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Whisky For Everyone - A Decade of Blogging



When our first blog post popped up on 28 March 2008 it was difficult to imagine that Whisky For Everyone would still be going a decade later. Our fledgling interest in whisky, and Scotch in particular, led us to want to find out more. Writing things down seemed a good way to make facts, figures and tasting notes stick in our brains. If people read what we wrote then so be it - we gave it a working title of Whisky For Everyone and it was our vehicle for learning.

The odds were firmly against any sort of longevity - we were new to whisky, we did not know anyone within the industry or have any formal journalistic training. We wrote down things as they came out of our heads, which we still do. But we are both stubborn and determined.

Not only is the whisky landscape very different now than it was a decade ago, but so is the one for blogging. Whisky knowledge and interest has grown to almost unprecedented levels, whilst technology and the explosion of social media has made the sharing of knowledge, expertise and opinions widespread.

Back in 2008 there were very few good websites about whisky to be found - Dr. Whisky, Malt Maniacs and WhiskyFun are ones that immediately spring to mind. However, all seemed pitched at a higher connoisseur level rather than the beginner. Facebook and Twitter were in their infancy and Instagram did not even exist. Imagine a world without any of them now?

At some point early on someone told us that they liked what we were doing - that no one else was really catering for the whisky beginner - and that they felt our 'working title' reflected our approach. Reader numbers increased, as did interest from brands.

We kept doing what we were doing and went from strength to strength. To date we have had over 1.75 million unique visits to Whisky For Everyone from almost every country in the world. These have resulted in 3.25 million page views and 20,000+ followers across various social media platforms. We still cannot quite believe these figures.

We have definitely benefited from the general rise in popularity of whisky that was happening at the time and whisky blogging became cool. As whisky sales grew in new markets and the interest in whisky investments and auctions took hold, the number of whisky blogs grew to unprecedented and uncontrollable levels it seemed. Now in the last couple of years some balance has been restored. Many of the best blogs remain. Others have fallen by the wayside.

Over the last 10 years we have been fortunate to meet many influential and fantastic people. There are way too many to name individually but they cover all facets of the industry from those that work at the distilleries to those that do the marketing or PR to those that work deep within the whisky companies to those that we consider our blogging and journalist contemporaries. Many have become close friends over the years.

Our ex-Oloroso sherry octave at Glenglassaugh.
Highlights have been many – the numerous press trips to distilleries, the invitations to launch events, the awards that we have been nominated for and the brand dinners that we have been lucky enough to be guests at. One that sticks in our minds has to be our first trip to Islay thanks to Lagavulin. Islay is a ‘must visit’ for any whisky fan and our visit did not disappoint. We even own our own cask of whisky, which is slowly maturing away at the Glenglassaugh distillery in the east Highlands.

Maybe the ultimate highlight was our induction as Keepers Of The Quaich in April 2015, an honour bestowed on those that significantly impact the promotion of Scotch whisky around the world. Numerous journalists have received this in the past but we remain as two of the very few bloggers to be recognised in this way.

Us at our Keepers of the Quaich induction ceremony in Blair Castle.
So, after a decade we are still here. And we do not intend to go anywhere either. What started a hobby in our spare time has now led to both of us having jobs within the whisky industry. While that has diminished the amount of time that we can spend on the blog and the number of events that we can attend, it definitely does not diminish our passion for writing Whisky For Everyone and helping people learn about the spirit that we love.

Here is to the next 10 years and thank you to everyone that has read, helped and influenced us over the last decade.

Karen & Matt.

Billy Walker's Back in the Whisky Business with The GlenAllachie (WhiskyCast Episode 690: April 19, 2018)

Billy Walker could have walked away from the Scotch Whisky business last year after he and his partners sold the BenRiach, GlenDronach, and Glenglassaugh distilleries to Brown-Forman for more than $400 million. However, he decided to jump back in with his "dream team" of industry leaders and buy the Glenallachie distillery from Chivas Brothers, and will launch the distillery's first range of single malts in June. We'll talk with Billy about building that team and giving new life to a long-underrrated distillery on WhiskyCast In-Depth. In the news, Anheuser-Busch InBev has acquired Atom Group, the UK-based drinks company that owns Master of Malt, while Diageo has announced plans to invest £150 million to upgrade the visitors centers at 12 of its distilleries in Scotland and create a new "brand home" for Johnnie Walker in Edinburgh. We'll also have details on Gordon & MacPhail's move to consolidate its 12 lines of single malt whiskies into just five starting this month with the Connoisseurs Choice range, and the Spirit of Speyside Festival brings judging for its annual whisky competition to New York for the first time.

The Port Ellen 37 Year Old 2017 Limited Edition

Tasting notes:
Leaning over the glass, I get the unmistakable smell of my lucky cuff links.  I’d wear them to the races back then.  I remember the way they smelled of coconut husk slow grilled over pecan wood.  Holding my binoculars up, I could smell the cufflinks, along with the bits of soapy aftershave still on my hands, and the mild, kangaroo leather, padded eyecups.  My betting receipts fanned out from between the fingers on my left hand.  I’m ready for the gate to open.

And the mouth is a stunner: just as I hoped, just as I expected.  I’m not entirely sure that I have the proper gustatory touch points to convey how really beautiful this is.  I am certain, though, that I get high-altitude lake algae balls held in the hands of Virgilio Martínez, the famed Peruvian chef at Central in Lima.  He has candied them with low-altitude cane sugar and served them on a tray with clumps of earth and clay.  There’s a bright orange curl of flame tracing the bark that has been ignited, I think, by the intensity of my anticipation of the final turn and the thrilling conclusion.

