This week, we're in Copenhagen, Denmark for the launch of Highland Park's new Valkyrie single malt and new packaging for its core range that doubles down on the Orkney distillery's Viking heritage. The Vikings ruled Scotland's Orkney Islands for around 800 years, and one out of three Orcadians today can still trace some of their lineage back to the Vikings. It's been ten years since Highland Park started embracing that lineage, and we'll discuss the thought processes behind a brand makeover with Highland Park's Jason Craig and Danish designer Jim Lyngvild, who created Valkyrie's unique look - and traces his own Viking heritage back to one of Orkney's early rulers. We'll also discuss the process of creating a new whisky from scratch with Highland Park's lead whisky maker, Gordon Motion. In the news, Scotch Whisky exports rose in 2015 on stronger sales overseas following the Brexit-induced freefall of the British pound. Environmental activists and the whisky industry are both criticizing a Scottish Government plan that could open up Scotland to fracking for shale gas with possible environmental impacts. Louisville now has its own official "Bourbon District" along Main Street's Whiskey Row, and a Speyside cooper set a new world record this weekend during the Spirit of Speyside Festival.
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Welcome to Inbox. For those new to WFE, Inbox is our weekly round up of whisky news and PR material that has found its way in to our email inbox. It was created as we cannot write full articles or do justice to every piece received. It features items from around the world of whisky and is published by us each Friday.
Within Inbox we aim to write a few lines detailing each press release/piece of news/PR event that we have received and provide links, where possible, for you to find out further information. This is the news that has grabbed our attention this week ...
The small Speyside distillery have announced the launch of a special single cask to coincide with the Spirit of Speyside festival that is currently ongoing. The Benromach 1976 Vintage has been bottled from Cask #2393, which was a refill American oak hogshead, at the natural cask strength of 53.5% ABV. It is bottled in a bespoke decanter-style bottle and will be exclusively available at the distillery visitor centre shop in Forres. There are just 32 bottles for sale and each will cost £1,250. For more information, please visit www.benromach.com.
Scotland’s most northerly single malt distillery have announced a new trilogy of whiskies – the Highland Park Viking Legend series. The packaging for the series has been created by renowned Danish designer Jim Lyngvild, a 21st century Viking himself, and pulls on the brand’s Viking routes. The first expression, named Valkyrie, is being launched in 15 markets worldwide and is described as “dialing up more of the smoky notes”. Two further editions, Valknut and Valhalla, will follow in 2018 and 2019. A bottle will cost £55.
Lyndvild’s one-off design is inspired by two important Nordic sources – a typical Viking pendant from around 300-700AD discovered in Uppland, Sweden and the ancient Hammar Stone of Gotland which details the epic journey of the legendary Valkyries, avenging horse-backed angels who combed the battlefields for the bravest of their fallen warriors.
“I am fiercely proud of my Viking ancestry and connection to the islands of Orkney. Working with Highland Park on the new Viking Legend series has been an honour and a unique opportunity to depict the ancient Norse myths and legends, so revered in Viking culture to a new, contemporary audience.”
Highland Park have also announced a complete revamp of its core range packaging, the first such redesign for 10 years. In a similar vein to Valkyrie, the new packaging draws inspiration from the Viking heritage of the Orkneys and Highland Park. The bottle features an embossed design that depicts an ancient Viking legend with a lion in battle with two serpents.
The packaging features the same design in silver metallic detail. Each of the core range has also been given a subtitle – the 10 years old is subtitled ‘Viking Soul’, the 12 years old ‘Viking Honour’ and the 18 years old ‘Viking Pride’. The 10 and 12 years old are out now with the 18 years old new packaging coming in the Summer. The liquid is the same as before.
“The inspiration for the design came from an ancient Stavkirke wooden church, a world Heritage site in the tiny Norwegian village of Ornes. The church is heavily decorated with extensive and ornate wood carvings which we thought would look amazing on a glass bottle.”
Jason Craig – Brand Director for Highland Park.
