Lagavulin Distillery is celebrating its 200th anniversary this year, and the Islay distillery hasn't changed all that much over the years - at least on the outside. Inside, Lagavulin's team has found new ways to produce more whisky each year without adding new equipment by combining classic distilling heritage with modern technology. We'll talk about the history and future of Lagavulin with distillery manager Georgie Crawford, longtime warehouseman Iain McArthur, and Diageo's in-house historian and director of whisky outreach, Dr. Nick Morgan. We'll also have tasting notes for the 200th anniversary Lagavulin 25-year-old single malt and this year's highly sought-after Feis Ile bottling. In the news, the week-long strike at Jim Beam's two Kentucky distilleries is over after workers ratified a new contract Friday. We'll have the details on that new contract along with another whiskey acquisition for Constellation Brands, another legal setback for the Scotch whisky industry's attempt to block a minimum pricing scheme in Scotland, the results of the 2016 Irish Whiskey Awards, and more new whiskies on the way for the holidays.
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The nose opens with a great old winey smell that quickly evolves into notes of a swimming pool used for making large batches of crabapple cider, at the edges of which are random people bobbing for butterscotch. There are also hints of a meatloaf made from candy animals. All of which is to say that it’s remarkably rounded and harmonious, even exemplarily so. It’d be Euphonious, if sounds were smells, and if the jazz great T. Monk named his son what we think he should have named him.
As it hits the tongue, it’s all about grapefruit for a moment. Then the mouth explodes in slow motion into crystal myriagons and chiliagons of sugar. If it weren’t so apt to induce philosophical meditation, I’d say it was psychedelic, provoking images of Christmas lights being eaten by an albino python after he’d eaten a disco ball. [John: That should be “a python with albinism.”] There’s also a faint hint of sawdust–some wet, some dry–garnishing a plate of freshly cut sedges.
The finish presents first with macadamia nut meat that a seven footer left to dry on a ceiling fan blade on a front porch. But alongside the creaminess, there’s also muted peppermint and orange oil. But this isn’t any orange oil: this is estrus orange oil trying to mate with my taste buds. It’s frottage without décolletage. Now it’s crawling up the sides of my cheeks. Damn, it’s downright effusive. And, not surprisingly, it takes a good while to calm down.
On the scale of jazz greats–
The Arran The Bothy Quarter Cask Batch 1 is Milt Jackson–Two words that capture this dram better than any others I can think of: jazz vibraphone. Bright, lively, ebullient, and in no way harsh, it’ll make you want to stay up all night and earn the nickname “Bags,” too.
–Our thanks to Arran and ImpEx for the sample!
Welcome to this week's Inbox. For those that have recently discovered us, 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. Here is this week's news that caught our eyes ...
The island distillery of Arran have announced the second whisky in their limited edition Smuggler's Series, which has been named The High Seas. The series, which pays homage to the many illicit distillers that were present on the island, was first launched last year and the packaging reflects this. The box mimics a book with a bottle cut out inside. The High Seas sees Arran's peated malt matured in a combination of ex-bourbon and ex-rum casks. It is bottled at 55.4% ABV and there are just 8,700 bottles. They will be available through specialist whisky retailers at a cost of £87 a bottle.
The UK best selling Scotch whisky has announced the return of its iconic Christmas advert. The long running series was scrapped a couple of years ago but made a triumphant return during key TV advert slots this week. There will be a series of different adverts that pull on the key characteristics of the whisky. The first advert, entitled Perfectly Balanced, is below.
The east Highland distillery of Glendronach has revealed the details of it latest batch of single cask bottlings. This is the 14th batch of the cult series and sees a variety of cask types and ages released. These have been selected by Billy Walker, the Master Distiller of Glendronach.
The oldest is a 30 years old that was distilled in December 1985 and the youngest is a 12 years old that was distilled in January 2004. All are of natural colour and bottled at the natural cask strength. Details of each release is below. No pricing was supplied with the press release.