That finish initially recedes quickly, which surprises me.  I check my binoculars again.   I see that the horses’ slowed pace around the final turn is an optical illusion.  It is as if they have gathered among the hedgerows to make a more concerted attack.  Here I find peat and smoke in a balletic balance.  Into this dance are charred s’mores on crisped graham crackers and singed parsley set athwart roasted root vegetables and shaved tubers.  Thunderous rumbles from horse hoof and hoarse hollers rattle the room and presage a frenetic photo finish.

 

 
Rating:

On the scale of champion horses–
The Port Ellen 37 Year Old 2017 Limited Edition is the 1979 Preakness Winner, Spectacular Bid–Outstanding pedigree, tremendous achievements, and long remembered.  Yeah, that sounds like Port Ellen to me. 

 

 

 
                     –John

 

 

 
–Our thanks to Diageo for the sample!

 

 

Review - Glenmorangie Grand Vintage 1989

The Grand Vintage 1989 is the second bottling in Glenmorangie's Bond House No.1 Collection. The series is designed to celebrate some of the north Highland distillery's most prized whiskies and kicked off in 2016 with the Grand Vintage 1990. This second bottling uses some of the last spirit distilled in the old stillhouse before it was moved and expanded in 1990. The new location was the former Bond House No.1 warehouse. The Grand Vintage 1989 has been matured in American oak casks before being transferred to ex-Côte-Rôtie red wine casks for a 'long finish' according to Dr. Bill Lumsden - the Director of Distilling, Whisky Creation & Whisky Stocks at Glenmorangie.

Glenmorangie is one of the biggest selling single malt Scotch whisky brands in the world and was founded in 1843 by William Matheson. It was originally named as Morangie and took its current name in 1887. Glenmorangie has an annual production capacity of six million litres and the copper pot stills are the tallest of their type in Scotland, standing over five metres (16.5 feet) tall. It is also said to use the hardest water of any Scottish whisky distillery in production, which bubbles up from the nearby Tarlogie Springs. The distillery and brand are currently owned by Moet Hennessey.

The Glenmorangie Grand Vintage 1989 is made from just 22 casks, all of which were filled in 1989, and is bottled at 43% ABV. It is available in limited numbers via selected specialist retailers worldwide and Moet Hennessy's Clos 19 website. A bottle will cost £550.

Our tasting notes
The colour is deep amber and the nose has immediate notes of cocoa powder, vanilla and golden syrup. Underneath are further aromas of toasted marshmallow, caramelised almonds and hints of espresso coffee and apricots. Everything is underpinned by some delicate and earthy wood spices and a pinch of white pepper.

On the palate this whisky has a wonderful viscous and slightly syrupy mouth feel. It is luxurious with an obvious sweetness to begin with. This turns more savoury with time and creates an incredible depth and complexity. There are initial sweet notes of honey, caramel and golden syrup along with some dried apple, candied orange peel and mango. Then come distinct fruity characteristics - these are most reminiscent of raisins, currants and dried cherry. The savoury notes then begin to appear and integrate – think of old leather, tobacco leaf, cracked peppercorns and warming wood spices (especially all-spice and cinnamon) plus a hint of cocoa and ginger. The addition of water brings out the dried fruits in particular, and the apricot from the nose.

The finish becomes increasing woody and spicy, which leads to a pleasant adnd almost tannic dryness. The bold sweetness begins to fade, as do the dried fruit notes and this leads to the savoury and spicy notes becoming more prominent. This creates a good balance and gives a very long finish.

What's the verdict? 
The Glenmorangie Grand Vintage 1989 is a sublime whisky and one of the best to have had an ex-red wine finish that we have tasted to date. Some examples can be overpowering but the use of the wine casks here is sympathetic. The result is a classy whisky that reflects Glenmorangie's premium standing in the market. It has a great sweet vs. savoury balance, a lovely fruity character and luxurious feel. Excellent.


Craft Whisky: Optimism and a Reality Check (WhiskyCast Episode 689: April 15, 2018)

 

Every distillery opens as a dream, with the backers hoping to become the next Heaven Hill, Wild Turkey, or one of countless other mainstays of the whisky business. During Friday night's American Whiskey Convention in Philadelphia, many startup distilleries showed off their whiskies next to those mainstays. A couple of miles away, James Yoakum was pouring drinks in his tasting room at Cooper River Distillers, days after making the decision to close the distillery after one last Kentucky Derby party May 5th. He'll share some of the lessons he learned over the last four years, and we'll meet some of the distillers still full of optimism - yet tempered with reality - on this week's WhiskyCast In-Depth. In the news, four Kentucky distilleries celebrated milestones this week, while Wild Turkey's partnership with actor Matthew McConaughey has led to a new Bourbon and Diageo has given us a preview of this year's Special Releases single malts...with no Port Ellens or Broras in the mix.

Wigle Deep Cut Organic Rye Whiskey, 20 Months Old, Batch #24

Tasting notes:
I’m in a myrtle garden, surrounded by John’s turbo-goats who are eating grasses, herbs, and the rinds of a dwarf variety of the Seville orange tree so fast that I’m surrounded, as it were, by swirling wisps of honey-smoke rising up from the sheer velocity and ferocity of the goats’ eating. The wisps nose (obviously) as grass used as kindling, sun-stricken hay, and bergamot tea. I walk through a light mist of sherry butt ambergris musk like Tyra Banks  leaning forward into green tea leaves crushed by Chippendale dancers, all lit under a cut smoky quartz crystal candelabra; it’s elegant, dark, and mysterious while also being clear, precise, and tinkly. In other words, a typical day in the Malt Cave.