Brown-Forman has announced the release of their first Irish whiskey under their Slane banner. The Slane Irish Whiskey has initially been released in the global travel retail market and this will be followed by Ireland from the beginning of May. It is then scheduled for release in Australia, the UK and the USA later in 2017. Slane is a blend of Irish grain and Irish single malt whiskeys that is bottled at 40% ABV. This has been matured in a unique combination of casks – virgin oak, seasoned oak and ex-sherry casks.
The release comes as the Slane distillery in County Meath, Ireland nears completion. It is due to begin production this Summer and is the first distillery to be built by Brown-Forman outside of the USA. The distillery is located in the grounds of the historic Slane Castle and will also feature a visitor centre. For more details and information, please visit www.slaneirishwhiskey.com.
A new whisky-based movie is to be released shortly. Whisky Galore! is a remake of the classic black and white 1949 Ealing comedy of the same name, which was based on a book by Sir Compton Mackenzie. The book tells the true story of the ship S.S. Politician that ran aground in the Outer Hebrides during World War II in 1941. Amongst its cargo were 50,000 cases of whisky and the story sees the local islanders attempting to salvage as much of it as possible, while trying to outrun and hide it all from the British authories.
The new version stars Eddie Izzard, James Cosmo, Gregor Fisher, Kevin Guthrie and Ellie Kendrick amongst others and is scheduled for release in the UK on May 19. For further details, please visit the movie’s dedicated website (www.whiskygaloremovie.com). Here is a trailer for you in the meantime.
By Susannah Skiver Barton
Masterson’s Finished Ryes
Proof: 45% ABV
Release: Spring 2017
Availability: Permanent, but limited—1,200 bottles of each are available in select markets
Need to know: This is regular 10 year old Masterson’s that has undergone a finishing period in one of three different barrel types: American, French, or Hungarian oak. The finishing period varies depending on how new the barrels are to start, ranging from a month to several months. The whiskies will be consistently available as part of the Masterson’s range, though limited in quantity.
The Glover 18 year old Fourth Edition
Style: Blended malt
Origin: Scotland and Japan
Proof: 49.2% ABV
Price: £145 (around $186)
Release: Spring 2017
Availability: 1,406 bottles for the world
Need to know: The world’s first Japanese-Scotch fusion whisky—named for 19th-century merchant Thomas Blake Glover, the so-called “Scottish Samurai”—is back for its fourth round, combining a blend of Speyside scotches and malt whisky from Japan’s shuttered Hanyu Distillery.
Whisky Advocate says: Previous releases of The Glover, which is blended by Adelphi Selection, included a 22 year old and a 14 year old, launched in 2015, and another 18 year old, launched last year. The blends have varied, but all have contained Hanyu. Adelphi plans to continue releasing new fusions of scotch and Japanese whisky.
[This vatted malt is a blend of whiskies from younger Chichibu casks and older Hanyu casks finished in Mizunara oak casks.]
Notes from my dream journal:
In this dream I’m walking through a sound stage made to look like Martha Stewart’s house. The wall paint and rugs match perfectly; the furniture is tasteful, restrained, and elegant; and even the bric-a-brac has a studied nonchalance that just says “it’s a good thing.” But what I remember most are the smells. First, there’s linen cleanliness and coconut coolness. No doubt these are from the organic cleaning salves and towels I see on the table. I turn next to see a small grill pan softening some cherry tomatoes until they shine, swell, and then wilt. The next thing I know I’m smelling the bare arm of a farm chair into which I’ve collapsed, wondering just what kind of wood is this?
Like other dreams, my awareness shifts to an entirely different set of circumstances with no rhyme or reason. In my mouth there is purest nectar of angelic apricots, foamed raspberries, and creamed grapefruit—a veritable dessert mousse. Gentle spice fires for a long time into the finish. I’m now holding a large pipe and a tiny anise chimney sweep juggling oranges smiles leaps out from the bowl to smile at me. Chestnuts, actual and philosophical, round out the experience.
