Posted on 20th September 2012 by Stuart
An excellent trip to Balblair distillery a few weeks ago left me with every intension to talk about the new vintages we were fortunate enough to taste. However, such are the complexities of whisky, the visit served as a catalyst for a more contemplativemeander through the broader themes of whisky, marketing and people. Back to the reviews today though, and being as it’s both rather affordable and starting to reach retailers’ shelves, the 2002 is an ideal place to start these new releases. Incidentally, it seems all future vintages from the distillery will be bottled un-chill filtered, without artificial colour and at a minimum of 46% abv. Certainly something everyone here at Whisky Marketplace and the vast majority of whisky lovers will be pleased to hear.
The last “entry level” Balblair was, unsurprisingly, the Balblair 2001 – you can see Pierre waxing lyrical about that one on the first episode of the rather lovely WMTV whisky podcast – a vintage that seemed to go down very well in most quarters, offering a light, fresh and rather naked example of the distilleries characteristically fragrant make. At the distillery we had the opportunity to taste a 2002 cask sample, cut to bottling strength, as an early example of the general profile for this new release. Even following some very high quality drams it managed to impress; time to find out if the final vatting carries forward the charm of that sample.
Win tickets to The Whisky Exchange Whisky Show 2012
Posted on 17th September 2012 by Stuart
It’s fast approaching, the dram-tastic weekend (6th-7th October 2012) of excess that is the TWE Whisky Show is almost upon us. Happily we at Whisky Marketplace have a pair of tickets for the Sunday to bestow upon a lucky reader of this here blog. The show is unquestionably a highlight of the whisky calendar, offering attendees the rare opportunity to taste some of the world’s most exclusive and exceptionally delicious drams, all in the atmospheric surroundings of the Borough Market adjacent, Vinopolis.
Glenturret 34 year old – Berry Bros and Rudd
Posted on 11th September 2012 by Stuart
Of late, these ’77 Glenturret whiskies have been a highlight in the outturn of a great many independent bottlers. The Whisky Agency, Malts of Scotland, Maltbarn, Master of Malt and a number of others have all taken turns in sharing casks from this esoteric distillery, and without exception these have been high quality, good value releases. In many ways this veritable flood has really put Glenturret on the map as a slightly unusual yet very charming whisky, deserving of much more attention than it generally enjoys.
This particular bottling comes from the rather reliable Berry’s Own Selection range. Doug McIvor, Berry Bros and Rudd’s Spirits Manager, is responsible for the company’s own label whiskies and reportedly holds this particular Glenturret in high regard. Doug is not a man known for disingenuous enthusiasm which makes this praise, and bottling, of particular interest. It’s worth mentioning that the distillery is home to The Famous Grouse Experience, a notable tourist attraction that regularly sees yearly visitor figures in excess of 100,000 and lends Glenturrent a measure of more widespread notoriety.
Ardbeg 1999 Galileo
Posted on 7th September 2012 by Stuart
A new Ardbeg whisky always gets the whisky world swinging back and forth between equal measures of excitement, cynicism, anticipation and confliction. There can be no doubt that this small distillery on the south-east coast of Islay has produced more than its fair share of world-beating drams. It is largely this fact that has solidified the Ardbeg reputation, making it one of the most loved, and hyped, of all Scottish distilleries. Old bottlings and young single casks change hands for obscene sums, while any truly limited or unusual releases are feverishly horded for future drinking or speculation.
In recent times Ardbeg has been characterised by a string of non-age-statement bottlings, often featuring some of the Glenmorangie Company’s typically modern wood experimentations. Most have garnered high praise from many commentators, but there are still some that would wish to see more transparent “natural” bottlings (Ardbeg Airigh Nam Beist… ah how I miss it) finding their way from the salt sprayed warehouses of Islay. This new release makes obvious reference to the most recent Ardbegian marketing experiment which saw a few vials of new make find their way beyond our atmosphere. It is a vintage bottling this time around though, and with the inclusion of some Marsala matured stock.
Balmenach 1979 Maltbarn
Posted on 4th September 2012 by Stuart
Balmenach distillery currently resides in the portfolio of Inverhouse, but unlike Old Pulteney, Balblair and Speyburn it is yet to receive the levels of re-branding and subsequent revival that these now more prominent names have been subject to. Indeed, it seems that such lavish treatment remains some way off for Balmench, and like many of Scotlands oft-overlooked distilleries its output will be largely destined for the blending vat.
You may not have encountered Maltbarn before, but this new bottler out of Germany (under the stewardship of former Malt Maniac Martin Diekmann) has already issued a few very nice casks. This relatively new bottling is one half of the company’s second pair of releases and was accompanied by one of the many high quality ’77 Glenturrent whiskies we have been seeing recently. A distiller you rarely encounter and a new bottler, quickly growing in stature. This should be interesting.