The mouth is filled with titanic tannic towers of Babel made from pre-masticated willow bark. Stephen got redwood phloem and John wanted to pick a fight with Wesley Crusher, the slender boy genius of Star Trek (The Next Generation). Water bulges the body out so that it’s now spheroidical (before you say anything John, I know that’s not a word), herbaceous, and a tall milkshake of yum, wow, and pow.

The finish invokes a spell of black peppercorns steeped in existential despair, a fat sparrow unwilling to fly away from its birdbath, gladiolas pressed through a rough-hewn black walnut sieve into a Notre Dame gargoyle, and a sandpiper’s skinny legs. Then, with water, it’s a robust, rounded, juicy plum/persimmon hybrid; attractive as a film noir femme fatale on a train and lingering like the kiss you got in which she nipped at your tongue before walking forever out of your life without once looking back over her shoulder.

 

 
Rating:

On the scale of imaginary foods fun to imagine, à la Italo Calvino–
The Wigle Deep Cut Organic Rye Whiskey, 20 Months Old, Batch #24 is dehydrated water–You’ll need to add water to your powder to reconstitute your water! In all seriousness, this can be drunk without water, but it’s difficult to parse or conceive. Add water, and a universe of the new opens up, begging to be explored.

 

 

 
                                                                            –Bill

 

 

 
–Our thanks to Wigle for the sample!

 

 

Inbox Extra (April 14, 2018) - Diageo Special Releases 2018

Diageo have announced initial details of the whiskies in this year's Special Releases outturn. The biggest producer of Scotch whisky has revealed nine of the ten bottlings, with the tenth to follow later in the year. All are scheduled for an Autumn release. The Special Releases, which are designed to highlight rare whiskies from within Diageo's extensive portfolio of single grains and single malts, have been eagerly anticipated each year since the programme was first started in 2001.

Almost as intriguing as what has been revealed is the absence of Brora and Port Ellen for the first time. These have both been stalwarts of the programme since it began, but stocks are now said to be critically low after both ceased production in the early 1980s. Further information, imagery and recommended prices will be revealed closer to the release date.


“The Special Releases launch is a highlight in our whisky calendar year. It’s a collection that allows both knowledgeable whisky fans and those new to Scotch to hunt out truly unique limited editions. The range delivers memorable taste experiences unlike any other and the exceptional variety and quality of whiskies in this year’s collection will not disappoint.”
Donald Colville - Global Malts Ambassador at Diageo.


The initial details of the Special Releases 2018 are below.

CARSEBRIDGE 48 year old
Single Grain - 43.2% ABV
Region: Lowlands
Cask: Refill American Oak Hogsheads
No. of bottles: 1,000

CAOL ILA UNPEATED 15 year old
Single Malt - 59.1% ABV
Region: Islay
Cask: Refill & Rejuvenated American Oak Hogsheads and Ex-Bodega European Oak Butts
Limited quantities worldwide

CAOL ILA 35 year old
Single Malt - 58.1% ABV
Region: Islay
Cask: Refill American Oak Hogsheads & Refill European Oak Butts
No of bottles: 3,276

INCHGOWER 27 year old
Single Malt - 55.3% ABV
Region: Speyside
Cask: Refill American Oak Hogsheads
No of bottles: 8,544

LAGAVULIN 12 year old
Single Malt - 57.8% ABV
Region: Islay
Cask: Refill American Oak Hogsheads
Limited quantities available worldwide

OBAN 21 year old
Single Malt - 57.9% ABV
Region: Highlands
Cask: Refill European Oak Butts
Limited availability worldwide

PITTYVAICH 28 year old
Single Malt - 52.1% ABV
Region: Speyside
Cask: Refill American Oak Hogsheads
No of bottles: 4,680

THE SINGLETON OF GLEN ORD 14 year old
Single Malt - 57.6% ABV
Region: Highlands
Cask: Refill American Oak Hogsheads and Ex- Bodega European Oak butts followed by a unique maturation and marrying process
Limited quantities available worldwide

TALISKER 8 year old
Single Malt - 59.4% ABV
Region: Island
Cask: First fill Ex-Bourbon American Oak Hogsheads
Limited availability worldwide


Inbox - The Week's Whisky News (April 13, 2018)

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.

________

Famous Grouse 
The Famous Grouse have announced a new series of premium blended whiskies to their range and the first release in that series. The Bourbon Cask launches the Famous Grouse Cask Series has been created by Kirsteen Campbell, the Master Blender for the brand. The whiskies used have been matured in American oak and first-fill ex-bourbon casks. It is initially exclusive to the Tesco supermarket chain in the UK and is available now from their 600+ stores. The price will be £19 for a 70cl bottle.


"For The Famous Grouse, we place such a lot of importance on the quality of our wood that we wanted to develop a range to really highlight and celebrate all that this adds to our whisky. The Cask Series is designed to showcase how different types of oak cask can influence flavours."
Kirsteen Campbell.



