many years the distillery was associated with Peter Mackie, who owned it from 1889 and created the White Horse blended Scotch, with Lagavulin at its heart. Lagavulin became part of mighty The Distillers Company Ltd in 1927, eventually passing into the hands of successor company Diageo. In 1908, Mackie created a second, small-scale distillery beside Lagavulin, called Malt Mill, in which he produced a notably smoky, old-style spirit, which made liberal use of peat rather than coal. In 1962 the pair of stills from Malt Mill was transferred into Lagavulin, and today the maltings of Malt Mill serve as the Lagavulin visitor centre. Lagavulin is equipped with four stills, two of which are in the same pear-shaped style as those transferred from Malt Mill back in the early 1960s. The stills are run slowly, and unusually, the spirit stills are filled almost to their full capacity, in order to ensure minimal copper contact between spirit and copper, leading to the whisky’s characteristically robust character. When the Classic Malts range was launched in 1988, Lagavulin 16 year old became the Islay
representative in the line-up, whereas previously the principal expression had been 12 years old. A decade later, the 16 year old variant was joined by a Distillers Edition expression, with secondary maturation taking place in Pedro Ximénez sherry casks. A cask strength 12 year old was added to the line-up in 2002, and many subsequent editions at that age have followed in Diageo’s Special Releases programme. Indeed, 2014 saw the release of the 13th edition of a cask strength 12 year old. Although no plans for bi-centennial celebrations have yet been announced, a limited edition bottling of something special seems highly likely. J ardbeg Last, but very far from least, is Ardbeg, which offers a welcome opportunity for refreshment in its Old Kiln Café, renowned all over the island for the quality of its homebaking. The distillery is equipped with one pair of stills, and the malt used to produce Ardbeg spirit is the most heavily peated of the Kildalton trio of distilleries. Looking at the well-presented distillery today, and knowing just what a cult malt Ardbeg has become, it is hard to imagine that Ardbeg suffered several periods of silence in its relatively modern history, and was saved from an uncertain future when Glenmorangie plc purchased it from Allied Distillers in 1997, after Allied had closed it the previous July.
Under Glenmorangie, a plethora of new releases have appeared, many without age statements. It may be argued that Ardbeg has given greater credibility and respectability to the no-agestatement trend among distillers, such has been the quality of ‘NAS’ expressions released. The current ‘core’ Ardbeg range includes a 10 year old, Uigedail (with a sherry cask influence), the lightly-peated Blasda, Corryvreckan (with an influence of new French oak) and Supernova, the peatiest Ardbeg ever created. Ardbeg has a Committee, operating along the same lines as Laphroaig’s ‘Friends’ organisation, and the Ardbeg variant now has over 100,00 members. New, limited edition releases are usually offered exclusively to Committee Members, and the latest is Supernova 2015, bottled at 54.4%abv. This expression was released to coincide with publication of the results of Ardbeg’s remarkable space experiment, which involved sending new-make distillate and shards of cask to the US Space Station in 2011 where it matured at near zero gravity, while an identical ‘control’ was kept in a warehouse at Ardbeg distillery. The Space Station sample returned to earth in September 2014, and comparison and analysis of the two samples revealed significant differences, which may have important long-term implications for the maturation of Scotch whisky. Meanwhile, Ardbeg Perpetuum was released on 93
‘Ardbeg Day’ during the 2015 Feis Ile whisky festival to mark the Islay distillery’s 200th anniversary. The recipe includes some very old and some young Ardbeg, with the component whisky being matured in a combination of former Bourbon barrels and ex-sherry casks. Clearly, the spirit of innovation is alive and well at Ardbeg. Whiskeria raises a celebratory glass to the trio of Kildalton distilleries which have stubbornly survived difficult times and emerged as true Scotch whisky icons. Here’s to the next 250 years!