- 1985 cask # 1037 / 30 years old / PX Sherry Puncheon / 52.3% vol
- 1989 cask # 2662 / 26 years old / Oloroso Sherry Butt / 54.8% vol
- 1990 cask # 2973 / 26 years old / PX Sherry Puncheon / 50.8% vol
- 1991 cask # 2683 / 24 years old / Oloroso Sherry Butt / 49.2% vol
- 1992 cask # 226 / 24 years old / Oloroso Sherry Butt / 58.4% vol
- 1993 cask # 42 / 23 years old / Oloroso Sherry Butt / 58.6% vol
- 1994 cask # 339 / 21 years old / PX Sherry Puncheon / 53.0% vol
- 1995 cask # 543 / 20 years old / PX Sherry Puncheon / 54.6% vol
- 1996 cask # 1485 / 20 years old / PX Sherry Puncheon / 53.0% vol
- 2002 cask # 1504 / 14 years old / PX Sherry Puncheon / 55.5% vol
- 2003 cask # 4034 / 13 years old / PX Sherry Puncheon / 52.5% vol
- 2004 cask # 5523 / 12 years old / PX Sherry Puncheon / 58.3% vol
A single bottle of Yamazaki 50 year old set the new world record for the most expensive standard-sized bottle of whisky sold at auction. The record-breaking hammer price of $109,585/£84,520/HK$850,000 was set at Poly Auction, Hong Kong this month during their Prestige Collections sale (with buyer’s premiums added: HK$1,003,000).
The first release of Yamazaki 50 year old became the most expensive Japanese whisky on the market on its release in 2005, priced at ¥1,000,000, equivalent to approximately $9,500, or just 8.6% of its new record auction price. This Japanese single malt whisky was distilled in the 1950s and fully matured in mizunara casks, a vessel that Suntory began to use extensively during and after World War II as deliveries of Spanish sherry casks dried up. After such extensive aging, the whisky has a sweet-sour, dry fruit note, and an elegant eaglewood aroma, an incense-like scent derived from the mizunara wood and a much sought after character in Japanese whiskies.
The original 50 bottles were wrapped around the neck in Japanese washi paper and secured with a gold cord. A second release of 50 bottles followed in 2007, and a larger release of Yamazaki 50 year old consisting of 150 bottles followed in 2011. Only a handful of these have found their way to the salerooms. The first edition commanded the record-breaking price, but this news will likely bode well for all of their future values.
A HK$4 million Macallan is recognized as the Guinness World Record holder for the most expensive bottle of whisky ever sold, however the Macallan M in Lalique was presented in a six-liter decanter. The standard size (700ml or 750ml) whisky auction record is the preferred point of comparison, as this is the regular format for the vast majority of collectible whiskies: it’s the definitive bottle size we deal with every day.
Poly Auction is a relatively new auction house that started trading in Hong Kong in 2012, and it has established an impressive track record of results in a short space of time. In addition to whisky, Poly Auction specializes in wine, watches, jewelry, and modern and classical Chinese artworks. The Karuizawa 1960 52 year old ‘The Cockerel,’ was the previous recognized holder of the most expensive standard-sized bottle of whisky at auction, taking the record for Japan at Bonhams, Hong Kong in 2015. Prior to that event, only single malt Scotch whisky held this accolade. The rare bottle of Karuizawa maintained the record for 401 days, not holding out quite as long as the 680 days achieved by the Bowmore 1964 48 year old sold in London in 2013. We cannot be far away from the HK$1,000,000 bid for a single bottle of whisky, so how long can the Yamazaki 50 year old hold on to the title?
Keep up with the latest sales of rare and specialty whiskies with Whisky Advocate magazine’s Auction Index, appearing in every issue. Subscribe now!
Jack Daniel’s Silver Select Single Barrel Tennessee Whiskey 50% ABV $55 to $65 Website What the Distillery Says: Bottled in Bond at 100-proof so you can experience the full depth and intensity of its rich flavor. This smooth, aromatic Tennessee Whiskey is only available in select duty-free airports around the world. Richard’s aside: It’s worth … Continue reading Jack Daniel’s Silver Select →
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.