Kilchoman
The Islay based distillery of Kilchoman have announced details of two of their popular batched single malts - the Loch Gorm and Port Cask Matured. The Loch Gorm (left) is the only global release of Kilchoman to be matured entirely in ex-sherry casks and has featured annually since 2012. The 2018 Edition combines nineteen ex-Oloroso sherry butts filled in 2007, 2008 and 2011. This includes some of the oldest sherry matured stock to date and the butts have yielded 15,000 bottles.

The Port Cask Matured has only been released once previously and that was in 2014. The 2018 Edition combines 30 ex-Ruby Port hogheads, which were filled in 2014, and these have yielded 10,000 bottles. This will be bottled at 50% ABV. Details of the prices for each were not revealed in the press release. Both will be released on April 23 and will be available via selected specialist whisky retailers worldwide.



“Historically our Port and sherry matured releases have received a very positive response. I think the 2018 editions are probably the best versions of these expressions we’ve released to date so I’m excited to see the how they are received”
Andrew Wills - Founder of Kilchoman.



Old Pulteney
Leading specialist retailer The Whisky Exchange have revealed their latest exclusive single cask offering, which is from the north Highland distillery of Old Pulteney. The single first-fill ex-sherry butt (Cask #128) was filled in 2004 and bottled in 2018. It has yielded 612 bottles and each is individually numbered. The Old Pulteney 2004 is released at the natural cask strength of 62.1% ABV and is of natural colour and non chill-filtered. Each bottle will cost £99.95 and they are exclusively available from www.thewhiskyexchange.com.


Smokehead


Ian Macleod Distillers, the owners of the Smokehead single malt brand, have announced two pieces of news this week - a packaging revamp and a permanent new whisky, which joins the Original expression. The new packaging features a redesign of the Islay single malt brand's skull logo, which features a whisp of smoke across it.

Smokehead High Voltage is a new cask strength version of the 43% ABV Original. It is bottled at 58% ABV and is non chill-filtered and of natural colour. It is designed to offer a 'louder, bolder and more intense version of Smokehead'. The new packaging and High Voltage will be available through selected specialist retailers and will cost £55 a bottle.


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Whisky Sisters’ Classic Cask and John Milroy Selection Event Schedule

We’ve just learned of five upcoming events hosted by that dynamic duo, the Whisky Sisters. The details of time and place are below; they are barnstorming the bordering edges of the United States, bringing with them the good news of very good whiskies. Before your eye wanders down the page to see if you’re lucky enough to coincide with them in the space-time continuum, let us provide you with a few details about the concept of the tastings and about our good friends in drammage, the estimable Whisky Sisters.

First, the Whisky Sisters: While I was growing up, I sharpened my connoisseurship on such demanding questions as: Hershey Bars, M&Ms, or the Nestlé Crunch? Sometimes, I’d go a different direction, pondering Chips Ahoy vs. Keebler’s. Or, were I feeling a wee bit crazy, I’d debate the issue of pretzel twists vs. pretzel sticks. By contrast, when they were growing up, the Whisky Sisters were being initiated into the family business of cask strength single malt Scotch whiskies and the Classic Cask offerings of succulent and innovative blended whiskies. I like to imagine that starting at a tender age, they were sent to their rooms without supper if they failed to identify correctly whether or not the particular note in question was more of a marzipan or rather that of an almond macaroon. Their whisky expertise is hard-wired into their nervous systems and their elbows bend upwards with the best kind of muscle memory. Beyond that, they spent years honing the craft of putting on great Scotch-tasting events when they ran the SMWSA Extravaganzas, which, if you faithfully read our site, you know we love. ❤❤❣

These five tasting events are relatively small—they’re limited to about 100 people—and the idea is that they’ll provide a setting for a smaller, more intimate chance to get to know either the Classic Casks or the John Milroy Selections. The size allows for tipplers to talk leisurely with each other about their tasting experiences while avoiding being overwhelmed by the dread modern feeling of FOMO, the Fear Of Malting Out. There will be plenty of time to savor drinks and food without rushing hither and yon from one table to the next. Moreover, the Whisky Sisters will be there hosting, dispensing insights, and generally enlivening the proceedings with their warm conviviality. There will be gourmet hors d’oeuvres, and yes, you should nosh them aplenty to lay down an essential base layer of food. We’ve found by so doing, it’s much easier to fully enjoy the unlimited tasting of 14 single cask or single malt or blended Scotch whiskies from the Classic Cask line or, at the other events, the tasting of 12 single cask, single malt Scotch whiskies from the John Milroy Selection.

One last pitch for these events, folks. The price for a ticket is a very reasonable $65. Going out for good drinks and appetizers at a bar runs up a steep tab mighty fast, and mob-scene tastings cost $175 and up. (Earlier this year, Stephen had to sell his kidney to afford going to the Whisky Exchange 2018 Old & Rare Whisky Show in Glasgow. It was worth it, Stephen, wasn’t it? Stephen? Stephen? Stephen?)

The Whisky Sisters will be hosting The Classic Cask tasting in Seattle (4/19), Washington DC (4/25) and Los Angeles (5/3)

Seattle – https://shopclassiccask.com/product/the-classic-cask-scotch-whisky-tasting-seattle/

Washington, DC – https://shopclassiccask.com/product/the-classic-cask-scotch-whisky-tasting-washington-dc/

Los Angeles – https://shopclassiccask.com/product/the-classic-cask-scotch-whisky-tasting-los-angeles/

They’ll be hosting The John Milroy Selection tasting in Atlanta (5/9) and Philadelphia (5/17).