My dream is finishing soon; threads of conscious awareness creep in like the rays of an early spring sunrise. But not before I find myself piloting a Zamboni as it travels down my own esophagus. (How is that possible, I ask, and then I really know that slumbers are ending soon.) What comes upon me now are waves of tidal motion, or is it just ribbons of imaginary medical tape? As I return later to the nose, I see that it has developed a patina. And the whole whisky falls together like a great procedural murder mystery told over the course of decades with a single, controlling director on 70mm film.
On the scale of remarkable movies shot on 70 mm negative stock–
The Ichiro’s Malt Mizunara Wood is Scent of Mystery (1960)—This is also the only film that used Smell-o-Vision, a technique that released scents into the theatre to advance or illuminate the plot. Theatre-goers complained that fellow audience members would sniff audibly when the scents arrived. We sniffed audibly as well. In grief. When we finished the bottle.
Willett Family Estate Rye – 25 yr (barrel # 1776) 50% ABV $250 Website What the Distillery Says: Willett doesn’t say anything about their estate bottlings on their website. What Gary Says: Nose: Big oak, molasses, burnt fruitcake, raisins, prunes, cigar paper. Palate: Very oaky, sharp dry spices (allspice?) and bitter chocolate, sour raisins. Finish: … Continue reading Willett Family Estate Rye 25 Years →
The wait is almost over folks...
Tomorrow (Thursday 31st March) sees the release of The Trojan- our first whisky from the Exile Casks project that we've been working on.
The Trojan was distilled on 19th June 1990, and filled into cask 3110. It's been maturing for 25 years now and its finally ready for the world to taste!
To get your hands on The Trojan, which is bottled at 57.1% and available in 306 limited edition 50cl bottles, priced at £65, visit www.exilecasks.com The whisky is only available from there and we envisage it to go on sale around 1pm UK time tomorrow.
Until then- here's a nice picture of the bottle!!
Discover. Liberate. Enjoy.
Joel & Neil x
There is always a good deal of chatter when Jim Murray releases his awards list ahead of the release of a new edition of his bible, surely the sometimes controversial choices he makes are no promotional accident...
Some of the best whiskies I was fortunate enough to taste in 2014 were from Japan, and I would agree that the Yamazaki Sherry Cask is a stunning whisky from one of the world’s greatest malt whisky-producing countries, but the Daily Mail’s (expected) sensational headline and Mr. Murray’s statements strike me as remarkably unfounded. That Scotch whisky has something to be “humiliated” about, that a perceived lack of innovation has hindered Scotch producers is near nonsense.
Scotch whisky is celebrated and esteemed as much for its diversity of flavour as for its adherence to traditional craftsmanship over its lengthy history but recent years have seen these traditions used in new ways, with innovation from barley to barrel to bottle across the industry, albeit within parameters. Interestingly, many of these innovations have been in turn praised and criticised by Mr. Murray over the past two decades, from 1994s praise of finishing to his 2008 critique of the practice.
Japanese whisky was founded on the traditions of Scotch whisky making over 90 years ago, and it could possibly be argued that Japan adheres even more to the traditional methods (wooden washbacks, direct firing stills, etc) than the average malt distillery in Scotland so I do question Murray’s implied praise of generalised Japanese “innovation” over just making really good whisky that he liked.
Since the mid-1980s, when the world saw its first Single Malt from Japan, Japanese whiskies have attracted acclaim. Since 2008, Japanese blends and malts have won major titles, most notably from the World Whisky Awards. This is not to say that Scotch has stoppedwinning these awards or top acclaim from writers, including Murray. Although Scotch has, until now, won his highest accolade in all but one edition of his bible, Murray has awarded more American whiskies in recent years than Japanese. It is no news that America and Japan make excellent whiskies. Not a great headline, though, and tough to sell newspapers or magazines with a headline like that, "Whiskies Being Made to High Standard Outside Scotland"
The assumption from Murray’s statements is that Japanese whisky has an edge on Scotch because of a stronger vision or wilder innovation; innovations like the highball campaign? No Age Statements? Local barley or local oak? There are precedents in Scotch in every case. So in what way is Japanese whisky’s success due to innovations that Scotch lacks? Zero. It is due to releasing top quality malt whiskies. To infer that this precludes the ongoing (and much longer-running) success of Scotch whisky is balderdash, but a great reminder that Jim Murray’s latest book is about to be released!
