Aberlour is a name that will be familiar to most with even a passing interest in Whisky. The reliably accessible and unquestionably well made 10 year old is a staple of many supermarket shelves, and it’s certainly a safe bet when beginning ones travels through the world of whisky. For those that have become more deeply imbued with the joys of this venerable spirit it may be the cask strength, sherry matured bruiser of Aberlour a’bunadh that holds a firm spot on their list of “bang for the buck” drams. That being said, those old staples will have to wait for another day!
Enter the (quite) recently launched, enchantingly labelled “That Boutique-y Whisky Company” and their range of small batch, cask strength, non-age-statement Single Malts. Somewhat amazingly this series of releases has already featured names that you rarely see offered outside the single cask realm, and often for considerable prices. Port Ellen, Caperdonich and Ardbeg distillery have all been featured and subsequently sold out at a rate you may expect. Second and third batches are being rolled out -thankfully- alongside the on-going introduction of names both familiar, like this Aberlour, and more obscure; Benrinnes or Aultmore. In short, keep a watchful eye on what is an exciting and well-priced addition to the market!
Ahh Christmas. The festive cheer, the holly, the children singing, the tree…..the nerve-inducing gift hunting! Not the least stressful of times perhaps and when a loved one’s desire happens to be a bottle of Scotland’s nectar or Kentucky’s finest, it can be understandably hard to know where to start. It’s true, whisky is a vast and multifaceted subject but selecting an ideal tipple for the Whisky lover in your life needn’t be as confusing as first it appears. Indeed, we at WhiskyMarketplace have the answer!
Does your whisky lover’s cabinet contain five or less bottles, all of which you’ve spotted at your local supermarket or nearby bottle shop? Or does it conceal twenty plus bottles – some of them unopened and many with esoteric names & dates? If it’s the former, your whisky lover is probably someone who likes an occasional dram but has only reached geek level 1. If it’s the latter, they’re well on their way to full blown geek level 3!
The whisky world must surely, if slowly, be developing a degree of desensitisation to bottlings directed toward wealthy drinkers, collectors or speculators. Be it £1000 worth of old Glenfarclas whisky, £2500 for some travel retail-exclusive exotica or the now all but ubiquitous 10k Dalmore, such release are certainly unobtainable for the larger majority of us. Debates still abound as to the merits of such bottlings, and the arguments show no sign of calming whether you fall on the “well if people pay it, they should charge it” side of the fence or take the contrasting “a fair price is not simply what the market will pay” viewpoint. Still, such whiskies never fail to court attention and this new bottling with a RRP of $3500 (the U.S.A will be the first market to receive it) will surely be no exception.
Balblair, and indeed the Inverhouse owned distilleries as a whole, isn’t a name you might instantly associate with such “ultra-premium” releases. Of course there have been a few, not least the excellent 1965 Balblair vintage we saw shortly after the brands re-packaging/launch in 2007, but in the main Balblair has remained a well-priced malt of sometimes overlooked quality. However, now that almost all of the aforementioned 65 has found its way safely into the arms/glasses/cabinets of well-heeled Whisky lovers world-wide, it’s time for a new flagship. Enter the 1969; previewed earlier this year at the distillery and formally launched this past week in London, this vintage with its elegantly understated packaging looks to be a hit, if you’re lucky enough to get a nip that is.
Back to Islay today and a chance to look at what, since the sale of Bruichladdich distilery earlier this year, is the island’s only remaining independent distillery. A sad thought perhaps but the young Kilchoman is flying the flag for small scale production with considerable aplomb. Opening in 2005 as the island’s “farm distillery”, Kilchoman was always intended to offer spirit that was sown, grown, malted, distilled and bottled on Islay. However, in order to deal with the considerable pressures that face any new distillery, the majority of the production has relied upon barley sourced from external maltsters.
The desire to taste whisky from Islay’s first new distillery in 124 years was always going to be considerable. Indeed, since opening Kilchoman has offered a surprisingly constant flow of offerings. It’s fair to say that the spirit quality has always met with wide acclaim; however the same may not be said for all of the sometimes pricy releases. That is always a hazard of offering whisky that is clearly in a process of maturation rather than at the peak of its powers of course, though in my view Kilchoman distillery is not the very worst of culprits. This bottling draws us back to the beginning of the story though; the first release of a true, 100% Islay produced whisky and that must surely pique the interest of any whisky lover.
It must surely be time for another oldie, and indeed time to feature another of Dominiek Bouckaert’s excellent Whisky Man bottlings. Tomintoul distillery certainly isn’t the most glamorous or oft-lauded name in the Whisky world, but like just about any distillery –well virtually- there are still gems to be found. It’s a relatively young plant, built in the mid-60s and now in the hands of Angus Dundee Distillers it is producing a range of affordable expressions, not to mention a beautifully packaged 76. The site also distils a peated make under the name Old Ballantruan which has recently been packaged as a rather attractive 10 year old and is worth checking out, if only for interests sake.
On to Independent examples such as this 1969 release then, and as with many distilleries where the focus has been largely placed upon producing stock for blending, the non-proprietary releases tend to provide punters with good value and perhaps the best opportunity to get a handle on what the distillery has to offer. There has been quite a number of late 60s Tomintoul casks bottled over the last few years, many of them of high quality, and given the reputation of Dominiek’s selections it can’t be easy to track down and recognise a cask that offers something new. Particularly while retaining the qualities that have given a number of these old Tomintoul’s favourable reviews in the past.
It seems to be that time of the month again, that is to say the appropriate moment to divulge a few delightful tipples that have been entertaining us as the nights draw in. Interestingly we seem to be taking a slight break from the somewhat stereotypical wintery warmer associations of sherry casks and smouldering peat smoke, instead leaning towards a more fruity, vanilla laden quartet.
There’s a classic, and “slightly” wallet-thinning Islander in the form of Highland Park’s ever-consistant 30 year old, while a long lost Lowlander is getting it’s second airing on the blog after an already favourable review. Then comes a surprise entry from India – in terms of the distillery at least – that had, until recently, been all but unknown to the whisky fraternity at large. Then finally we have a true cracker from the first batch of Buffalo Trace’s dependably excellent Antique Collection. Enjoy!