Atlanta – https://shopjohnmilroyselection.com/product/the-john-milroy-selection-scotch-whisky-tasting-atlanta/

Philadelphia – https://shopjohnmilroyselection.com/product/the-john-milroy-selection-scotch-whisky-tasting-philadelphia/

The Tomatin Five Virtues Series: Metal

Tasting notes:
This whisky is part of a limited edition series called Five Virtues (we’ve also covered another expression in the series, Water). It is a collaboration between Tomatin Distillery and artist Eva Ullrich. The Metal is meant to showcase the Tomatin stills by featuring the classic Tomatin style (and presumably lots of contact with the metal from those stills).

The first fill Bourbon barrels used to mature this whisky play prominently on the nose: imagine tropical fruits bursting from their flowers right before your eyes–in a way that’s not at all terrifying. There’s coconut and mango on the nose, along with an oiliness, like that from an exotic sun tanning oil just sprayed on a vacationing Olympic athlete.

That same sun tanning oil presents on the mouth and is remarkably smooth and not at all hot: it’s like a pulley with bearings made from Super Oilite® are lowering the liquid effortlessly across my palate and down my throat. It is beautifully light, and as it opens up on the palate, it gains more and more power. A mineral-y note, which is almost certainly that of chert, shows up in there as well and fits in comfortably with all of the fruitiness–as if lounging in the adjoining deck chair. Damn, I could drink this all day.

The finish sings out notes of pineapple and a mineral, chalky spice. But for all of the luscious oiliness, it would be flinty like a Pouilly-Fuissé, but with more power to refresh. This dram could moonlight as a summer cocktail, especially if it first made friends with some mint and a couple of cubes of ice.

 

 
Rating:

On the scale of notable things to jot down in a journal–
The Tomatin Five Virtues Series: Metal is making a note to buy Tomatin aged in first-fill Bourbon barrels–This is something to keep in mind, file away, record for posterity–whatever it takes to make sure it isn’t forgotten. Readers, take note.

 

 

 
                                                                             –Stephen

 

 

 
–Our thanks to Tomatin for the sample!

 

 

Taking Time Out of the Whisky Bottle (WhiskyCast Episode 688: April 8, 2018)

 

Whisky makers have tried for decades to come up with ways of making young whiskies taste like older ones, but whisky purists will argue that there is no substitute for time in a barrel when it comes to making a quality whisky. O.Z. Tyler created the TerrePURE process, which uses ultrasonic sound waves to break up some of the undesirable byproducts of the distilling process that are left behind after a whisky reaches the barrel. South Carolina-based Terressentia has been using that process on bulk and private-label Bourbons for the last ten years, and revived the old Medley Distillery in Owensboro, Kentucky in 2016. Now, the renamed O.Z. Tyler Distillery will release its first Kentucky Bourbon using that process this week, and we'll talk with Terressentia CEO Earl Hewlette on this week's WhiskyCast In-Depth. In the news, it could soon be legal for the first time to have a Kentucky distillery ship whiskies home for visitors. We'll look at the impact of the just-passed House Bill 400 on distillers, tourists, and retailers. The brewing trade war between the United States and China has now expanded to include American-made whiskies, and one of Sweden's largest distilleries is changing its name.

Review - Ardbeg Grooves Committee Release

Ardbeg Grooves is the latest experiment in the annual Ardbeg Committee series from Dr. Bill Lumsden (the Director of Distilling, Whisky Creation & Whisky Stocks at Ardbeg) and is inspired by the distillery's community when it was a much smaller and local operation in the 1960s. The release is part of a wider 1960s themed promotion that will run throughout the year, including this year's Ardbeg Day on June 2, which is called 'Peat & Love'.

Grooves has seen a pocket of the whisky included be matured in re-toasted ex-red wine casks, which were heavily charred while still sticky with the residue of the wine. This created deep grooves in the wood and an intense flavour profile.

The Ardbeg distillery is located on the southern coast of Islay and was founded in 1815 by John MacDougall, although records show a distillery operating on the site as far back as 1794. The recent history shows no production for large parts of the mid-1980s and 1990s, plus the majority of 1996 and 1997. Moet Hennessy took over in 1997 and they have renovated and revitalised Ardbeg, creating a cult brand and range of single malts in the process. Ardbeg has an annual production of just over one million litres per year, which will soon be boosted after recent expansion plans were announced, and the distillery boasts an award-winning visitor centre and cafe.

Grooves is bottled at 51.6% ABV and was originally due to be on sale to Ardbeg Committee members via www.ardbeg.com from 9am on March 14. Even the annual website glitch could not stop it eventually selling out within hours. Each bottle was £89.

Our tasting notes
The colour is deep gold and the nose combines a distinct acrid peat smokiness with some expressive sweetness. There are aromas of golden syrup, vanilla, green apple and red berries. There are also hints of tar, sea salt, damp moss and toasted spices - think of cinnamon and liquorice root especially.

On the palate this whisky has some immediate power. The smoke hits first and has a dry earthy and bonfire ash feel to it. This smokiness develops to become even more savoury with time and has a character of coal tar soap, old leather and tobacco leaf. These are all backed up by an increasing peppery note that begins as white pepper but then tends towards green chilli. Much needed sweetness is supplied by notes of over ripe apples and pears covered in golden syrup, heather honey and white chocolate. Further warmth is provided by ginger, cinnamon and ginseng. Hints of brine, cranberry, star anise and menthol round things off nicely.