BenRiach 16 year old - Caskstrength.net
Posted on 30th August 2012 by Stuart
The good chaps at Caskstrength.net (over on the blogroll of course) issued their first bottling last year and have since professed a desire to bottle an A-Z of scotch. As such, the first release came from the Isle of Arran distillery, and a particularly good example it most certainly was. This time around Neil and Joel have selected an enticing BenRiach whisky and given my oft-mentioned fondness for the distillery, expectations are rather high.
You never quite know what to expect from BenRiach, from the ‘70s fruit bombs to the unusual finishes and peated examples it’s quite the enigma. Here we have a young/mid aged example that has spent some time in a Pedro Ximenez influenced cask. PX is an incredibly concentrated, intense style of sherry and can quite easily overwhelm a delicate spirit. Judging from the colour, such issues are unlikely here and with luck this should be a fitting follow up to that lovely Arran.
Staff Picks August 2012
Posted on 28th August 2012 by Stuart
It’s time for another monthly meander through some of our favourites, old and new. It seems summer is finally making its presence felt as we focus on fresh, delicately composed whiskies, two of which are ideal for mixing (there’s even a cocktail recipe). With that in mind it comes as no surprise that we are featuring a couple of blends and two bottlings from the sometimes stereotypically delicate Irish whiskey category.
For us at least, we are talking about an English summer so it’s best to also make provision for the odd (cough) rainy day. Such duties are covered by a rather lovely and typically sherried Glendronach that is already a favourite of many a maltophile. There’s a real spread of prices on show here as well and I felt, given that two of this month’s selections are under £20, I would go slightly mad and totally blow the budget on what is perhaps the crown jewel of the Irish Pot Still revival. Enjoy!
Isle of Jura - 16 year old
Posted on 21st August 2012 by Stuart
After touching upon the official releases of Jura distillery in July’s Review of the excellent Isle of Jura 1988 Archives label, it’s about time we get around to tasting one. Things have changed for the standard 10 year old in recent years, progressing from being the butt of many a whisky-snob joke to one of the best-selling single malts in the U.K. Some of this must surely be down to its notable presence on supermarket shelves, but not all. The quality has risen markedly in recent batches, and while it still hasn’t shaken away all negative associations, it’s gaining in credibility as a result.
That aside, things do still remain hazy for Jura if it is to be a brand aimed at serious whisky lovers. It’s a common theme with the distilleries owned and marketed by Whyte and Mackay; colouring, chill-filtration, low bottling strengths, they all serve to put off those who prefer their whisky a little more natural. In my experience Jura is at its best when allowed greater time in the wood, so let us start with the Jura 16 year old, perhaps the distillery’s unusual, beguiling character will shine in-spite of the aforementioned curtailments.
Springbank 1965 Murray McDavid
Posted on 16th August 2012 by Stuart
Where do you start with a distillery like Springbank? A surviving bastion of old fashioned whisky making, flagship for what was once Scotland’s most prolific distilling Campbeltown region and producer of some of the most legendary whisky ever distilled. It’s an impressive resume without question and for anyone who tastes the very best bottlings, one that translates to quite incredibly beautiful, amazingly complex whiskies. Those most desirable, now highly collectable, releases such as the ’66 Local Barley, Millenium Set, Cadenhead dumpies and even the old Springbank 21 year old botltings are ideal examples which simply must be tasted to be believed. Fear not though, you don’t have to take on a second mortgage or befriend an old millionaire with possibly dubious intentions to enjoy the distillery’s wares.
Modern Springbank is perhaps the last stronghold of truly old school mineral, sooty, difficult whisky left in Scotland, remaining beautifully characterful and densely oily. Much of this is surely down to the on-site floor maltings, direct firing and total absence of automation that still proliferates at Springbank distillery. This adherence to “the old ways”, while most of the industry moves in another direction, makes this distillery deeply important to anyone who values this style of whisky making. This is the first Springbank review to feature on the blog though, so this time round we’re tasting an oldie that could potentially be quite special. The reputation of ‘60s Springbank has already been mentioned as something rather spectacular and this ’65 bottling from Murray McDavid seems like a fitting place to begin.
Littlemill 1988 Archives
Posted on 10th August 2012 by Stuart
Littlemill is a name that some will be quite unfamiliar with, however given a brace of excellent casks reaching the market over the last few months that is surely set to change. This sadly closed Lowland distillery once held a claim to being the oldest in Scotland but after difficulties during the industry’s early/mid 80s slump and further problems just a decade later, 1994 would see its final runs of spirit. For a time it looked like a revival remained possible, but after much of the plant was dismantled in 1996 and a fire ravaged the site further in 2004, this faint hope seems less likely than ever.
Towards the end of its life Littlemill distillery saw some exposure as a single malt, though on the strength of an unremarkable 8 and 12 year old it failed to draw great praise. Things are changing now though, as the spirit distilled in the late 80s and early 90s comes of age and finds its way into the hands of the best independent bottlers. Recently we have seen a mix of fairly naked, zesty releases alongside examples with a much greater sherry influence. Both styles have their own merits of course and in the end it’s a matter of taste, but it’s hard to deny that the best sherry casks find a fantastic balance between edgy citrus and a polished, fruity roundness.