Finally, in case it has not been mentioned, Jim has a new book coming out next week.
Unfortunately I let the URL www.thescotchblog.com go…
Worse someone registered it – and worse yet – his name is (or he calls himself ) “Kevin”.
I hope that no one thinks that Kevin is me – or that The Scotch Blog is related in anyway to this The Scotch Blog.
Big thanks to the folks at Deep Focus, a social media agency working with The Glenlivet, for sending me a free sample of the new Glenlivet Alpha expression that has only 3350 bottles shipping worldwide (not sure how many are coming to the U.S.). Especially since I’ve been flying under the whisky radar this past year (I’ll post more on that later). I haven’t checked out all of the marketing details, but apparently there is going to be a big “reveal” for Alpha in a few days, so I thought I’d go ahead and post some thoughts on the whisky while it is still something of a mystery (the box only states that it is a Single Malt bottled at 50% abv). The U.S. retail price is $120.
On the nose, my first impression is of cinnamon apples. Then vanilla custard, and finally some fresh wood shavings. Then back to the fruit, of the apples and pears variety. Looking online now at other reviews, I see people talking about lots of tropical fruits. Personally, that’s not the way I respond to this. It doesn’t strike me as tropical in the same way as something like Glenmorangie 18 year. But of course, this is all subjective.
On the palette, it starts out mouth-watering and juicy, sweet, then very slightly prickly on the tongue. There is a point where it becomes slightly nutty, and just as I start to expect a slight walnut bitterness, it pulls back. Very nice. It’s smooth as silk…almost buttery going down. It then becomes drying on the finish, before my mouth waters up again. A very enjoyable, if not particularly long, experience.
The Glenlivet Alpha is an extremely drinkable expression that would be great for sharing with all levels of whisky drinkers. It strikes me as a Special Edition release of their Nadurra expression. The overall flavor profile (especially on the nose) is quite similar. However, the Alpha has an extra silky smoothness to it relative to Nadurra, in the same way the 17 year finished Balvenie expressions relate to the 15 year single barrel. Though, I don’t detect anything resembling the typical “finishing” casks of sherry or wine in Alpha.
So what is it?
If this is a game, and we’re supposed to guess what the heck is in this black Alpha bottle, I’d have to guess a combination of first-fill and second-fill American White Oak bourbon barrels were used to mature the spirit. There is no sign of coloring or chill filtration (like Nadurra). Age? That’s a hard one. Is the extra buttery smoothness in the mouth over the Nadurra due to age, or is it related to the type of casks used? Not sure. I could believe a number of scenarios: 1) It’s a year or two older than the 16 year Nadurra. 2) They use a combination of refill casks and smaller quarter casks to give the impression of extra maturity, while keeping the oak in check, or 3) this is just the result of very carefully selected casks by the master distiller.
Did I really enjoy this whisky? Yes. Am I going to seek out a bottle? No. Do I think you’re an idiot if you do? No.
I really like this whisky, but for me, the 16 year Nadurra (at $50/bottle locally) is close enough in profile to keep me satisfied. On the other hand, I have no immediate issues with the price of Alpha. They are saying that it was “carefully crafted” by the master distiller, and it is a limited release of 3,350 bottles. It’s not going to be for everybody, but then, the limited run kind of takes care of that.
I’ve seen much higher prices asked for “carefully selected” expressions…how about the Diageo Manager’s Choice a few years ago? Talk about crazy pricing. These things work themselves out, though. A bunch of those Manager’s Choice bottles can still be had at 40% discounts online. So far, The Glenlivet Alpha is selling out quickly. The UK allocation disappeared immediately. If, upon commencing with their “reveal” on Facebook later this week, people are outraged by what they hear, then I’d expect that feedback to influence future releases.
If they keep their main line whiskies priced reasonably, and of high quality, what’s the harm in experimenting with various boutique releases aimed at smaller segments of the market? I look forward to learning more about the story behind The Glenlivet Alpha.