The finish is extremely warming and long, with an increasing dryness especially towards the end. The earthy peat smoke and spices drive the heat and length, especially once the sweet and fruity characteristics begin to fade. Dry and savoury (think mineralic, almost flinty, and leathery) notes linger for ages and some late white pepper accentuates this.

What's the verdict?
The Ardbeg Grooves packs a peaty punch and is arguably one of the best Committee Releases for some time. The combination of powerful smoke, delicious and rounded sweetness and warming spices create a wonderful whisky. It loses a little of its balance and intensity with the addition of water but this is a must try for any peaty whisky fans.

The only way to get a bottle now is through secondary markets - auction sites, private sellers etc - but the general release will be out within the next month or so, ready for Ardbeg Day on June 2. This is normally the same whisky as the Committee Release but bottled at a lower strength of 46% ABV and in greater numbers. We recommend grabbing one if you can. We will be.


The Big Peat Islay Blended Malt Scotch Whisky (Douglas Laing)

Tasting notes:
The nose on this dram finds me waking up from a bad dream.  At least that’s what I thought at first.  It turns out I’m Leonard Shelby from Memento and I have really bad anterograde amnesia.  But because I’ve fallen into the hands of a third-rate imitator of Kakfa, like Gregor Samsa, I’m really not myself at all.

What I am is a memory-challenged, newly-born iguana.  And I’m on the run.  You see, there are racer snakes all around me.  They are popping up everywhere and they are—oh crap!—they are coming after me!  Such is the pulse pounding excitement I feel as I nose this dram.  I’ve got racer snake leather (yes please! more of that, you cut-rate surrealist author!  More dead snakes!) curing in a barn with a hay fire underneath.  Puffs of smoke sting my reptilian eyes.  Then there’s Pinewood Derby cars reimagined into funny cars.  The lights click down and then POW! the throttle catches and the wheels spin with a smoke-filled, squealing intensity.

The mouth is precisely that pop and pow.  My heart feels like it is about to pound right through my chest, but I’m no longer running and I no longer have any objects for my adrenaline-addled mind to focus on.  Instead there is just wonderful peat coating me like a thick fog.  A fog, I might add, that contains various desserts, in a veritable Wayne Thiebaud tableau of treats.  There’s refinement and delicacy.  What’s more there’s a great deal of cleanness, as though this was a proof-of-concept for clean peat technology.  I can’t understand why I’m breathing so hard in this dream-like cake fog.  Even the charcoaliness feels purifying, like Binchotan sticks in a glass of spring water.  I feel the contentment I feel after a ​reading a Lydia Davis story, but owing to my memory deficit I have no recall of the story whatsoever.

So relaxed am I that I decide to sit down, but the strangest thing has happened.  I can’t really sit down because I’ve got the body of an iguana. How might this have happened, I don’t know, so I try to find some clues.  I sense only lemon meringue pie, but I’m convinced that it has been by a cadre of chain-smoking Michelin star pastry chefs.  There is now a gustatory sensation whose audible counterpart is coins falling into piggy banks.  Each clink produces a sense of security and happiness and wellbeing.  Even in my lizardy state, I feel cared for.  I pull on a bib (for at least I have a neck and a torso) with the expectation that a great meal awaits me.  It is just around the corner.

 

 
Rating:

On the scale of facts about the racer snake attacks on iguanas in Planet Earth II–
The Big Peat Islay Blended Malt Scotch Whisky from Douglas Laing is the fact that the film crew celebrated every successful iguana escape–I’d like to imagine that they were raising glasses of the Big Peat.  For just like the iguanas, the Big Peat represents an island success story worth celebrating.  

 

 

 

                                                                           –John

 

 

 

–Our thanks to Douglas Laing for the sample!

 

 

Our Reporting: Next Diageo Limited Edition Johnnie Walker will be…


NOT the likely design of the limited edition Judea Walker

On the high heels of the tremendously successful release of the Jane Walker in honor of Women’s History Month, Diageo is developing another limited edition for the next segment of the population whom the drinks giant would like to patronize into buying more whisky. Our reporting indicates that the new limited edition will be the Judea Walker, designed to condescend to the world’s Jewish population and timed to coincide with the Jewish holiday of Passover.

“To our minds, the Jewish people represent an untapped demographic, one that’s really been passed over…” said a Diageo executive, who then waited with raised eyebrows for us to get the joke. “Plus, we’re looking to blow that little business of Joshua Hatton’s out of space like Alderaan.” Then he burst into a perfect Emperor Palpatine cackle before being overcome by a coughing fit.

Another executive we talked to, who wished to remain anonymous because of they did to Mortlach in recent years, suggested that with all of the protests in the United States led by ANTIFA, the Judea Walker might appeal to more than just the Chosen People: “I mean, once some of these gentiles have been on the George Soros gravy train for five or six straight protests, they’re going to be much more sympathetic to the cultural influence of the Jews in general. Our market research even indicates that some Trump supporters will buy it in order to show it off to friends as validation that the ‘globalists’ really do control everything.”

Our source said that originally, Diageo was considering a design that accentuated the Wandering Jew theme, until an intern pointed out that that was actually the name of a plant.  The final design features a color scheme that is expected to be a flag-style mix of the Johnnie Walker Blue design and the now scuttled Johnnie White Walker design (originally created for Game of Thrones fans). Front and center will be an image of Moses striding forward but this time actually touching the brim of his top hat with a knotty wooden staff.

When we pointed out that “Judea” is actually the Greek and Roman adaptation of the authentic Hebrew word “Judah,” the Head of Misdirected Marketing chuckled and noted with some bemusement that we had a lot yet to learn about how wrong a promotional campaign could go and that we should leave this to the experts.