Experience the magical world of whisky. Have you ever felt the world of whisky was just a little too unapproachable? If so, you might be interested in one distillery’s unique initiative to help whisky lovers learn more about their favourite spirit and get hand-on experience of tasting, blending and even creating a limited edition single malt. Royal Lochnagar’s Distillery Director programme takes a refreshing stance on the usually closed whisky industry, actively opening its doors and inviting members to experience the magical world of whisky for themselves. They say the best way to learn is to see and do, and that’s just what Royal Lochnagar is offering. Members of the programme get open access to the distillery, its whisky makers and, importantly, its makers’ knowledge. They’re welcome to visit the distillery anytime, ( just call the concierge to let them know) with access to parts of the distillery usually reserved for staff. The distillery, one of the smallest in Scotland, has a wonderful family feel about it, with just seven people responsible for creating its signature 12 year old Highland Single Malt. Nestled on
the banks of the River Dee, next to the Balmoral Estate, it provides a perfect antidote to city life and a visit is highly recommended. As well as dropping in for the occasional dram, members have the opportunity to spend several days at the distillery, getting involved first-hand in the production process and learning directly from the whisky makers. If this all sounds up your street but you’re not able to visit Scotland as often as you’d like, don’t worry. The year-long programme also includes four exclusive, high-quality deliveries to help members learn more about the production and blending of single malt whiskies. Each package contains a members-only masterclass with printed materials, learning tools and, of course, some all-important single cask malts and newmake spirit samples. These samples are never sold elsewhere and won’t ever be tasted by nonmembers. Members can follow the whisky’s journey from grain to glass, starting with a guide to production of the distillery’s signature new-make spirit and the effects of casks in the maturation 95
process. Over the year members will learn to taste, nose and blend malt whisky, using professional blending equipment. They’ll learn the difference between different cask types and how to plot their ideal flavour profile in their own whisky journal. The culmination of the programme is the first-ever 2016 Directors’ Edition single malt – a unique blend created by Distillery Director members. Using all the knowledge gleaned over the year, members will be invited to contribute ideas and flavour preferences. No whisky has ever been created in such a unique, collaborative way and its limited distribution will make it one the most exclusive single malts ever created. As is befitting, the 2016 Directors’ Edition will only be shared with the members that brought it to life. Whiskeria readers can enjoy a special membership price of £1200 for a limited period (usual price £1450) – the perfect Christmas present for someone special, or even yourself! To find out more, or to become a Distillery Director member, visit www.distillerydirector.co.uk or call the Concierge at Royal Lochnagar on 01224 515405.
Expert Tastingâ€Ś Charles MacLean â€”
Illustration: Fran Waddell
Glendronach 2003 PX SINGLE CASK HIGHLAND SINGLE MALT 53.3% VOL Deep amber/polished mahogany, indicating European oak maturation. The nose is mild and pleasant, dry (hazel nuts, raisins and dried lemon peel in a cardboard carton); with water, a note of toffee and coconut is added. The taste is sweet and winey, gingery then very dry, with extra spice in the aftertaste.
Aberfeldy 1996 SINGLE HIGHLAND MALT 61.5% VOL
Dull gold with moderate beading. In spite of its strength, there is little nose prickle. The aroma is fresh and mineralic to start with, becoming gently fruity (melon, apple, pear) on a fragrant base of heather pollen and beeswax. The latter is apparent in the texture; the taste is very sweet (honey?) with a warming spicy finish.
J glendronach – or, as the owners prefer to spell it ‘GlenDronach’ - is famous for its richly sherried single malts and this bottling, exclusive to The Whisky Shop, is no exception. ‘Sherrywood’ has long been recognised as desirable for maturing malt whisky, the casks having previously been used for transporting the fortified wine from Spain to the U.K. As early as 1864, Charles Tovey was writing in British and Foreign Spirits: “It is well known that Whisky stored in Sherry casks soon acquires a mellow softness which it does not get when put into new casks; in fact, the latter, if not well seasoned, will impart a woodiness, much condemned by the practiced palate. In Sherry casks the Spirit likewise acquires a pleasing tinge of colour which is much sought for; this is frequently imitated by the use of colouring, but it is not creditable to those who adopt such petty deceptions.” Until the 1960s most of these transport casks were made from American White Oak; since then the majority have been European (mainly