Things are changing here at Whisky Party! We’re about to roll out a new design and switch to a new blog platform.
This is all happening on Monday February 20th!
If you’d like to continue reading Whisky Party in your RSS reader, you’ll have to update to the feed URL in your feed reader:
For a sneak peak at the new sight, you can check out our staging version here.
The Ca Scotch Couple firmly believe in living below their means. They shop at consignment stores, sock away the max for retirement, and adhere to a strict 25% debt to equity ratio. Consequently, the CA Scotch Couple's move to paradise in 2004 couldn't have come at a worse time. It was at the height of the real estate boom; the only houses even remotely within the CA Scotch Couple's price range were shacks, and even those shacks had multiple bidders.
So, it is no surprise that the beloved Little Beach House was one such shack: a circa 1913, 700 square foot single wall construction edifice with outdated wiring, inadequate plumbing, precipitously sloping floors, and a hole in its roof. The CA Scotch Couple spent many (many many many) years making the Little Beach House habitable. Unfortunately, no matter what they did, there was no escaping the reality that even with its new wiring, plumbing, and roof, the Little Beach House was a shack.
So, when the real estate bust hit San Diego hard, the CA Scotch Couple decided to see if they could trade their shack for something a little more spacious. They took a financial bath on the Little Beach House, and set out on their house hunting adventures with three goals for the new home: it needed to have lost at least as much value as the Little Beach House had, it needed to be more spacious than the Little Beach House; and it couldn't be a project.
One of the first properties the CA Scotch Couple viewed was a lovely old mixed use loft conversion in a slightly dodgy area. This 1933 grand dame had started its life as an old fashioned car dealership/garage and had then become an artist's studio and residence. It had magnificent arching barrel ceilings, open architecture, exposed terra cotta masonry, and concrete floors. It also wasn't up to earthquake code, had a leaking roof, had been stripped of plumbing, appliances and countertops, and, worst of all, had birds nesting in it. It was a whopping 2700 square feet, but man, oh man, it was project. CA Scotch Chick dubbed it "the Bird Sanctuary," and the CA Scotch Couple swiftly walked the other way.
But the CA Scotch Couple kept their miserly eyes on the Bird Sanctuary, and within a few months, market forces had driven it down to the price that the CA Scotch Couple had paid for the Little Beach House in 2004. Project or not, the CA Scotch Couple simply couldn't resist. It was a remarkable space, and it was worth the pain to make it beautiful again. They made an offer.
For seven months, long before the accident and throughout the CA Scotch Couple's recovery, they fought their way through the tortuous short sale and then foreclosure process. They managed to buy the Bird Sanctuary from the bank on the final day of 2009, immediately moved in, and endured endless months of living under plastic sheets with construction chaos ringing around them.
On the day they finally closed on the Bird Sanctuary, CA Scotch Gent sat CA Scotch Chick down and asked for two favors. First, could they please, please, please, set a goal of having the renovations done by the end of summer? No more projects stretching for years. Secondly, could they please, please, please, stop calling it the Bird Sanctuary?
They set a goal of August 31st as the drop dead date for finishing the renovation, and they scheduled a party to make sure they met that goal. Then they cast around for a more suitable name — finally deciding on "Studio A" in honor of the sign over its door.
It was a long hard nine months, complicated by the CA Scotch Couple's recovery from their injuries and those all encompassing work schedules. However, on August 31st, a mere three hours before their party, the CA Scotch Couple finally removed the last of the plastic, pushed the furniture into place, and claimed Studio A as their own.
It was well worth the effort. Studio A is now up to code; the birds have been evicted; it has been scrubbed from top to bottom; and it is now equipped with new bathrooms, appliances, countertops, skylights, and roof. Gentle light filters into its spacious and gracious interior giving the CA Scotch Couple the impression that they are stepping into a magnificent cavern whenever they return at the end of the day — the perfect refuge for a pair of recluses. It has been an extremely long tough year, but the CA Scotch Couple are finally home.