 

 

 

Whisky is Too Important to be Taken Seriously (WhiskyCast Episode 687: April 1, 2018)

Scotland's Douglas Laing and Co. is celebrating its 70th anniversary in 2018, and for many of those years, the Laing family has taken a light-hearted approach to Scotch Whisky - at least, when it comes to what's on the outside of the bottle. With brands like Big Peat, Scallywag, Timorous Beastie, and the like, Fred Laing has given us many reasons to smile as we pour a dram. Fred has turned over much of the day-to-day operations of the company over to his daughter Cara and son-in-law Chris Leggett, but took the title of Chairman of the Board because "Chief Mischief Maker" wasn't an option. He'll join us on WhiskyCast In-Depth to talk about this year's anniversary releases, the progress of their new distillery in Glasgow, and their newest whisky...the bacon-infused "Big Meat. We'll also have the details on a complete makeover for The Macallan's single malts, a upcoming "crowdsourced" Bourbon from Buffalo Trace, April Fool's fun from Westland, and Dave Broom's future as a film star, along with tasting notes for three Scandinavian single malts and much more!

The Highland Park Magnus

Tasting notes:

Armadillos of sherry notes dot the musical score of pecadillos of lemon floor wax. [John: Bill, have you been drinking again? Or something stronger?]  There’s also dabbed rests (in the musical sense) of butterscotch melted onto beetle backs, which had been previously inscribed with Nordic runes. It’s a beetle race crashing into a picnic in an octopus’s garden in an unexplored, off the board, secret section of the game Candy Land™.

The mouth is rich, yet light, and it’s lingering, yet fast, and it’s performing a few slopestyle snowboard Bloody Dracula moves. Okay, maybe not that much kineticism, but it’s suggesting that if you were to take it to the 2020 Olympics, it just might, with lots of training and practice, do as well as Elizabeth Swaney’s blithe bunny hill run down the halfpipe.  Which is to say, yes, you made the Olympics! You’ll have memories and stories to last a lifetime, and as an extra bonus, you’ll get a sandalwood diorama, scented with eau de caramel, of the Olympic Village.

The finish is light and quick, as agile as Steph Curry, as sweaty as LeBron James, and as fearless as Russell Westbrook. It’s come and gone like Prosecco bubbles pop-pop-popping above the rim of your champagne glass. There are also fear-crazed toasted hazelnuts hiding out from the corrupt cops and greasy informers of the feared Italian Nutella™ Syndicate.

 

 
Rating:

On the scale of speed chess world champions—this one’s a slam dunk, folks—
The Highland Park Magnus is, naturally, Magnus Carlsen. He’s the world champion at speed chess, he’s second in the world at blitz chess, and he’s the world champion at…slow?…chess. And, in a hat-tip to Stephen, he’s Norwegian. Well played, Highland Park!

 

 

 
                                                                                                –Bill

 

 

 
–Our thanks to Highland Park for the sample!

 

 

Wandering the Wonderful World of Whisky (WhiskyCast Episode 686: March 25, 2018)

Rachel Barrie is known on Twitter as @TheLadyBlender, and she's just winding up her first year as the master blender for Brown-Forman's BenRiach, GlenDronach, and Glenglassaugh distilleries in Scotland. Over the years, she's worked on some of Scotch Whisky's most iconic brands, and joins us to discuss her career and her plans for those distilleries. This week, we're on the road in Cornwall, Ontario at the Wonderful World of Whisky Show to catch up with old friends and make some new ones. Back in 2006, we first met Barry Bernstein and Barry Stein shortly after they left their jobs to form Premium Bottlers and import casks of Scotch Whisky into Canada. That led to their opening Still Waters Distillery in the Toronto suburbs a few years later, and this week, their Stalk & Barrel Single Malt was named the "Best Canadian Single Cask Single Malt" in Whisky Magazine's World Whiskies Awards. We'll talk with "The Barrys" - as they're affectionately known, and hear a tale of one brand ambassador's airport security nightmare that turned into a dream.

The 4th Annual Water of Life Charity Whisky Event is in NYC May 3, 2018

For all three years of its existence, Stephen has attended and had a ball at the Water of Life Charity Whisky Event in New York City. Organizer Dr. Matthew Lurin puts on this high-end whisky event to benefit the Life Raft Group’s efforts to help those with GIST (Gastrointestinal stromal tumors) and to find a cure. This is a charity event, so the tickets are a tax-deductible charitable donation.

This year, the event will be held at Bathhouse Studios, and will once again feature a unique speed dating theme, in which pourers host five guests at one table for a short session before guests move on to the next table with a new pourer (which insures that you deal with no annoying crowds shoving empty Glencairns in the face of the brand rep and is generally a wonderful way to taste whisky). Also, this year, piggybacking off of the speed dating theme is the “Single and Loving It” theme, featuring more single cask whiskies than ever.

Did I mention this is a high-end whisky event? Not only does it have a VIP ticket option, with premium pours, a very fancy commemorative glass, VIP meals offerings, access to a cigar lounge where fantastic cigars can be enjoyed (standard ticket holders can pay extra for cigars), 2 additional whisky “dates,” and VIP pours all night, but also has an Ultra-VIP option, which is nuts and which you can read about here). But if you are interested in Ultra-VIP tickets, reach out via email at wateroflifenyc@gmail.com or go to the aforementioned website to contact the organizers sooner rather than later. Oh, and there are also masterclasses (soon to be announced) you can add to your event ticket purchase.