“ ‘Sherrywood’ has long been recognised as desirable for maturing malt whisky, the casks having previously been used for transporting the fortified wine from Spain to the U.K” Spanish) oak casks. The former were preferred: in 1948 Manuel Gonzalez Gordon, the head of the great sherry House, Gonzalez Byass, commented: “In recent years some Spanish oak has been used [for shipping sherry], due principally to the difficulties of obtaining American timber”. This was confirmed by Alexander Williams of the equally famous sherry House, Williams & Humbert, in conversation with George Urquhart of Gordon & MacPhail, Elgin. In 1981 Spanish export regulations outlawed the bulk transportation of sherry in casks, and since then whisky distillers who want ‘sherry casks’ must commission and season them to order from coopers and bodegas in Jerez. The
length of time sherry had in contact with the wood in a transport cask was between six and nine months; today, casks made specifically to mature Scotch whisky are first filled with mosto (fermenting grape juice) then with sherry (usually Oloroso) for between one and four years before being shipped. Sherry casks are usually either butts (500 litres nominal capacity) or puncheons (460 litres nominal capacity). Ex-bourbon casks only began to be used extensively after the Second World War: the Speyside Cooperage told me they never saw any bourbon barrels until 1946. Today, 95% of the casks coming into the system arrive from the United States - although, since butts and puncheons last longer, there are many more than 5% of such casks being used at any one time. Founded in 1826, Glendronach Distillery is not only ‘traditional’ in its use of sherry casks. It still uses an old-fashioned cast iron ‘rake and plough’ mash tun; until only ten years ago its stills were direct fired by coal; its washbacks are made from Oregon pine. All combine to produce a rich, creamy spirit, suitable for being matured in ex-sherry casks.
J aberfeldy Distillery stands a quarter of a mile from the attractive village of the same name in the depths of Highland Perthshire. It was built in 1898 by the Dewar brothers, John Alexander and Tommy, to supply malt whisky for their successful blends – by 1898 John Dewar & Sons was ranked among the ‘Big Three’ blending houses. The site chosen was only two miles from the croft on which their father, the eponymous John Dewar, was born and had once been occupied by a brewery and a small distillery that operated between 1825 and 1867. It was leased from the Marquis of Breadalbane, who retained the right to pan for gold in the Pitilie Burn, which supplies the distillery with its water. Small deposits of gold are still found there. The brothers employed the leading distillery architect of the day, Charles Doig of Elgin, to design them a state-of-the-art distillery, built to “the most modern principles” from local stone, incorporating a steam engine and a water turbine to provide power, while a private generator supplied electricity – a very advanced feature for the day. The site was also close to the rail link to Perth, where Dewar’s head office was located: a siding was built to bring in supplies of barley and coal and take away casks of mature whisky. 97
An old ‘Saddle’ shunting locomotive, parked at the distillery today is all that is left of this railway connection, which closed during the 1960s. The tun room was re-modelled and the still house expanded to accommodate four stills, designed to be the same shape as the original two stills, but now indirectly heated by steam coils and pans rather than direct fire by coal. Large windows were installed in the still house which
“ Bottled at natural strength, without colouring or chill-filtration and displaying many of the delectable characteristics of the make, notably a slight waxiness, which I find most attractive.” made for a more pleasant working environment, but apart from this the buildings remain much as they were in 1900, and soon after John Dewar & Sons was acquired by the Bacardi Corporation in 1998 a first rate visitor centre, ‘Dewar’s World of Whisky’, was installed in the former maltings. It has won many awards, and as well as a shop and café, it makes excellent use of the outstanding Dewar archive to tell the story of the remarkable Dewar brothers and the global success of their blended Scotch whisky through artefacts and memorabilia, advertising, films and old bottles. With the Dewar’s brand came four distilleries – Aberfeldy, Craigellachie, Aultmore and Royal Brackla. Aberfeldy has been available as a single malt since 1991 but the others were only available in limited quantities until recently [see previous issues of Whiskeria]. Bacardi are to be congratulated for this, especially Stephen Marshall, their Global Marketing Manager, Single Malts, and Stephanie Macleod, the company’s Master Blender. Stephanie has selected this new expression of Aberfeldy 1996 exclusively for The Whisky Shop. It has been bottled at natural strength, without colouring or chill-filtration and displays many of the delectable characteristics of the make, notably a slight waxiness, which I find most attractive.
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Featuring music broadcasting legend Whispering Bob Harris, a trip to Tennessee with Jack Daniel, and a festive Mixing It Up special with Sal...
Published on Oct 27, 2015
Featuring music broadcasting legend Whispering Bob Harris, a trip to Tennessee with Jack Daniel, and a festive Mixing It Up special with Sal...