EARLY BIRD PRICING ONLY RUNS THROUGH APRIL 2ND!

Then also note: WE HAVE A DISCOUNT CODE FOR OUR READERS: bath18

Early Bird Pricing gets you significant discounts; our discount code gets you another $50 off of Early Bird Pricing.

Get your tickets now at www.wateroflifenyc.org!!!

The Tomatin Five Virtues Series: Water

Tasting notes:
This whisky is part of a limited edition series called Five Virtues, marking a collaboration between Tomatin Distillery and artist Eva Ullrich. The Water is a winter distillation, so termed because of the “reduced interaction with the copper stills” (which I assume means that it’s the product of a shorter overall distillation time).

The nose betrays a heavy spirit, and offers a strong hint of copper, delivered on a pillow of very light Sherry funk. But to be clear, this is copper that’s just beginning to patina slightly, not the copper of an old penny you sucked on for three hours (and yes, there’s a difference). This whisky, then, offers a cool paradox: less interaction with the metal yields more metal flavors (SPOILER ALERT: there’s metal on the finish, too).

In light of this, it also might seem strange that this one is called Water, given that another of the Five Virtues, and a whisky I will review soon, is the Tomatin Five Virtues: Metal. But apparently the name isn’t about the flavor so much as the processes involved in making it; and in a whisky given shorter distillation time, the natural mineraly character of the water the distillery uses (from the Alt-Na-Frith burn) plays more prominently.

After a little time, the nose opens up to chocolate, delivered on that same Sherry funk pillow, only it’s more ethereal now, leading one to wonder how it holds up the chocolate like that. Soon, it gives way to a rich amber note that turns out to be a preview of the mouth. On the mouth, it’s full and meaty, like Chunky™ Soup really should be. At first, the nose belies a metallic harshness that never materializes in the mouth. The flavor profile here is triangulating perfectly between leather, attenuated pipe tobacco, and a bowl full of licorice.

OK, now, the finish is like sucking on a penny: it’s hard and tannic, like the penny had been soaked in lapsang souchong tea for two years before you started sucking on it. Wow. It’s clear there’s oiliness here, too, but once it’s passed the gullet, it’s more metallic than oily, unless that oil came from the engine of a 1975 Chrysler Cordoba. But not so oddly (this is a true winter dram, after all), that tannic, metallic finish just makes you want to drink more of it–at least on a cold winter’s night.

 

 
Rating:

On the scale of iconic advertising lines–
The Tomatin Water is fine Corinthian leather— Ricardo Montalban delivered the line like no one else ever could, and he did it first to sell the 1975 Chrysler Cordoba.

 

 

 
                                                                             –Stephen

 

 

 
–Our thanks to Tomatin for the sample!

 

 

Inbox - The Week's Whisky News (March 23, 2018)

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.

________

Dalmore

The north Highland distillery of Dalmore have announced details of one of their oldest bottlings. The Dalmore 45 years old has been hand crafted by Richard Paterson, the Master Distiller for Dalmore. The liquid was initially matured in American oak ex-bourbon casks before being transferred to two old ex-Port pipes that date back to the early 1960s. This was then finished in first fill American oak ex-bourbon casks.

The Dalmore 45 years old is presented in a bespoke handblown Baccarat crystal decanter and is adorned with a silver stag's head, crafted by acclaimed silversmiths Hamilton & Inches. It is bottled at 40% ABV and there will be just 500 bottles available globally. 500 further bottles will be released over each of the next two years. The price is £10,000 each.


Gordon & MacPhail

Independent bottler Gordon & MacPhail have announced the release of their last remaining cask of Linkwood single malt from the 1950s. It is also believed to be the last remaining cask in the world and will form part of G&Ms prestigious Private Collection. The whisky was distilled and filled to an first fill ex-sherry hogshead cask on 3 January 1956 and has been nurtured by four generations of the Urquhart family.

There will be just 53 decanters of this rare single malt, which are hand blown and presented in a bespoke wooden casket. The Private Collection From Linkwood Distillery 1956 is bottled at the natural cask strength of 49.4% ABV and will cost £22,000 per bottle.


"This Linkwood encapsulates the company’s dedication to the art of single malt whisky maturation and tireless pursuit of perfection. This incredible whisky is the culmination of the unrivalled knowledge and skills passed down and strengthened through four generations of my family. "
Stephen Rankin - Director of Prestige at G&M.



Loch Lomond
Loch Lomond Distillers has announced an exclusive single cask bottling of their Inchmurrin single malt expression, which will be exclusive to World Duty Free at Heathrow's Terminal 5. The whisky was distilled in January 2008 and bottled in February this year, resulting in a 10 years old single malt. There are just 278 bottles available. These are released at the natural cask strength of 57.1% ABV and are of natural colour and non chill-filtered. The Loch Lomond Inchmurrin 10 years old Single Cask for LHR T5 will cost £59.


Wemyss Malts
The family-run independent bottler of Wemyss Malts has announced a new blended malt. The Nectar Grove is created using Highland single malts, which has been finished in ex-Madeira wine casks. The name reflects the increased fruity character that these casks have given to the whisky. It is bottled at 46% ABV and is no chill-filtered and of natural colour. There will be just 9,000 bottles of Nectar Grove and they will be available in selected markets including Asia, Europe and the UK. A bottle will cost £43.95.



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